Inspiration

10 Greenest Places on Earth, From Jungle Hikes to Waterfall Dips

Rain forests, rice terraces, Tuscany to Tahiti, these green getaways offer soothing natural beauty with a side of serious adventure.

Sapa Valley in Vietnam Greenest Places on Earth

Rice Fields on Terraced with Wooden Pavilion in Mu Ca, Sapa. Photo by Victor Plop’s Images/Canva

By Stephanie Vermillion

Dec 30, 2021

THERE’S A REASON GREEN GETAWAYS leave us tranquil and refreshed. According to color psychology, this earthy shade helps decrease stress and improve focus — and travelers can reap these much-deserved benefits in lush landscapes around the world. Find calm between lakes and waterfalls in Croatia. Seek serenity in the wild rain forests of Africa.

Here are 10 of the greenest places on Earth that pair calm and tranquility with unforgettable adventures.

1. Sapa Valley, Vietnam

Nestled in Vietnam’s northern mountains, Sapa is not just one of the greenest places on Earth, it’s also one of the coolest to bucket-list. Dazzling with emerald rice paddies dotted across undulating green hills, it’s the place Vietnam travelers go to get away from it all, be it overnight trekking from village to village or taking the 15-minute funicular up the country’s tallest mountain — Fansipan. The hilltop Topas Ecolodge offers the perfect perch to soak up this lush paradise, with sweeping views from the bungalow balconies and cozy villas with private pools (the latter coming in 2022).

2. Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

It’s hard to have a list of the greenest places on Earth without rain forest-packed Costa Rica — and Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is about as green as it gets. In this biodiverse national park, home to some of Central America’s only remaining old-growth wet forests, wildlife sightings can include the Baird’s tapir, jaguars, sloths, and macaws. The area has a variety of ecosystems, from lowland rain forests to mangrove swamps. Lodging within the park is sparse, but you can arrange to spend the night at the Sirena Ranger Station — an experience that will have you waking up in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

3. Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Bali

Situated near Ubud, one of Bali‘s most densely forest towns, the UNESCO World Heritage Tegallalang Rice Terrace oscillates from chartreuse to hunter green, then back again, creating one of Indonesia’s most calming and captivating landscapes. Tegallalang’s traditional terraced structure is a millennia-old irrigation strategy. The verdant layers offer unique vantage points across the patchwork of rice fields and jungle. To enjoy Tegallalang’s true serenity and splendor, arrive early in the morning, well ahead of the afternoon crowds.

4. Val d’Orcia, Italy

Italy’s travel experiences span the color wheel, from deep red wines to the rainbow-hued Cinque Terre. But if you’re looking for a full spectrum of greens, bookmark Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, a region that stretches south from Siena to northeast of the mountain Monte Amiata. This green region, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of Italy’s main agricultural hubs. You’ll find vineyards, olive groves, and the signature cypress-tree-framed streets throughout its idyllic landscape. Don’t miss Val d’Orcia’s wine trail to pair greens with Italy’s signature tasty reds.

5. Maya Mountains, Belize

The Maya Mountains stretch 110 kilometers across southern Belize into Guatemala. This range is a stark change from the bright blues of Belize’s coastline. Here in the Maya Mountains, thick jungles brim with unique adventures, from spotting wildlife like jaguars and tapirs to swimming beneath waterfalls or summiting Victoria Peak, the country’s second-highest mountain. To fully embrace the country’s mesmerizing green landscapes, book a room at the eco-chic Copal Tree Lodge, where nature is the main attraction. The property is tucked into 22,000 acres of lush jungle, with in-room bathtubs and showers that offer treetop (and howler monkey) views, not to mention a funicular to take you down to explore the Rio Grande.

6. Killarney National Park, Ireland

Obviously one of the greenest places on Earth would have to be in the country synonymous with the color. The Emerald Isle glows all shades of green, and few Irish destinations show off this color palette like Killarney National Park. Native oaks, evergreens, yew woods, and shrubs speckle in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — and the flora works in tandem for a mind-blowing sea of green. These calming hues reach Ireland’s highest heights, with the country’s tallest mountain range, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, located in the area. Explore the park on horseback, or book a hiking tour to summit Carrauntoohil, the country’s tallest mountain.

7. Teahupo’o, Tahiti

Waves may be Teahupo’o’s ticket to fame — it’s the site of the Olympic surf competition in 2024 — but on land, this jaw-dropping stretch of southwest Tahiti is just as green as it is blue. The lush valleys flanking the Teahupo’o coastline are full of drama, with towering, jagged peaks and vertiginous ridges — many far off the grid and only accessible via boat. To amble through these emerald valleys and wake up to the sight of them from your own bedroom, book a room at A Hi’o To Mou’a, a family-owned guesthouse with 4,000 square meters of green space, from the ocean to the “backyard” of a valley, where waterfalls, majestic white horses, and countless fruit trees await.

8. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Croatia’s most popular hiking destination is also its greenest: the UNESCO World Heritage Plitvice Lakes National Park. Beeches, firs, and spruces frame the park’s signature waterfalls and 16 lakes. Local wildlife, from boars to rare birds, love these lush vistas as much as tourists. Plitvice’s famed lakes even turn hues of emerald, depending on the light. They’re best enjoyed from hiking routes like trail C (eight kilometers) or trail K (17 kilometers); the latter winds through the entire park.

9. Congo Basin, Central Africa

Tropical rain forests and swamplands blanket Central Africa’s Congo Basin, which spans nine countries, including the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. It’s the world’s second-largest rain forest, covering 500 million acres of lush landscapes, with more than 600 trees and 10,000 animal species. Visitors can admire gorillas, leopards, lions, and forest elephants in the Congo Basin. A growing number of tour operators now take guests here, including The Classic Safari Company, which builds Congo Basin itineraries that include wildlife-watching days bookended by nights at a luxe tree house.

10. Hoh Rain Forest, Washington

The Pacific Northwest is one of the United States’ greenest getaways, but nothing in this region — or the rest of the country — compares to the mesmerizing Hoh Rain Forest in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Here, ferns, mosses, and coniferous and deciduous species work seamlessly to paint Hoh Rain Forest all hues of green. The 30-kilometer Hoh River Trail explores every nook and cranny of this serene rain forest, while the shorter half-kilometer Hall of Mosses loops through old-growth forests and maple groves, with a verdant canopy of moss providing shade along the way.

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