These dream islands do a lot for sustainability – and are not yet overcrowded. Three travel tips from Karen Wittel, expert for sustainable travel.
Karen Wittel, deputy chair of the board of the association “Forum anders reisen eV” is familiar with dream destinations to which we can travel without a guilty conscience. Here she introduces three dream islands that you certainly haven’t had on your screen yet – and as have been sustainably certified.
1) The Greek island of Tilos
Tilos offers the pristine beauty of the southern Aegean. Here and there the coast is lined with rugged cliffs that cast their shadows on the deep blue sea. In the midday heat, the macchia smells of wild herbs – and it is therefore not surprising that Tilos was known as the herb island in ancient times. Rare bird species appreciate the untouched nature and have found their sanctuary on Tilos.
Hidden coves, long beaches, few people
Many coves are so hidden that they can only be reached by boat or on foot. The beaches are lonely, some with pebbles, others sandy. There are also some easily accessible sandy beaches such as Eristos Beach, which is two kilometers long. The pine trees here reach almost to the light blue waterline and provide shade.
Holiday guests are received like lost friends
There are no large crowds of people on the beach or port on Tilos. Those who go on vacation on Tilos will be warmly welcomed by the residents. In the taverns, alongside souvlaki skewers from the charcoal grill and meze, a chat with the locals is part of it. By the way: The specialty of the island is goat in lemon sauce.
That is why Tilos is sustainable
In 2020 the island won the “Responsible Island Price”. It rewards the generation of renewable energy for electricity, heating, cooling and transport on islands. The isolated island of the Dodecanese has around 500 inhabitants, is 65 square kilometers in size and secures its complete power supply with solar and wind energy. A rubbish dump has been converted into a modern recycling plant, where waste is now used to produce pressed cardboard, compost fertilizer or plastic yarn.
Travel tips for Tilos
The port of Livadia is the hub of the island. There are pensions, restaurants, shops and cafes.
get there: Tilos can be reached in just two hours by ferry from Rhodes. There are also ferry connections from Kos. From Athens (first by bus, then by ferry) the journey takes about 15 hours.
Do not miss! Between two ridges lies the monastery of Pandeleimonas from 1470, which is lovingly maintained by the islanders.
Good to know: The island is a popular destination among Greek students during the summer months of July and August for wild camping.
2) Bonaire: Netherlands in turquoise blue
Almost unnoticed by tourism, the island of Bonaire sits alongside its sisters Aruba and Curaçao off the Venezuelan mainland. Geographically, the small island belongs to South America, politically it is – unlike Aruba or Curaçao – a Dutch overseas community. This gives Bonaire an advantage: the island can be reached daily with the airline KLM via Amsterdam. Nevertheless, only around 70,000 tourists come to Bonaire every year (for comparison: Mallorca has around ten million visitors per year).
Fine, white Caribbean beaches
Surrounded by the turquoise sea, Bonaire is a Caribbean idyll straight out of a picture book. A coral reef encircles the island, and yellow, orange, blue, and light green houses line the streets. In some places you can see trees in which green parrots are dozing. Otherwise there is little vegetation, but wide, hilly plains with man-high cacti and a sometimes rugged coastline. They exist on Bonaire, the deserted bays – all with beaches of the finest white sand. In many places you can reach a coral reef directly from the beach and snorkel in the 28 degree warm water when the sea is calm and the visibility is excellent.
The uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire
The six square kilometer island of Klein Bonaire is known among diving fans for its special coral reef. It starts right on the white beach and drops to a depth of 35 meters. The Bonaire National Marine Park is an intact underwater garden: Tropical fish such as angelfish and surgeonfish, seahorses, rays and turtles can be seen here. Water taxis with snorkeling guides offer trips to Klein Bonaire.
Pink salt pans, flamingos and wreck diving
You can also dive to wrecks, where explorers can watch colorful fish in ancient passages and through portholes. And the pink-colored salt pans are often populated by flamingos. The salt flats were formerly managed by slaves, today the fine sea salt is exported to the USA.
No matter when – there is no best travel time
The rule of thumb to avoid the Caribbean from August to October doesn’t apply here. This is the season of storms and torrential rains – but the ABC Islands lie beneath the so-called hurricane belt and are unaffected. Bonaire is therefore a year-round destination.
That’s why Bonaire is sustainable
Reef protection is a key concern for Bonaire. The Caribbean island was one of the first to work with the Reef Renewal Foundation. In 2019 Bonaire received the “Silver Quality Coast Award”. The award is developed by the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) and is intended for coastal areas that have good beach management and high bathing water quality. There are also no large hotel complexes and dense buildings on Bonaire, because the island is completely dedicated to individual tourism.
3) Mini-Island Juist: Vacation in the sandbox
If you look at the number of overnight stays per year, the narrow North Sea island of Juist brings up the rear of the North and Baltic Sea islands. The island is car-free, the transport takes place in the old-fashioned way with the horse-drawn carriage. The tide also ensures that ferry traffic is relatively sparse – this deters day guests, and so things are always relaxed on Juist.
Holiday in nature
Due to the miniature size, you are always on foot or by bike. There are signposted cycle paths that often lead through impressive dune landscapes. Where the bike doesn’t get any further, it’s time to take off your shoes and continue barefoot through the sand.
Highlights on Juist
- A mudflat hike is part of it in East Friesland. With the guides of the Wadden Sea National Park you can easily discover the “Small Five” (lugworm, cockle, shore crab, mud snail and North Sea shrimp).
- The Domain Bill & the Billriff are an institution on Juist. “Bill” is to the west and is a nature reserve. With a bit of luck you can see breeding birds and seals. On the way back you can stop at the Bill domain. The red brick house has the best raisin bread.
- Wind, weather and then stop off: After a long walk in the wind, there is nothing nicer than sitting by the fireplace in the “Lütje Teehuus”.
- Beach chair relaxation: let yourself be lulled by the waves and watch the children play football or volleyball and take a deep breath.
Juist is geared towards families and senior citizens. The island is barrier-free in many places. And the four-legged friends will also find a perfect playground on the dog beach.
That is why Juist is sustainable
As early as 2015, the island won the German sustainability award “Germany’s most sustainable municipality 2015”. The island also bears the renowned “TourCert seal”, which takes environmental friendliness, economic sustainability and social responsibility into account. In ten years Juist would like to be climate-neutral.
Travel tips for Juist
get there: The best way is by train. The train route ends at Norddeich-Mole, and the train ticket usually includes the ferry ride.
Spend the night: The spa administration of the island of Juist supports you in finding accommodation: www.juist.de
Karen Wittel is Vice President of the Board of the Association for Sustainable Travel Forum differently travel eV. and has been running the holiday agency, which has been certified as sustainable, for over ten years Atambo Tours in Frankfurt am Main.