2016 is well underway and by now you’re probably already dreaming of your next holiday. We’re with you; we can’t wait for our next adventure either! Now the question remains: where should you go? You’ve probably done the research, and found that some of the hot picks for this year include Japan, USA, Greenland and good old Australia! And whilst we think all of these places offer unique and wonderful cultural experiences, our choices for this year are a little different.
This year, we’re feeling drawn to destinations that are doing ‘good’ for the globe. We’ve found places that are doing everything in their power to promote human rights, preserve the environment and support social welfare for their country and its people.
Every year, Ethical Traveler review the policies and practices of nations in the developing world. They then choose the top ten that are living the most ethically, all while creating a lively and exciting tourism industry. We’re totally on board!
As Ethical Traveler reminds us no country is perfect. All of the top 10 countries listed have their shortcomings, yet are making an effort to do the right thing in the areas they take into consideration.
So here are the 2016 Ten Best Ethical Destinations (listed alphabetically). We urge you to consider them when planning your next big adventure!
Cabo Verde is a stunning nation that sits on a volcanic archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa. It’s famous for its variety of inspiring beaches and shipwrecks you can dive amongst.
What to see:
Mt Fogo, Cabo Verde’s highest peak, rises out of an ancient crater known as Chã das Caldeiras. The volcano is still active, with its last eruption occurring in 1995, yet you can still climb it!
A little slice of paradise, Pont d’Agua is lined with palm trees and swanky restaurants. If you’re after a kind of South of France feel, then this is the place to be!
Cabo Verde is also on a mission to get half of their energy from renewable resources, whilst doing a lot of work to protect the endangered animals on their shores. They’re also one of the most gender equal African nations.
If you want to escape the masses, check out Dominica. There are so many amazing things to do here including trekking to hot sulphur springs, swimming up a narrow gorge, visiting cascading waterfalls and more.
What to see:
Boiling Lake and Trafalgar Falls
Dominica’s most famous spring is a volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake within Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The preserve features rainforests, sulphur vents, the twin waterfalls of Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge. Further over to the west is Dominica’s capital, Roseau, with colourful timber houses and botanic gardens.
Dominica has the best access to healthcare of any other Caribbean nation, as well as top-notch political and civil rights.
Grenada is a Caribbean country covering a main island, also called Grenada, and 6 smaller surrounding islands. Dubbed the “Spice Isle,” the hilly main island is home to numerous nutmeg plantations.
What to see:
Nutmeg Processing Cooperative
As you wander around town, the smell of nutmeg is never far away, especially when you visit the Nutmeg Processing Cooperative. This large nutmeg processing station is an enormous shop where nutmeg is sorted. Racks are covered with a huge amount of fruit from trees that descended from the first nutmeg plants planted in Grenada by the British in 1843.
Once your nose tires of too much nutmeg, an escape to Pingouin Beach is just what you need. Known for its powdery white sands and warm tanzanite waters, Pingouin Beach is a little slice of heaven (and not to mention a great place to snorkel!)
A major country in the fight to stop climate change, Grenada is doing a lot of work to protect their coral reefs. It has also taken steps towards providing equal rights for the LGBT community.
Micronesia (Federated States)
Micronesia is a sub-region of Oceania and features many small islands in the western Pacific Ocean.
What to see:
Off the shores of a tiny island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean are the ruins of an ancient civilization. The remains of Nan Madol are the only standing monuments of a civilization built entirely over open water, on a coral reef. It’s pretty awe-inspiring!
Ethnic Art Village
Micornesia does a fabulous job of celebrating and preserving indigenous art. At the Ethnic Art Village in Yap, the village elders teach their craftsmanship and techniques to younger artists.
It has a shared cultural history with Polynesia to the east and Melanesia to the south. Micronesia is working towards 30 per cent renewable energy by 2020, and are also forming a lot of protected areas on their islands.
Travellers often overlook Mongolia, known for its rugged landscapes and nomadic dwelling. Once the heartland of an empire stretching to Europe under Genghis Khan, Mongolia is a landlocked country featuring sporadically populated grassland and desert.
