15 of the world's best eco lodges
This weekend we're all being told to turn our lights off for an hour. But we can do better than that.
A genuine eco lodge will show a commitment to several of the following key factors: energy and water conservation, recycling and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, the use of natural, sustainable materials and bio-diversity conservation.
They’ll offer guests local, organic, seasonal produce, low-impact, nature-based activities and in many cases, the local community will benefit from –- or have a stake in –- the development of the venture.
It helps too, if owners encourage guests to arrive by public transport or make it easier to have a car-free stay.
Bewildered? Don’t be.
The green experts who’ve helped compile the list below ensure that a stay in one of these innovative eco lodges will guarantee you peace of mind, as well as the ultimate escape.
Also on CNNGo: OK, the resort's green, but is it good?
1. Laguna Lodge, Guatemala
Perched on the shores of sacred Lake Atitlan, the sublime views –- volcanoes frame the lake –- are worth the stay alone.
Hewn from a mixture of volcanic stone, wood and palm, the lodge is as much a showcase for indigenous crafts as it a sanctuary for green globetrotters. Materials are recycled or derived from sustainable sources, toiletries are chemical-free and hot water is solar powered.
Food is classy and meat-free with ingredients sourced either from the lodge’s gardens, or via local farmers. The ace up its sleeve? It’s very own 40-hectare nature reserve.
"Few have so successfully combined a deep green sensibility with a first-class experience," says Gary Diedrichs, ecosleuth and co-author of greentravelerguides.com.
Laguna Lodge, 1 Tzantizotz, Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Solola, Guatemala; +502 7823 2529; www.lagunalodgatitlan.com
2. Damaraland Camp, Namibia
Located in the Huab Valley, the camp is renowned for its upbeat and friendly atmosphere. Guests stay in adobe and canvas chalets, power is solar-panel generated and guided nature walks and drives, mountain biking and visits to see Bushman rock art are the big attractions.
Says Hitesh Mehta, author of "Authentic Ecolodges" and a member of the advisory board of the International Eco-Tourism Society (TIES): "The camp was funded by renowned South African lodge operator Wilderness Safaris, but is now fully owned by the local community. It was the development of Damaraland Camp that helped create the 352,000-hectare Torra Conservancy, the first wildlife-based community conservancy in Namibia."
Damaraland Camp is west of Khorixas in the Kunene region, midway between Khorixas and Torra Bay. From Windhoek travel to Khorixas via Outjo.
You need a 4x4 vehicle to reach the camp. Otherwise a lift at a pick-up point will be arranged; +27 (0)11 807 1800; www.wilderness-safaris.com
3. Wakatobi Dive Resort, Indonesia
The resort, in Southeast Sulawesi, arguably offers the best diving in the world. At the same time the issues of marine conservation and community development are at the forefront of its ethos.
"Wakatobi's raison d’être is to help the environment in an over-fished region where the reefs are being destroyed," says Justin Francis, founder of responsibletravel.com.
"Employing 150 people from the local community, they have created the Collaborative Community Based Reef Management Program whereby in exchange for direct payments to local villages, reef sanctuaries have been established."
4. Annie’s Cabin, England
The merest glimpse of this cozy self-catering log cabin in the heart of the Shropshire Hills will have you hankering after a stay.
"Its green credentials include sheeps' wool insulation, solar water-heating, and energy efficient electrical appliances, including low energy and LED bulbs throughout," says Richard Hammond, founder of greentraveller.co.uk.
Sound sustainability practices aside, Annie’s Cabin is accessible to those with limited mobility, and lies just four kilometers from Ludlow, the slow-food capital of England.
Annie’s Cabin, Ludlow Ecolog Cabins, Caynham Mill, Ludlow, Shropshire; +44 797 709 1928; www.ludlowecologcabins.co.uk
5. The Mudhouse, Sri Lanka
Around a two-hour drive north of Colombo, hidden away in a forest, The Mudhouse sounds simple and basic, but feels like the height of luxury: huts are made from mud and coconut leaves, and there are also tree houses.
There’s no electricity or hot water, and at night lanterns and candles lend a romantic vibe. On-site is a lush organic garden, brimming with produce that ends up on guests’ plates and it’s enthusiastically staffed by locals.
The area is a haven for birds, there are lakes to swim in, bikes to borrow and villages to explore.
Says Hitesh Mehta: "Organic architecture fuses with organic food in a forest setting teeming with birdlife. I am particularly impressed by the environmental consciousness exuded by the developers."
