Sustainable tourism in Spain represents one of the most important development engines of the Country. A way of travelling, that respects nature, places and local communities are always more requested, not only in the Iberian peninsula but all over the world. In Spain, there are a lot of authentic and wonderful rural areas where ecotourism offers a real opportunity for social and economic development. Some of the particularly interesting areas include Asturian and Pyrenees, Catalonia (among Costa Brava and the hinterland), Andalusia, and the Canary and Balearic islands. Are you ready to discover 10 sustainable destinations in Spain perfect for a vacation in harmony with nature? From the North to the South of the Nation, here you have the most beautiful places for an eco-friendly holiday in Spain.
The list of best sustainable destinations to not lose in Spain begins with one of the most known cities in the North of the Nation, in the Basque Country: San Sebastiàn. A wonderful location, rich in nature, art and history.
For breathing the culture you can explore the delightful alleys of the centre, observing the buildings, the mayor hall, the Deputación and Miramar Palaces, and the Costitución and Gipuzkoa squares. And then, the museums, the Victoria theatre, and the churches. The most characteristic one is the Buen Pastor Cathedral, in neo-Gothic style, built in 1897.
For hiking, some paths bring you to mount Urgull, where stands out Mota Castle. These paths are four and they all begin at different points, each of them hiding different surprises and unmissable views.
Just two kilometres away from the centre rise Donostia. From here you can organize hikes on the Igueldo mount, which you can reach on foot or by cableway, which still has the original coaches from 1912. You can cheer your eyes with the most suggestive glimpses of the city, enjoy an amusement park and reach the old lighthouse.
Between the two mounts, there is Concha Beach, the symbol of the city, one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world. A wide and sandy bay, that still maintains a wild part and in its centre there is the rocky island of Santa Clara.
If you want to spend a vacation in the middle of the wild and uncontaminated nature, the perfect sustainable destination is Noja, on the Cantabria coast of Spain.
Here there are a lot of guided paths which cross the beaches, dunes, swamps, countryside and forest, where you can immerse yourself in the green and admire incredible landscapes. The Santoña, Victoria and Joyel lagoon Natural Park is a heritage that encloses 120 different species of aquatic birds and a lot more animals.
Among the most famous beaches there are Playa de Tregandín and Playa de Ris, with their solemn cliffs and luxurious flora. They are ideal to practice every aquatic sport.
And then, you can visit architectural excellences with elegant palaces and historical residences, sanctuaries and churches. The symbol of the city is a roman bridge that crosses the wide lagoon of Las Huelgueras. Furthermore, Noja is part of the Santiago Way.
Along the coasts of the “Green Spain”, on the shores of the Cantabrian sea, in Asturia, there is the vibrant Gijón. This sustainable destination in Spain has been a finalist in the program EDEN (European Destination of ExcelleNce) of the European Commission for sustainable tourism.
A naturalistic and cultural destination, to explore from the coast to the hinterland; rich in museums, squares, palaces and Roman ruins and you can’t miss the Clock Tower. There is also a promontory where it develops the fishermen’s neighbourhood of Cimadevilla, with a large park that extends into the ocean and shows incredible viewpoints.
Then there are a lot of paths, green areas, attractions for families, parks, lakes, mountains and walks along the sea. The most famous beach is Playa de San Lorenzo, long and sandy, with some isolated points with rocks and inlets.
The capital of Catalonia holds a primate. It has been the first city in the world to obtain certification as a sustainable tourism destination in Spain.
One of the most famous tourist destinations on the planet, symbol of overtourism, can be lived in a totally green way. You can enjoy the sun of the Mediterranean, the amusement and the local vivacities in the numerous green spaces with greenery and different styles.
You can move by bicycle, thanks to the numerous cycling tracks, or on foot, you can visit the centre and its palaces, the historical monuments, the squares, the artistic alleys, the architecture of Gaudí and the Rambla until the harbour. You can also visit the various parks, the hills of Tibidabo and Montjuïc and the numerous belvedere. Don’t forget to have a walk along the urban coast until the cleanest and crystal clear ones of Costa Brava.
Staying in Catalonia, among history and nature, we can talk about Girona, a little green and architectonic jewel.
Time ago the city was surrounded by medieval walls, now it develops along a maze of ancient alleys. here you can find the cathedral of Santa María, the museums and the colourful houses that appear on the shore of the river Onyar. Don’t miss the monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants, the churches and the ancient roman thermal baths. You can also walk on the archaeological path that brings you to the most important sites of the ancient city.
Among the natural parks you cannot miss the ones near the river Ter: La Devesa and Les Ribes del Ter, perfect for walking or doing sport. If you want to move by bike, follow the Greenways, and walk along the ancient railway tracks on two wheels.
Another ideal destination for sustainable tourism in Spain is the bustling and ecologic Valencia.
