VISA issues aside, eco-touring is no longer a concept found only in the West. More Middle Eastern organizations are starting to cater to the ecologically minded and are marketing eco-tours.
Whether it's a trek on a camel through the desert, or a backpacking excursion through unspoilt forests, if you are willing to not be spoiled in the Western way, the Middle East offers a number of eco-friendly holidays. Here we offer a recap of some options provided by Israeli blogger Karen Chernick from Green Prophet.
While some countries like Costa Rica have started abiding by sustainability standards and practices, no such organizations or initiatives like this exist in the Middle East. In the interim, we can just suggest contacting the websites of the organizations to ask them any specific questions you might have.
Terhaal Eco Adventure: Terhaal offers a variety of adventures with a focus on outdoor activities. Rappelling, snorkeling, camping, camel trekking... you name it, they got it. You can choose from a list of trips that they offer, or they'll tailor a trip to what you want to see.
Baobab: Alternative Roots to Travel: This tour company offers eco tours all over the Middle East and Africa, with some unique options in Jordan. You can check out some of their cultural tours or have them take you around some of Jordan's nature reserves.
Feynan Lodge: Developed by Jordan's Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, this eco lodge is in the middle of the Dana nature reserve. The lodge itself is built entirely out of local materials with traditional methods. It also incorporates green technologies such as solar power and they try to stick to candle light at night to save electricity. Very green and very romantic.
TLB Destinations: TLB is a tour company that offers sustainable tourism trips all over the Middle East. The small company is local and multilingual (they speak English, French, Arabic, and German), and promotes responsible tourism. This means that their tour guides inform travelers about local concerns regarding the conservation of natural areas, support local communities, and that the company itself tries to raise awareness about biodiversity and heritage. TLB offers a diverse range of trips in Lebanon, including adventure, biking, cultural, gastronomical, discovery, trekking, and hiking tours.
Eco Village: Eco Village is a spot in the Dmit Valley for educational eco tourism. While staying in one of their mud huts or camps, you can enjoy organic meals, learn about the environment, and help out on their farm. In addition to organic farming, fishing, hiking, swimming, and rock climbing, you can also do some yoga or tai chi at the Eco Village.
Lebanon Mountain Trail: The Lebanon Mountain Trail is a 440 km path that leads from the northern tip of Lebanon to the southern part of the country and goes through more than 75 towns and villages. It promotes environmentally and socially responsible tourism, and is the first long distance hiking trail in Lebanon.
Blue Carrot Adventures: This tour group brings together nature and adventure lovers to explore Lebanon's wilderness. Some of their adventures include snowshoeing, paragliding, amateur caving, and diving. Sign up for their mailing list to find out about their next adventure.
Ecotour Iran: Ecotour Iran, a leading tour operating company, cooperates with experts in the field of ecotourism. It runs the only official ecotourism center in Iran as well as training courses for ecotour leaders in the fields of zoology, ornithology, botany, geography, history, photography, outdoor sports, anthropology, and more. They offer a wide range of tours, some of which include bird watching and nature photography tours.
Iran Paradise: Iran Paradise is a tourism agency whose eco-tours focus on the many national parks and protected regions in Iran. According to their website, there are currently 10 national parks and 41 protected regions in Iran constituting 7.9 million hectares (around 4.8% of the total area of the country). Highlights of their 12 day/11 night eco-tour itinerary include visiting a variety of national parks, sleeping in tents, and viewing various aquatic, forest, and desert eco systems.
Let's Go Iran: Let's Go Iran is another tourism agency that offers a variety of eco-tours - skiing, diving, desert, and nomad tours. Highlights of the nomad eco-tour include a full day of camel riding in the desert followed by a delicious lunch of camel meat, camping overnight with the nomads in the Zagrus mountains, and trekking through mountains.
More Green Travel Options Featured on TreeHugger:
Google's First Mashup Is Green
Happy Trails: Green Travel Blogs Pick Their Top Eco Destinations
Qinghai-Tibet Rail Green Travel Guide
Green Travel Websites
Domino & TreeHugger's Green List: Transportation & Travel
Travel Green with Lonely Planet
Follow Karin Kloosterman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kloostermania