Lately in India as all over the world eco-tourism is the new buzzword. Eco-friendly destinations in India are all about being responsible travelers and giving back, not just to nature but to the entire ecosystem.
Eco-tourism is all about giving developing a friendship with nature, getting acquainted with the concept of responsible travel, and promoting the concept of sustainable living among the locals.
It is also a way of seeking the various ways and means of conserving nature and biodiversity. Eco-tourism is not just about enjoying nature but ensuring her participation in it along with those dependent on it.
India, blessed with natural biodiversity, makes for a great eco-friendly destination. The diversity in its natural landscape makes it an immensely friendly eco-tourist destination. Whether it’s the backwaters of Kerala, a quaint village in Uttarakhand, or a National Park in Madhya Pradesh, every destination provides a wonderful experience while leaving you with a deep appreciation of nature.
Why Eco- Tourism in India?
As a developing nation, there’s much diversity and disparities in India as far as development goes. Tourism adds a lot of stress to both the local economy and culture as well as the environment. Many off-beat places in India that were so 10-15 years ago are now very well-developed tourist places because of how information travels these days: thanks to travel bloggers and social media.
However, this popularity is also leading to many adverse impacts when it comes to sustaining the local environment as well as the culture & economy. Seeing the countryside littered with plastic waste, mountain trails becoming noisy, accommodations getting pricier, and locals becoming more commercial than friendly is the bane of rampant tourism which quite a lot of us are now getting used to. Eco Tourism offers a way to preserve the local ethos and culture while providing the locals with means to sustainable development alternatives while preserving what was pristine in the first place.
How to be an Eco-friendly Traveler
- Be respectful of local culture
- Don’t litter, especially plastic
- Prefer homestays over hotels
- Don’t disturb nature or the trails
- Travel in small groups
- Immerse yourself in local activities and culture
- Prefer local consumption of foods and other necessities to support the local economy
- Try to spend long-term instead of weekend breaks
How Ecotourism Helps
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and generate respect
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and the local populace
- Provide direct financial benefits for natural and ecological conservation
- Generate financial benefits for both local people as well as industry
- Deliver unique experiences to travelers that help raise sensitivity to the local community
- Recognize and work for the empowerment of local values and beliefs and help empower them
- Infrastructure for hospitality is created to be as low an impact on ecology as possible
Eco Tourism in India
India, blessed with abundant natural diversity, makes for a great eco-tourist destination in the world. The diversity in its natural landscape makes it an immensely friendly eco-tourist destination. Whether it’s the backwaters of Kerala, a quaint village in Uttarakhand, the virgin woods and hills of North East, tribes of Chhattisgarh, or a National Park in Madhya Pradesh, many destinations in India provide a wonderful experience while leaving you with a deep appreciation of nature as well as local ethos and culture. You also become acquainted with several local cultures, as eco-tourism is as much about community living as nature preservation.
Top 19 Eco-Friendly Destinations in India
By traveling to eco-friendly destinations in India, you also become acquainted with several local cultures, as eco-tourism is as much about community living as nature preservation. If you are interested in knowing more about it, then here are the 19 eco-friendly destinations in India in no particular order you should travel to.
- Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
- Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
- Khonoma Village, Nagaland
- Thenmala, Kerala
- Mawlynnong Village, Meghalaya
- Coorg, Karnataka
- Sitlakhet, Uttarakhand
- Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
- Pragpur, Himachal Pradesh
- Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
- West Bengal
- Uttar Pradesh
Khangchendzonga National Park covers almost 30% of the total land area of Sikkim in northeast India. It was given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2016. Its natural beauty escapes the description of words, while its landscape is marked by lakes, glaciers, rivers, valleys, plains, and caves. The park is home to a variety of mammal species, some of which include snow leopards, musk deer, red pandas, and Himalayan blue sheep. Almost half of India’s bird species and one-third of the country’s flowering plants are found within this park. Mt. Khangchendzonga also holds a deep spiritual significance for the locals. Taking a trek in this park is the best way of exploring its ecosystem.
