5 Great International Ecotourism Destinations

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Ecotourism, or traveling to destinations in order to explore and enjoy the natural environment and wildlife, is increasing in popularity. If climbing Mount Everest or exploring Antarctica is a bit too hard-core for you, rest assured there are a myriad of other ecotourism destinations suitable for the average tourist. Here are five of note.

5. Scotland

Scotland boasts an extensive system of hiking trails.

Photo credit: Freek Frederix/Shutterstock.com

Known more for its castles and being the birthplace of golf, Scotland is often overlooked as an ecotourism destination. Yet Scotland is a fantastic place to experience nature on a budget. With a national network of long-distance walking trails and an open invitation to pitch your tent for free while hiking along remote stretches, this is a top-notch destination for those looking to combine ecotourism with a bit of history and culture. Many of the longer trails have stop-off points at towns along the way, giving you the opportunity to take a night or two off from pitching the tent and enjoy one of the local bed and breakfast establishments or some time at the local tavern.


4. Northern Italy

Italy's Seiser Alm is one of the most famous meadows in the world.

Seiser Alm meadow; Photo credit: Philip Bouchard

After you’ve had your fill of Venetian gondola rides, Verona’s Romeo and Juliet heritage and experience fashion central in Milan, northern Italy has a number of ecotourism adventures to experience. Hiking in the Dolomites, skiing in the Alps and windsurfing on Lake Garda are some of the more well-known options, but there are others. San Genesio for example, accessible by cable car from the nearby town of Bolzano (also a great cultural and wine getaway), offers miles of extensive trails for hiking, horseback riding and cycling. Also in the Dolomites is the world-famous Seiser Alm meadow, one of the largest high-altitude meadows in all of Europe, and a popular place to enjoy some spectacular Alpine scenery. While in the area, park fans can take a break from wine touring to check out the Trudner Horn Nature Preserve and Bletterbach Gorge, often referred to as Italy’s Grand Canyon.


3. Jordan

The Wadi Rum is a very popular destination for campers.

Wadi Rum desert; Photo credit: Leospek/Shutterstock.com

In addition to picture-perfect Petra, the preserved Roman city of Jerash and numerous Arab castles from the crusader period, the kingdom of Jordan boasts a number of ecotourism attractions for travelers. For those who enjoy adventure tours in the desert, a weekend of camping in Wadi Rum might be in order. The location is popular for rock climbing and stargazing with tourists, expats and Jordanian nationals alike. Wadi Rum isn’t the only nature getaway available in Jordan. The Dead Sea is likely the most famous, but there are six national nature preserves throughout the country that are unknown to many tourists. Ajloun Nature Reserve in the north, for example, is located near an impressive castle of the same name and makes for an enjoyable stopover before making the border crossing into Israel for some time on Lake Tiberias. The Azraq Wetland Reserve and Wadi Mujib are also well worth a visit.


2. Costa Rica

From volcanoes to rainforests, there is no shortage of ecotourism opportunities in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican rainforest; Photo credit: Dirk van der Made

Watching volcanic flows, birding and whitewater rafting are just a few of the ecotour experiences to be enjoyed on a vacation to Costa Rica. People come to take zip-line tours through the rainforest canopy, have a sea turtle experience on the beach and spot blue morpho butterflies along interior jungle rivers. One ecological experience of note is the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. Driving there is an adventure in itself, and once you arrive you’ll be staying in an actual cloud forest. It’s a cool-weather alternative to the steamier beaches along the coastlines, and a great place to spot wildlife.


1. Ecuador

From world-class birding sites to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador has much to offer travelers.

Photo credit: Nouseforname/Shutterstock.com

Between the birding opportunities in Mindo and the world-class ecotourism situation in the Galapagos, Ecuador is truly blessed with natural attractions. However, visiting these two destinations only scratches the surface of what Ecuador has to offer. Numerous volcanoes and national parks, high-altitude thermal springs in Papallacta and rainforest animal rescue projects are just a few of the other ecological attractions at your tourist disposal. The town of Misahualli offers a launch point for exploring the headwaters of the Amazon River, and is a popular spot for taking guided day trips to learn about the local plant life, endangered animals and indigenous culture.

You don’t have to be a major mountain-climbing expert to enjoy an ecotourism getaway. There are plenty of destinations around the world that offer fun nature experiences the average vacationer can enjoy. These five represent some of the more exceptional places tourists can go, but there are certainly many others.

Written by

Myscha Theriault is a syndicated travel columnist, best-selling personal finance and lifestyle author and professional online writer whose work has been featured on the websites of Forbes, MSN, AOL and others. She is the founder of Trekhound.com, a website for independent travelers.