3 Sustainable Vacations to Add to Your Bucket List

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Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She is frequently lost in a good book when she is not writing about how technology impacts our everyday health and wellness.

Taking a vacation is one of the greatest joys of life. You experience a new part of the world or revisit areas that hold a special place in your memory or a tender spot in your heart. Not to mention that international travel is more affordable and accessible today than it ever has been. As such, you may be building a bucket list of destinations you plan to visit in the coming years.

Yet, it’s important not to approach this matter recklessly. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 50 years, you may have noticed we’re facing a climate emergency. Unless everyone takes serious steps to reduce the negative impact on the environment, the damage could be catastrophic and irreversible. 

The good news is that many destinations are embracing eco-friendly tourism protocols. So let’s look at three sustainable vacation options to add to your bucket list.

Hiking and Biking in the Highlands

Highlands in Scotland landscape with ocean and mountains

The Highlands and islands of Scotland don’t just offer some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe; the residents and government in the area are also making distinct efforts to champion sustainability. There are significant rewilding initiatives to regain the vital biodiversity of the region. Not to mention that the Highlands Council is implementing the ‘A Sustainable Highland’ program, which aims to reduce commercial waste and partner with citizens to bolster positive relationships.

An important part of these efforts is eco-tourism. According to NatureScot, tourism is one of the seven “growth industries” in Scotland. Estimates show that spending on nature-based tourism makes up approximately 40% of all tourism spending. This equates to almost 39,000 full-time jobs and more than £4 billion to the Scottish economy each year. 

The Highlands should be added to your bucket list due to locals’ continued commitment to offering sustainable outdoor activities. These could include hiking across vast wilderness areas and cycling the trail between Loch Naver and Loch Loyal. There is also an increasing number of carbon-neutral accommodation options, from hotels to cabins.

Alongside the breathtaking vistas, this type of sustainable outdoor vacation can have wellness benefits. Spending time being active while surrounded by nature is recognized as having a positive impact on treating depression and anxiety. Indeed, some doctors have begun to prescribe outdoor activities, like hiking on nature trails, to patients. As such, traveling to Scotland can bolster your well-being alongside offering sustainable vacation experiences.

Exploring Costa Rica

waterfall and hiking stairs in costa rica

Costa Rica has been prioritizing sustainability for longer than most other countries. To the extent that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) considers this Central American country to be leading the way in a range of areas. Not only has it achieved its target of 98% renewable energy, but it also continues to make headway in addressing deforestation. As such, it can be a great sustainable vacation location.

From a vacation activities perspective, there’s no shortage of memorable experiences. Visiting the Manuel Antonio National Park introduces you to 7 square miles of dense rainforest, beautiful coral reefs, and secluded beachfront coves. You can also hike 5,000 feet to the summit of the Arenal volcano. There are also opportunities to learn more about Costa Rica’s wildlife and supportive ecosystem at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Nevertheless, even when there are green infrastructural elements in place, it’s vital to ensure you minimize any potential negative impacts of your ecotourism. In Costa Rica, one of the best ways to start is to ensure any accommodation, restaurant, or activity vendors you use hold the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism

This is a state-supported program to achieve and promote 100% responsible tourism in the country. Vendors holding this certification meet the government’s high standards to protect the location for future generations.

Touring Germany

City in Germany with buildings and cars

If you’re seeking a sustainable trip to Europe, Germany should certainly feature on your bucket list. The vast majority of Germans take environmental protection seriously. Both the government and citizens continue to incorporate high green standards into everyday life. 

Many of its bustling city districts maintain electric public transportation, and cycling is accessible and safe across the country. Not to mention that much of the food you eat is likely to be sourced from organic and regional farming, designed to mitigate the industrial environmental impact.

One of the best ways to maintain sustainability and see what Germany has to offer is to travel by train. There are extensive rail networks throughout the country. This allows you to view vast swathes of green countryside, forest areas, and mountainous peaks all from the comfort of your seat. This approach also means you can fit in more activities, sights, and connections in Germany without the polluting influence of planes or cars.

While rail travel is good for sustainability, not everyone is used to it. As such, it’s wise to implement a few key preparations that can make traveling more comfortable. If you experience tension or anxiety, bringing along mindfulness tools such as a meditation app, you can listen to, or a journal to write in may be helpful. Packing a pillow, snacks, and travel medication also boosts your experience. Finally, be sure to wear layered clothing you can add or remove as needed. 

In Germany, reserve your train seats ahead of time to ensure you can choose the most comfortable position to enjoy your journey.


Sustainable vacations are a vital way to gain travel benefits while also taking a responsible approach to the climate crisis. For example, visiting the Highlands of Scotland can see you experience outstanding natural beauty in a region committed to rewilding and waste reduction. Costa Rica is currently at the forefront of ecotourism, offering opportunities for exploration. Touring Germany by train is also a fantastic way to see both nature and historical landmarks in an environmentally-friendly manner. 

It can take a little extra effort and planning, but prioritizing the environment is an ethical duty to ensure people can enjoy these destinations for generations to come.

You might also be interested in: What is Slow Travel and How To Incorporate It Into Your Next Vacation

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