6 destinations you can travel to while making a difference

Explore the world in a fully immersive way, while supporting the local community. 

While most of us love to travel and see new parts of the world, have you considered truly immersing yourself in the local culture? Aside from eating a croissant in Paris, there are other ways to explore a new country while giving back to the community who host you. 

If you're interested in hiking the Himalayas, paragliding through the Andes or spend a night stargazing in the Atacama Desert - all while being guided from locals - this is your next travel guide. 

Here, Booking.com has compiled a list of incredible sustainable travel experiences around the world, organised by innovative travel startups from the Booking Booster accelerator program

Nepal

From the awe-inspiring slopes of Mt. Everest to the bustling streets of Kathmandu, Nepal offers an abundance of natural and cultural treasures for travellers to admire.

Explore its rural mountain villages with the help of one of the local guides from SASANE Sisterhood Trekking and Travel. You'll be treated to delicious home-cooked meals and learn from local artisans about traditional basket weaving or brewing. The guides are women who are survivors of human trafficking, so when you book a tour with the group you also contribute to the elimination of further trafficking, gender-based violence and child marriage in these rural communities.

The Community Homestay Network is another startup in Nepal, focused on empowering women through community-based homestays and culturally immersive experiences in remote areas. In addition to staying with a family in a traditional accommodation such as the Panauti Community Homestay (just 30km from Kathmandu), you can learn to cook Nepali cuisine with your hosts or go on a sunset bike tour.

India

A vast country with staggering natural beauty, ancient traditions, delectable cuisines and hundreds of unique cultures to discover, India offers a multitude of experiences. If you love a bit of adventure, sign up for one of the impact tours led by Global Himalayan Expedition where you'll visit some of the countries most remote mountain villages. 

As part of one of the company’s multi-day treks, you’ll hike through some of India’s most rugged and pristine landscapes on your way to help provide sustainable solar-powered energy to electrify off-the-grid Himalayan villages, like The Hidden Heaven- Apple Orchids Homestay. Soak up thee stunning views of the Zanskar river canyon and the surrounding mountains while enjoying meals prepared exclusively from organic local produce.

If you'd rather a slower pace, you can still do your part to supporting India's marginalised and vulnerable rural communities by connecting with locals through NotOnMap. NotOnMap connects travellers with authentic accommodation as well as culinary experiences, such as an escape to the remote NotOnMap - H2O House - a traditional guesthouse surrounded by lush foliage and a rushing mountain stream. 

Southeast Asia

Famous for stunning beaches, friendly locals and delicious cuisines throughout the region, the countries of Southeast Asia are favourites for travellers around the world. 

With over 1000 unique experiences on offer, Backstreet Academy is a peer-to-peer impact travel platform that empowers impoverished local communities in developing countries across Southeast Asia. The curated experiences include everything from Javanese archery lessons to artisan stamp carving workshops.

A hub for sustainable experiences in Thailand’s largest urban areas, Hivesters connects travellers looking for authentic cultural interactions with local experts, including everything from traditional dance and perfume making to street food workshops on the streets of Bangkok.

Continue your culinary tour with Picha Eats, a sustainable food business that helps to rebuild the lives of refugees living in Malaysia. Through the Open House program, you will be invited into a refugee family’s home to enjoy an authentic home-cooked meal and hear their story.

Colombia

Known for its vibrant culture and rich history, Colombia is also home to beautiful landscapes and unique ecosystems.

Offering spectacular nature tours, Awake connects travellers with local hosts that share a commitment to protecting the biodiversity of Colombia’s indigienous plants and animals. Experience the colourful flora and fauna of the Amazon on a three-day jungle tour or go paragliding through the Andes.

IMPULSE Travel also seeks to empower local communities in Colombia, preserve traditions and help travellers become immersed in the culture with more than 200 tours and activities available. Whether you want to go coffee shop hopping in Medellin or embark on a three-day trek through the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy national park, there's something for everyone.

South America and Antarctica

If you're the adventurous type, Keteka is for you. The company is founded by two peace corps veterans who wanted to help local guides and artisans make a fair and equitable living through tourism activities. Each tour explores an otherwise unreachable destination throughout Central and South America, and even Antarctica. 

Just by booking online, you'll be helping business in isolated areas while having the chance to walk through the breathaking landscape of the Torres del Paine or spend the night stargazing in Atacama Desert, with a local astronomer explaining the ancient mysteries of the night sky. 

For those who face mobility challenges, this one's for you. By joining Wheel the World, you'll still be able to scale the heights of Machu Picchu in your wheelchair or come face to face with the giant totems on Easter Island. This organisation tackles the challenge of adventure accessibility and provides adventures all around the world. 

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