The Mudhouse, Pahaladuwelweva, Anamaduwa, Sri Lanka; +94 (0) 77 301 6191; www.themudhouse.lk
Also on CNNGo: 10 beautifully exotic wellness retreats
6. Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
The former royal summer retreat has been restored using local labor and traditional building techniques. It’s a great base for hikes into the High Atlas mountains (including an ascent of Toubkal, if you’re fit and keen), though the panoramic views may keep you glued to the terrace.
Crucially, it has won a Green Globe award for sustainable tourism.
"Kasbah du Toubkal has forged an extraordinary partnership between the Berber community and Discover Ltd, a tour operator, leading to the sensitive development of tourism and extensive benefits to the local community," says Justin Francis.
Kasbah du Toubkal, 42150 IMLIL, Asni, Morocco. The Kasbah is a 15-minute walk by mule/on foot from Imlil; +212 524 485611; www.kasbahdutoubkal.com
Also on CNNGo: 15 unusual places to spend a night
7. Cree Village Ecolodge, Canada
Perched along the Moose River, in the province of Ontario, Cree Village is the first aboriginal-owned lodge in Canada. It’s built from natural and non-toxic materials, with scores of energy and water-saving measures.
Its restaurant serves traditional aboriginal cuisine and, depending on the season, guests can kayak, hunt for fossils, cross-country ski, or snowshoe. If that doesn’t tempt you the whale and seal-watching tours might.
Says Hitesh Mehta: "Cree Village has emerged as one of the most environmentally and socially friendly lodges on the North American continent, thanks in no small part to its comprehensive energy conservation efforts, locally employed staff, and innovative design."
Cree Village Ecolodge, 64 Hospital Drive, Moose Factory, Ontario. Moose Factory is only accessible by rail or air; +1 705 658 6400; www.creevillage.com
8. Teapot Lane Luxury Yurt Camp, Ireland
This low-key, but comfortable eco-retreat, nestled in two hectares of Irish woodland, consists of three hand-crafted yurts and a pair of restored country cottages. There are self-catering, campfire and barbecue areas and all guests receive a free basket of organic vegetables.
"On the hardcore eco front, loos are composting and showers are gas tankless ones needing no electric supply. They use a combination of mains and rainwater from the roof," says Catherine Mack, author of Ireland Green Travel, a new app on iTunes.
"The owner works closely with local activity companies, so you can take surfing lessons or go hill walking with a local guide. Finish off the perfect day in the pamper room, where you can have an aromatherapy massage before chilling with chums around the fire pit."
Teapot Lane, Tawley, Co.Leitrim, Ireland; +353 87 934 0341; www.teapotlaneluxurycamp.com
9. Samasati Nature Retreat, Costa Rica
Impressively built without any land-clearing or tree-cutting, its buildings constructed from "green" wood, with a reservoir tank and custom-made sewage treatment system, Samasati has its eco-heart in the right place.
It also offers a tempting menu of low-impact activities: there’s waterfall trekking, bird watching, responsibly managed visits to indigenous reserves, kayaking, yoga and horse-back riding through virgin rainforest.
"The retreat is nestled into a 100-hectare Biological Reserve, with outstanding views of the Caribbean Sea," says Justin Francis. "It employs 20 people from the village and works to empower local people to climb the career ladder by training staff and creating job opportunities,
Samasati Nature Retreat, six kilometers from Puerto Viejo, and 200 kilometers from the capital San Jose. Daily buses run from San Jose to Puerto Viejo. Transfers to the resort can be arranged from there; +11 506 2224 1870; www.samasati.com
10. Daintree EcoLodge & Spa, Australia
Nestled in the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest, the lodge is a collection of tree houses made from natural materials. Much of the property runs on solar power. Its spa treatments, approved by local elders, use plants and herbs known for their traditional medicinal and healing properties.
The on-site gallery also helps to sell local handicrafts and paintings. Guests can go on rainforest walks, take boat rides on the Daintree river, or swim in Mossman Gorge.
Says Hitesh Mehta: "Of all the lodges in Australia, Daintree does the most to help benefit local Aboriginal peoples. It started the Karrba (Healing) Foundation, which supports the education, health, and well-being of Aboriginal people."
Daintree EcoLodge & Spa, 20 Daintree Road, Daintree, Queensland; +61 7 4098 6100; www.daintree-ecolodge.com.au
Also on CNNGo: 10 resorts for every type of traveler
11. Eco-Frontiers, Poland
Located close to the Ukranian and Slovakian borders, this retreat’s green credentials are impressive: buildings on the property are insulated with natural materials and have been designed to fit in with the landscape.
