The best ethical holidays in the world

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(Last updated on: 09/02/2021)

If you are searching for the best ethical holidays in the world then you are probably already familiar with the concept of ethical tourism (if you’re not you can learn all about it here). Ethical holidays are increasing in popularity and it is no wonder why- people are becoming more aware of the impacts of tourism and they want to feel that they are doing something good when they travel, not the opposite.

But what does an ethical holiday look like? And how do you find an ethical holiday? In this article I will tell you all about the best ethical holidays in the world and why you should consider them for your next overseas vacation.

What is an ethical holiday?

Travelling is a fun and enjoyable pastime for so many of us. However, do we always stop and think of the negative impacts of tourism? While it is so easy to book a budget flight and spend two weeks having cocktails brought to your sun lounger, is it ethical? There are so many impacting factors linked to tourism. Whether we’re talking about an environmental impacts of tourism, or the exploitation of low-paid local workers, or something else entirely – there is simply no denying that tourism can have negative consequences for real people.

Ethical tourism is a concept that has been developed in response to the critiques of mass tourism. Essentially, ethical tourism encourages tourists to move away from’ the four Ss’ (Sun, Sea, Sand and Sex), and exchange these for ‘the three Ts’ (Travelling, Trekking and Trucking).

To put it simply, ethical tourism is a form of responsible tourism. Ethical tourists consider the impact of their actions with regards to the three pillars of sustainable tourism– the environment, the economy and society. They minimise negative impacts and maximise the positive impacts.

The best ethical holidays in the world

There are many different types of ethical holidays, from taking a volunteer tourism trip in Argentina to visiting an elephant sanctuary in Thailand to staying in an eco lodge in The Gambia. In fact, there are so many ‘ethical holidays’ coming into the market these days that choosing one can be a daunting experience!

Fortunately, I have done the research for you! In this article I will introduce you to what I think are the 10 best ethical tourism holidays in the world…

#1 Ban Talae Nok Village, Thailand

best ethical holidays in the world
Ban Talae Non Village is not on the main tourist trail.

Located 40 km north of Kuraburi in Thailand, the name of this village translates to Faraway Village of the Sea. It is a lovely little community right on the edge of the Andaman Sea with a big focus on fishing and farming. Staying here is a real treat. The beach itself has a gorgeous golden glow, thanks to the abundant presence of tin here, and there are small lagoons and beautiful Casuarinas pine trees here too.

Ban Talae Nok village is abundant with the bounty from the sea, the land, and local wisdom. We are proud to be born here and be a part of the village. – Nui, a Ban Talae Nok villager.

Founded over 100 years ago, this is the oldest village on the peninsula. 99% of the population is Muslim. There is only one road in and out of the village, which has had access to electricity for just over 20 years. You can stay here with a company called Andaman Discoveries. They offer homestays, meaning you’ll stay with a host family who will introduce you to the amazing way of life here. Join in with their daily activities: soap making, batik, harvesting cashew nuts and so much more. Learn a bit of Thai, visit a local school and learn to cook delicious Thai food. It is such a fulfilling experience!

Andaman Discovers offer experiences across different Thai villages. They are a fantastic example of ethical tourism, allowing visitors to get involved in the local community and really give back. These are some of the best ethical holidays in the world.

#2 Timoulilt, Morocco

best ethical holidays in the world
Most people who travel through Morocco have never heard of Timoulit.

Another option for a volunteering holiday is in Timoulilt, Morocco. Here you can join Coopérative Asdikae Bila Houdoud, a women’s organisation that take groups out on immersive experiences to see how the argan oil industry works. The tour, Traditional Cosmetique, is an 8-day guided tour. You will help local women to extract argan as well as taking part in soap making, cooking and much more. Transfers, food, accommodation and an English-speaking guide are all included in the cost. 

Morocco is beautiful. This tour is a great way to experience it while supporting local women and learning about this valuable industry. Argan oil is known as liquid gold for a reason… An experience like this is bound to be one of the best ethical holidays in the world.

#3 Berlin, Germany

best ethical holidays in the world
Berlin can make for a great ethical holiday destination.

If a city break is more up your street, there are definitely ways in which you can ensure your trip is more ethical. By booking somewhere that has excellent green standards (such as a LEED-certified hotel) and offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight, you are already taking steps to ensure your holiday is an eco-friendly one before you even leave your hometown. Using public transport rather than taxis and cutting down on single use plastic while on a city break are two more ways in which you can add a greener twist to your trip.

Berlin is a beautiful and fascinating city. It makes for a brilliant European city break, as there is so much to see and do. It has a really rich history, so there are plenty of museums alongside restaurants, bars, architecture, beauty spots and more.

Walking tours are an amazing way to see any city – and when there is as much to cover as there is in Berlin, they are also a really affordable option. Refugee Voices Tours offer walking tours led by Syrian refugees. They aim to use significant sites in Berlin – all of which you’ll want to see anyway – to illustrate the parallels between the city’s history and what is currently happening in Syria. You even have the option to visit an authentic Syrian restaurant afterwards!

This is an amazing way to add a unique twist to your Berlin trip. It also gives back to the refugee community here. Refugee Voices Tours also offer a similar tour of Copenhagen, if Denmark is more up your street.

#4 Dundreggan, Scotland

best ethical holidays in the world
Dundreggan has had lots of positive media coverage as a result of the ethical Trees For Life holidays held there.

Are you interested in nature? Fancy spending a week planting trees in the Scottish highlands? Join a Conservation Week with Trees For Life, helping to rebuild native forests in Dundreggan, Scotland. Meals and accommodation are included. You also get transport from Inverness, and it is a great way to enjoy some ecotourism. Spend 7 days in nature ensuring that future generations have wild space to enjoy and learn from, and give back to the local community while you’re there. Get to know the wildlife in the area, too!

