— Anna Momigliano
Iberá Park, Argentina
Twenty years ago, this reserve in Argentina’s northern Corrientes region wasn’t so much a park as it was tiny parcels of wilderness surrounded by cattle ranches. That’s when the Rewilding Argentina foundation, created by the North Face co-founder Douglas Tompkins and now funded by tourism and a consortium of philanthropists around the world, stepped in and began buying land. Today, Iberá Park is one of the largest in Argentina, close to 2 million acres of protected grasslands, lagoons, islands and wetlands — and a sanctuary for huge populations of animals. The foundation has saved dozens of species from extinction here, notably jaguars, giant anteaters and giant river otters, and has become a refuge for marsh deer, maned wolves, rheas, grassland birds and the aptly named — and endangered — strange-tailed tyrants. Tourism and infrastructure are strictly managed, and staying in one of the park’s campgrounds directly supports the foundation, continuing the cycle of conservation.
— Danielle Pergament
— AnneLise Sorensen
The Other Human food pantry was established more than 10 years ago, serving Athens, Thessaloniki and the island of Evia in the wake of Greece’s financial crisis. As the country recovers from last year’s wildfires and floods, The Other Human has expanded to help those who lost their livelihoods, and welcomes travelers to get involved. At weekly food drives held in Evia’s capital, Chalkida, meals are cooked and eaten together to establish a sense of community. Volunteers are invited to help cook, pack hampers with food and essentials, and contribute funds to rebuild schools and aid locals with essential bills. Lost in the fires were homes, businesses, olive groves and one third of Evia’s beloved pine forest, which generations had relied upon for resin and honey. Increasing tourism is vital for the economic recovery of this island a short trip from Athens. In addition to community projects, visitors will find a hilltop acropolis and other archaeological sites in Eretria, mineral-rich thermal springs in Edipsos and showstopper sunsets, with the Aegean Sea as a backdrop.
— Caterina Hrysomallis
Dinner isn’t usually part of the prisoner re-entry system, but at EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood, the mission is larger than braised artichokes and Burgundy snails: The aim is to teach former prisoners a new trade. Founded by Brandon Chrostowski, a classically trained chef, EDWINS includes a fine-dining French restaurant, bakery, butcher and event space, all open to the public. The campus has a test kitchen, apartments and basketball courts, and EDWINS continues to buy and refurbish buildings in the underserved neighborhood (a culinary class is available on closed-circuit tablets in prisons throughout the country). The institute helps former inmates get a place to live rent-free (relocation fees are paid in part by the Cleveland Browns football team), a driver’s license, legal counseling and health care. “It’s not just about a wonderful restaurant, it’s not just about re-entry,” said Councilman Blaine Griffin of Cleveland. “This is social entrepreneurship at its best.”
Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest is the only rainforest within the U.S. Forest Service’s holdings. Named by the Indigenous Taino tribe, it offers one of the most diverse ecosystems in the network, with wildlife including the famed Coqui frog, the island’s unofficial symbol. Hit by the back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, El Yunque is still recovering from the impact, and funding for everything from infrastructure to conservation has been slow to arrive. But local organizations like the nonprofit Love in Motion haven’t been waiting. Its initiatives include rebuilding the Picachos and Angelito trails (you can also swim in the natural pool along the latter); the sister organization Local Guest arranges low-impact itineraries like bird watching and hiking while community building. Stay in a locally owned property like Dos Aguas, which has been in the same family since the 1950s (currently available only as a full house rental because of Covid) or the Rainforest Inn, with a botanical garden and solar-powered electricity.
— Alexander Lobrano
El Hierro, Spain
A few hundred miles off the coast of Morocco, flung out in the middle of the Atlantic, is El Hierro, the most remote — and, some say, the most charming — of the Canary Islands. It’s also a pint-size leader in renewable energy. In 2014, El Hierro opened Gorona del Viento, a power plant that uses a system of reservoirs and wind to supply the island’s electricity (wind provides power while pumping water into reservoirs; hydraulic turbines take over when the wind dies down; diesel supplies a fallback when both those sources are lacking). Recently, Gorona del Viento was able to supply the island’s 11,000 inhabitants with 100 percent renewable energy for 25 consecutive days. As the infrastructure of El Hierro plants one foot in the future, the island’s cultural identity keeps the other rooted in the past. El Hierro’s historic language, Silbo Herreño, is one of the last whistling languages in the world. When the island’s elders noticed that the Herreño whistle was dying out, the cultural association on El Hierro began offering free classes after school, at weekend markets and to the island’s shepherds (who traditionally communicate by whistling).
