Seven of the world’s most eco-friendly and sustainable tour companies

Byway, Europe

Switzerland’s Landwasser railway.

Switzerland’s Landwasser railway.Credit: iStock

Want to travel around Europe without catching a plane? The vision at Byway is to make flight-free travel mainstream by creating custom-made travel and accommodation packages powered by trains, bikes, buses and ferries. Travellers build their own trips via the website and are sent customised itineraries with every aspect included, from luggage transfer to accommodation, with an emphasis on local and sustainable activities. There’s a concierge service for special requests and the trip is supported along the way by a team accessible through WhatsApp. Byway has a European focus, with sustainable multi-trips throughout Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and the UK.

Up Norway, Norway

Pulpit Rock, Norway.

Pulpit Rock, Norway.Credit: Alamy

This travel curator focuses on off-the-beaten track tours that are designed to have a net positive impact on society and nature, with an emphasis on keeping cultural heritage alive. Drawing on local expertise, Up Norway will create bespoke digital itineraries or offer pre-designed small group tours that always have an interesting twist, such as the 10-day Tracing Norway’s Super Women, a 12-day adventure on the Arctic Circle Express Train or The Discovery Route – Norway’s Most Sustainable Journey. Seventy-two per cent of clients’ dollars go directly to local business partners and the CO2 of all guests is offset mostly through investment in forestry.

Pura Adventure, Latin America

Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.Credit: iStock

This active holiday specialist, which creates bespoke journeys to Spain, Portugal and Latin America, has an ambitious carbon mitigation program, which offsets one carbon mile for every kilometre travelled by a client from leaving home to back again. One per cent of revenue is donated to development projects such as funding a rural community in Nicaragua. Starting with Patagonia holidays 23 years ago, the company operates with specialist knowledge and local connections throughout Latin America, Europe, the Galapagos and Antarctica without the crowds, allowing guests to experience iconic destinations such as Iguazu Falls, the Amazon rainforest, the Atacama Desert and the walking trails of Spain’s Pyrenees in unique ways.

Much Better Adventures, UK

Martian Domes in Wadi Rum desert, Jordan.

Martian Domes in Wadi Rum desert, Jordan.

This outdoor adventure company was founded with the core value of protecting the world’s wild places. Short trips are the company’s specialty and include off-the-beaten-track adventures such as rafting and kayaking in Albania or sleeping under “Martian” tented domes in Jordan. The company donates at least 80 per cent of the cost of each trip to local economies and to the families of guides whose livelihood was badly affected by the pandemic. In 2021, the brand became the first international travel company to add carbon footprint labels to all its trips, enabling customers to compare their personal impact when choosing their holiday.

Intrepid, Australia

Intrepid in Peru.

Intrepid in Peru.Credit: Intrepid

A list of global leaders in sustainable travel isn’t complete without the world’s biggest carbon-neutral travel company, Intrepid, which has operated for over 30 years, and from modest beginnings now offers over 1,000 small-group, immersive tours in over 100 countries, working with local NGOs to provide sustainable livelihoods for communities through the not-for-profit Intrepid Foundation. In 2020, Intrepid devised a plan to combat the climate change emergency, from setting science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions, offsetting carbon emissions for flights booked with them, switching to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025 in its many offices, and on its tours by 2030. Tours include special Women’s Expeditions to Peru, India, Morocco and Nepal.

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