One of the best places for ecotourism in India is Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. Its mostly craggy terrain and extreme climate, where temperatures are known to fall beyond minus 30 ° C, provide very few opportunities to earn a livelihood. However, there are a few organizations that are enthusiastic in their endeavor to save the ecosystem through the encouragement of sustainable tourism in this region. Adventure here means trekking through the Pin Parvati Pass, biking through difficult Himalayan trails, and enjoying a spiritual experience in one of many meditation centers. All throughout their stay, however, visitors are requested to cause minimum impact on the Spiti Valley’s ecosystem.
Khonoma Village lies about 20km from Kohima, itself famous for hosting the great Hornbill Festival. The village, which is also referred to as Khwunoria, is believed to be around 700yrs old. Over the last decade, Angamis, one of Nagaland’s tribes, have made enormous progress in strengthening their natural resource management, conflict resolution, village administration, and other forms of development. Biodiversity and wildlife are also given special emphasis.
Visitors to the village are left pleasantly surprised at the various kinds of activities the villagers seem to be absorbed in. Besides, Khonoma is the only village in India that boasts a global citizenry along with a self-identity. September 1 is celebrated every year as the village’s birthday. Another interesting fact is that the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS), which was set up in the year 1998, is the private property of the people of Khonoma Village.
Thenmala, one of the lesser explored destinations in India, is India’s first eco-tourism destination in India. Its 10 eco-tourism spots cover the hill ranges of Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, and Kollam districts. Thenmala means “honey hill” in the local language, and quite appropriately, it’s a major exporter of high-quality honey from this area. Its terrain, dotted with rubber, forests, and tree plantations, was selected by the World Tourism Organization, as one of the most premier eco-friendly projects in the world.
A visit to Thenmala allows you to enjoy various kinds of activities. From boat rides to leisurely walks to adventure sports like rock climbing and mountain biking, there are a lot of options to keep you entertained. Visiting the Thenmala Dam is a favorite for tourists. In the deep, dark woods of Thenmala, there are tree huts which allow you to spend an evening deep inside the forest. One of the highlights of your trip is a boat ride to the wonderful Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mawlynnong Village holds the claim of being one of the cleanest village in India. Situated about 90km from Shillong along the Indo-Bangla border, its home to several natural attractions, from the living root bridge to the eccentric phenomenon of one boulder balancing on top of another. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people and they mostly grow betel nut.
An impressing sight in the village is a dustbin made of bamboo which ensures that dirt and filth are collected properly, instead of being littered and strewn on the streets. Another enormous achievement of this village of 100% literacy, is the complete banning of plastic. Mawlynnong Village is drawing a large number of tourists from across the globe. The rest houses, constructed from bamboo, are very hospitable and inviting. Visiting the village promises to be an enriching experience, in terms of eco-tourism.
Read about Asia’s Cleanest Village “Mawlynnong”.
Coorg, located on the Western Ghats of Karnataka, is one of the best places to visit in India. It boasts well-preserved biodiversity and is blessed with abundant flora and fauna. Dressed in old-world charm, dreamy-looking hills, coffee, and cardamom plantations, it is the perfect eco-tourist destination. The hospitality of the people belonging to the Kodava community will win you over, as will the picturesque beauty of the place. After exploring and absorbing the beauty of Coorg, you should check out other attractions like Abbey Falls. Its cascading water resembles a brilliantly painted curtain. Eco-tourism in Coorg is about admiring the various aspects of its natural beauty, exploring its coffee and cardamom plantations, and learning about the unique history of the Kodava community.
Read about Initiatives to Save Ecologically Fragile Coorg.
Looking for the best summer destinations in India? Head to Sitlakhet in Uttarakhand. Visiting this place lets you leave the hustle-bustle of city life behind you. Situated in the district of Almora, Sitlakhet is one of the best offbeat destinations for eco-tourism in the Kumaon Himalayas.
In terms of eco-tourism, this place has much to offer. Panoramic views, opportunities for hiking, going for nature walks, appreciating the wildlife, and enjoying mountain biking, among others. In the morning and evening, one can enjoy 200-degree views of the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalayas. Hiking to the Syahi Devi Temple is another enjoyable activity as it takes you through the dense pine forests and tiny hamlets. Further, you can also enjoy nature walks and come closer to nature, because that’s the entire point of eco-tourism, isn’t it?
If you are planning a tour to India, then make it a point to visit Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. In this region, the Royal Bengal Tiger is found in large numbers. The park is renowned for saving the Barasingha from extinction, besides enjoying the reputation of being one of the best-managed parks in Asia. Besides these, it’s also a part of Project Tiger.
