The numbers give rise to the reason: There were 25 million international tourists in 1950. Last year, more than one billion globetrotters set out to see the world’s cultural and natural wonders—from the Serengeti’s Great Migration to the ancient Inca cities of Peru. We now have more places to go and more ways to get there than ever before. With that comes an even greater responsibility to safeguard our fragile planet for future generations.As the United Nations heralds 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, one place rises above the rest: Slovenia. Last year this Adriatic enclave, nestled amid emerald fields, snowy peaks, and sparkling waters, was declared the world’s most sustainable country. Slovenia achieved an eye-opening 96 out of 100 detailed sustainability indicators (think environment and climate, culture and authenticity, nature and biodiversity, among others.) And its quaint capital Ljubljana was also anointed Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2016 by the European Union.
But if the academics of going green sound more fitting for a graduate school thesis than for planning a great vacation, consider this: Nearly 60 percent of Slovenia is covered in lush forests, and more than 40 parks and reserves are home to some 20,000 different plants and animals, with a network of diverse hiking trails. Meandering country roads also link pristine lakes to cobblestone towns, where local cafes serve up traditional fare like štruklji (savory veggie and meat pockets), washed down with some of Europe’s least known yet tastiest vintages. All in a nation smaller than New Jersey, with a population of just over two million.
This article originally published on March 8, 2017. It has been updated.