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Last Updated on 20/05/2022
As travellers become increasingly aware of their environmental impact, they’re starting to seek out new and non-traditional forms of accommodation that takes sustainability seriously. As a result, ecolodges are becoming a more popular choice.
What is an ecolodge and why are they good for the planet?
The best ecolodges in the world minimise their environmental impact
The definition of an ecolodge is accommodation that exists to create a positive impact on the environment and local communities.
Usually located in remote corners of the world, ecolodges provide their guests with the unique opportunity to learn about sustainability whilst experiencing the precious beauty of the natural world firsthand.
True ecolodges are guided by their impact on the environment. They use renewable energy resources, reuse and recycle where possible, have water preservation systems in place and use energy-efficient lighting.
Their products are organic, the detergents they use are non-toxic and food is sourced from their own gardens or local farms.
Unlike the traditional hotel experience, ecolodges are rustic getaways. There’s little or no access to WiFi, signal or TV and guests are required to respect and take part in sustainability efforts.
Ecolodges are not the height of luxury, but they can offer an enriching experience to those willing to keep an open mind. Indeed, several ecolodges have become listed as some of the top hotel experiences in the world.
An authentic ecolodge minimises their impact on the environment, but they also give support to the local economy.
The best ecolodges provide employment and education opportunities for the community, raise awareness of indigenous people and take part in conservation programs.
Staying in an authentic ecolodge is a rich and rewarding experience. Guests can immerse themselves in nature and also offer a positive contribution to the environment and destination they’re visiting.
How to spot an authentic ecolodge
Being labelled ‘green’ or ‘eco’ sells. It’s a hot trend because people care about how their money is impacting the environment. As a result, paying customers can fall victim to greenwashing.
Any establishment can tack ‘eco’ to their name without doing much to meet the requirements the title holds.
If you want to be sure an ecolodge is genuine you have to do a little digging. Once you come across one you like, research it. Familiarise yourself with their website and their policies.
Most authentic ecolodges usually have a seal of approval from a recognised authority. Ones to look out for include the Global Sustainable Council, Green Seal and Green Key Global among others.
Every ecolodge must have evidence of sustainability-focused initiatives, use renewable energy and be active in wildlife conservation to be truly authentic. You can read more about the importance of sustainable tourism here.
10 of the best ecolodges in the world
Here’s a list of some of the best eco stays and luxury eco resorts across the globe:
1. Topas Ecolodge, Vietnam
Located in the scenic hills of Hoang Lien National Park, North Vietnam, Topas Ecolodge prides itself on its sustainability and protection of the local people. The lodge itself is made up of 33 individual mountain bungalows built in rustic-style single bedroom houses from local white granite.
It has no WiFi or TV but the terraces and stunning infinity pool looking out onto the breathtaking Saba Mountains won’t make you miss them for a second.
The lodge works to support the local community, employing around 100 people from the surrounding villages. Each member of staff is given the opportunity to seek further education and training.
With its effortless sustainable beauty and surrounding natural landscape, Topas Ecolodge really is an eco-haven deep in the remote countryside of Vietnam.
2. Lapa Rios, Costa Rica
Lapas Rios Ecolodge is situated in the rainforest of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Protecting 1,000 acres of Central America’s last remaining tropical lowland forest, it’s every bit an eco and wildlife lover’s dream.
One of the best ecolodges in Costa Rica, it’s made up of 17 bungalows dotted along a private rainforest reserve. You’re invited to experience the wonders of the outdoors with its open-air screens and private decks.
Wake up to the sound of howler monkeys in the trees, spot scarlet macaws flying overhead or head out into the wild with a guide and find poison dart frogs, iguanas and snakes as you explore. Rich in both its passion for sustainability and the rainforest in which it protects, Lapa Rios is a bucket list destination for any traveller looking to connect with nature.
Guests can choose between the Lapa Rios Package, the Family Package or even the Honeymoon Package.
Each package includes 3 a la carte multi-course meals, daily snack and non-alcoholic drinks, guided on-site tours, round trip transfers to Puerto Jimenez and Lapa Rios and Wi-Fi in a designated area.
All packages include a 4-night / 5-day stay in a Deluxe Ocean View Bungalow to get the full benefit. Prices are seasonal.
Owned by elephant researchers and conservationists Ian and Oria Douglas-Hamilton, Elephant Watch Camp in Kenya combines sustainability initiatives with the awesome beauty of the African safari.
The ecolodge camp, located in the heart of Samburu National Reserve, has an eco-friendly model right down to its foundations. All electricity is solar-powered the water hand-drawn from the well then carefully distributed and reused where possible.
The rooms, made up of six thatch-roof tents, have been built out of the branches of fallen trees, creating the illusion that you’ve stepped into a forest.
Elephant Watch Camp has a real natural luxury about it, and with ethical African safaris at your fingertips, it provides you with a truly remarkable adventure.
To understand the prices a little more about how Elephant Warch Camp works, click here.
4. Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
Three Camel Lodge is found deep in the heart of the Gobi Desert. Inspired by Mongolian nomadic culture, the ecolodge accommodation resembles that of authentic Mongolian gers – traditional tents made with layers of felt and canvas over a wooden latticed frame.
There are 40 of them in total and each one looks out onto unparalleled views of the Gobi Desert and the Gobi-Altai Mountains. All gers are heated by wood-burning stoves and each one comes with its own beautifully designed ensuite bathroom.
