Following a year of freak heat waves and devastating Australian bush fires that wiped out half the marsupials on Kangaroo Island – a Condé Nast Traveler ‘hot destination’ for 2020 – tourists worldwide are starting to fret about their carbon footprint.

And it’s transforming the way we holiday faster than you can say climate change. From flight shame and train brag to second city travel and vegan vacations, Belinda Beckett checks out the hot travel trends that are really cool for the planet.

Trains Before Planes

If 2019 was the year of flygskam – the Swedish concept of ‘flight shame’ – the 2020s will see a new Age of the Train. A whopping 48 per cent of us (according to plan to take a trip by the iron road this year and entitle ourselves to some tagskryt (train brag), another hip hashtag courtesy of Sweden’s climate change movement that confers bragging rights to a lower carbon footprint.

According to Interrail, ‘the train is the most climate-friendly and energy-efficient means of transport besides your bicycle’. Even a diesel journey produces up to 84 per cent less carbon than an equivalent flight. A trip from London to Madrid emits 0.043 metric tonnes of CO2 per passenger but nearly triple that (0.118 mt) by plane.

Aviation’s two per cent contribution to global CO2 emissions is forecast to triple by 2050 in worst case scenarios. But our growing environmental ‘wokeness’ could reverse that trend and campaigns like Flight Free 2020, which aims to get 100,000 people swearing off flying this year, are making jet set membership distinctly uncool.

One in five travellers reduced their flights last year out of concern for the climate, according to a survey of 6,000 people in the US, Germany, France and Britain. What the press calls the ‘Greta Thunberg Effect’ has airlines so worried that BA and Air France are stumping up for offsets on all their domestic flights this year while Easyjet is the first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights on all its routes.

Electric planes are also on the way – Easyjet has promised to deliver a short haul e-flight by the end of the 2020s. In the meantime, the relatively eco-friendly train is roaring back into vogue.

Sleeper trains were teetering on the brink of extinction in Europe. Now they are seen as the future of short-haul travel between cities. Austria’s state railway, Europe’s leading provider of night trains, has ordered 13 more and added links that will make Vienna Europe’s most connected city by rail after Moscow.

There’s something enduringly romantic about a hotel-on-wheels where you can watch the scenery roll by in one country and wake up in another. But forget oak panelling and velvet upholstery – Austria’s new Nightjet carriages are inspired not by Murder on the Orient Express but by the functional minimalism of airline business class to accommodate time-pressed executives and tourists with a climate conscience. Ideal for city trips and holiday travel, on some routes you can take your car or motorcycle with you.

If you must fly… buy your own carbon offsets which compensate for your emissions by investing in green projects. They cost peanuts too. You can offset the 2,000-mile round trip from Málaga to London for $2.49 on non-profit website Cool Effect.

Great Rail Journeys

Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express You haven’t truly done rail travel until you’ve ridden this hardcore iron road. The 6,000-mile route connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East, Mongolia and China crosses through seven time zones in eight days but, with a boudoir on board, you won’t suffer from ‘train lag’.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Chugging across Europe between London and Venice, this famous vintage train evokes the romance of its Roaring Twenties origins with lavish Art Deco interiors and flapper glamour. It’s Champagne and fine dining all the way and ladies and gents dress for dinner, just as Hercule Poirot liked it.

Argo Parahyangan, Indonesia The name may be unfamiliar but this could well be the most scenic first-class commuter train in the world. The jungle journey from Jakarta to Bandung crosses the towering 98-metre Cisomang Railway Bridge, built in the 1920s and still Indonesia’s highest.

Vegan Vacations

There was a time when vegans on holiday lived on a diet of salad. The travel industry has traditionally catered to a carnivorous crowd but now we all know our tofu from our tempeh it’s cottoning on, and not just in the culinary department.

Eco-cotton carpets, pineapple leaf upholstery and pillows stuffed with buckwheat husks are some of the perks of staying at Hilton London Bankside, the world’s first vegan hotel suite. Toiletry packaging is sustainably sourced, products non-animal tested.

Britain also opened its first vegan hotel last year and while 100 per cent plant-based establishments are still a rare species, VeggieHotels lists 545 herbivore-friendly places to stay around the world including eight in Spain, the most carnivorous country in Europe after Luxemburg. And plant eater tour operators like VeganTravel and VegVoyages are sprouting all over the internet.

A record 350,000 people from over 140 countries switched to a plant-based diet for Veganuary last month and The Vegan Society forecasts that one in 25 Brits will be 100 per cent veggie or vegan by 2025. The seed is well and truly sown.

The Farm at San Benito, The Philippines

The Far East is riddled with eco retreats but this five star health spa was ahead of its time when it opened in 2002, pioneering a mainly raw vegan diet, with cooking kept to a minimum to preserve natural goodness. Set on a working coconut palm plantation, less than 20 per cent of the land has been built on to create an escapist resort of jungle suites and villas where the focus is on healing and harmony with the environment.

