Why: This valley in Bhutan, sandwiched between India and Tibet, is one of the most eco-friendly holiday destinations and an ideal place to visit for peace, relaxation and quite possibly the freshest air, thanks to the fact it’s the world’s first carbon-negative country. What does it mean to be carbon negative? Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas emission produced by us, which unfortunately contributes most dramatically to climate change across the world, with most countries producing far more carbon dioxide than they can absorb. Thanks to Bhutan’s massive tree cover however (72 percent of the country is forested), it absorbs far more carbon than it produces.
Where to stay: Spread out across Bhutan’s steep mountains and network of swift-flowing rivers are a set of luxurious eco lodges, all with a policy of ‘high value, low impact tourism’, but we particularly recommend the Yewong Eco Lodge, set in six acres of forested land amidst apple orchards. It features 12 spacious, sumptuously-furnished rooms in cottage form, and each cottage is strategically positioned to offer excellent views of the Paro Valley and surrounding hills, with private balconies adding space to enjoy the best of nature. Be sure to try out the traditional Bhutanese activities like archery, their national sport, and Khuru, the traditional dart game.
Where to eat: Whilst the lodge does offer a great range of delicious Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese and continental cuisine, the small, intimate and award-winning Bhukhari Restaurant is the place to go to experience a frequently-changing, fresh and locally-sourced Bhutanese menu. Inside the COMO Uma Paro hotel, the restaurant features a traditional Bhutanese fireplace that forms a dramatic centrepiece, and is a rare fine-dining treat in the Paro Valley.
Why: Panama is an ideal location for those who are seeking a bit of adventure – it’s a widely unexplored tropical paradise full of footprint-free islands and ruined Spanish forts. An absolute haven of biodiversity, Panama hosts some of the most diverse and exotic species of animals and plants on the planet. According to the National Society for the Protection of Nature of Panama, it’s home to over 10,444 types of plants, 255 mammals species and 972 indigenious birds species.
Where to stay: Panama has more than 1,400 islands, and nestled within them is a hidden gem of a luxury resort, Islas Secas, set on a 14-island archipelago in the Gulf of Chiriqui on the Pacific coast of Panama, 20 miles from the nearest civilization. Despite being a modern sanctuary of barefoot luxury, 75 percent of the archipelago has been left undeveloped and the resort is powered 100 percent by natural energy – Islas Secas is the perfect sustainable retreat. It should be no surprise that there are aquatic activities aplenty here, with everything from underwater whale watching to kayaking around the private beach.
Where to eat: We see no reason to leave Islas Secas given the choice of daily-changing dishes on offer at the Terraza, the resort’s focal point on the island. Set in a relaxed, open-air setting, guests can enjoy locally-sourced produce like crispy fried whole snapper and seared octopus prepared with Panamian flair and a distinct local flavour. Think sunset barbecues, beach picnics and room service.
Why: Linked by the Wadden Sea and stretching from the north west of the Netherlands through Germany to the west of Denmark are the Frisian Islands, where sustainability is key. The journey itself to Denmark can be eco-friendly, with ferry links between Newcastle and Amsterdam taking you within less than six hours from the Danish border, meaning you need not step foot on a plane. There’s also Lauwersmeer National Park, on the border of Groningen and Friesland, which is home to over 100 species of birds. Lauwersmeer was named an official Dark Sky Park in 2016 (which is certainly impressive considering the Netherlands has one of the highest levels of light pollution in the world). It’s the perfect place to experience the darkness in peace and enjoy a beautiful starry sky.
Where to stay: Take your eco-friendly trip a step further by staying at the Vegotel in Blije, Friesland, an environmentally-friendly vegan hotel located in what has been voted ‘the most beautiful natural location in the Netherlands’. They use solar energy for power, and sustainable and recycled materials for furniture. Fancy venturing out to explore what else the wonderful Frisian Islands have to offer? The Vegotel rents out electric cars and bicycles, so you can even be eco-friendly in your escapades.
Where to eat: It would be downright foolish to stay at a vegan hotel and not take advantage of the incredible vegan-alternative breakfasts that the Vegotel has to offer. Of course, there are other places across the Frisian Islands to enjoy delicious Dutch cuisine, like Ambrosijn, named after the wild apples that grow on Schiermonnikoog, serving up seasonal island produce – we recommend ordering their tasting menu, a succession of surprise dishes.
Why: Kangaraoo Island is the third largest island in Australia, and more than a third of it is protected. It’s home to many native species, including brown bandicoots, echidnas and the island’s very own sub-species of kangaroo (and that’s just on land). It’s a genuine oasis of wildlife; think exploring the sea lion-filled turquoise seas, ecualyptus forests, and intruiging rock formations of limestone cliffs across the beautiful, undeveloped island. It’s an ideal place to embrace nature and escape technology and the outside world.
Where to stay: Located on Nepean Bay on a 500-acre working sheep farm are Oceanview Eco Villas: luxury, eco-friendly accommodation with stunning coastal views. There are only two, so you needn’t stress about having to deal with the hustle and bustle of guests battling it out for the last sunbed. The villas are completely off grid, utilising solar panels with battery storage for power for sustainability. Each bedroom has its own ensuite bathroom with a bifold window – just imagine relaxing in the bath while enjoying the sights and sounds of the coastal vista with a glass of wine (the island is one of Australia’s most exciting new wine regions).
Where to eat: The first restaurant on Kangaroo Island to be awarded one Chef Hat in 2017 from the Australian Good Food Guide, Sunset Food and Wine is the place to go to enjoy amazing Australian cuisine. The produce is all locally-sourced, using quality ingredients from food producers and growers across Kangaroo Island and South Australia – we strongly recommend the seafood on their à la carte menu.