5 unusual Asian eco-breaks

A GREEN respite around a highly developed city-state; a retro journey into 1960s nostalgia; exploring Central Asia’s best-kept secret; an eco-centered version of the classic Southeast Asian island holiday; and a budding adventure destination in the Middle East.

These are just five of Asia’s more uncommon travel destinations for the environmentally minded or nature-interested holidaymaker.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore, pic: Steel Wool (Flickr CC)

Singapore’s green heart

Let’s begin with the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. Though not exactly considered an eco-destination by most, Singapore is popular with tourists and in close proximity to many of the region’s hotspots. Its own rainforest is more or less gone due to high development, but the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve preserves a bit of the primary forest that once covered the area. It’s also close to the city center.

Singapore is also planning to develop a new 30km (18.5mi) long trail, which will link up the city’s natural parks. With completion of the trail planned for 2018, it’s still a way off, but those of you who like to plan ahead have something to look forward to.

Besides a hiking and cycling trail, a new reserve, Chestnut Nature Park, will be ready a bit sooner, by 2015.

From EcoBusiness.com:

The new park will feature amenities for nature walks, hiking and mountain biking. It hosts a rich biodiversity of wildlife, including the mousedeer, pangolin, monitor lizard and birds. There will be panoramic views of the nature reserve to be enjoyed at a new seven-storey tower – which will also facilitate research on animals that live among the tree canopies.

The remains of the day: from Turkey to India

For those of you who feel you missed out on the 60s, perhaps a modern day trek along the old so-called Hippy Trail is in order. OK, some of it is war-torn these days, with others a bit less unconventional due to the existence of low-cost airlines and the kill-anything-esoteric internet, but there are still plenty of eco-tours, jungle treks and off the beaten path nooks and crannies along the way. You can always just do a bit of the Hippy Trail and then hop off and fly home or to somewhere else where there’s a Hard Rock Café. Actually I think one just opened on top of Mount Everest so they shouldn’t be hard to find on the trail either.

Tajikistan: The most interesting place you’ve never heard of

Close to Nepal and formerly part of the Soviet Union, this Central Asian country features a mix of Persian, Mongolian, Russian and other regional influences.

Relatively inaccessible, Tajikistan is truly off the beaten path. Here’s what one visitor had to say (from wave.com.np):

Although it’s hard to get there, you will meet many wanderers who are either trekking the Pamirs and getting a taste of this unknown land, or are passing through en route their bicycle tour across Central Asia. A must visit if you want some place non touristy. The mountains, though they are very different from those in Nepal, still offer gorgeous hiking and trekking trails, eco tourism options and destinations like the Seven Lakes, each lake has a gorgeous distinct color.

Khujand, Tajikistan, pic: Steve Evans (Flickr CC)

Vietnam’s largest island

Close to the Mekong Delta, the island of Phú Quốc is set to be Vietnam’s next eco-holiday destination. Already popular and considered a “tourism paradise”, the island is in the process of developing its eco image, with environmentally friendly themed diving.

OK so Phú Quốc isn’t exactly unknown, but it isn’t over developed like many of the region’s holiday spots are becoming (Phuket, Bali, etc.). Its beaches are considered to be some of the cleanest in the world and the island is still densely forested.

Read more about it here.

Clean air Jordan

Besides one-day trips to visit the ancient stone city of Petra, Jordan is not a common tourist destination. This usually means a place is relatively unspoiled and more suited for rugged adventure trips and eco-travel. Jordan has several eco-reserves, including Wadi Rum, the Dana Biosphere Reserve and Iben Hamam. Travelers will probably need local guides or be on organized tours, but staying in a sustainable eco-lodge in this ancient, unspoiled landscape is surely a memorable experience.

Read more about one such experience in Forbes magazine.