For centuries, exploration seemed impossible without destruction. Travelers treated nature as a playground to be used and abused. But these days travelers and travel companies have woken up to their impact on the environment and foreign cultures.
Today, eco-friendly companies offer thoughtful ways to access some of the most remote, stunning landscapes in the world. Tour guides carefully collect waste, companies partner with green lodges and campsites, and travelers learn about the ecosystems they visit. Some tours even offer guests opportunities to work to repair the environment even as they take in its natural splendor.
Here are a few of our favorite guilt-free eco-tours to extraordinary destinations around the world.
Wildland Glacier Tour in Alaska
For a scenic destination far from home that doesn’t require a passport, look north to Alaska. There, Alaska Adventure Tours takes visitors into the diverse and often extreme habitats of the 49th state, but the most exciting may be the company’s glacier tour. During this five-day camping trip, you’ll have the chance to ice climb up glaciers with ice axes and kayak among floating icebergs. As a member of Leave No Trace, Alaska Adventure Tours operates small trips to limit their environmental impact, recycles and minimizes packaging, and supplies travelers with organic, local produce.
Jaguar Scientific Tour in Mexico
Most visitors head to the Yucatán Peninsula to chill on the beaches of Cancún or Tulum, but there’s plenty of natural beauty to explore in the jungle on this jaguar-focused expedition through EcoTours. Escape the tourist enclaves as you bike into the Sian Ka'an reserve, paddle through a lagoon at night to seek out crocodiles, and of course, visit a jaguar camp where expert guides can inform you about local conservation and research projects. Beyond the usual efforts to clean up after tours, EcoTours partners with the WWF, Ecotourism Society, and the Smithsonian to spread environmental awareness and training.
Marine Conservation in the Belize
Reef Conservation International doesn’t just bring in visitors to see the Belize Barrier Reef; they help travelers actively participate in hands-on conservation efforts. During a weeklong SCUBA diving trip to the group’s private island, you’ll get the chance to actively participate in conservation efforts, surveying local sealife to protect against off-season poachers, measuring the impact of global warming on coral habitats, and even spearfishing invasive lionfish for your dinner. These dives give you up-close contact with the colorful, alien-looking reef and the sea life that inhabit it.
Electric Safaris in Botswana
It can be difficult to find a safari that fully respects the animals it shows off to visitors. While many companies claim to run eco-safaris, they use the same gas-guzzling 4x4s that have been rampaging across the African wilderness for years. But Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana has outfitted a fleet of electric vehicles on land and water, offering green game drives to visit herds of elephants and scenic electric boat rides to get a better look at hippos. The lodge is even involved in local projects like a biogas plant and wastewater recycling.
Kuari Pass Trek in India
If your bucket list includes hiking the Himalayas, head out on the Curzon trail with Active India Holidays for an adventure that balances pristine mountain views with cultural exploration and environmental responsibility. The extensive 15-day trip begins and ends in Delhi, including stops at local villages and holy pilgrimage sites. Tour guides are trained in low-impact camping, and the company even invests in local communities to protect ecologically sensitive areas.