Did you know the United Nations have designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism and Development? The New York Times reported there were 1.2 billion international travelers in 2015, up from 674 million in 2000. The rapid growth in tourists has the potential to have a negative or positive impact, and the UN's goal is to make travel a force for good. Sustainable travel gets much more creative than eco-friendly hotels and lower emission cruise ships. Many travelers opt to be fully immersed in nature and local culture. Spain is a country abundant in natural resources and unique accommodations, offering tourists the chance to explore like a local. Here are five ways a sustainable traveler can get the most out of Spain.
Explore Europe's Largest National Park
In addition to devoting four percent of its land mass to national parks, Spain is home to Europe's largest national park, Los Picos de Europa. The park is located in a region called España Verde (Green Spain). It certainly lives up to its name, and is a top destination for tourists seeking sustainable travel. The region refers to Spain's northern border that faces the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia all the way up to the French border, along with the coastal strip lying north of the Cantabrian and Basque mountains along the Bay of Biscay. The Picos de Europa spans three northern Spanish provinces, Asturias, Cantabria, and Castile and Leon.
The park offers every conceivable outdoor activity, including hiking, biking, mountain climbing, kayaking, canoeing and various other watersports wintersports. Take in breath-taking views from the coastal range that is just under 9,000 feet. Hike the winding trails that weave in and out of the peaks around Lago Ercina, an ancient glacially formed lake that sits in a valley in the mountains.
Taste Local Flavors
Sustainable travelers will also be overwhelmed with the local cuisine, which combines fresh local ingredients with tradition. Try artisan cheeses made by local shepherds and matured in nearby humid caves. Piquant blue and Queso de Cabrales are two of the most famous. La Rioja, also located in the "Green Spain" region is Spain's foremost wine region. Sample local wines offered at numerous bodegas with state-of-the-art tasting rooms.
Soak in Culture and History
Green Spain is sprinkled with towns full of culture. Don't forget to include Bilbao, in Basque County, on your sustainable tour. In addition to beautiful green spaces, the city is home to Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum. Step back into history by visiting the Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liebana. In the eighth century Christian refugees fled from Muslim-occupied Spain to Liebana, allegedly bringing the Lignum Crucis, the single biggest piece of Jesus' cross.
Sustainable accommodations are available for every level of eco-friendliness. Pitch a tent in a modern campground, such as the one in Avín, Asturias, located along a beautiful stream. The campground also offers apartments and bungalows for those that want eco-friendly with a little more modern convenience. Stay in the woods, but in luxury in a cabin, treehouse or yurt. Learn more about unusual sustainable options at www.infohub.com, or check out www.airbnb.com for unique accommodations, from luxury houses to country bungalows. There are also numerous small towns near Los Picos de Europa, if you prefer more traditional accommodations. www.greenhotels.com is a great resource to find green-rated hotels around the world.
Take a Tour
Taking an eco-friendly vacation doesn't mean you have to navigate your way through foreign terrain. The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) provides information about every aspect of sustainable tourism, including accredited tour operators. The ECST is sponsored by the European Commission, and has the mission to enable protected areas to develop tourism sustainability.
Obviously we wouldn't be "Auto France" if we werent proponents of the Automobile as a means of cutting through the Spannish countryside. The Peugeot fleet is shockingly fuel efficient in comparison to what americans are traditionally accustomed to at home. In fact, you will find 55+MPG is a lower benchmark rather than a topped out goal for over 90% of the Auto France Peugeot fleet. Contact us to learn more or to put together your roadtrip in Spain!
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