It’s been a long time since ecotourism was purely a niche interest. More and more holidaymakers are actively choosing greener holidays, and it’s not solely down to consumers having a greater awareness of the ecological impact travel can have. Travel providers in all parts of the industry are responding to consumer concerns and adapting their products and services to reflect the increased demand for sustainable, ethical vacations, taking in everything from exotic adventure breaks to luxury villas holidays.
The stereotypical perception of ecotourism would have you believe that it principally involves heading out to far-flung destinations and enjoying sights and experiences that not only have minimal impact on the natural world, but also actively help to conserve it and improve the lives of indigenous people. While it’s certainly the case that there’s a lot of holidays that fit this description, it’s no longer a niche market or easily defined in such narrow terms – in fact, the definition of ecotourism is broader than ever, and any holiday can be ecologically responsible depending the choices you make when you pick it.
In the case of villa holidays there’s a good range of options, from those where the eco-friendliness is barely noticeable to ones where it’s very much at the forefront of the experience. Here’s five villas that have, in one form or another, embraced making eco-friendliness part of the holiday package.
Chateau de Camiller, Limousin
When it comes to ecological responsibility, Chateau de Camiller really is something special. This idyllic 17th Century chateau is surrounded by a 32 acre estate, and while the property itself is tempting enough for holiday in the warm French sunshine, the project that’s unfolding in the grounds is revolutionary in the way it’s utilising ecological design and sustainability.
Ruth Phillips, the chateau’s owner, is currently creating an environmentally responsible and self-sufficient eco-village that’s set to offer accommodation, health retreats, creative spaces and even an entire vegan restaurant with produce grown on the complex featuring on the menu. While many of the habitation spaces in the villages are going to be bought by like-minded individuals for permanent residences, some of the available spaces will be rented out as holiday homes – a truly ecologically responsible experience if ever there was one!
Blanco de Caza, Andalucia
Found on a high ridge in the glorious mountains of southern Spain, Blanco de Caza is so ostensibly luxurious you’d never guess from looking that its carbon footprint is practically nil. With incomparable views that take in both the mountains and the sea, this is one holiday home where you can relax and pamper yourself without feeling guilty over the impact you’re having on the environment. While Blanco de Caza offers a chic, minimalist interior and the opportunity to indulge yourself with massages, beauty treatments and a private gourmet chef, all the power comes from solar panels and the efficient heat pump system means you’ll be saving energy while you’re sunbathing.
Casa Molino, Tuscany
Tuscany continues to be one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, and the numerous beautiful villas that dot its landscape are definitely part of that allure. With Casa Molino, you can take your villa holiday to the next level and ensure it’s as eco-friendly as it is relaxing! You can head out and tour the local Chianti vineyards or explore Tuscany’s eye-opening and venerable past at historic cultural capitals like Florence and Siena, safe in the knowledge that back at the villa, the solar panels and eco climate controls are doing their job and helping to save power. Even the heated pool is powered by nature!
C19th Chateau, Loire Valley
And now to France, the wonders of the Loire Valley, and a very surprising villa owner. The C19th Chateau uses geothermal energy for central heating and hot water, but a booking a stay here means you’ll be doing much, much more than enjoying the use of sustainable energy. Paul Solomons, the chateau owner, has been running his property as a charity since 2010, with a substantial portion of the revenue donated to charity to help relief efforts in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Haiti and the Philippines after natural disasters. This is one property that isn’t just ecologically responsible – it’s ethically responsible too.
The Paradise Tree House, Panama
Definitely a property for those who want their ecotourism on the more adventurous side, the Paradise Tree House in Panama is found in the middle of an 140-acre reforestation project on the Azuero Peninsula. This is a section of Panama that has historically suffered from deforestation due the impact of grazing and cultivation, and with the recent emergence of responsible and sustainable land management the local ecosystems are slowly being returned to their former glory. But this isn’t a property where the only thing on offer is appreciating your spectacular surroundings – you can and enjoy surfing, diving, fishing, hiking and a whole other host of activities nearby.