Hot hotels: sustainable stays
Holidays can have a positive impact on people and places as well as our state of mind, whether by supporting local employment or creating marine protected areas. Sustainable travel expert Holly Tuppen celebrates green hotel heroes
Grand Forest Metsovo, Greece
Often overlooked in favour of the sun, sea and sand further south, Greece’s emerald spine rewards those who stretch their legs inland with the epic gorges and vast forests of Pindus National Park. Eurasian brown bears, wild cats and the Balkan chamois roam among black pine forests and beech woodlands. Wood smoke billows from grey-stone villages, while Vlach traditions, produce and culture are proudly celebrated. Perched on a forested mountainside overlooking the lively town of Metsovo, Grand Forest Metsovo is a small, locally owned hotel that’s sensitive to place and planet.
Recognising that the national park is a globally significant hotspot for alpine biodiversity, Grand Forest’s sensitive design and build was 20 years in the making. The eight chalet-style buildings and two pools take up minimal space, while reflecting the traditional colours and contours of the village below and the mountain above. Proud of their Metsovo roots, the owners, the Barmpagianni family, infuse local produce and heritage throughout. Beyond low-impact outdoor adventures, including hiking and snowshoeing, guest experiences include behind-the-scenes tours of the local Folklore Art Museum and wild truffle foraging. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Metsovo 1350m, celebrates regional produce and wines, and most employees come from the Epirus region.
As a recent addition to Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s Considerate Collection, the hotel is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council framework, widely considered the most robust in the travel industry.
AN ALL-YEAR ESCAPE
Pindus National Park is a year-round destination offering skiing and snowshoeing in winter and hiking and wildlife watching in summer. This means the hotel can provide local employment throughout the year, rather than relying on seasonal workers who often come from further afield.
A PICNIC FIT FOR HERODOTUS
The hotel organises Champagne picnics at nearby beauty spot Lake Verliga – celebrated throughout Greek history all the way back to literary great Herodotus – which is cradled by snowy peaks and awash with wildflower meadows in spring.
HIGH LIFE SAYS
Offering off-the-beaten-track beauty and adventure, whatever the season, Grand Forest Metsovo encapsulates a side of Greece reserved for a lucky few.
Inhabit Hotel, London
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Wellness doesn’t always spring to mind when it comes to boutique, urban stays, but London’s new and growing hotel group, Inhabit, is out to change that. Restorative stays are fuelled by daily yoga classes, mindfulness sessions, a meditation station and an on-site vegan café, while a commitment to the community guarantees a more far-reaching impact. The hotel is packed with social enterprise products that boost moods inside and out, from Self Care Co plant-based candles sending profits to a mental health charity to furniture from Goldfinger, which uses reclaimed materials and teaches woodworking to marginalised young people.
Castara Retreats, Tobago
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Offering a meaningful alternative to larger Caribbean resorts, Castara is a low-key collection of eco-lodges scattered among the verdant fringes of Castara Beach. While it’s environmentally sustainable to the core, thanks to the natural and low-impact design of its 17 treehouse-style lodges, Castara’s local mindset is what makes it stand out. A short stroll from lively Castara village and run by locals, Porridge and Jeanell, the community is central to every aspect of the lodge. Forty locals were involved in building the retreat, several have a stake in the business, and guests are encouraged to share the tourism dollar by visiting local bars or booking locally run experiences.
Jetwing Lighthouse, Sri Lanka
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Jetwing Hotels founder Herbert Cooray believes that “hospitality cannot exist in isolation from local communities and the environment” – an ethos that rings true for the group’s 30 hotels dotted across Sri Lanka, from Jaffna to Galle. Sprawling over a rocky outcrop in the south of the island, Jetwing Lighthouse is one of the group’s most iconic properties. Designed by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, the property bears the hallmarks of Jetwing’s sustainable ethos — solar panels provide ten per cent of electricity, a biomass boiler delivers hot water, wastewater is 100 per cent treated and reused, and an on-site cetacean information centre educates both guests and local schoolkids.
Six Senses Laamu, The Maldives
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Although it may look like any other Maldivian paradise – thatched over-water villas built for barefoot luxury – Six Senses Laamu’s ‘Local Sensitivity, Global Sensibility’ ethos sends ripples of positive impact across the southern Maldives’ Laamu Atoll. Through the award-winning Maldives Underwater Initiative, conservation is long-term and impactful, working with not-for-profit experts Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and Olive Ridley Project. Sustainability tours invite guests to see self-sufficiency and zero-waste commitments come to life at the Earth Hub, while donated water filters in schools eliminate six million plastic water bottles each year.
The Tongsai Bay, Thailand
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Although the world of sustainable hospitality has moved on since the 1980s, when The Tongsai Bay (opening image) was constructed on the then barely developed island of Koh Samui, this resort still leads the green charge in Thailand. Nature has always been a focus, from building around rather than felling trees (hence the walnut trees that pop through several suites) to being one of the first resorts to ban any experience with animals in captivity. The resort is entirely free of chemicals and pesticides, suppliers are encouraged to use refillable packaging, and a full-time green projects manager keeps everything from food waste to on-site animal welfare in check.
Vineyard Hotel, South Africa
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Spiralling out from a 19th-century mansion, within eight acres of lush gardens where mountain tortoises roam, the Vineyard has been quietly undergoing a green revolution for more than 20 years. It has more than 80 solar panels, harvests wastewater, recycles 85 per cent of waste and takes part in local conservation initiatives, including clearing Table Mountain of alien species. In a drive to make events, from weddings to conferences, more sustainable, the hotel founded a local Event Greening Forum. During regional water crises – common in South Africa – the hotel encourages guests to reduce water consumption by replacing bath plugs with rubber ducks and providing timers on showers.
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