Furniture is handmade by the owners, there’s a waste water treatment plant on site, and the farmland has been certified organic.
"It’s a wonderfully secluded ranch between two villages in an area of remote wetlands in the Bieszczady National Park," says Richard Hammond. "The lodge is entirely off-grid; power comes from wind turbines and solar panels, and you can enjoy vegetarian meals sourced from the owner's biodynamic garden, washed down with 10 different home-made beers and various fruit liqueurs."
Eco-Frontiers, Michniowiec 37, 38-710 Czarna, Poland; +48 69 402 5875; www.ecofrontiers.net
Also on CNNGo: Insider Guide: Best of Koh Samui
12. Jungle Bay, Dominica
The collection of rustic but chic wooden cottages on 22 hectares of lush forest offers terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean. Guests can go on hikes, snorkel, kayak, cycle round organic farms and more.
Says Justin Francis: "The resort’s focus is on alleviating local poverty –- it employs and provides training opportunities for local Dominicans. Food is purchased from local farmers and it also supports local artisans.
"It offers an entrepreneurship loan program, which lends up to US$15,000 per person for small businesses such as greenhouses, coffee bean processing and women’s sewing groups. You’ll find a nature interpretation center on site and knowledgeable local guides are available to take you off-the-beaten-track."
Jungle Bay, Point Mulatre Bay, Dominica, a 45-minute drive from Dominica’s capital, Roseau; +1 767 446 1789; www.junglebaydominica.com
13. TourIndia Kettuvalam houseboats, India
These floating ecolodges –- or "Kettuvalam" -– lazily navigate the intricate channels of Kerala’s beautiful backwaters. Guests can stop at south Indian Hindu temples, admire the striking Chinese fishing nets, shop in villages or watch local women make coconut ropes.
"The Tourindia Kettuvallam team, from the owners to office staff to boatbuilders to the on-site chefs to the tour guides, are regional residents, making this a truly local operation, from top to bottom," says Hitesh Mehta.
A blend of home-style cooking with creative selections of savory spices and the freshest ingredients, all delivered amid environmentally friendly materials and technology, and with a breathtaking backdrop of serene waters elevate the Kerala kettuvallam from a historic cargo boat to an authentic eco lodge.
TourIndia Houseboats, near SMV High School, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Trivandrum, 695001, Kerala; +91 471 232 8070; www.tourindiakerala.com
14. Guludo Beach Lodge, Mozambique
The award-winning lodge, a collection of environmentally sound "bandas," sits on a 12 kilometer-long deserted white beach, overlooking the Quirimbas archipelago. When you’re not dozing in your adobe dwelling, or blissed out on the beach, you can take village walks, swim, snorkel or dive.
Says Justin Francis: "The lodge’s charitable foundation has had an unprecedented, positive impact on the immediate community, working towards major improvements in children’s health care and education conditions.
"Their portfolio of projects in the local area is exhaustive, having improved school attendance by 350 percent, providing access to safe drinking water for 15,000 people, supplying over 10,000 women and children with mosquito nets and more."
Guludo Beach Lodge, north of the Quirimbas National Park, in the Guludo Bay in Mucojo. From Mucojo turn right towards Naunde, eight kilometers down a single track road to Guludo Village. The resort is two kilometers along the beach; +258 2696 0536; www.guludo.com
15. Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan
In a romantic, remote setting amidst the arid mountains on the western border of the Dana Nature Reserve -- usually reached by a five-hour walk through a stunning gorge -- the lodge was developed by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.
It’s entirely solar-powered and built with traditional adobe methods. All water comes from a local spring, it’s vegetarian (to avoid energy-guzzling meat freezers) and in deference to the local culture, is alcohol-free.
Says Hitesh Mehta: "Whether partaking in a hike led by a local eco guide, riding a camel through the picturesque desert valley, visiting Bedouin homes for a sampling of local culture or simply conversing with the 90 percent Bedouin staff, guests are submerged in the authentic Bedouin lifestyle."
Feynan Ecolodge, located at the western edge of Dana Biosphere Reserve, approximately 215 kilometers south of Amman off the Dead Sea-Aqaba highway, near the village of Qurayqura.
If you’re not in a four-wheel drive vehicle, transportation must be booked for the last eight kilometers of off-road track from the reception centre to the lodge. You can also walk there from Dana Village, which takes five hours. Local buses operate between Qurayqura (pronounced Greigra) and both Amman and Aqaba; +962 6 464 5580; www.feynan.com
On CNN: Miami beyond the beaches