If you thought that caring for the environment meant never taking trips abroad or traveling to new, exciting places then think again. Eco-tourism has gone mainstream, and now even the most luxurious holidays can be enjoyed responsibly, it just takes a bit of research and careful planning in advance.
Asia has become one of the world leaders in eco-tourism, and provides travelers with countless opportunities to explore this fascinating continent without leaving a mark. To help you narrow down your options, here are the top ten must-try eco-tours in Asia:
1. Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal
If you want to experience a taste of Nepali lifestyle while trekking through some of the world’s most beautiful nature, then an Annapurna Sanctuary trek is a great choice for environmentally conscious travelers.
The price will vary depending on the size of your group and how long you want to travel, and a 15-day Annapurna Sanctuary trek could cost you anywhere between US$ 1500 and US$3000.
The best time to visit is generally in autumn, from mid September to mid December, or in spring, from March till May. During these months the weather is sunny and clear, which makes for fantastic views of the Annapurna range.
2. Thai National Forests, Thailand
What mode of transport could be more eco-friendly than an elephant or ox cart? A Thai National Forest adventure will take you through the jungle as you search for tigers, leopards and black bears, while sampling deliciously exotic fruits and Thai delicacies.
Thailand is full of national parks, and visiting one of them doesn’t have to be as pricey as you might imagine, it may cost you just a little over US$ 100 per day.
Early rainy season, from June to July, is the best time to visit, as you’ll get the forests in their greenest, most lush state, but without so much rain that you’ll be swimming instead of hiking.
3. Komodo Island, Indonesia
Named after the largest lizard on earth, Kimodo Island is one of Indonesia’s most popular diving destinations, due to its clear turquoise waters and rare pink sands.
Because of its location, an eco-tour to this beautiful island won’t set you back too much, and you may spend as little as US$190 per person for a two-day trek. The island is breathtaking all year round, but if you’re planning to do any diving, June and July are good months to visit, as the waters are calmer and the winds are light and breezy.
There are water restrictions during the dry season (April-October) and if you plan to visit during this time it is important to be aware of the conservation regulations.
4. Selingan Turtle Island, Borneo
Catching a glimpse of any endangered species is always a treat, but on Selingan Turtle Island in Borneo, you’ll be getting more than just a glimpse of the rare green sea turtles.
The island is dedicated to the preservation of these and other marine animals in this part of the world, and by visiting you will be contributing to the conservation program.
The best time to visit is between March and September, as this is when you will see the most nestings and also dry weather and calm seas. A two-day visit to the island could cost you anywhere between US$300 to 500 per person.
5. Wolong National Reserve, China
As the largest and most well-known giant panda reserve in China, Wolong National Reserve is definitely worth a visit. The reserve is home to over 150 endangered giant pandas, along with a number of other endangered species such as red pandas and golden monkeys.
The best time of year to visit is from March to June or from September to November, as the weather will be mild and enjoyable. Entrance fees are only about US$20, although hiring a guide, transportation and finding accommodation will cost you more, so it’s often best to find a package deal with a tour company.
6. Donsol, Philippines
Donsol in the Philippines is widely known as the whale shark capital of the world, making it the perfect place to see these incredible fish close up and you’ll actually have a chance to swim with the whale sharks.
The months between February and June are ideal for visiting Donsol, as the diving conditions are excellent and you’ll see plenty of whale sharks. The cost is relatively affordable, compared to some other areas, and a tour is usually around US$85.
7. Jim Corbett National Park, India
India is famous for its tigers, and because Jim Corbett National Park is focused mainly on wildlife protection and providing visitors with eco-friendly travel opportunities, it’s one of the best places to see the magnificent endangered tigers.
If you can, try to visit between December and May, as this is when the weather conditions are ideal, and you’ll have the best chance at spotting plenty of tigers, elephants and monkeys. A two-day trip is generally affordable at around US$ 100 to 200 per person.
8. Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor, home to Angkor Wat, which is often listed as the seventh wonder of the world, is one of the most important archeological sites in Asia. Here you can admire the remains of ancient temples and capitals from the Khmer Empire, and even travel through some of Cambodia’s mysterious jungles while you’re at it.
The months between December and March are the best to visit, as you won’t be sweating uncontrollably or enduring the monsoon rains. A tour package of two days starts at US$200, but could be a lot more depending on your preferences.
9. Terelj National Park, Mongolia
Want something completely different? Why not plan a trip to the Mongolian countryside? Although not nearly as famous as African wildlife reserves like Kruger Park or Maasai Mara, Terelj National Park has its own brand of charm.
From horseback riding to camel or yak trekking, Mongolia has plenty to offer, and along the way you’ll get a taste of the nomadic lifestyle and warm hospitality that the country is famous for.
Tours here are fairly affordable, starting at US$ 90 per person per day. It is advisable to plan your trip between May and September to avoid the frosty winter months.
10. Buddhist Valley, Bhutan
Hidden away in the little state of Bhutan, amidst towering mountains, lies Buddhist Valley; a place of ancient traditions and sacred temples. The people here are dedicated to preserving the country’s nature and wildlife, as well as its unique culture.
You can trek through the mountains and forests, visit impressive temples and quaint villages, and fraternize with monks and local farmers alike.
Costs are around US$200 per day, although larger groups may be able to negotiate better prices. Bhutan can be visited all year round, with the exception of July and August, when the wet conditions make travel a nightmare. September, October and November are especially good times to visit, as you’ll be able to enjoy the local festivals.
With all these in mind, there is no way that you can see Asia without thinking “green”.
Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind Open Colleges. She has traveled to many different countries and loves to discover new and exciting places. She can be also seen on her social media profile at Google+.