Each year, Lonely Planet presents a highly anticipated list of places to discover the following year. We all know that 2020 was undoubtedly marked by many challenges. Travel restrictions led to many of us rethinking the way we travel and opt for more sustainable options. Because of this, one of the hottest travel trends for 2021 is eco-travel. That's why the editors of Lonely Planet decided to redesign their list to reflect these changes, while encouraging commitment to communities, diversity, and sustainability around the world. Discover which places and experiences won awards for sustainability and, turns out, can actually be affordable.
Go Green in Gothenburg, Sweden
The city deserves praise for having consistently surpassed the Global Sustainability Index with 95% of its hotels certified as green, 65% of its public transport running on renewable energy, and eco-labels displayed in many of the city's restaurants.
The best part of all, Gothenburg is a cooler, cheaper version of Stockholm. Only a short distance away from the capital, we recommend staying in this young and vibrant city to save some serious dough (on average about $50+ cheaper a night than hotels in stockholm). With 2,950 square feet of green space per citizen, there are plenty of open park spaces to explore. Even better, the city offers plenty of free activities besides park going, including swimming in the public pool, bathing at the city beach, growing food in the urban garden, rollerblading, sailing, and relaxing by the water. Did we mention that there's also a free public sauna that was partly made from 12,000 recycled bottles? It's no wonder why this city is on LP's list and at the top of ours!
Ride The Rocky Mountaineer through Canada
Rail travel is much better for the environment than flying or driving, and the Rocky Mountaineer takes its responsibility for sustainable tourism very seriously. The train line works to protect the areas it passes through and focuses on how it uses resources, including reducing carbon emissions. In addition, the Rocky Mountaineer makes annual contributions to the Tree Canada’s National Greening Program, which has resulted in the planting of over 13,500 new trees in British Columbia to date.
While it is true that train travel is often more expensive (and longer) than hopping on a flight, we think the extra cash is worth it. Not only are you helping to reduce CO2 emissions, the trip in itself is quite the experience with beautiful scenery and photo ops you wouldn't be able to get from a flight. To top it off, your meals and overnight stay(s) in a top-rated hotel is also included when you book a 2+ day package trip.
Looking for other beautiful train trips? Check out our list of the top ten most beautiful train trips.
Eat Like a Local in Greece
Greece won the title of Best Gastronomic Destination of 2021 thanks to its markets of local and organic products and fresh seafood from its many islands.
Rather informally, the Greeks have gone green for centuries. The habit of growing vegetables, harvesting olives to prepare oil, and cooking typical dishes with tomatoes, fresh fish, and wild vegetables is the norm for most locals. Luckily, all that good food comes at a great price in comparison to eating out in the States. One way to eat cheap is to make a picnic by the sea. Shop at the local markets and buy fresh products such as feta, olives, meats, and fruits.
Currently, US citizens aren't allowed to enter Greece, but with the good news of a vaccine to be soon available, we are crossing our fingers that Greece will open back up to tourists by mid 2021. Of course, remember to book flexible, refundable options just to be sure. Try Santorini in June, with rates as low as $55 a night at the 4-star Irigeneia Hotel. A total win as 4-star stays usually average at about $250 a night in Santorini. Grab a gyro for lunch for under $5 and splurge a little on dinner. You can easily treat yourself to a delicious meal (or three) with that extra cash you saved.
Become Part of the Community in Namibia
The prize for the Best Accommodation went to the luxurious Grootberg Lodge in Namibia. Located on the beautiful Etendeka Plateau, the Grootberg Lodge is the first tourist resort owned by the community of Damaraland.
Built from natural materials and powered by the sun, this luxe accommodation effortlessly blends into the surrounding valley of the Klip River. The facility uses minimal energy and its approach to water conservation was developed with the local community. Moreover, the resort's greatest success lies in its employment policy: it has succeeded in turning some poachers into protectors and hiring more women than any other company in the region.
Unfortunately, a room at the Grootberg Lodge costs at least $300 a night. Fear not, being sustainable doesn't have to come at such a high price. Grootberg Lodge also has Hoada Campsite, located about 20 minutes from the lodge and is on average only $40 a night. Although it is a lot less glamorous, you will have stunning views of the surrounding landscape and access to a pool.
Curious about other eco-lodges? We've rounded up the best affordable eco-stays around the world.
Save the Gorillas in Rwanda
The Best Wildlife Program award went to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme in Rwanda, which helps save endangered wild mountain gorillas.
Using sustainable tourism as a way to implement long-term conservative changes, Rwanda has created a roadmap for its neighbors to follow. The principle is relatively simple: use the park's income to limit the threats weighing on gorillas.
While safaris and nature treks are very on trend for 2021, they also tend to come with a hefty price tag. Gorilla tours are costly mainly due to the fact that the permit alone costs $1,500 in Rwanda. However, permits in Uganda are only $600 making tours there a lot more affordable; though not as easy to get to, while permits in the Congo are even cheaper at $450 making tours here the most affordable.
Become a Responsible Tourist in Palau
A decade of progressive policies, safeguards, and visitor engagement has put the Palau Archipelago in Micronesia at the forefront of environmental sustainability, earning them the award for the Most Sustainable Island.
The boom in tourism has put the islands in danger, but Palau has been able to respond very quickly to these issues and adapt to guarantee the survival for future generations of its rich biodiversity, endemic fauna, and unique cultural heritage. For example, the country and was the first country to ban toxic sunscreens for reefs.
We should note that Palau is not the cheapest of destinations. Flights from the States to Palau alone can easily set you back $2,000 so we definitely see this as a bucket-list travel experience. However, it is possible to do it cheaply. We recommend finding a cheap flight to South Korea or China and then from there booking a flight to Palau. We've found a few centrally located accommodation at 3 Star hotels for around $100 a night like the Palau Hotel, which includes breakfast. You can also save quite a bit by eating at local restaurants, and exploring the island cheaply by renting bikes for around $10 a day. It is also good to note that once you are there you won't have to worry about exchanging any currency as they use US Dollars.