As well as Dundreggan, Trees For Life offer Conservation Weeks in Glenn Affric too. Children are more than welcome on these tours. They make for some of the best ethical holidays in the world, as you are supporting local communities while helping nature survive.

#5 Kruger National Park area, South Africa 

best ethical holidays in the world
Kruger National Park offers ethical forms of wildlife tourism.

Volunteering holidays can be so much fun, and here you can volunteer with orphaned monkeys and baboons. There are over 400 primates that need taking care of. Cuddle them, feed them, bathe them and help with basic maintenance work. There are comfortable cabins and dormitories for volunteers. Meal times are sociable and the area is really peaceful. 

On a typical day you might start by cleaning enclosures, preparing food and feeding the animals. Then, after a delicious breakfast, you could continue with bottle feeding the babies, do some health checks or work on other projects. In the afternoon you might help with building work, planting vegetables, collecting food, or working on rehabilitation projects.

Choose to volunteer from 2 to 12 weeks with Responsible Travel. This is perfect for something different that gives back to the natural area and of course, helps these beautiful animals. It is a really immersive experience and not exactly a relaxing holiday, but it is so rewarding. This is partly what makes it one of the best ethical holidays in the world!

#6 Kyoto, Japan

best ethical holidays in the world
There are plenty of ways to explore Kyoto in an ethical way.

If a more relaxing, mainstream holiday is what you’re looking for, you can still do it in a more ethical way. Consider booking through a company like Rickshaw Travel. They offer trips to Kyoto, Japan as well as various other places across Asia and all of America.

The great thing about Rickshaw Travel is that they donate £5 from each booking to a local community project wherever you have booked your trip. These not-for-profit organisations do great things for local communities, and your booking helps to fund them. For trips in Japan, the company donate to Mirai No Mori – a kids’ summer camp charity. This is a great way to be a bit more ethical when planning a traditional holiday!

See a list of all of the community projects that Rickshaw Travel support HERE. They also offer plenty of advice about being a more responsible traveller, which is something that everybody should strive towards when planning any future travel.

#7 Radovljica, Slovenia

best ethical holidays in the world
Radovljica is a picturesque town in Slovenia.

Slovenia is a beautiful European country. And with Bee Our Guest, you can engage in some apitourism – or ‘bee tourism’. The stunning town of Radovljica has a gorgeous Old Town centre, a laid-back atmosphere and buckets full of charm. Bees are absolutely vital to the earth’s ecosystem, and here you can visit the Beekeeping Centre of Gorenjska.

Here, you can join in with workshops, honey tasting and guided tours as you learn about the history of beekeeping in Slovenia. Then, head to local restaurants to try food enriched with honey produced in the area – and finish off your trip with a visit to the Museum of Apiculture where you can learn even more about bees!

Again, it is worth looking into green hotels in the area and offsetting any carbon emissions from your flight to Slovenia to ensure this holiday is as ethical (and eco-friendly) as possible. Apitourism is completely unique to Slovenia, and is a great way to support the ecology of this scenic country.

#8 WWOOFing (worldwide)

WWOOFING is a popular ethical tourism activity around the world.

If you are interested in farm work, WWOOF are a great company to choose. It stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms – they can connect visitors like yourself to organic farmers in order to provide exchanges that are mutually beneficial. With free room and board this is definitely inexpensive way to experience a new place. You’ll be fully immersed in farm life – experiencing a new culture, learning transferrable skills and making lifelong friends. This is a great way to spend a gap year, for example, as you will come away having learnt so much.

You can find farms and rural homestays in 99 countries worldwide. By joining WWOOF you will have access to a network of contacts – this allows you to find farms and hosts across the world. Farming is a great way to give back to local communities, suppliers and more!

#9 Ladakh, India

best ethical holidays in the world
Ladakh is the perfect base for an ethical holiday.

India is such a colourful, beautiful and culturally rich country. It is on many peoples’ bucket lists, and it is entirely possible to plan one of the best ethical holidays in the world ever to India. Soul Scape organise trips to various parts of the nation including Ladakh in the Himalayas. You’ll learn the art of Thangka painting, take cookery classes, try yoga, step inside a 1000 year old monastery and so much more. The company’s itineraries have been put together with the local community in mind. From making sustainable choices to building honest and meaningful relationships with local communities, they give so much back. Food, accommodation and transport is included when you book with Soul Scape too.

If Ladakh doesn’t float your boat, they offer experiences in Santiniketan, Odisha and Gujarat too. Fall in love with India on one of these unique trips.

#10 Trezzone, Italy

best ethical holidays in the world
Trezzone is one of the best places to take an ethical holiday.

When thinking about ethical holidays, Lake Como in Italy probably doesn’t spring to mind. But travel company Sawday’s offer a range of eco-friendly accommodation in places just like this. Trezzone is home to Villa Très Jolie which overlooks the bright blue lake with mountains in the distance; it has plenty of space as well as plenty of animals, and the hosts are keen to ensure that travel is as sustainable as possible for their guests.

This part of Italy is simply breathtaking. You’re not far from Switzerland, either, if you ever get sick of the Italian wine, markets, cheese, architecture and more…

If Italy isn’t currently on your list, Sawday’s have accommodation in many other places. Choose from Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal too! Sawday’s offer some of the best ethical holidays in the world as you can truly cater your trip to what you want.

The best ethical holidays in the world

As you can see, there are some incredible ethical holiday options all around the world! If you are looking to ‘do something good’ on your next holiday, there are certainly plenty of options for you. Do you have any other recommendations for the best ethical holidays in the world? Let me know in the comments below!


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