The best ethical travel destinations 2014

The 10 most ethical destinations to visit in the year ahead

“Do not tell me how educated you are. Tell me how much you have travelled.”

These words, spoken by Muhammad, seem as apt today as they must have been 14 centuries ago. As we explore our home planet with greater ease, but at an ever-greater remove – on our laptops, tablets and smartphones – let’s not forget the transformative potential of actual, physical travel. There’s still nothing like arriving in a strange land and embarking on a personal voyage of discovery.

Travel has recently become the world’s largest industry, exceeding a trillion-dollar annual value. This means that travellers have power: where we choose to put our footprints has real economic and political significance. By ‘voting with our wings’ – choosing our destinations well and remembering our roles as citizen diplomats – we create international goodwill and help change the world for the better.

Every year, Ethical Traveler reviews the policies and practices of scores of nations in the developing world. We then select the 10 that are doing the most impressive job of promoting human rights, preserving their environments and supporting social welfare – all while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry. By visiting these countries, we use our economic leverage as travellers to support best practices.

How the list is created

We begin by surveying the world’s tourism destinations on the basis of four general categories: environmental protection, social welfare, human rights, and animal welfare.

For each of these categories we look at information past and present so that we understand not only the current state of a country, but how it has changed over time. This helps us select nations that are actively improving the state of their people, government and environment.

In this first phase of our process, we take data from a variety of databases including Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Reporters Without Borders, UNICEF, LGBT resources and the World Bank. After identifying about two dozen ‘short list’ performers, we turn to detailed case research, focusing on actions these governments have taken over the year to improve (or in some cases, weaken) practices and circumstances in the countries.

On top of this, each country selected as a Best Ethical Destination must also offer the opportunity to experience unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.

The Winners

The World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations 2014, in alphabetical order, are:

  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Dominica
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Mauritius
  • Palau
  • Uruguay

The foundation of ethical travel is mindful travel. We offer these recommendations in the hope that your journeys are enlightening, inspiring and of real value – for yourself, and for the people you visit.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer, non-profit organisation, and a project of the Earth Island Institute. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaux or individuals in the creation of our annual list. This report © 2013 by Jeff Greenwald, Christy Hoover and Natalie Lefevre at

Positive Travel is edited by Aaron Millar, he writes about adventure travel, and personal development through exploring the world, at The Blue Dot Perspective.