Five of the best in Europe
The name translates as “made from nature”, an accurate description for this remarkable Swedish resort. Located in deep woodland three hours from Stockholm, it’s a collection of six cabins and two treehouses, all of them fed by a mixture of solar and wood power (storm-fallen trees are used for fuel). Much of the food is gathered from the lake and forest – even the peat roof of the communal “wolf cot” grows wild strawberries.
Zmar Eco Campo Resort & Spa
Located on a scenic stretch of coastline in southern Portugal, the Zmar Eco Campo balances cleverly designed wooden architecture and thermal solar panels with a far-reaching approach to sustainability. Accommodations are suspended off the ground to protect the soil, and have also been designed to make the most of the natural shade and breeze. Among countless other initiatives, it also has a unit for treating and reusing water and a centre dedicated to the region’s flora and fauna.
Tenuta di Spannocchia
A working organic farm in the Tuscan countryside, Tenuta di Spannocchia focuses on allowing residents to make the most of the land, with its own vegetable garden, vineyards, beehives and olive groves. Guests are able to order harvest boxes of vegetables to their accommodation (seven rentable farmhouses are on site, as well as a B&B service) and cooking lessons are also offered. The property has its own foundation, created to preserve cultural landscapes for future generations.
Recently named Europe’s leading green resort at the World Travel Awards, Chateau Mcely – which bills itself as a ‘spa hotel and forest retreat’ – holds the highest possible EU certification for green hotels. The property sits in the north of the Czech Republic, uses electricity from renewable sources and gives support to regional farms, but its first-rate options for trekking, cycling and wellness treatments are just as integral to the appeal. Spa products use local herbs.
The fashionable rise of yurt and tip breaks has produced a number of spectacular resorts around the UK, and the aptly titled Eco Retreats is among the very best. Located two miles from the nearest house, in verdant Welsh woodland – and just a short distance from the Centre of Alternative Technology – the site has just five tipis and a yurt. While not skimping on home comforts, it’s committed to creating minimum impact on the environment.
Five of the best in Asia
Rural Bali lends itself well to community-minded projects, and the Desa Seni Village Resort – lauded by Conde Nast Traveler, among others – is an excellent example of somewhere that has had a positive social impact on its surroundings. Initiatives include an orphanage fundraising scheme, widespread rubbish-disposal education and a programme offering yoga to locals. The fact that it also offers an exquisite haven for a getaway, of course, is no less a reason for its popularity.
Evason Phuket & Bon Island
A strong example of a luxury chain property demonstrating genuine commitment to sustainability, Evason Phuket & Bon Island continues to be widely praised for its environmental awareness, its community work and its promotion of responsible tourism. It was the first resort hotel in South East Asia to be Green Globe-certified, and notable local projects include a mangrove planting programme and a US$250,000 donation to rebuild a Phuket school. Its spa and restaurant have both also received high-profile awards.
Dune Eco Village & Spa
The Dune Eco Village is a 35-acre beach resort brimming with international media coverage for both its spa and its sustainable outlook. The resort itself was constructed almost entirely from reclaimed materials and its two restaurants both serve organic food, much of it grown on the premises. In addition, it hosts an artists-in-residence programme and provides a base for ‘Children of the World’, a charitable trust that helps tsunami-affected youngsters.
Gayana Eco Resort
As if the prospect of staying on a coral reef island off the Borneo coast wasn’t notable enough, Malaysia’s Gayana Eco Resort is also the only property of its kind to host its own Marine Ecology Research Centre, primarily aimed at protecting and restoring local reefs and sealife. All its dive experiences are intended to enhance awareness of the environment, and the resort also has sound policies on recycling and garbage disposal.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge
Another with various eco-awards to its name, this Nepalese lodge sits on a ridge high above the spectacular Pokhara Valley. It sees itself as a pioneer for responsible tourism and takes conservation practices seriously, monitoring waterfowl, providing wages for a forest ranger and giving support to sustainable forest management. Donations from the lodge and its guests – some £16,000 to date – have helped rebuild a new classroom block for the local secondary school.
