When it comes to sustainability, travel can feel like a double-edged sword. On one hand, exploring the world helps to cultivate empathy towards new cultures and can lead to radical change. On the other, the potential emissions from hopping on a plane and touring around a destination is at odds with a cleaner planet. This is why there’s no silver bullet solution to making travel more sustainable—it’s nuanced.

“When talking about a sustainable destination, different factors come into play,” explains Roi Ariel, the general manager at The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), an organization that sets global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. “The management teams at destinations considered sustainable understand that ‘sustainability’ is a journey that is never complete.” Therefore, a dynamic approach is surely the way forward, with considerations stretching from sustainable management and socioeconomic implications to cultural and environmental impacts.

“I think what makes a hotel obviously sustainable from a guest perspective is conscious communication regarding all their initiatives to make their operations more sustainable,” says Few & Far co-founder Sarah Dusek, adding that “if a hotel isn’t talking about their initiatives, chances are they don’t have any.” There are baseline considerations that should already be put in place, such as minimizing (or eliminating) single-use plastics and the implementation of eco-friendly products such as soaps and cleaning products. “Conscious connection with sourcing of food is something I also expect to see,” Dusek says, noting the more local the better. Energy efficiencies and waste management strategies are also paramount, she notes, and often incorporate alternate, innovative sources such as solar power.

More broadly speaking, we can look to entire regions as sustainable travel destinations that prioritize conscientious tourism simply by checking for accreditations, like the GSTC certification. “Türkiye for example, has taken a big step towards sustainability as a destination,” Ariel says, noting that the country has developed the first mandatory national program for accommodations based on the GSTC criteria. “From 2023 through 2030, all accommodations in Türkiye must be certified through a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body.”

Keeping these complexities in mind, scroll below to explore eight unique sustainable travel destinations destinations this year, from biodiverse Costa Rica to the remote arctic shorelines of Norway.

Photo: Getty Images

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