What to see:
Chinggis Khaan (Sükhbaatar) Square
Chinggis Khaan Square is the city centre of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. Peaceful anti-communism protests were held here in 1990, which ushered in the era of democracy. Today, the square is occasionally used for rallies, ceremonies and festivals, but is generally a relaxed place where locals and tourists alike come to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
Choijin Lama Temple Museum
If you’re after history and culture, look no further than downtown Ulaanbaatar where you will find Choijin Lama Temple Museum. This gem of architecture and history was home to Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama, the state oracle.
Mongolia has the lowest number of unemployed civilians on the list, and is also the best at providing end of life-care for its people.
From beautiful crystal seas to the coffee farms and cloud forests of Chiriquí, Panama is a place you can relax or seek adventure. From trekking through stunning rainforests to sailing between unspoiled tropical islands, Panama will inspire a sense of wonder in anyone who visits.
What to see:
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
For some local and authentic art, check out Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. This privately owned museum features the grandest collection of Panamanian art, as well as the occasional exhibition by a foreign artist.
Nivida Bat Cave
If you can handle some scare factor, why not take a visit to the Nivida Bat Cave? This natural wonder is a massive cavern that is swarming with nectar bats. For the braver souls, you might even like to take a dip in the subterranean lake whilst you’re there.
Panama have also gone to great lengths to restore their rainforest and promote sustainability. Panama has approved conventions on ending child labour (amazing!) and has also banned dog fighting and greyhound racing.
From the insane surfing, to the arts, culture and lip-smacking cuisine, Samoa isn’t known as the Treasured Islands of the South Pacific for nada!
What to see:
To Sua Ocean Trench
You know those overly-instagrammed cavernous lagoons that look so inviting but also a little bit terrifying at the same time? The Sua Ocean Trench is just that, and while it’s not so much a trench as two sinkhole-like depressions, it is certainly enchanting.
When Samoa’s Mt Matavanu erupted between 1905 and 1991, it created a moonscape in Savai’i’s northeastern corner as lava moved through plantations and villages. There are many fascinating sites you can visit that were ruined by the lava, including several churches.
Samoa plans to rely on 100% renewable energy sources by 2016. They’ve also taken big steps towards ending domestic violence and monitoring the human rights of women, children and civilians with disabilities.
Tonga sits just east of the international dateline, so it’s said by many locals that Tonga is ‘the place where time begins.’
What to see:
Mapu’a ‘a Vaca Blowholes
When the weather is just right at Mapu’a ‘a Vaca, you might be lucky enough to experience hundreds of blowholes spurting at once. Your best bet for the ultimate show is going on a windy day when the swell is strong.
For some archaeological history, Mu’a is the place you want to visit. It contains the deepest concentration of archaeological relics in Tonga. There are 28 royal stone tombs in the area, which were built with enormous limestone slabs carried by canoes.
This sun-drenched country topped the list in terms of environmental protection. They are doing a lot of work when it comes to fighting climate change.
The tiny isles of Tuvalu paint the perfect picture as you approach from the air, however, this independent island nation is under threat by rising sea levels. Surrounded by a fringe of coconut palms, these tiny islets are barely higher than the sea. Tuvalu is now part of the Vulnerable 20 group, which aims to put pressure on the rest of the world to start taking steps to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
What to see
Funafuti Marine Conservation Area
The Funafuti Marine Conservation covers 33 sq km of reef, lagoons and island habitats. Here you can snorkel, trek, and partake in some picnicking or bird watching!
Nanumea Atoll is one of Tuvalu’s most gorgeous islands, featuring a fresh-water pond and a church, and makes for a great day visit. Interestingly, the only way to reach the island is by a government supply ship!
The Funafuti Marine Conservation area is working towards a more ecologically sustainable future as no fishing, hunting or gathering is allowed on these five isles.
Uruguay is slowly but surely gaining a name for itself after living in the shadow of its neighbours Brazil and Argentina. If you’re searching for something a little less than touristy, Uruguay will offer you a whole lot of local culture and more.
What to see:
Punta del Diablo
For a truly local experience, Punta del Diablo is the place to head. It’s the prime summer getaway fro Uruguayans and Argentines with its laid-back lifestyle and beautiful beaches.
Centro de Tortugas Marinas
The Centre for Marine Turtles is a great place for all your turtle-y needs! They provide information on where you can spot these green beauties and they also run a volunteer program that educates visitors on environmental factors that are threatening the turtles and their homes.
Uruguay ranks the highest in regards to social welfare with a long life expectancy, a great education system and a solid standard of living.
( * = also appeared on the 2015 list).
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