— Danielle Pergament
Every evening on Phillip Island, a throng of tiny penguins emerges from the surf, waddling up toward nests that dot Summerland Beach. The penguin parade, as it’s known, is a sight that has garnered attention since the 1920s, when visitors began flocking to this island in southeastern Australia for a chance to see the world’s smallest penguin breed (adults average just 13 inches tall) up close as they head home after a day of fishing. For a time, the crowds that gathered for the nightly ritual caused problems for the penguin colony, as did the cars, pets and construction that accompanied a nearby neighborhood, Summerland Estates. Today, however, this piece of land is a remarkable ecological success story. In 1985, the state government implemented a plan to buy every piece of property on the peninsula and return the land to its natural state — and to its original inhabitants, the tiny penguins. The process was completed in 2010, and the penguin population now sits at around 35,000 breeding-aged birds, up from 12,000 in the 1980s. In 2019, a new $58 million visitor center opened to the public; it includes educational elements and a restaurant where you can sit and watch what is now the largest colony of the world’s smallest penguin.
— Besha Rodell
Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan
Perched on a cliff overlooking the central valley of Jordan’s largest nature reserve stand the quaint Ottoman-era stone houses of Dana Village. Once abandoned by the Ata-ta tribe, the settlement is being brought back to life through an ecotourism project that aims to preserve the area’s biodiversity by empowering local communities. Many of the 15th-century houses have been converted into eco-lodges with terraced gardens and orchards, creating an oasis above the desert plains below. Along the village’s cobbled streets, local women sell handcrafted jewelry and homemade jams produced from fruits grown in their orchards. Dana Village marks the start of the nine-mile Wadi Dana hiking trail that spans the reserve and its flora and fauna. The reserve is home to 833 plant species and several endangered bird species, as well as archaeological ruins from the Byzantine, Nabatean and Roman periods, including the ancient copper mines in Wadi Faynan.
— Ceylan Yeginsu
For centuries, pastoral nomads in Egypt’s Eastern Desert traversed this arid region by a network of pathways over granite ranges, across barren valleys and through colorful canyons. Now the Ma’aza tribe has revived the ancient footpaths to create the long-distance Red Sea Mountain Trail. The 100-mile trail opened a few months before the pandemic shut the world down, and now its founders are hoping to organize the first through hike later this year. Meanwhile, the Ma’aza tribe offers day hikes through separate sections of this astonishing wilderness, hemmed between the Nile River and the Red Sea. All hikes are led by Bedouins. On the trek to Jebel Abul Hassan, hikers find themselves in a magical narrowing gorge flanked by pink and black granite walls. The hike up the sheer slopes of Wadi El Gattar reveals stone hermit cells built by early Christians fleeing the Romans, and primitive rock art from long before then. It’s the ultimate sustainable tourism project: the water drawn from wells, the flat bread baked in campfires, and the Bedouin legends, traditions and knowledge of the terrain preserved for future generations.
— Patrick Scott
The Inner Hebrides, Scotland
These islands along Scotland’s west coast are known for their wild, secluded beauty: fields of wildflowers, solitary beaches, ever-swirling seas. They’re also known for producing some of the world’s best single-malt whisky. Now, several new energy initiatives are helping to make the region — and its distilleries, which are largely reliant on fossil fuels — more eco-friendly. This year, the Bruichladdich Distillery, founded in 1881, is starting a pilot project on the island of Islay to begin using hydrogen fuel, in addition to fuel oil, to power its stills. According to the company, the zero-emission boiler, which will generate some of the steam required for distillation, will be the first of its kind in Britain. Plans are also underway to build new underwater wind turbines in the waters around Islay and Jura, a neighboring island, beginning in 2023. Those, too, could one day contribute to powering the islands and their distilleries, bringing an age-old industry — and the many tourists it draws — into a more sustainable future.
— Jenny Gross
In 2016, a group of Kansas locals who had left decades ago began asking themselves, “What would it take to move back home?” The answer lay in tiny Humboldt, two hours southwest of Kansas City with a population of fewer than 2,000 people. With the support of the local community, the group established an organization, A Bolder Humboldt, to revitalize rural living, with the town becoming an unexpected and affordable oasis of cool surrounded by fields of wheat and soybeans. A Bolder Humboldt has already opened shops, community gardens and co-working spaces, with a boutique hotel, a honky-tonk bar and a bookstore all in the works. Outdoor movies are screened on the town square, and the whole town participates in an annual water fight. Base Camp is a collection of lakeside rental cabins at the edge of town, and cyclists can ride a 60-mile trail to nearby Lawrence and the University of Kansas. Humboldt is betting these elevated experiences will draw both locals and tourists to the glories of the Great Plains.
