southafrica_safariWith the World Responsible Tourism Awards in its 11th year, now would be a good time to honor the destinations that stand out as premier eco-friendly models.

Tourism and environmental authorities from these destinations have gone above and beyond to ensure the surrounding natural and cultural wonders remain intact and continue to thrive.

ResponsibleTravel.com, which offers eco-friendly holidays and has become a premier ethical agent throughout the years, recently released a list of the top eco-travel destinations.

Here is a more in-depth look at the top five eco-travel destinations, from Brazil to Norway.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town was not only the first city to win the Best Destination category of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in 2009, it was also named one of the World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations 2010 by Ethical Traveler.

And you can see why.
First of all, the Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the richest areas of plant life in the world. It encompasses less than half of one percent of Africa’s area, but it includes nearly 20 percent of the continent’s flora. Explore the South African National Parks conservation areas, including the Table Mountain National Park and Cape Point, and you’ll be amazed. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden features over 22,000 indigenous plants.

Beyond that, Cape Town boasts beautiful beaches, niche adventures like jazz safari and a variety of wildlife including Chacma baboons, penguin colonies and otters. In terms of outdoor adventures, you can go caving, mountain biking, rock climbing, shark cage diving, surfing, water skiing, skydiving, paragliding, golfing and more. There are also six designated wine trails in Cape Town.

The combination of scenery, history, culture and informative township tourism projects makes Cape Town an ideal eco-travel destination.

The North York Moors, UK

The North York Moors National Park in the United Kingdom is a 554-square-mile expanse that includes wild, remote landscapes, stunning coastline and quirky spa towns.

The park features 26 miles of coastline, the 110-mile Cleveland Way National Trail, moorland covering one-third of the entire park, a large area of woodlands and forest, unique rivers, hundreds of monuments and a wide variety of wildlife.

From merlin to golden plover to the Duke of Burgundy butterfly to the freshwater pearl mussel, there are plenty of fascinating species to gaze at and discover.
Winner of the best Protected Area in 2004, the North York Moors takes all the beautiful terrain and wildlife the United Kingdom is known for and displays all of it in one astounding area.

Roros, Norway

Roros is a former mining town and municipality that has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

For over 85 years, the icy wonderland has been preserved by the locals.

It’s a good thing, too, because it makes cycling, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, husky sledding and reindeer sightseeing even more extraordinary.

Birch and pine trees surround the small town, as do several eye-catching lakes such as Aursund, Glama and Femund that allow for great fishing and kayaking.
Roros is also considered a living museum, with its entire town center (complete with historic wooden buildings) protected. Artists and craftsman largely populate the site.

And don’t forget the check out the Femundsmarka and Forollhogna national parks.

New Zealand

Winner of the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2008, New Zealand is a dream destination for many because of its overwhelming abundance of natural beauty.

The country is basically an outdoor playground, becoming a hotspot for adventurers and extreme sports enthusiasts alike, and it boasts every terrain imaginable.

From the North Island to the South Island, you’ll find clear blue lakes and rivers, lush forests, caves, volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, coastline, redwoods, tropical beaches and more.

The country was boosted by the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films, but nature lovers have long admired the beautiful expanse. If you love the outdoors and nature, you simply have to go to New Zealand once in your lifetime, whatever it takes. Its beauty will stay with you long after your trip.

Bonito, Brazil

The eco capital of Brazil, Bonito was named Best Destination in the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

The aquatic wonderland in Mato Grosso do Sul is a testament to local authorities’ commitment to maintaining the natural surroundings. From magical caves with sparkling stalactite formations to pristine clear blue lakes to lush forests to incredible waterfalls, Bonito leaves little to be desired for nature lovers and adventurers. Snorkeling is also a popular activity in the area, given the clear water and abundant water life.

Gruta do Lago Azul is definitely worth a visit, a spectacular cave with an underground lake that illuminates during the winter months.

The area has been growing in popularity throughout the years, boosted by the introduction of Serra da Bodoquena national park in 2000.

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