Beautiful Sunrise, Bicycles, and Bridge Over Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ecotourism Destinations: Europe

I have mentioned in previous articles on ecotourism, that one aspect of receiving visitors is that it assists the local economy. This also applies to Europe. I recently returned from an “off-season” visit to Amsterdam and London, and while there, couldn’t help but notice the volume of tourists I encountered in both these cities I visited. I should not have been surprised as major centres such as these are much sought after, and for good reasons. I know cities such as London and Paris are wonderful, but London alone isn’t Britain, nor is Paris alone, France. Certainly, do go to London and Paris. However, so many visitors do not get beyond the city limits. There is so much more, for example, to discover in both countries, which contribute to Europe ecotourism.

Consider in any European country the possibility of travelling by train. It’s a very relaxing form of transportation and allows you to view the countryside. Consider a cycling holiday. There are many countries that offer great routes. Walking is not only a healthy pastime but an excellent way to not only  experience a destination, but also to meet local people, shop in local stores, and stay locally.

Glacier Express Train, Switzerland
Glacier Express train in Switzerland

Some countries in Europe take their future seriously
In a recent report, the top 10 greenest countries in the world were all in Europe, with one exception – Costa Rica. Here are a few countries I have chosen to illustrate the awareness of ecotourism in Europe.

Very few countries in the world are as inherently sustainable as Iceland. This island nation in the North Atlantic possesses many of the ideal components of sustainability – a cooperative government, like-minded citizens, vast and stunning landscapes, pure water sources, exceptional wildlife, and an overall commitment to the conservation of nature. Iceland recognizes that nature is, in fact, an extremely important commodity, and therefore the country must be dedicated to preserving this natural wealth through responsible conservation. Due to its access to natural sources of hydro and geothermal energy, Iceland is the cleanest energy consumer in the world, with 75% of its total energy consumption coming from these natural sources. Additionally, Iceland topped the table of the 2010 Environmental Performance Index, as a world leader in pollution control, natural resource management, environmental public health, greenhouse gas emissions, and reforestation. The Icelandic Tourist Board rewards the country’s hotels, hostels, attractions, and tours with annual Environmental Awards, denoting a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental consciousness throughout the Icelandic tourism industry.

Iceland Volcano
Iceland volcano

Sweden is one of the best ecotourism destinations in the world. It holds the ecotourism quality certification, “Nature’s Best,” which was a unique certification in Europe when it was first awarded to this tourist destination. The objective of ecotourism activities of this country is to ensure that economical worth is added to resources of ecological and cultural importance. There are tours of this country that are organized by government tourist organizations such as the Ecotourism Society of Sweden, which works to provide the best tourist experience while enhancing the economy with the revenues generated through such activities.

Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden
Nobel Museum in Stockholm

It takes no time at all to realize this is a country of cyclists. Not just for reasons of getting exercise, but as an ecological and convenient way of transportation. Cyclists account for 75% of the traffic in Amsterdam. Most major hotels rent bikes. And yes, Holland is, for the most part, totally flat.

Copenhagen is friendly to pedestrians, and perhaps even friendlier to cyclists. Nearly 40% of residents commute by bike each day. The city’s bike-sharing programme provides bikes to locals and visitors for free. Copenhagen has a network of about 350kilometres/180 miles of off-road bike paths complete with traffic lights. The city has no shortage of green activities. There is open-air swimming at the harbour pools, which shows you how clean the waterways are. There is the world’s first carbon-neutral theme park, Tivoli Gardens.

Tivoli Gardens at Night, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens at night

In 2011, Hamburg, Germany was nominated the Green Capital of Europe, due to its greenery from vast public parks and flowering gardens to lakeside beaches and shaded woodlands – turning urban sprawl into a haven of natural beauty. The city’s “car-less Sundays” are held several times a year when the city centre has free public transportation. You can also take advantage of the city centre’s free bicycle rental scheme.

Europe in General
It is obvious that Europe is a big draw for visitors from overseas, and there is no reason not to travel there. However, it is good to see that many countries and cities here are becoming increasingly conscious of the need for sustainability so that we visitors and the local inhabitants benefit.

Flower Garden in Planten um Blomen Park with Heinrich-Hertz-Turm Radio Telecommunication Tower in the Background at Dusk, Hamburg, Germany
Planten um Blomen Park and Heinrich-Hertz-Turm Radio Tower at dusk, Hamburg

Our Ecotourism Series:
Ecotourism – An Important Trend in Travel
Ecotourism Destinations: East Africa
Ecotourism Destinations: Southern Africa
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 1)
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 2)
Ecotourism Destinations: Central and South America (Part 3)
Ecotourism Destinations: Asia (Part 1)
Ecotourism Destinations: Asia (Part 2)
Ecotourism Destinations: Australia
Ecotourism Destinations: New Zealand
Ecotourism Destinations: Europe

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Robert Glazier
Robert Glazier

Contributing Writer - With over 40 years experience in the travel industry, and working for Goway for the last 19 years, British-born Robert Glazier has travelled to over 80 countries. “I have never met a destination which didn’t have something to interest me,” he says. His first foray abroad was from England to Switzerland on a school trip at the age of 14, and that was the start of a long journey. An avid runner, Robert’s favourite way of exploring a destination, is to don his running shoes and really get to know it on foot, even if it means sometimes getting lost! His advice to other travellers? Always wonder what is around the next corner!

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