Tourism in Spain: When you think of Spain, what images come to mind? Is it the architecture, the vast countryside, or the delicious food? Spain is an excellent destination for those who want to experience a vibrant culture and minimize their carbon footprint.
In the 2020s, tourism has shifted toward sustainability and eco-friendly travel.
Guests in another country are responsible for leaving the land how they found it or improving upon it. Here’s how to be a sustainable tourist in Spain.
What Is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism is about committing to environmentally friendly practices for your trip.
It includes your travel to and within the destination, energy consumption, plastic use and your carbon footprint while on vacation.
Having no carbon footprint is nearly impossible, but there are numerous ways you can be a sustainable tourist on your trip to Spain and stay environmentally responsible.
Planning an Eco-friendly Trip to Spain
Like other European countries, Spain emphasizes sustainably to attract tourists worldwide. Planning an eco-friendly trip doesn’t mean compromising fun and relaxation. Numerous cities nationwide have dedicated time and resources toward sustainability for tourists and residents.
Take the capital city of Madrid as an example. Madrid consistently ranks among the greenest European cities because of its numerous green spaces across the city. Residents and tourists take public transportation, bike, or walk to their destinations.
Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and more make it easy for you to have fun and stay environmentally conscious throughout your trip. Use online resources to develop your itinerary. Websites like Greenhotels and Tripadvisor give you green accommodations to stay at night. The hotels on their websites follow requirements like using renewable energy, reducing plastic consumption, and cleaning with nontoxic products.
Being a Sustainable Tourist in Spain
Spaniards devote time to helping the environment, and you can share your passion when you arrive. Spain has built the nation in favor of eco-friendly travel for decades. You can be a sustainable tourist by considering these accommodations.
The best way to travel within Spain is by using public transportation. Getting from one city to another is easy by boarding high-speed trains, and Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) is how most Spaniards travel.
Spain’s extensive rail network is the longest in Europe and second only to China for high-speed rail. A train ride from Barcelona to Madrid only takes two and a half hours.
You can opt for the metro, bus, or bicycle. Spanish cities are also known for their walkability. Many neighborhoods in cities like Barcelona are ideal for walking to restaurants and shops. Barcelona also features historical walking tours that take you to awe-inspiring sites like the Gothic Quarter, Plaça del Rei, and more.
Public transportation is preferred in Spain, but you may need to rent a vehicle to get around. If you must drive, be conscious of your carbon footprint and find eco-friendly cars. Spain has made great efforts in the push for electric vehicles, having nearly 5,000 charging stations spread across the country with low or zero fees necessary to use them.
You won’t need to worry about your carbon footprint because these cars have no tailpipe emissions. In addition to helping save the environment, it’ll help your wallet. Electric vehicles can be charged to a full battery overnight. Even mobile chargers can charge as fast as 30 miles per hour of charge.
Many Spanish residents take advantage of the country’s recycling program. The bins have different colors to indicate what materials go where.
These colors include:
- Green: The green bins are for glass.
- Blue: Blue cans are where you put paper and cardboard.
- Yellow: Yellow bins are for plastic and packaging material.
- Brown: Brown bins are the destination for your compost and organic material.
- Gray: Gray cans are where you dispose of nonrecyclable material.
Most Eco-friendly Tourist Activities in Spain
Ecotourism is a booming industry in Spain, with numerous fun activities for families. Here are five things to do that keep your carbon footprint low and turn your holiday into an environmentally positive trip.
Spain has natural beauty nationwide, and visiting a national park is the best way to enjoy it. Spain has 16 national parks spread across every corner of the nation, including Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici, located near the French border in the Northeast.
Here, you can visit over 200 lakes and trek Gran Encantat, a part of the Pyrenees. Another famous park in Spain is the National Park of the Sierra Nevada. This is the largest in the country and features forests, valleys, and mountain peaks.
If you’ve never paraglided before, try doing it in tandem to see the breathtaking views from thousands of feet in the air. National parks are terrific eco-friendly destinations because the money you spend goes back into the park for maintenance and restoration.
Another environmentally positive experience in Spain is visiting a wildlife refuge. These sanctuaries provide hundreds of square miles of protected lands for endangered species to roam free.
On the island of Mallorca, visit Artestruz Mallorca, an ostrich farm. It’s a family-run business that aims to educate people about ostriches, and you can feed and pet them here. Kids can ride the ostriches and receive an outstanding education about the majestic bird. You can also eat dishes that include ostrich eggs for a unique dining experience.
Sustainability is a mindset for tourists and residents of Spain. Many Spaniards have gardens in their home to produce food and share with neighbors. Spain provides opportunities for you to learn about organic farms through learning experiences.
WWOOF will connect you with farmers who will host you and your family. They’ll teach you about crops and the various animals on their farms. The experience is rewarding and an environmentally positive activity for the family. Visitors to the organic farm often learn these sustainable practices and take them back home to spread the word.
Cycling is popular in Spain because of its mild and sunny climate year-round. Wherever you are, there’s a cycling tour ready for you to explore sustainably. There are hundreds of routes you can take that vary in difficulty, so beginners can take it easy, and seasoned riders can ride hundreds of miles if they choose.
Spain offers numerous tours, so pick the cycling routes based on what you want to see while riding. You can ride along the coast and see the beautiful beaches. Some tours take you to villages like Grazalema near the Sierra del Pinar mountain range. The cycling tours often last multiple days, and you’ll have a satisfying experience biking throughout this beautiful nation.
Another critical part of sustainable tourism is eating at local restaurants. Find small businesses that source food locally and keep their supply chain short.
Spanish food is renowned worldwide for its variety and burst of flavors. Each corner of Spain offers unique dining experiences you’ll crave when you return home. When in Spain, eat as the Spaniards do. Classic Spanish dishes include gazpacho, paella, gambas al ajillo and more.
If you’re a curious food lover, Spain offers dishes you might not have seen before. For example, many restaurants have oreja de cerdo, or pig’s ear. The chefs pan-fry the ears and serve them with salt and paprika. Another famous dish is tripe or callos. The stew features beef tripe (stomach) and combines it with beans and a sauce with tomato and chickpeas.
Staying Sustainable in Spain
Traveling to Spain is a fantastic experience people of all ages can enjoy. There’s something for everyone — mountains, museums, beaches, parks and islands are only a few fun places to visit. In the 21st century, you can visit these locations and remain conscious of your carbon footprint.
Spain offers numerous eco-friendly transportation modes, such as trains and other public transit.
Make the most of your trip by visiting environmentally positive destinations and making the vacation a valuable learning experience.