Saorsa 1875, Pitlochry, Scotland

A boutique hotel in the Scottish Highlands that’s more vegan than rabbits. Everything from the bedding to the staff uniforms is plant-based, cruelty-free and sustainably sourced. Set in a Victorian-Gothic manor house, Britain’s first vegan hotel is powered by green energy, the veggies come from the kitchen garden and dinner is carbon offset through the Green Earth Appeal. You can tuck into chef Luca Sordi’s watermelon sashimi and pulse haggis without a moment of guilt.

Casa Vegana, Selva, Mallorca

Championing vegan hospitality in Europe since 2013, this charming 15th century finca encircled by the Tramuntana Mountains is not strictly animal-free: the owners’ pets – two dogs, two cats, a duck and delightful Trudi the pig – have permanent residence. But you won’t come across any leather, wool, feathers or silk and the menu is 100 per cent vegan, with daily-changing dishes from different regions. The hotel has published a vegan cook book so you can make it all again when you get home.

Second City Travel

We’ll always have Paris… all 20 million-plus of us. Overtourism has become the scourge of the world’s capitals but now their lesser-known sister cities are having their moment in the sun and Porto is the new Lisbon. says Second City Travel is booming, with 51 per cent of its customers ‘willing to swap their original destination for a lesser-known one if it would have a positive environmental or social impact’. So think Gerona not Barcelona and trade Tuscany for Basilicata – destinations you never considered are coming into our more ethical focus. Far from second best, they’re less crowded, slower-paced and, generally, cheaper with plenty to keep you busy on a 4-night ‘microcation’ – the millennial version of the weekend break.

Basilicata, Italy

It may not be anywhere you’ve heard of yet but you will. On the map it’s the instep of Italy’s boot, a region half the size of Tuscany crowned by the hilltop city of Matera whose Unesco-listed cave homes date back to 7,000BC. It’s also the scene of a thrilling car chase in the 25th Bond film, premiering this April. Add two national parks, a coastline of white beaches fringing the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea and lashings of dolce vita and it won’t stay a secret for long.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Afternoon tea on the Titanic is just one good reason to ditch Dublin for Ulster’s once-troubled capital on the banks of Lough Neagh. The bustling metropolis has been transformed by attractions like Titanic City, a gleaming multimedia museum opened in 2012 in homage to the shipyards where the ill-fated liner was built. Big news this spring is the opening of HBO’s Game of Thrones Studio Tour featuring original sets, props and costumes from the series. Beyond the city lie castles, causeways and other GoT locations. Don’t miss the spooky Dark Hedges – the avenue of tangled beech trees encountered by Arya Stark on her flight from King’s Landing in Season 2.


Some fixtures you just can’t miss, even if it means following the crowds. These five happening destinations are all set to hog the limelight this year.

Dubai for Expo

The city’s skyline is futuristic already but Expo Dubai will take it to the next level. Among the wonders to behold will be a Museum of the Future, the world’s largest Ferris wheel, a water canal with marinas and cycle paths connecting downtown to the Arabian Gulf, and an Aladdin City of towers shaped like magic lamps. Themed Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, there will be 60+ live shows daily and 192 country pavilions to explore from this October to April 2021.

Plymouth for the Mayflower Fest

That’s Plymouth Massachussetts AND Plymouth Devon; both sides of the Atlantic will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Voyage when the Pilgrim Fathers – English Puritans living in exile from religious persecution in Holland – set sail for the New World. The Netherlands will be celebrating too. Alternatively, splurge on Cunard’s Journey of Genealogy, a commemorative Mayflower cruise to New York aboard the Queen Mary 2, with onboard ancestry experts and a chance to explore your own DNA link to these migrant pioneers.

Tokyo for the Olympics

Japan’s frenetic Olympic capital was bound to be a best seller with 10 million visitors expected for the Games. It will be hot, crowded and pricey, nevertheless Tokyo is promising a sustainable Olympics with the slogan ‘Be better, together – for the planet and the people’. Held from July 24 to August 9, you can always take a bullet train out of town to Mount Fuji for some breathing space. Or take a stand against overtourism and go before the big event (for the cherry blossom) or after it’s over – Tokyo’s world-record number of Michelin-starred restaurants will still be there.

Antarctica for the Bicentennial

The earth’s poles are on everyone’s bucket list before they melt away but 2020 is an especially significant year to visit the last continent to be discovered, just 200 years ago. Most cruises sail from Buenos Aires during the Antarctic summer (November to March) and are in such demand you need to book at least a year in advance. Polar ships are surprisingly comfy – but don’t expect cabaret – with daily shore trips for encounters with seals and penguins and on board lectures. Intrepid Travel, the world’s largest B Corp-certified tour operator (meaning it’s respectful of the environment) offsets all its Antarctic cruises.

Galway for Capital Culture

Ireland’s effervescent west-coast city is set for world discovery as 2020 European Capital of Culture. A World Oyster Opening Championships, intimate readings of Homer’s Odyssey on Galway’s blustery beaches and an International Women’s Day lecture by The Handmaids Tale author Margaret Atwood are just a taster of what’s in store in Ireland’s ‘festival capital’ – over 120 throughout the year. Also expect cosy Gaelic real ale pubs rocking out jaunty fiddle music, sensational seafood and classy show cooking from Ireland’s brilliant beardy Michelin chef, JP McMahon.