If you and your family would like to feel more of a part of nature rather than apart from nature this year, make your next holiday somewhere extra eco-special with an ecological tourism break. Tie a green ribbon around your money and invest in a country that is opening its doors to eco-travelers. We’ve created a list here of some of the lesser known eco-holiday destinations around the globe. Many, too, offer the chance to experience nature and culture simultaneously, taking you off-the-trodden path to places only the author of Come Back Alive Robert Pelton would dare go just years ago. Come Back Alive and All the More Eco-Educated with the list we’ve compiled:
7. Malaysia, Asia - Most eco-adventure seekers may not even be aware of the sleeping giant that is Malaysia. If you’re into hopping around earth’s orb and dallying with nature, you won’t want to miss a good frolic in Malaysia. Opening its doors to preservation, prosperity and the likely tourism dollars it will bring, Malaysia is set out to give eco-lovers something enticing and different. Along with the over 100,000 year old virgin rainforest, Malaysia boasts that 75% of its land is forested and natural. Bird watching in the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Selangor Bird Sanctuary, National Parks, and wetlands like Tanjung Piai are ideal. Active eco-adventurers can spelunk, rock climb, jungle trek, white water raft, scuba dive, fish in fresh water lakes and even take part in agro-tourism.
6. Colombia, South America - Though Colombia was formerly the place for smugglers and drug-runners, it’s now a top destination for sightseers and thrill-seekers. Colombia now has two national reserves, 33 national parks, 9 bio-diverse sanctuaries and several marine reserves. Plus, travelers can partake in educational nature classes, informative trail hikes and plenty of other learning experiences in and out of nature. The only white crystals you’ll find these days are the stalactites and stalagmites while spelunking. The only jagged green leafs you’ll find here are the jungle fronds. Columbia has transformed and is fast becoming one of the top eco-destinations in the world.
5. Japan, Asia - Holidaymakers don’t generally think of Japan as more than thousands of people bustling through the streets of Tokyo. But it’s still very easy to escape the chaos and return to a more natural setting. That’s right, we’re not setting you up here: Japan has some of the most serene nature in the world. Though it must be intentionally sought, it’s easier than ever to go dolphin and whale watching off Japan’s teeming coast. In Kyusha, visitors can wander through an ecological museum and take a two-hour workshop on dolphins before venturing onto the water. There are videos, interactive courses and diagrams to educate people of the dolphin’s grandeur, intelligence and innate importance to the waters. Farmers, citizens and others of Iriomote Island even pooled their ideas together to form an ecological awareness group. They bring in visitors and illustrate a preservation attitude towards nature. Moreover, in Yakushima, adventurers can spelunk, kayak, hike, take educational treks, snorkel, dive and ride bikes.
4. Brazil, South America - Brazil has the world’s largest abundance of virgin everything; there is virgin rainforest, untouched jungles, flawless rivers, unmapped valleys, immaculate mountains and undefiled wildlife. Brazil is a bio-dome of natural splendor and pilgrims keep coming back for more. There’s really not too many countries where eco-travelers can take a two or even three-week trip through nature without running out of things to see. In Brazil, however, it’s possible to travel for weeks and see newness every day. Known for more than the thong and the string bikini, Brazil has profusely tapped into its naturalness to win the hearts of eco-seekers everywhere.
3. Iceland – Northern Europe - With Iceland being so, well, cold, you might think they would be a bit slower moving toward change. They are actually, however, the first in the world according to an ABC article out of Australia in January, Iceland is “…pushing hard to become the first nation to break free from the constraints of fossil fuel[s].” If you think this simply means recycling cola bottles, you’d be wrong. Iceland is the first nation to turn an old boat into the first hydrogen run commercial vessel for day-trippers. The vessel will take sightseers whale watching. Additionally, hydrogen powered rental cars are now available in Iceland, ready to take adventurers to eco-friendly activities, not limited to trekking, kayaking, climbing, skiing, ice-skating and wilderness tours. By 2050, Iceland will have only non-fossil fuel burning modes of transportation—a beacon to the world!
2. Costa Rica, Central America - Though the country is relatively small when placed against countries like Brazil, Colombia, and even Iceland, Costa Rica has held on to an organic element of nature. When Costa Rica was redesigning itself, healthcare, education and natural preservation topped the list, later proving to be a brilliant move. Today, Costa Rica gets hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoying the pristine beauty found in the jungles, caves, waters and beaches. Costa Rica holds many endemic species that can only be seen here. With more lands dedicated to national parks than cities, the eco-holiday hunter can easily get out to experience vestal rainforest and more.
1. Iran, Western Asia - If you think any conflicts are slowing down the tourist industry in Iran, you’d be slightly mistaken. Though Iran may get some pejorative political press these days, it doesn’t mean that its beauty should neither be forgone nor forgotten. Iran, in fact, has ten national parks and over 40 protected areas, holding nearly five percent of its land to natural preservation—that’s nearly 8 million hectares, by the way. Eco-holidaymakers can visit Golestan, Khosh, Yellagh, Kavir, Lar, Bakhtegan and Bamoo. The Margoon Waterfall and Anzali Lagoon both thrill adventure eco-seekers too. I-Run to Iran should be the itinerary headlining your family getaway this year.