The park is home to over 350 species of birds along with various kinds of flora. A safari in this park is a wonderful experience as you get to explore meadows, huge plateaus, and valleys. It’s your lucky day here when you spot a Barasingha or catch a glimpse of a tiger in the jungle. Ever wondered how sindoor (vermillion) is made? From the Sindoor Tree, which is found in abundance here. You also come across sites related to mythology, sites such as Shravan Tal, where Shravan Kumar, the devoted son of Ramayana, came to fill water for his parents.
If you are planning to visit Himachal Pradesh, then June is the best time to do it. Once in Himachal, head for Pragpur, India’s first heritage village. The architectural style of the houses in this village reminds you of a past era. The village, named in honor of a princess from the Jaswan royal family, acquired the status of a heritage village in December 2007.
Among the beautiful mud-plastered and slate-roofed houses, you find the presence of exquisite havelis, mansions, and Italianate buildings. Ask the locals though, and they will tell you of the mansions being 300yrs old. In this heritage village exist heritage buildings, such as the Judges Court. Of course, there are tales of villagers to be enjoyed and their lifestyle to be experienced. Pragpur is another example of how enjoyable and educative ecotourism can be.
Located in the northern part of Amravati district, the Melghat Tiger Reserve is a great eco-friendly destination which you should visit during your trip to Maharashtra. Spread over 3,600sq.km, this tiger reserve covers the Gugamal National Park and Melghat Wildlife Sanctuary, along with the rich deciduous reserve forests in the neighboring areas.
The sight of the leisurely flowing Sipna River through the dry deciduous forest is very pleasing and allows for some amazing photography. Observing the tribal communities of Korkus and Gaolis and their lifestyles promises to be a unique experience, and sheds light on the harmonious existence of humans with nature.
It gets even better when you get to walk alongside the Sipna River with a Korku adivasi as he hunts for fish using innovative hunting techniques. In the forests of Melghat Tiger Reserve, you can also spot handsome crested serpent eagles and crested hawk eagles. However, nothing beats the sight of the racket-tailed drongo, with its amazing talent for imitating over 15 types of birds.
Read about Matheran, Asia’s Only Car-Free Hill Station.
Referred to as ‘god’s own country,’ Kerala is blessed with immense biodiversity. The Western Ghats and Arabian Sea as well as the tropical location geographically makes, Kerala one of the most attractive eco-friendly destinations in India. No wonder National Geographic Traveller mentioned Kerala as one of the ‘Must Visit Places in a Lifetime.’
Kerala is a popular beach destination in India and is also renowned for India’s ancient science of healing Ayurveda. To be honest Kerala is one of the major tourist destinations in India but despite its fair share of tourism, Kerala is still one of the best destinations for eco-tourism in India.
Thenmala, one of the lesser explored destinations in Kerala, is India’s first eco-tourism destination in India. Its 10 eco-tourism spots cover the hill ranges of Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, and Kollam districts. Thenmala was handpicked by the World Tourism Organization, as the foremost eco-tourism project in the world.
A visit to the ‘honey hill’ offers a lot of opportunities to travel responsibly, experience nature, and to engage with locals at both cultural and economic levels/. From boat rides to leisurely walks to adventure sports like rock climbing and mountain biking, there are a lot of options to keep you engaged with the community and ecosystem. A boat ride in the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the major highlights of the trip eco-tourism in Thenmala.
Alleppey renowned for its backwaters, Kumbalangi, Thommankuthu, Silent Valley National Park, Periyar National Park, Gavi, and Munnar are some of the major ecotourism destinations down South in India to stay in nature’s embrace and have mental and spiritually uplifting travel experiences.
West Bengal surprisingly is one of the leading destinations for eco-friendly destinations in India. With its coasts, hills, tea gardens, and forests, there is a lot of focus and effort put in to promote ecotourism in West Bengal.
Sundarbans National Park was perhaps the earliest such example. It is a bio-diverse place stretching across India and Bangladesh with a healthy population of Royal Bengal Tigers. Sabujdwip, the river banks of Teesta and the Hooghly as well as the Ganges are notified ecotourism destinations as well with a lot of local and cultural experiences to offer. Then to uncover the rich heritage and history of Bengal, places like Bishnupur, Murshidabad, Malda, Krishnagar, Nabadwip, and Birbhum are especially promoted by the state government for eco-tourism in West Bengal.
