The Best Sustainable Hotels and Lodges in the World
Some of the best hotels and lodges in the world now strive for sustainability. From luxury tented camps in Africa, private islands in Asia, jungle hideaways in Latin America and chic retreats in Europe, conscious travellers can positively impact the environment through their hotel choices.
The rise of sustainable travel comes at a crucial time for our planet. It’s estimated that 481.6 billion plastic water bottles are used every year (Source: habitatsofwaste.org) - dumped into landfill, releasing dangerous chemicals into fragile ecosystems. Luxury hotels in areas where natural resources are strained must now think twice about their facilities considering that the average bathtub can use up to 70 gallons (317 litres) of precious water (Source: Stanfordmag.org)
We’ve asked our expert travel designers to select their best sustainable hotels and lodges from around the world. We’ll show you why we love them and explain their key sustainable actions, whether that's through positive social impact, wildlife conservation, sustainable construction or greener operating systems.
DumaTau, Linyanti, Botswana
There are two main conservation efforts here. Firstly, protecting two ancient wildlife corridors, traversed by one of the world’s largest elephant herds. Secondly, preserving wildlife on the IUCN Red List, including African wild dogs, lions and roan antelope – all possible sightings on your safari adventures.
Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Just a short drive from The Volcanoes National Park are the opulent thatched suites of Bisate. They have been cleverly designed to mimic the hilly landscapes of Rwanda. Perfectly situated for treks to find critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Known for gorilla conservation, it’s in fact Bistate’s ground-breaking reforestation programme that’s shaped the landscapes. As of 2022, over 70,000 indigenous trees have been planted on 50 hectares of land. By 2030 Bisate aims to double the amount of reforested land in their care.
Tswalu, The Kalahari, South Africa
Essentially one big conservation project on the largest privately protected area in South Africa. Indigenous Kalahari species thrive on restored, once over-farmed land and communities are looked after with free healthcare and pre-school education.
On-site research examines climate change and there are black rhino and white-backed vulture conservation projects too. Enjoy desert adventures from the authentic, yet refined Motse Camp or private Tarkuni Homestead for a completely bespoke experience.
Segera Retreat, Laikipia, Kenya
To see Segera now, a stylish oasis and a 50,000 hectare wildlife refuge, it’s hard to believe it was once ravaged by over-farming and poaching.
In 2005, owner and founder, Jochen Zeitz began reopening ancient wildlife corridors and giving the vegetation space to recover. Community programmes were initiated to support local people – including one of our favourites; the empowering, all female anti-poaching ranger academy.
Vumbura Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana
One of Wilderness Safaris’ star camps – immersed in Botswana’s spectacular Okavango Delta. The camp’s design reflects the delta’s rich wildlife, landscapes and local culture and aims to bring the outside, inside.
Along with wildlife conservation, notably a study into lion genetics, Vumbura partners with the Pack For A Purpose project. Guests can bring essential items from home and the camp distributes them directly to community projects and local people in need.
Damaraland Camp, Namibia
Namibia’s dramatic desert landscapes, spectacular sunsets and fascinating wildlife are encapsulated at Damaraland Camp. The camp is constructed in traditional adobe style, in keeping with the natural environment.
A fascinating community-based conservation initiative sees the Torra community act as landlords for the conservancy. Their combined effort with the camp has seen local farming and desert-adapted wildlife flourish, while poaching has decreased substantially.
Jaya House River Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Relax at the serene, chic Jaya House River Park, just a short drive from the magnificent Angkor Wat.
Footfall alone, from one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations can make sustainability a challenge here. Unperturbed, the hotel has successfully become single-use (and nearly completely) plastic free by revolutionising water consumption. Reusable drinking bottles and free water refill are part of the global Refill not Landfill campaign, which bids to dramatically reduce plastic water bottles worldwide.
Song Saa, Koh Rong Archipelago, Cambodia
Sustainability is at the very core of what they do here. Perhaps the least glamorous but most impressive sustainability achievement is the island’s own sewage and irrigation system – meaning 100% of all waste can be safely recycled.
Nihi Sumba Island, West Sumba, Indonesia
Idyllic, secluded and with unparalleled natural beauty. Despite the perfect setting, the Sumbanese people have faced challenges connected to a lower standard of living and Nihi’s founder has been on a positive social impact mission since her arrival in 2013.
Our favourite inspiring initiative here is their fully sustainable hotel school (it is solar powered and has a water treatment site) for locals to gain the expertise needed for employment. It even features its own eco-resort so students can hone their skills before a two week placement at Nihi itself.
