The expert guide to traveling more sustainably in 2022


Taking an eco-friendly break used to be synonymous with a weekend of hedgerowing or a summer spent conserving wildlife in the tropics. How things have changed: being a green traveler today is no longer limited to occasional gestures but rather a state of mind. A lifelong attitude towards conscious adventure, it now influences every aspect of our travels, from what we pack and how we reach our destination to where we stay and what activities we participate in – from the romance of road trips to long-distance train to swimming in natural pools and feasting on local and seasonal products.

Such change has come about thanks to both a growing understanding of climate change – and tourism’s role in it – and the pioneering efforts of many tour operators to show the joy of going green. Luxury camping specialists Featherdown Farm and Fforest, for example, led the way in the glamping revolution. Digital platforms such as Under the Thatch and Canopy & Stars have made it easier to find and book low-impact rural idylls. Book publishers such as Sawdays and Bradt have boosted the joys of slow travel. And adventure operators like TYF, Intrepid and Much Better Adventures have set the agenda for sustainable outdoor recreation.

That’s not to say the evolution of green travel has been straightforward (or balustraded). The trend to replace annual trips with multiple shorter breaks has led to an increase in carbon-intensive air travel. Major overland routes were discontinued (such as ferry services to Scandinavia and overnight “train hotels” across France and Spain). Cuts to local transport services have severely affected car-free access to rural areas for those planning longer stays. And unscrupulous companies have jumped on the “green” travel marketing bandwagon, muddying the emerald waters.

There are, however, tangible signs that we are entering a new era of green travel. Many specialist accommodation booking sites now have a green filter, for example, Sawday’s ‘Sustainable stars’, i-escape’s ‘Eco rating’ and Cool Places’ ‘Eco Retreats’. Mainstream travel companies are now providing tools to help travelers tell the difference between true green and greenwash. and Google, for example, work with nonprofit Travalyst to flag eco-certified hotels in their search results.

There remains an overly convoluted network of train ticketing agencies, but there are now plenty of tools to help you navigate the complexities and intricacies of booking long-distance train travel overland. The seat61 website, created by former railway worker Mark Smith, provides a wealth of advice on how to find and book the best tickets. It is especially useful if you are planning multi-stop trips across international borders. A welcome development has been the emergence of Trainline as a platform for booking European train tickets. One of the handy tools it has introduced is an email “ticket alert” which notifies you as soon as reservations are open for your chosen route so you can buy the cheapest tickets as soon as possible. that they are available.

Decarbonizing air travel is still a long way off, but there’s a pretty big disparity between aircraft carbon emissions and airline operating procedures, and now there are tools to help you find more carbon-efficient flights. , such as the “Greener” wording of choices on search results provided by the Skyscanner flight search engine. by air can be considered ‘green’, but there has been the emergence of ‘positive impact adventures’ which help conserve biodiversity, protect the landscape and contribute significantly to local economic empowerment and to global justice.

The emergence of The Long Run, a global alliance of nature-focused tourism companies that collectively conserve more than 23 million acres of biodiversity, has shown that these types of trips can make a palpable difference in saving precious ecosystems. Members include many pioneering retreats that are integrated into their local community, such as Borana Conservancy at the foot of Mount Kenya, the Caiman Ecological Refuge in the vast Pantanal wetlands in Brazil, Misool in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, which protects some of the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world. , and the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in South Africa, which protects 790 plant species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Closer to home, there have been a handful of new travel companies selling green trips, including Byway and Ecosy, which focus on flightless itineraries and specialist interest trips, such as vegan breaks, while Natural Britain offers a selection of eco-friendly accommodation and low-impact activities. Long-established international tour operators such as Intrepid and Kuoni, which have traditionally focused on overseas travel, are now selling UK travel. By capitalizing on the modernization of cross-Channel ferry services and the rail renaissance (including the reintroduction of night trains across Europe), these companies are helping to make low-carbon travel ever more convenient and, above all, more attractive.

Three green trips to try

1. Get off the grid in Wales
Just outside of Machynlleth, Eco Retreats has five off-grid yurt camps (each has fresh spring water on tap and wood-fired baths) spread over 50 acres in the Dyfi Forest. There are mountain bike trails and walks nearby, including the route to Cader Idris in southern Snowdonia. From £275 for two nights for two people (up to two children free).

2. Sustainable cycling in France
Travel on foot with your bike on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe then take the Véloroute du Lin between Pourville sur Mer and Fécamp. This 50-mile route is booked through Dieppe and Fécamp stations. Stay just off-road at Clos des Ifs, from €65 (£60), B&B. Ferries from €50 (£42) return per adult including bike.

3. Rail and sail to Greece
Direction the Pelion peninsula, between Athens and Thessaloniki. Take the train to Bari on the heel of Italy, then the ferry to Igoumenitsa on mainland Greece to catch the bus to Volos, the gateway to Pelion. There are three buses a day from Volos to Tsagkarada village where you can stay at Amanita. From £134, minimum stay two nights.

Richard Hammond is the author of The Green Traveller: A Mindful Adventure That Doesn’t Cost the Earth, published by Pavilion, £18.99.

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