There’s no WiFi or phone signal but with lodge tours, spa treatments and the Gobi Desert to explore, it’s the perfect retreat to immerse yourself in.
Sustainability is at the heart of Three Camel Lodge, which is why they’ve taken steps to limit all plastic use. Guests are encouraged to use stainless steel or glass bottles filled with purified water and bin bags have been replaced by recycled paper sacks.
Their program, ‘No Plastic Bags in the Gobi’ encourages local residents and small businesses to use cloth shopping bags instead of plastic.
5. Daintree Eco Lodge, Australia
Daintree Ecolodge is a corner of sustainable luxury nestled in what is believed to be the oldest tropical lowland rainforest on Earth, Australia’s World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest.
It’s a beautiful oasis made up of 15 eco-friendly wooden bayans (treehouses), a bar, restaurant and dining area overlooking the onsite lagoon.
Guests can also take a dip in the swimming pool, enjoy the private onsite waterfall and relax at the Daintree Wellness Spa.
The environment is at the heart of this luxury getaway, and Daintree Ecolodge strives to reduce its impact wherever possible by limiting food and water waste, using solar energy and recycling.
The ecolodge also supports local reforestation efforts and it donates $50 per guest stay to the Morris Family Foundation Reef Keepers Fund which supports projects that protect and preserve the Great Barrier Reef.
6. Kolarbyn Ecolodge, Sweden
Photo by Mikaela Larm
Kolarbyn Ecolodge is for those seeking adventure in the great Swedish wilderness. Known to be Sweden’s most primitive hostel, you won’t find showers, electricity or many traditional home comforts. It’s just you and the great outdoors.
The accommodation comes in the shape of 12 traditional wooden coal huts made cosy with soft sheepskins and a fireplace for you to chop wood and fill.
For those wanting a little more luxury, the ecolodge can provide you with a comfortable log cabin or if you feel like something completely different during the summer, you can spend the night in a hanging tree tent.
Food is provided in the form of breakfast and an array of ingredients for you to cook or barbecue for lunch and dinner. Kolarbyn Ecolodge is a real forest experience and activities include forestry tours, fishing and relaxing in the sauna.
7. Feynan Eco Lodge, Jordan
© Feynan Ecolodge, photo by Wadi Dana Beyond
Built in partnership with EcoHotels and Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, this award-winning ecolodge has 26 candlelit guest bedrooms each with solar-powered ensuite bathrooms.
The concept behind Feynan Ecolodge was inspired by the traditional caravanserai, inns dedicated to camel caravans which created a hub for travellers and pilgrims alike.
Wanting to preserve the precious beauty of Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve and provide support for the local Bedouin communities, RSCN set up Feynan Ecolodge to offer a more economical and sustainable alternative to the area’s open cast copper mining industry.
It has since then grown in popularity and become a beacon for responsible travellers worldwide.
8. EcoCamp, Patagonia
Photo courtesy of EcoCamp Patagonia
EcoCamp Patagonia is the world’s first geodesic dome hotel. Located in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the EcoCamp’s 33 iconic domes were inspired by the ancient shelters of the region’s Kaweskar people and each one is 100% sustainable.
Scattered about the hilltop, the domes emerge from the foliage and open to reveal cosy rustic luxury living quarters. Some include ensuite bathrooms and a low-emission wood-burning stove, otherwise, each dome is kitted out with fleece blankets and large windows that reveal stunning views.
EcoCamp has gained an award-winning reputation for its social and sustainable commitments. 90% of all staff are from the local region and receive above the Chilean minimum wage.
Their food is locally sourced and they work to minimise their carbon footprint by using hydropower and solar energy to power their hotel.
9. Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, British Columbia
Photo by Jeremy Koreski
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is an ecolodge situated at the base of 5,000-foot Mount Stephens in Canada’s British Columbia. Made up of nine cosy cabins, the ecolodge strives to maintain a balance between what they take and give back to the surrounding environment.
A waterfall cascades through the heart of the resort, providing green energy and drinking water, and they implement carbon responsible initiatives to ensure that the ecolodge is climate-friendly.
Guests can choose between intertidal or forest cabins, and each one provides a luxury experience in the arms of nature.
Perhaps their biggest success story to date is their pivotal role in banning grizzly bear trophy hunting.
Back in 2012, they started a program, Bullets for Binos, which offered trophy hunters the opportunity to trade in their licence for a grizzly bear viewing trip for two at Nimmo Bay.
They collected over 10 tags and effectively changed the public’s perception of grizzlies for the better.
10. Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Borneo
Found in the middle of the rainforest, Borneo Rainforest Lodge is a remote ecolodge located on the bank of the Danum River in the Malaysian part of Borneo.
The accommodation consists of wooden cabins that surround a large communal lodge. Each cabin has an en suite and the Deluxe Chalets also have private balconies on which you can look out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest’s flora and fauna.
Based in an area of conservation, the ecolodge prides itself on its sustainability practices. It uses solar power energy, chemical-free detergents and recycles water as safely as it can.
Guests can also enjoy guided excursions out into the rainforest and learn about the conservation projects protecting the indigenous wildlife, including the endangered orangutan.
I hope this post has shed some light on what an ecolodge actually is and inspires you to stay in one next time you travel!