10 of the best: eco-friendly holidays

Last updated 14th July 2022

Thakadu River Camp

1/10  Thakadu River Camp, South Africa

If you’re thinking of taking your children on safari in South Africa, the Madiwke game reserve by the border with Botswana is a great place to go. It’s malaria-free and the sprawling bushveld here is home to popular game such as elephant, zebra, buffalo and giraffe, as well as more than 340 bird species, leopard, cheetah and rhino.

Thakadu River Camp is a community-owned camp on the banks of the River Marico, run as an eco-tourism partnership between Northwest Parks, the Molatedi Community and an experienced South African operator.

There’s plenty of space for families in the large tented suites, which have a sliding door onto a private deck overlooking the river.

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Eco guest house, wales

2/10  Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House, Wales

Powered entirely by renewable energy, Bryn Elltyd is one of the first B&Bs in the UK to achieve the top Platinum rating in Tripadvisor’s Greenleaders programme. The kids will love the turf-covered Hobbit room in the garden and the Ffestiniog steam railway runs around the edge of the grounds.

Bryn Elltyd is at the foot of the Moelwyn mountains, so there are easy rambles from your doorstep. If you’re up for more of an adventure, owner John Whitehead is a qualified mountaineer and canoe/kayak coach, and can advise on where to go. There’s lockable storage for bikes, caving gear and canoes.

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Price: From £120 per night for a family room. 

Kinderhotels, Austria

3/10  Kinderhotels, Austria

If you’re considering a trip to Austria, Kinderhotels offer excellent family-friendly accommodation and take their environmental responsibilities seriously. Many invest in alternative energy and heating systems, and all separate waste into at least five categories.

The Kinderhotels provide a huge range of facilities for children. For example, the Moar-Gut Kinderhotel, in the Grossarltal Valley, has a soft-play area, workshop, arts-and-crafts room, cinema and stage for shows, while outdoors there’s a playground with a climbing frame, kid’s tractor and a swimming pool with snow slide, tubing tyres, trampoline and table tennis tables, and the hotel organises trips to a farm of small animals. Plus, there’s up to 70 hours of free childcare a week.


Koster Islands, Sweden

4/10   Koster Islands, Sweden

Sweden’s first protected marine reserve has long been a favourite holiday destination for the Swedes, and now several UK operators are running tours to the two car-free Koster islands off the west coast.

Both North and South Koster are fairly flat and ideal for walks and cycle rides through heather-clad moors, while there’s excellent canoeing around the islands and several secluded beaches, including Rörvik and Kilesand. There are great places to sample the local seafood, including the restaurant at Hotel Koster in Ekenäs (the main hotel on South Koster) and Koster Gardens, an organic garden restaurant voted Sweden’s 2012 Sustainable Restaurant of the Year.

Let Discover the World help you book your trip to the Koster Islands.

Whetland Farm, Devon

5/10  Wheatland Farm, Devon

Unwind in Devon’s beautiful countryside, knowing your stay helps protect rare orchids, owls and dormice in a nationally recognised nature reserve. Relax in the luxurious Balebarn Lodge overlooking the wildlife pond (one of three secluded wooden lodges overlooking a Devon meadow) or choose the stone-built Otter Cottage by the fishing pond and light the woodburner for a cosy evening in.

Borrow bikes, fish the pond, or explore the 21 acres managed for
wildlife. For a rainy day, take the kids to Clip’n Climb by the quayside in Exeter, an indoor climbing centre, which has a self-belaying system that’s really great for kids.

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Price: From £448 for the week / sleeps 8

Pant y Wych Farm

6/10  Pant y Wych Farm, Wales

If you fancy getting back to nature, but maybe not all the way back, the luxury safari tents at this Featherdown Farm could be just the ticket. The tents, which are made of thick protective canvas ‘to keep the warmth in without shutting the sounds of nature out’ all have a master bedroom and bunkroom, stove, sofa, cool chest and flushing toilet.

Pant y Hwch is a delightful smallholding outside the market town of Lampeter, set in 11 acres of rolling countryside, which has chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, beehives and an orchard. Owner Ann makes tasty things for the farm larder using homegrown garden produce and nature’s hedgerow treasures. It’s a step back in time.

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Refugio Amazonas, Peru

7/10  Refugio Amazonas, Peru

Many jungle eco-lodges run in collaboration with local communities organise guided treks that promote conservation of the rainforest. These bring much-needed income to remote communities, provide visitors with an insight into their lives and help conserve the trees and wildlife.

One of the most family-friendly is the 32-room Refugio Amazonas in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest. It’s run by Peruvian eco-tourism company Rainforest Expeditions in collaboration with the indigenous Ese-Eja community of Infierno in the Tambopata National Reserve. Children aged six to 12 can take part in all manner of activities, from short jungle trails where they’ll learn to follow a map to treasure hunts for a lost Brazil nut.

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Glen trail

8/10  The Great Glen Trail, Scotland

If your children are used to cycling at weekends, here’s a great way to introduce them to longer rides. Wilderness Scotland’s Family Coast to Coast trip from Fort William on the Atlantic Coast to Inverness by the North Sea includes  five days in the saddle (cycling three to five hours daily), with the opportunity to try out canoeing, horse riding and monster spotting on Loch Ness along the way. You’ll follow trails along canal tow paths, forestry roads, easy single-track and quiet minor roads and visit an array of Highland villages and ancient castles.

If you get there by train, Wilderness Scotland will pick you up from Inverness station and take you to the start of the bike ride in Fort William.

Book it: The Great Glen Trail

Price: From £600. Price included 5 nights accommodation, bike hire, transfers, route maps and 24 hour support.

YHA National Forest

9/10  YHA National Forest, Derbyshire

This purposebuilt eco-friendly hostel in Moira is designed with family holidays in mind, with en suite family rooms and a bar and restaurant serving children’s meals. It’s right next door to the Conkers Visitor Centre, which will keep little ones amused all day, whatever the weather.

The hostel is well placed for many other attractions in the National Forest, including Snibson Discovery ParkTwycross Zoo and Rosliston Forestry Centre.

For the more adventurous, there’s the National Forest Way, a 75-mile route divided into 12 stages ranging in length from 4 to 7.5 miles, from the National Forest Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire. 

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Price: Double room with 3 single bed from £59 per night

Tarka Trail

10/10  The Tarka Trail, Devon

The Tarka Trail runs from Braunton to Meeth, following the old railways of north Devon. It passes through the largely unspoilt countryside that Henry Williamson described in his classic novel Tarka The Otter, which captures life in the wild as seen through the otter’s own eyes. Along the trail, there are 21 information points and boards that detail the history and wildlife of the area.

The bunkhouse and yurts at Yarde Orchard are a great overnight stop en route, especially now that new owner Simeon Day has given the onsite café a makeover, providing dinner and cider or local ale.

Book it: Yarde Orchard

Price: From £75 per night for a family tent. Includes double bed and 3 singles.