Holidays & Travel

Sustainable getaways that won’t cost you the Earth

Ahead of Earth Day on April 22, Sarah Marshall looks at some top breaks to ease your eco conscience.

Looking for a trip with extra sustainability factor?
Looking for a trip with extra sustainability factor?

Travelling is one of the best ways to discover the value of our world’s wild spaces. Yet increasingly the tourism industry has been criticised for contributing to environmental degradation – from carbon generating plane travel, to overcrowding fragile ecosystems.

Determined to make holidays as eco-friendly as possible, hoteliers and tour operators have worked hard to create sustainable options for travellers, minimising carbon emissions and contributing to environmental protection.

Here are a few getaways designed to put our planet first…

Georgia by train

It may be 3539km from London, but it’s still possible to reach Tbilisi by train. The Georgian capital, renowned for its arts, culture, nightlife and cheap prices, is the starting point for a holiday blending an ancient past with a forward-thinking future. Travel through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Romania and Turkey to finally reach the mountainous country at the intersection or Europe and Asia.

Although sustainability is a relatively young concept for a nation that’s been influenced by everyone from Eurasian monarchs and Persian kings to Ottoman Turks and Soviet imperialists, there are many initiatives focusing on preserving its traditional crafts and protecting its unique landscapes and archaeological treasures.

Trek through countryside scattered with traditional villages against a backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains, learn to make bread and Georgian sweets, and discover a wealth of social enterprise projects empowering communities.

How: Wild Frontiers offers the 13-day Adventures with Purpose: Georgia tour from £2,595pp (two sharing), including all meals, transport, guide and accommodation. Visit wildfrontierstravel.com.

Recharge your batteries in the South Tyrol, Italy

Relax and unwind while unburdening your eco conscience at a spa housed in a CO2 neutral building, using 100% renewable energy produced by a plant and wood heating system. Both the interiors and exteriors of the modern, minimalist FORESTIS building are created using local South Tyrolean suppliers and eco-friendly materials. For every felled tree used as fencing, two more are planted in the surroundings of Italy’s northernmost province.

Located on the southern slope of the Plose mountain, 1800 metres above sea level, the 62-suite retreat makes use of pure spring water recycled within the spa and used to fill non-plastic, refillable bottles for guests. The rejuvenating forest air also contains high oxygen levels.

How: Suites start from €800 (£685) per night with breakfast. Visit forestis.it/en.

Eco rewards in Morzine, France

Alpine landscapes surrounding Morzine
Alpine landscapes surrounding Morzine (Alamy Stock Photo)

Protecting the environment can be rewarding on many levels. Suppliers of mountain holidays in Morzine, AliKats offer up to 20% discount on their luxury chalets to guests who travel by train, opt out of hot tub use, and choose a plant-based menu. In the summer 2023, 33 bookings chose not to use hot tubs, saving 78,000 litres of water and 2.1 tonnes of carbon emissions.

All chalets are powered by 100% renewable energy, including the six ensuite-bedroom Chalet Sarcleret with a cinema room, spacious garden, and terrace and balcony with views across the valley. Take a 15-minute walk into Morzine and visit Montagne Verte, a non-profit second-hand active wear shop or take longer hikes to savour the French Alpine air.

How: A seven-night stay from June 23, 2024, costs from €2,600 (£2,219) total for up 14 people sharing on a self-catered basis. Visit alikats.eu.

Unravelling legends in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye (Alamy Stock Photo)

Found in the Isle of Skye, the Fairy Pools are a collection of crystal-clear blue pools and waterfalls, popular with wild swimmers. According to a legend, they attract selkies – creatures disguised as large seals during the day, who shed their skins to bathe as humans in the moonlight. But scientists are more interested in what else lies within.

Part of a Citizen Science holiday portfolio, Exodus offer trips to the site in the Inner Hebrides, where guests can contribute to research by helping collect freshwater samples. By extracting the eDNA, it’s possible to find out the species of wildlife that have been in a square mile of the water source. Results will form part of an eBioAtlas – a global atlas of the world’s species using cutting-edge technology.

Based in the fishing town of Portree, guests will venture out each day to discover a different part of the island. Hike the Quiraing, a landslip created over millions of years ago, and visit a whiskey distillery on the neighbouring Isle of Raasay.

How: Exodus offers a seven-day Walking the Isle of Skye trip from £2,249pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation and meals and transfers as listed. Citizen Science departures on June 2 and 11 August 11, 2024. Visit exodus.co.uk.

Getting off track in Catalonia, Spain

Village of Siurana, El Priorat
Village of Siurana, El Priorat (Alamy Stock Photo)

Being sustainable isn’t only about minimising carbon emissions. Specialists in Spain, Pura Aventura make it their mission to reduce overcrowding by taking travellers off the beaten track as much as possible. They also work directly with hoteliers, guides and suppliers, ensuring money funnels directly to the source.

As part of a partnership with TourSpain, the UK’s official Spanish Tourist Board, they have launched a collection of holidays connecting to the UK by rail journeys through Paris. Exploring Catalonia beyond the guidebooks, a new wine themed trip combines a tour of Barcelona with visits to the Cava wine region of El Penedes and Spain’s other Rioja, El Priorat. Highlights include a Choi recital at a fabled Benedictine abbey in Montserrat Natural Park and a stay at a remote winery.

How: The seven-night Barcelona & Catalan Wine Route tour costs from £1,850pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation, car hire, guided activities and private transfers. International travel by train is extra. Visit pura-aventura.com.