Orissa is one of the most culturally vibrant and yet one of the lesser developed states in India. There are several tribes that live in this coastal state. They have kept intact their tribal practices and culture which offer unique cultural travel experiences to travelers not just from India but from across the globe.
The tourism ministry of Orissa has especially set up an eco-tourism department to promote and sustain the local culture, economy, and nature of these places while also increasing tourism-related activities. Orissa is dotted with jungles, hills, lakes, and wildlife. Camping, homestays, tribal experiences, and nature resorts are some of the various experiences through which ecotourism in Orissa is being developed in a sustainable way.
Major places where you could get involved in ecotourism in Orissa include Chillika Lake, Debrigarh Nature Camp, Bhittarkanika Nature Camps, Simplipal, and Satkotla Nature Camps. The range of activities includes adventure sports like boating, biking, treks, etc. as well as tribal dances and sports activities.
Assam in North East India is one of the prime eco-tourism destinations in India. With its immense geographical diversity and vivid wildlife, Assam attracts a lot of nature and wildlife enthusiasts from around the globe. The Great single-horned rhinos and the elephants are the big two of the wildlife in Assam. Then Kaziranga National Park is home to a significant population of Royal Bengal Tigers as well besides over 200 species of fauna.
Assam is also a culturally teeming place with various tribes and cultural experiences. Several local fests and dance forms are major highlights of any eco-tourism activities in Assam. The mighty Brahmaputra River also allows several river cruise options which offer a glimpse into the local culture and tribal diversity and experience the natural and ecological beauty of Assam. The most eco-diverse places in Assam include Kaziranga, Majuli, Manas, Orang, Nameri, Kamakhya, Tezpur, Nambor, and Namdhapa.
Although the Taj Mahal in Agra is claim to its global fame when it comes to tourism in Uttar Pradesh, the state government has taken quite some initiatives to promote ecotourism in this largest Indian state. It has especially earmarked a few wildlife zones for promoting eco-tourism in India.
Dudhwa National Park with its high tiger density, Katarniya Ghat National Park with its crocodile and tortoise population, and Motipur and Chuka National Park have been declared eco-tourism hotspots in Uttar Pradesh. You can experience a range of local activities and conservation efforts while getting to know the local culture and natural diversity of these places. The fact that these destinations remain off the chart of tourists for the most part of the year makes them ideal places for ecotourism in Uttar Pradesh.
About a year back, India got its first tribal circuit in Chhattisgarh. Inaugurated by the state’s tourism minister, the circuit will include Jashpur, Kunkuri, Mainpat, Kamleshpur, Maheshpur, Kurdar, Sarodadadar, Gangrel, Kondagaon, Nathiya Nawagaon, Jagdalpur, Chitrakoot, and Tirthgarh. The fact that Chhatisgarh is renowned for its various tribes, natural abundance, and rich culture makes it one of the major ecotourism destinations in India.
Several projects and a significant budget has been approved to improve and develop ecotourism in Chhatisgarh with special efforts to sustain the local tribes and their culture and economy. About 44% of the area of the state falls under the forest category. Bilaspur, Raipur, and Jagdalpur are developed specifically conserved and developed to promote ecotourism activities in Chhatisgarh. Some of the main ecotourism destinations in Chhatisgarh include Chitrakool, Kanger Valley, Nanadanvan, and Sitanadi among others.
Made up of and bound by mountains, Ladakh is India’s last Shangri La. Although in recent years, this destination in India has become quite popular among tourists, Leh Ladakh is still one of the most unspoiled travel destinations in India due to its connectivity from the rest of the country and its challenging landscape.
The fact that it is mostly located at a mean altitude of above 10,000 feet is the first deterrent when you are planning a trip to Ladakh. What doesn’t help is that for the most part of the year, Leh Ladakh remains cut off from the rest of India by road as the Rohtang Pass in Manali and Zoji La Pass near Sonamarg in Kashmir becomes inoperable by road due to annual snowfall from June till October every year. The Atal Tunnel in Rohtang was supposed to make Ladakh connected by road throughout the year but what they don’t tell you is that Kunzum Pass towards Spiti Valley and Baralacha La and Taglang La towards Leh are equally high passes and they will remain inoperable too for the most part of the year.