Bamurru Plains, Top End, Australia
To minimise impact on the sensitive environment, the lodge generates power from the sun. Drinking water is filtered from a bore hole on site and there’s no plastic. Sustainable activities, like walking safaris, are encouraged and only aboriginal guides lead cultural excursions.
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
A sustainable, contemporary masterpiece located in central Ecuador, not far from Quito, and in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Built over two years using sustainable construction methods and without damaging a single tree.
Research and conservation are a significant part of Mashpi’s sustainability. Guests can visit the academically acclaimed research station and learn about the exciting discoveries made – including totally new frog and orchid species.
Galapagos Safari Camp, The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands, the place where Darwin formed the theory of evolution, are still some of the most naturally important places on earth. The Galapagos Safari Camp respects this fragile marine world while delivering comfort and exciting wildlife experiences.
There are green processes at every turn in this sustainable camp. There’s rainwater treatment for drinking water, solar panels to heat water and intelligent design that keeps rooms cool, with no need for damaging air-conditioning.
Chaa Creek, Belize
Chaa Creek’s evolution to a luxury resort is a story of a community in Belize coming together. Sharing a tractor with neighbours when it first arrived from England to now employing over 150 local people.
An impressive ten percent of lodge revenue is now put towards environmental and community projects. Reintroduction of howler monkey populations, plant cataloguing in partnership with the New York Botanical Gardens and support of local children and their teachers, are just a few of their initiatives.
Awasi Iguazu, Argentina
The youngest lodge in the Awasi family takes sustainable luxury to the next level. Just minutes away from the world’s largest waterfalls; Iguazu, spanning Argentina and Brazil. Built on stilts for minimal environmental impact and cooking from their rainforest garden – we love their marinated pacu with mango and fennel salad.
Their sustainable claim to fame is their CO2 Neutrality. Iguazu and Patagonia lodges are set in 340 hectares of woodland that absorbs over 10,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. This is greater than the emissions of all three lodges and the travel emissions of guests.
Casa Caiman, The Pantanal, Brazil
Casa Caiman describes itself as a real world social and natural laboratory. They use a cycle of livestock, tourism and research to ensure effective sustainability. They believe that conserving wildlife and respecting local culture and tradition cannot exist without one another.
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
Your sustainable journey begins as you rush down the rapids to Pacuare Lodge’s riverside, rainforest location. There are no roads, so no carbon emissions from guest transfers in this perfect corner of Costa Rica.
Run to strict sustainable standards, all the staff are from local communities and the lodge was constructed by local Cabecar Indians in their traditional style. Evenings are atmospheric with the only light provided by natural lanterns and candles.
Sustainable hotels and retreats in Europe
From freezing snowy peaks to balmy beach towns and beyond, Europe offers an array of hotels and retreats. Here are two of our favourite sustainable options in Iceland.
The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The epitome of chic – modern design and glass walls showcase Iceland’s epic natural wonders. The show-stopping, underground spa gives you unlimited access to the healing waters of the retreat lagoon.
There’s an all encompassing approach to sustainability here. From using lava quarried on-site in construction and geothermal harnessing for power. We love the pathways created so you can wander the landscapes without impacting the delicate flowers and fauna of the lava fields.
Torfhus Retreat, Iceland
Set in the heart of the Golden Circle you’ll enjoy a perfect balance between snug atmosphere, remote tranquillity, comfort and adventure. Lined with turf, the cabins are created in traditional style making as little impact on the natural surroundings as possible.
A fleet of electric vehicles will lead you on your adventures and in the kitchen they strive for zero plastic and zero waste. The energy systems here are totally sustainable, powered mostly by hydroelectric power and geothermal energy.
The Ham Yard Hotel, England
Vibrant and vivacious, set in the heart of London’s energetic Soho. More like a village than a hotel – it has a rooftop kitchen garden, beehives and even a theatre.
Clearly, city locations face sustainability challenges. The Ham Yard Hotel makes a difference wherever possible. The building itself exceeded energy performance standards by 40% and has been awarded BREEAM’s excellent rating.
When a hotel invites you to ‘come and stay in the trees’ you know you will be immersed in nature. A mirrored cube, birdsnest, UFO and a wildlife attracting biosphere are where you’ll sleep and you’ll spend your days exploring Sweden’s spectacular nature.
Ecological values are at the core of the Treehotel. Local trades and materials were used in construction, tree houses are now part of living trees which continue to grow and all daily operations have a minimal impact on the environment.