Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Top Cities for a Sustainable Getaway, According to Kayak


Searching for sustainable travel destinations just got easier thanks to Kayak’s new cities ranking.

Travel search engine Kayak has released a new report ranking the top eco-friendly travel destinations from around the world.

The 2023 City Index for Mindful Travelers ranks 167 countries based on their environmentally friendly travel options across four categories: traveling to, getting around, stay, and experiences. 

view from airplane
The report took into account sustainability-related, pre-arrival factors. | Photo by Sasha Freemind via Unsplash

The city index, which takes a “traveler first perspective,” took into account 28 sustainability-related factors that tourists often consider when planning a trip — from carbon-accredited airports and available biking and walking routes to air quality and eco-friendly excursions.

“What makes this ranking different from other city lists you might’ve seen? Ours has you, the mindful traveler, top of mind,” the report details.

Top sustainable travel destinations

So, which cities came out on top? According to Kayak’s report, the top ten cities for mindful travelers worldwide are Rotterdam, Netherlands; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Graz, Austria; Trondheim, Norway; Munich, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; Zurich, Switzerland; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Vienna, Austria. 

Rotterdam, which scored a perfect 100/100, took home first place for its sustainable accommodation and transportation options. Many of the city’s hotels feature the Travel Sustainable Badge by Kayak’s sister brand,, which recognizes properties’ sustainability practices. Rotterdam also has a variety of electric vehicle charging stations and bike paths. (Approximately 37.5 percent of all the city’s traffic is by bicycle, according to the report.)

Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Rotterdam, Netherlands is the top city to visit for mindful travelers. | Photo by Flori & Almi Weit.Gereist via Unsplash

“Our findings show that European destinations lead the way in the rankings of cities,” Per Christiansen, Kayak’s senior vice president, explains. “[They’re] particularly attractive for mindful travelers because they provide travelers with a wide range of opportunities for making responsible choices.” 

For those looking for mindful travel destinations in North America, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Boston scored the highest with a final score of 52, 52, and 50, respectively. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; and Wellington, New Zealand ranked the highest with respective scores of 58, 49, and 47. In Africa and the Middle East, Tunis, Tunisia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Dubai, UAE were the most mindful cities scoring 28, 25, and 22, respectively.

Kayak’s tips for mindful travelers

When it comes to travel, studies show that travelers are increasingly putting the planet first. A 2022 report from the World Travel and Tourism Council found that 69 percent of tourists actively seek out eco-friendly travel options.

“There is no doubt that interest in travel is at a high level especially with city trips being back on the itinerary,” says Christiansen.

“Being a mindful traveler means experiencing the world while helping to reduce potential negative impacts on the environment and people,” he adds. “Today’s travelers are getting more aware of their impact on the destinations that they visit. And they seem to respond more to the initiatives and public politics that global cities are introducing.”

For the eco-wanderlust globetrotter, Christiansen shared a handful of easy tips for being a more sustainable traveler. “First, travel off-peak season. It not only tends to be cheaper but can help support local economies when tourism tends to be lower,” he explains.

woman riding a bicycle
Cycling or walking can help minimize a traveler’s carbon footprint. | Photo by Daria Obymaha via Pexels

Secondly, he recommends flying direct and opting for economy class seats. Although they may be spacious, first-class and business-class seats have a larger carbon footprint, according to a study by the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy. Similarly, flying the most direct path can lower the total amount of miles flown, which in turn will help to reduce how much carbon is emitted.

Christiansen offers other recommendations for curbing emissions. These include opting for electric or hybrid vehicle rentals or choosing to explore destinations on foot or by cycling. According to a 2021 study by the University of Oxford, riding a bicycle just once per day in lieu of driving a car can reduce transportation-related emissions by 67 percent.

“At Kayak, we believe in the power of travel to bring the world and its people closer together,” Christiansen says. “And we are making sure that travelers are equipped with knowledge and tools to make informed choices.” 

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