Coming back to eco-tourism, well Ladakh is definitely a jewel and we all need to strive to keep it as pristine and uncorrupted by modernity as we could. It’s the enviable land of Tibetan Buddhism. Even road signs tell you in advance that ‘don’t be a Gama, in the land of Lamas,’ the unaffected smiles and ‘juley’ greetings even as you ride down the road are enough to fill you with joy and amazement.
Traveling to Ladakh is definitely one of the must things one could have up their travel bucket list. The azure lakes of Tso Mori Ri and Pangong Tso are mesmerizing to behold, and so are the golden snow-laden and bare Himalayan mountainscape as the sun’s rays pierce the sky and form a golden canopy up top. The weather condition changes as dramatically as the sun’s position in the sky but for the most part of the year, the temperature remains mostly freezing especially as the sun bids adieu to the day.
Eco-tourism is the buzzword when it comes to tourism and surprisingly, this place is yet pristine thanks to the tribes of responsible travelers who form the bulk of visitors to this remote country.
Sikkim happens to be the first declared ‘Organic State’ in India. Lying in the North East region of India, Sikkim is nowadays becoming one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in India. With its unspoiled hills, salubrious weather conditions for the most part of the year, and culturally vibrant tribes and traditions, Sikkim has generated a lot of buzz amidst the savvy class of discerning travelers around the world.
Nestled in the Himalayas and wrapped in nature’s abundance, Sikkim is one of the mainstays of ecotourism in India. Recently the Khangchendzonga National Park was inscribed as one of the Natural Heritage Sites in the World by UNESCO for its immense biodiversity. 48% of this state economy is dependent on tourism or the tertiary sector and that is a reason why the authorities have taken great pains to promote ecotourism in Sikkim to keep intact the local culture and economy by giving special attention to creating and strengthening community-based tourism activities.
With the significant rise in tourists to Sikkim, some of the zones like Lingdok-Pangthang, Okharey, Kitam, and East Pendam are notified as ecotourism destinations in Sikkim. Several conclaves and societies have been formed and organized to keep all state holders informed and educated about the need of promoting ecotourism in the region. In Lachen, even the sale of the packaged plastic water bottle was banned a few years ago and waste management practices are constantly upgraded so that nature and ecology don’t get adversely affected.
To sum it up, over 39 species of Rhododendron flowers, 558 species of Orchids, almost 600 species of bird species, and more than over 2000 species of moths and 658 species of butterflies along with approx. 4000 species of flowers & abundant medicinal herbs and plants make Sikkim a unique destination for Ecotourism.
Sikkim is especially popular among couples, honeymooners as well as people looking to explore mountains and Buddhist culture. With home to numerous monasteries, lakes, hills, trekking trails, and numerous adventure sports activities, Sikkim is one of the major travel destinations for offbeat and adventure travelers in India.
Thanks to the Western Ghats, Goa is blessed with diverse animal and plant life. In fact, there are over 1500 species of flora, 40 species of mammals, and over 60 reptilian species in the state of Goa. More than 10% of the geographical area of Goa is declared a wildlife reserve.
Although popular due to its beaches, adventure sports activities, river cruises, and vibrant nightlife, Goa is also developed as a major ecotourism destination in India.
Besides world-class hotels and resorts, several farms, plantations, and wildlife reserves in Goa form the backbone of ecotourism in Goa. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, and Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary are major ecotourism destinations that are developed by the state to promote ecotourism and create sustainable tourism models in this highly commercialized state.
Besides, there are several waterfalls, lakes, and springs in Goa as well which still remain off the beaten path destination. Village tourism and other cultural activities are also something which are increasingly coming under the purview of responsible tourism in Goa.
One of the major sites promoting ecotourism in Goa is the ‘Jungle Site.’ Sprawling over 240 sq. km in Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and stretching as far as the ocean and covering the Dudhsagar Waterfalls. The most popular ecotourism camp set up by them is the ‘Jungle Book’ which is home to over 70 eco-cottages. Responsible travellers could embark on jungle safaris, spend a day at ecological training and lessons spend time at plantations give bathing sessions to elephants and stay at eco-resorts far from the din of the city and bustling beaches of Goa.