Elijio Panti National Park, Belize
Since gaining its independence in 1981, Belize has long prioritized the conservation of its lands and waters. At a park near the country’s western border with Guatemala, those conservation efforts extend to cultural and floral realms, too. Elijio Panti National Park, a lush, 13,006-acre oasis, is one of only a handful of parks in Belize that’s comanaged by a Maya community. The park takes its name from Don Elijio Panti, a renowned Maya healer who worked from a small hut a couple of miles from the park’s entrance. A series of medicine trails display the names and uses of the nearly 100 native plants — like balsam and gumbo-limbo — that Mr. Panti foraged here. “The day we forget how to use our medicinal plants is the day we go extinct,” said Maria Garcia, Mr. Panti’s niece, who inherited her uncle’s interest in herbal medicine and serves as one of the park’s stewards. Nearby hotels have begun highlighting the park as an attraction; at GAIA Riverlodge, guests can sign up for a five-hour guided tour led by a local shaman.
— Alex Schechter
Architecture Sarasota is a new organization founded to protect and promote the most spectacular concentration of modernist buildings east of the Mississippi. In a booming city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where there’s a constant tug of war between developers and preservationists, raising the profile of these modernist buildings is intended to give them greater value in the eyes of locals and attract design tourists, says Anne-Marie Russell, the organization’s executive director. The buildings were the work of architects in what was known as the Sarasota School of Architecture, which emerged during the 1940s and ran through the mid-1960s. Among the best-known architects were Paul Rudolph and his partner Ralph Twitchell, Philip Hiss, Gene Leedy, Carl Abbott, Victor Lundy and Jack West. “Our hope is the Sarasota School’s innovative sensitivity to climate and environmental concerns will spur innovative and sustainable design here today,” Ms. Russell said. Architecture Sarasota organizes guided visits to and private stays at some of the best modernist houses and runs an annual MOD Weekend of tours, exhibits and similar events.
— Alexander Lobrano
— Daniel Tepper
— Kimberley Lovato
Designated in 2019 and located in the Northwest Territories, Canada’s newest national park, Thaidene Nëné, means “Land of the Ancestors” in the Denesuline language. The park is a mix of boreal forest and tundra along the eastern shoreline of Great Slave Lake. It also sets a new precedent in including Indigenous peoples in park management and oversight. The first Canadian national parks, created in the 19th century, excluded Indigenous peoples from their traditional lands. Although this policy changed, overall control remained in the hands of Parks Canada. At Thaidene Nëné, Indigenous communities, including the nearby Dene settlement of Lutsel K’e, have helped create and manage the park from the beginning. Economic opportunities derived from the park, like guiding and cultural heritage tours, flow back to these communities. Ni Hat’ni Dene is a network of Lutsel K’e residents employed to protect, monitor and provide interpretive tours of the park. Visitors can hike along the trails of Dene ancestors, paddle through the many coves and waterfalls of the eastern arm of Great Slave Lake, fish for lake trout and Arctic grayling during the summer’s nearly 24-hour light, and camp at the transition point between the subarctic and Arctic environments.
Cerro Castillo National Park, Chile
Located along the Route of Parks of Patagonia, a network of 17 national reserves that make up about a third of Chile, Cerro Castillo was designated as a national park in 2018 and is at the center of an effort to protect the country’s national animal, the huemul or South Andean deer, from extinction. The huemul population has dwindled to 1,500, about 1 percent of its historic size. Rewilding Chile, a conservation organization started by the co-founder of the North Face, Douglas Tompkins, working with the Chilean government, is leading an initiative to save them. They established the National Huemul Corridor to give the huemules more room to roam between the parks, and are building a huemul rehabilitation center in Cerro Castillo to treat animals infected with Linfoadenitis caseosa, a disease transmitted by cattle. Visitors to Cerro Castillo may spot the animals while enjoying a short walk on one of the trails through the Lenga and Ñirre forests, or can opt for a circuit through the park that takes four to five days. The park’s crown jewel is a mountain peak that resembles a castle, from which it takes its name.
This content was originally published here.