A dynamic city, rich in culture and traditions, ancient and modern at the same time with an attention to sustainability. With its dense network of cycling tracks that connect the city and excellent service of bike sharing, you can move well everywhere.
You can cross the entire city along the old river bed of the Turia river, which now is a florid garden 9 kilometres long that unites the Parc de Cabecera with the City of Arts and Science. A nice walk by bike can bring you to exciting museums, monuments and rivers hidden inside.
You also can’t miss the nice beaches with clean sea, among the most famous ones there are Playa La Malvarrosa and Playa de Las Arenas.
To tone up your legs and enjoy a wonderful view you can access the Miguelete tower, attached to the cathedral in gothic style. Climb the 207 steps of the spiral staircase, reach the terrace of the bell tower and make you be surprised by the impressive view of the city and the countryside.
Moreover, a few kilometres away from the city centre there is the magical Natural Park of Albufera. On its inside, you can find the biggest lagoon of the entire nation, an ancient sweet and salty, born from the merge of the rivers Turia and Jucar with the sea. It’s also a shelter for unique species of aquatic birds.
Doñana National Park
Now we move to the south, among the provinces of Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, in Andalusia, in the spectacular Doñana National Park. This is one of the most beautiful and important areas of Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A marvellous place where you can find different ecosystems: swamp, lagoon, kilometres of beaches, mobile dunes, cliffs, pine forests and Mediterranean scrub. Here coexist different animals like birds, deers and wild boars. Some species are even in danger of extinction like the imperial Spanish eagle or the Iberian lynx. Here there is a total of 500 vegetal and animal species of great ecologic value.
A spectacular scenario that changes every season and that amazes you continuously, in a territory that is extended for 543 square kilometres and that can give you a green trip full of emotions.
With its Western landscape, Almería, in the heart of Andalusia, offers the possibility of an adventure out of this world.
A city of Arab origins, with a rich historic past and an undisputed wild nature, that gifts amazing views. Among ochre rocks and desert streets, you can observe the typical country houses (cortijos) and enjoy a regenerating peace. You can visit the centre with its cobbled alleys, the coast, the churches, the museum and the cathedral. And the Alcazaba of Almería, the magnificent fortress located on a hill, where you can admire at 360° degrees the city and its amazing gardens.
The beaches are pieces of paradise, like the special Cabo de Gata. A natural reserve with uncontaminated beaches, cliffs overlooking the transparent sea and deep inlets. It almost looks like a lunar atmosphere.
Then there is the Sierra Nevada National Park, with its unique landscapes and with its endless possibilities. In winter and summer, you can dedicate yourself to the sport: skiing, cycling, hiking and even horse riding.
Finally, just half an hour away from the city, you can visit the desert of Tabernas, the only one in Europe, choosen by the movie director Sergio Leone, where he set his most famous movies. You can also enjoy the numerous trekking paths, in the middle of an incredible variety of flora and fauna. Furthermore, during the night you can admire an unforgettable starry sky.
Not only the mecca of amusement but also a safe and ecologic island, ideal for doing an experience of sustainable tourism in Spain. Formentera, in fact, with its wide natural spaces, has uncontaminated places that are perfect for living numerous adventures.
The Consell Insular de Formentera is active for a lot of years to promote the island as as one of the best sustainable destinations in Spain, through numerous actions to protect the natural heritage.
The pearl of Baleares will bring you on a trip that will open all your senses. Among landscapes of rare beauty, colourful villages, and white and infinite beaches with crystal clear and blue water, you can practice a lot of activities. You can walk and hike on foot, by bike or with a horse, through the 32 green itineraries, and do every type of aquatic sport.
Moreover, you cannot miss making the route of the lighthouses and hills of the island, from the highland of La Mola to Cap de Barbaria.
El Hierro is a small island that is located more west than the Canary islands. With heavenly beaches, rich greenery, volcanos and a favourable climate and many naturalistic attractions, is a land of huge impact.
Moreover, the island distinguishes itself for its commitment to the safeguarding of the local ecosystem. Declared Biosphere Reserve, is a place where there are many hike paths, surrounded by various green and luxuriant forests. The waters are crystal clear and the spectacular ocean floors are full of life. The Marine Reserve La Restinga is an underwater temple, known at an international level and populated with numerous animals.
The island has approved time ago a sustainable development model, based on the recycling of waste, sustainable transportation, organic agriculture and on projects that regard the use of solar energy and hydrogen cars. It has been the first island completely self-sufficient thanks to the usage of renewable energy.
Breathe pure air, enjoy the belvedere on the sea and immerse yourself in the meditative peace that the uncontaminated nature can inspire you.
In conclusion, sustainability is one of the new pillars of Spanish tourism. We have suggested to you some of the most beautiful and sustainable destinations in Spain to travel respecting the environment, discover exceptional places, and live a unique and rewarding experience. Which will be your next green destination?