Geotourism: A More Immersive Way to Travel
3 Types of Geotourism to Try
There are different types of geotourism and it is growing in popularity, with more and more people supporting and booking trips that uphold these tenets. Geotourism programs have been started in many popular destinations around the world, offering travelers a wide range of experiences. But, what is geotourism and is it right for you?
What is Geotourism?
Geotourism, as defined by National Geographic, is a type of tourism that sustains or enhances the environmental character of a place — its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.
Geotourism trips can encompass a whole range of different types of travel. You might delve into the culture and heritage of a local place, participate in a sustainable trek through the outdoors, learn about traditional art and music, or learn to prepare local dishes in a cooking class. Regardless of the type of activity, at its core, geotourism is environmentally and culturally responsible. Tourists who choose geotourism must be committed to conserving resources, maintaining biodiversity, and respecting local culture and heritage.
“Going local” is key to geotourism. You should seek to do things as much as possible like the locals do. Along with that, you should try to purchase items from locally-owned businesses and hire local guides for your trip. This helps local people earn a living and will help keep destinations authentic.
What Are the Different Types of Geotourism?
Geotourism encompasses a wide range of trips. Volunteering may be one of the first things that come to mind. Volunteering with a local organization can be a good way to travel responsibly, but it is not the only way.
1. Be a GeoStudent
Another great way to practice geotourism is by taking a class or a series of classes. Cooking classes are a good way to learn about local cuisine. Often, small restaurants will offer an afternoon cooking class where you can learn from the chef and/or owner. Other times, cooking schools can be a worthwhile endeavor and may provide you with a longer-term course of study and a wider range of classes. If you choose a cooking school, make sure they are following sustainable practices and utilizing local teachers.
2. Local Festivals and Special Events
Festivals and celebrations are a wonderful way to dive deep into the culture and traditions of your destinations. Just make sure that you are asking the right questions to ensure that you are having an authentic festival experience, and that the money you spend stays in the local community as much as possible.
3. Exploring Traditional Villages and Communities
Visiting traditional villages is a great way to learn more about the locals and to gain a close-up view of the culture and traditional lifestyle at your destination. However, you should make sure that you are discrete and respectful, and that you only travel to local villages at the invitation of a local guide who knows the customs. Do not take photos of people without their permission and avoid the temptation to peek into houses and other hidden spaces uninvited.
Tips for Traveling Sustainably
As you can see, geotourism can look very similar to mainstream tourism. The activities that you do may be very similar. However, the geotourist is more intentional and selective about the impact they are making when they travel. To make sure that your next trip is more sustainable, and that you are being the best geotourist you can be, try to heed the following tips.
Choose smaller destinations and places off the beaten path and avoid traveling during the high season. Look for places where you will have more opportunities to interact with the locals, both when choosing a destination to travel to and when choosing things like hotels and restaurants. When booking accommodations, try to choose lodgings that uphold sustainable practices and give you a chance to interact with local people. You could, for example, ask your hotel management if they recycle and dispose of wastewater appropriately. Also, it would be good to know if the hotel has local people in their management and other positions of responsibility.
The Best Global Geotourism Destinations
There are numerous geotourism destinations around the world, offering a variety of experiences for any type of traveler. These four destinations are some of the best places in the world where you can get a taste of geotourism.
Geotourism Expo in Lake Tahoe
Each year, the sustainable Tahoe Geotourism Expo is held on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The Expo is a family-friendly event held over several days. It features health, fitness, green technology, and clean transit activities hosted by local residents. The activities strive to demonstrate how visitors can connect with the region while maintaining the water clarity of the lake and increasing local economic prosperity. The Expo includes a variety of sampler “geotours” where visitors can experience geotourism firsthand.
Palau is a stunning stretch of hundreds of islands in Micronesia. The island nation is incredibly beautiful and seems to be virtually untouched by tourism. Upon arrival, visitors must sign the “Palau Pledge” where they promise not to exploit or harm the environment during their trip. Here, you can dive and snorkel in extremely clear water, kayak around rock islands, and tour a traditional men’s meeting house to learn about Palau’s traditional culture and food. Homestays are possible for an authentic experience of local life.
The Fjords of Norway
The Fjords of Norway is an area that is somewhat off the beaten path — both difficult and expensive to reach. This keeps visitor levels low, and along with it, the impact of tourism. The cruise ships that lead expeditions through the Fjords are known to be environmentally responsible and also act as ferries for local people, which allows tourists a chance to connect with residents. Tour operators and hotel owners often offer opportunities for visitors to experience traditional culture. The views of the shores and mountains are absolutely stunning and the opportunities to travel responsibly make this an attractive option for the sustainability-minded traveler.
New Zealand is a bucket list destination for anyone who values low-impact travel. There are opportunities to experience stunning natural beauty at every turn. At the same time, you can rest assured that the county is taking steps to protect their resources. More than 1,000 tour operators in New Zealand have signed a commitment to sustainability. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to interact with the locals and the Indigenous Maori people who have their own unique culture and history on the islands. Make sure to take time to hear their perspective, as well to gain a well-rounded view of New Zealand.