Some countries like Iceland and Costa Rica are made for eco adventurers because nature is simply a prominent part of the nation’s being. Countries like America, which brought us super-size me and McMansions –– and Dubai’s towering skyscrapers –– less so. To keep our eyes on the prize, which is full nature immersion left, right and center, let’s look at 5 of the wildest places to visit for an immersive ecological and natural experience without having to look hard for an “official” eco-resort. Because by default nature and natural getaways should be a complete experience everywhere you turn, not a special package.
Retreats in North Iceland will pull you right into the heart of nature. Northern lights, endless fjords, volcanoes and natural hot springs with geothermal energy that produces vodka. There’s no better place than Iceland for your first eco-journey after Covid isolation. Activities include hiking in the wild, fishing, whale watching and singing like Bjork out in the wild. Being a part of the wild Icelandic landscape helps you find a bit more of the wild in yourself.
The midnight sun and warm temperatures make summer the best season of the year to visit Iceland. Hikers might think that July and August are the best months to visit Iceland –– but it’s actually February, March, September and October –– when you will have the best chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights are by far nature’s most spectacular event and light show, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Don’t worry about missing them on your trip: they can be seen from purpose-built resorts from glass igloos to luxury suites. Or from the window of your tent. They appear 200 nights a year in northern Iceland.
Nipissing, Ontario, Canada is not a known eco-destination, except for but a few dozen people that moved there to escape the Vietnam War –– and then stayed. Some of the earlier settlers that started ecological communes in the area include Americans from Berkeley. It is a quiet understated place, full of raw water and natural springs, deep, dark forests and the occasional gnome sighting. Highly recommended. If you do get there, don’t tell anyone though. Let’s keep it a secret between us.
Costa Rica might be devoid of any exciting nightlife and its ancient cultural roots are all but erased, but it’s a place you can feel prana. Somehow standing in the sun in Guanacaste radiates your inner being like no sun I have felt on earth. Lush green follows you everywhere and around every turn there is some fascinating natural wonder and animals galore. Carpenter ants, howler monkeys and sloths are my personal favorites.
Finland is far from Costa Rica in many ways but similar in others. Finland’s forests are vast and wide and everyone and their cousin owns a sauna somewhere in nature. The big idea is to sweat out all your anxieties and then dash into freezing cold water in the lake a few yards away. Plenty of wild game will fill your table if you are an adventurous eater. Try reindeer or stick to your vegan palette. Those options are available too. If you visit in the summer you will never have to sleep as it’s about 23 hours of light – with the sun barely setting. More time for adventures!
The Atlas Mountains in Morocco. When you get out of your rusty, rattling local taxi cab from Marrakech and find yourself in the Atlas Mountains you will witness a people that has been living in tune with nature for hundreds of years. Simple hotels and resorts without any special vision can be found all over the place, but if you want more “class” then try the Kasbah Du Toubkal. Run by a British family to oversee local philanthropy and sustainable eco-management of the region, the Kasbah is a refreshing way that eco-resorts and getaways interact with and connect with the locals. All the staff and meals are local and the building was constructed to embrace the natural sun and airflow from the Atlas Mountains above.
When I was there I took a donkey ride up a steep path that led up to the resort. That in itself is an experience I will never forget. Or the homemade yoghurt. Or learning about argan oil.
Rethink your backyard? It is known that the most ecological destination to travel to is your own backyard. With no carbon emissions from flights, and no need to be part of the endless packaging waste cycle of meals on flights, staying home –– a staycation –– is widely regarded as the best kind of travel. Consider carpooling your friends and visit a nearby hotel and explore your local areas to invigorate local travel near you. Then post-Covid you can share the joys of the wonders of your “place” with those you will meet on your next travels somewhere new.