With the recent wild fires in Russia disrupting flights and increasing air pollution in Moscow, environmental quality is a growing factor in attracting tourists.
Crisis events like fires and volcanoes, as well as general air pollution can put off visitors, as they become increasingly interested in the eco-credentials of their host nations. After all, who wants to visit a dirty, smog-ridden city?
Skyscanner takes a look at the top ten cleanest, greenest countries, (according to The Economist), where the air is pure and the water clean.
With so much of Switzerland made up of mountains and lakes, it’s little surprise that it tops the enviro-charts. If you want to experience Switzerland’s alpine beauty in a low impact way, try WhitePod Village - a collection of eco-friendly pods, tucked away on a Swiss mountainside. Complete with cosy wood burning stoves, comfy beds and incredible views, this is eco-camping in luxury. Find flights to Switzerland from £43 return.
‘Powered by nature’ is the slogan of Norway’s tourist board and if you take a trip through fjord land you’ll see why. Steep cliffs plunge into deep blue fjords whilst waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides creating a landscape of sheer beauty. The best way to experience Norway’s nature with minimal impact is by foot and Bergen is a great base for hiking the area. You can also explore the region by train which takes you through the fjords and up the mountains. Find flights to Norway from £20 return.
In joint second with neighbour Norway, Sweden offers cascading northern lights, white sandy beaches, mountains, meadows and a glittering array of over 24,000 islands. Sweden was the second country in the world to introduce an eco-tourism charter, and also created Europe’s first eco-label that assures the quality of around 180 holidays and activities run by its 80 eco-certified tour operators around the country. Find flights to Sweden from £26 return.
Finland’s Lapland is one of Europe’s last true areas of unspoiled wilderness, with vast swathes of forest and hundreds of pristine lakes, visitors can enjoy the midnight sun, stunning natural scenery and see bear and lynx. A paradise for campers, hikers and bikers, Finland was recently named ‘Best Country in the World’ by Newsweek, and is one great escape. Find flights to Finland from £43 return.
5. Costa Rica
This Central American country has been deemed the world’s ‘most natural conservation area’ having protected more than 27% of its land by creating a network of Wildlife Refuges, Biological Reserves and National Parks. Costa Rica offers a diverse range of ecosystems and activities; trek through million-year old rainforest, hike volcanoes, raft wild rivers, and spy jaguars, reptiles and multicoloured birds. Find flights to Costa Rica from £470 return.
If you’re looking to learn something on holiday, visit Kalchkendlalm, Austria’s most unusual school. Located high on a mountain pasture with a backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks, toy town houses in the valley, thick forests and craggy cliffs, you can join the ‘bread and butter’ class, bake your own loaf, milk a cow and churn butter. Find flights to Austria from £47 return.
7. New Zealand
Ever since Frodo Baggins and Gandalf introduced us to Middle Earth, New Zealand’s vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches and spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity have captured the world’s imagination. Take a sea kayak tour in the Abel Tasman National Park, an exquisite area of coastline between Marahau and Takaka, and explore the bays, beaches and headlands of the park. Campsites occur regularly along the way, so you can pull into shore and pitch a tent at the end of each day. Find flights to New Zealand from £732 return.
Visit an ‘open farm’ where you can learn how food is produced, try your hand at some of the eco-friendly farming techniques, and buy fresh and healthy foods which are not available from the city supermarkets. There are many types of different open farms to choose from: livestock farms, mushroom farms, fish farms and flower farms. Visitors can stay in beautiful farmstead log cabins and enjoy horse riding, hiking or canoeing on Latvia’s various lakes. Find flights to Latvia from £81 return.
This south American country has a diverse selection of nature holiday options; go diving in Colombia’s coral reef (which claims to be the third biggest in the world), see snow capped summits surpassing 5000m in the volcano region, then relax in the soothing thermal waters of a natural hot spring. Or visit Colombia’s coffee region, which showcases the country’s biggest (legal) export, and where eco-adventures abound in a landscape of rolling hills and coffee plantations, which can be explored by bike or horseback. Find flights to Colombia from £498 return.
With scenery as diverse as high Alpine peaks to Atlantic Ocean islets, France has plenty of pristine countryside to offer. One of the less visited areas that is gaining attention is the Lot Valley in southern France. Whether you’re looking for flatlands or fields, forests or fens, foothills, gorges or valleys, following the River Lot as it meanders down a 481km long valley is a great way to see a clean and green part of France. Find flights to France from £20 return.
How other countries ranked in the Environmental Performance Index
Germany: 13th (joint with Slovenia)
Ranking is according to The Economist’s Environmental Performance Index which is based on a range of factors including environmental health, biodiversity, air pollution, water use, agricultural methods and tackling climate change.