The term “Eco-Tourism” was first coined in the early 1980’s by the Mexican architect, Hector Ceballos Lascurain. He defined it as “traveling to fairly undisturbed areas to enjoy the scenery and culture”. Indeed it was during the 80’s and 90’s that the concept took root, others place its origins in the expeditions of Alexander von Humboldt, circa 1799, and his subsequent writings “cosmos” which would later inspire a young Charles Darwin.
With social empowerment, economic viability and environmental responsibility at its heart, in a world ever more aware of its footprints. At a time when travelers, travel providers, and communities are all looking at new and better ways to share our world, it is now becoming an industry of its own, with growing traction. Predictions see a 30% growth globally of the eco-tourism industry.
In 2014, Andalucia implemented its sustainable tourism plan. Its aim is to foster new and innovative tourist products, designed to generate more “inland” tourism, a move away from the sea, sand and sun model.
The region of Andalucia alone has 150 protected areas, two of which are natural parks. In fact just, under 20% of all Andalucia is under some form of environmental protection. The reason for this level of protection? Its rich bio-diversity. The result of having such a unique place in the world, nestled between Europe and Africa, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
The region of Andalucia is seen by many as a trans-continental hub for fish as well as birds. Up to 60 species can be seen here regularly, making it popular for ornithology enthusiasts and bird watchers alike. Add a selection of micro climates, including snow covered mountains, marshlands, several types of forest, coast land beaches and Europe’s only desert.
These unique ingredients allow it to become home to such an array of wildlife. 120 different species of butterfly, snakes, lizards and the rare rhinoceros beetle also have homes here, living among the larger wild cats, boars and ibex.
The horticulturists among us too, if you’ll forgive me, would have a field day, with 2,100+ species recorded in the area, 70 of which you will only find here and another 120 which are on the endangered species list.
Historically, and still a highly productive agricultural area, (up to 56% of national output) now many producers are moving into more sustainable practices, encompassing solar power and permaculture, even offering themselves as alternative accommodation and learning centers for the eco-minded traveler. Small independents offer similar experiences and accommodation in cottages and small farms.
Aside from the huge array of wildlife and agriculture on display there are some truly exceptional treks and walks with nothing short of breathtaking views across the valleys. You can explore and experience dramatic sunrises or sunsets, the ideal eco-adventure.
The refreshing waterfalls and streams, or the natural hot springs you can find along the paths to soak in, a million stars shining on a clear night….
If you haven’t tried it yet, plan your next trip the ‘eco’ way.