Five of the best in Africa
Campi Ya Kanzi
As the first property to be gold-rated by Ecotourism Kenya, Campi Ya Kanzi has become a template for responsible safari resorts. The camp is owned and run by the local Maasai community, and guests contribute a daily conservation fee to a local wildlife and heritage trust – a programme which has seen the local lion population increase threefold. The lodge itself uses solar energy and collects rainwater, while food comes from its organic vegetable garden.
Mozambique has some stunningly serene corners, none of them more appealing than that occupied by the hand-built Nkwichi Lodge, which sits on the shores of Lake Niassa. The lodge is an integral part of the Manda Wilderness Community Trust, helping to protect a vast area of savannah while funding schools and a maternity clinic for nearby villages. Its agricultural project has assisted more than 750 farmers, and the lodge itself employs 75 local people.
The Gambia’s beaches and fishing villages have helped the destination grow in status over recent years, and the Sandele Eco-Retreat offers a means of experiencing the charms of the country in a responsible manner. The resort was built in partnership with the community and is run on ethical principles, while also helping to fund charitable courses in alternative technologies and personal development for both visitors and local people. And yes, it’s right on the beach.
The name alone conjures up an out-of-the-ordinary experience, and the reality doesn’t disappoint. The privately owned Phantom Forest Eco Reserve sits on South Africa’s Southern Cape coast and has placed significant focus on sustainable methods of construction, providing some memorable visitor features (jaccuzzi ‘bubble barrel’, anyone?) and offering the chance for guests to immerse themselves in the countryside – the resort was recently named Africa’s leading green hotel at the World Travel Awards.
Egypt’s remarkable Adrère Amellal is located in the Siwa Oasis and calls itself a ‘place out of time’, a concept neatly backed up by the elegant, electricity-free, phone-free desert resort. Evening lighting comes courtesy of torches and in-room beeswax candles, which only serve to heighten the drama of the surroundings. The food is almost exclusively organic, while the furniture and decorations are all the products of local craftsmen. Various desert excursions are offered to guests.
Five of the best in the Rest of the World
Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa
There’s hardly a shortage of space in Australia, but the 30 acres of rainforest that make up the family-owned Daintree Eco Lodge are surely among the most enticing. With a mantelpiece groaning under the weight of green awards, it offers wilderness, wildlife and locally inspired spa treatments, all underpinned by a focus on both luxury and conservation. Preserving the region’s biodiversity is key, and the lodge also maintains a close relationship with the local Aboriginal community.
Ora Ora Resort
For clients looking for that quintessential Kiwi experience, this eco spa retreat is unlikely to disappoint. The Ora Ora Resort is located in the Bay of Islands, so boasts the kind of widescreen scenery synonymous with New Zealand. It provides tastefully luxurious accommodation, while also dedicating its efforts to rainwater harvesting, organic gardening, meditation programmes and solar-panel electricity. There is a no-chemicals policy applied to the whole resort, and organic waste is fed to two worm farms.
Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort
Previously named the world’s top eco resort by users of Trip Advisor, the Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort is a strong example of how sustainable tourism can be practiced successfully in the South Pacific. It runs a programme of eco-friendly guest activities – including a weekly Ecological Awareness day – and also offers world-class snorkelling and traditional thatched Fijian bungalows. The resort is located in its own coconut plantation on the island of Vanua Levu.
Adopting a tread-lightly approach to its setting in the heart of the Alaskan wilds, Sadie Cove is a hydroelectric lodge constructed from milled driftwood. Visitors can expect majestic scenery and superb hiking opportunities, with the lodge laying on educational nature walks to tidal flats and alpine valleys. Much of its mealtime produce is either fished or grown onsite, and recycling is prioritised despite the remote location. An Alaskan log sauna, meanwhile, is on hand to soothe any tired limbs.
Around forty years ago, North Island in the Seychelles was abandoned after the demise of the coconut industry. Soon afterwards, ecologists warned that weeds and other intrusive flora and fauna were threatening the island’s biodiversity. Since the introduction of the upmarket North Island eco-resort, however, firm conservation efforts have reversed this trend, also promoting controlled development and the preservation of historical sites. The resort was shortlisted for the World’s Leading Green Resort at the World Travel Awards.