13 Valemount Lodge, British Columbia
THE SETTING The heart of wildflower country in the Columbia Mountains.
GREEN FACTOR Canadian Mountain Holidays, an early pioneer of helicopter skiing, has easy access to more than 2,000 square miles of salmon-hopping, goat-bleating wilderness; come summer, the company's high-flying taxi service lets heli-hikers discover vast tracts of off-piste alpine terrain. Biologist-led hikes follow rocky ridges and ancient herd paths rather than more fragile routes. Rest assured, treks end at the rustic-chic 10-room timber lodge, where plenty of biodegradable bathroom potions are on hand to soothe those weary soles.
Valemount; 800/661-0252 or 403/762-7100; www.cmhhike.com; two-night trips from $854 per person, including all meals, gear, and helicopter ride.
Where the guiding principle is to help an indigenous culture or a threatened economy preserve itself.
14 Abbey of San Pietro, Italy
THE SETTING The town of Ferentillo, in the forgotten medieval hill country of Umbria.
THE PAYBACK These days, the isolated 16-room, 10th-century stone cloister is one stop on an eco-pilgrimage that supports the region's rarely visited agrarian populations. ATG Oxford, a British tour company dedicated to conservation and sustainable tourism, oversees an eight-day "Unknown Umbria & Spoleto" walk that follows lesser-known routes through unspoiled countryside to remote mountain villages like Gavelli (population: 14). ATG income from the venture has restored centuries-old artidkgrey and environments, including a pre-fifth-century footpath and Renaissancefrescoes, while also keeping traditional village businesses going, even in a recession.
44-1865/315-678; www.atg-oxford.co.uk; eight-day trip from $735 per person, including some meals.
15 Green Hotel, India
THE SETTING The temperate southern Indian town of Mysore.
THE PAYBACK From the vantage point of the lavish gardens or the velvet croquet lawn, the restored Chittaranjan Palace, built a century ago for the local princesses, has a certain aristocratic allure. But in fact, the mission of the 29-room hotel is quite humble, stained glass and elegant colonial-style rooms notwithstanding. The place operates partly on solar power, and all profits are distributed to environmental projects and health clinics in the area. The lodge employs widows and those from lower castes, ensuring that they earn more than they would from other local employers.
Chittaranjan Palace, Mysore; 91-821/512-536; www.greenhotelindia.com; doubles from $27.
16 Kapawi Ecolodge, Ecuador
THE SETTING On the edge of the Amazon, accessible only by plane; the closest town is a 10-day trek through dense jungle.
THE PAYBACK Ecuador's Achuar people, unknown outside the Amazon until the early seventies, are learning hotel management skills at the isolated outpost as a means of maintaining age-old rain-forest traditions, albeit with modern updates: the famous chicha brew, for example, is now made in a blender instead of masticated by tribal elders. Still, the 15 lagoon-front cabañas were built without a single metal nail. When ownership of the lodge returns to the Achuar in 2011, one of tourism's boldest recycling projects will have come full circle. Pastaza Province; 888/368-9929 or 593-4/228-5711; www.canodros.com; doubles from $1,616 for three nights, including all meals and activities and airfare from Quito.
17 Lisu Lodge, Thailand
THE SETTING Thirty miles north of Chiang Mai, in the so-called Golden Triangle.
THE PAYBACK Guests are extensively briefed on etiquette (never touch the carvings on the gates to an Akha village) and tribal customs before they venture into the extravagantly remote communities for a chat and a purchase. Modeled after a Thai mountain village but with Western conveniences like private bathrooms and comfortable beds, the rural lodge, which has carefully limited its capacity to 48 guests, puts a new spin on grassroots diplomacy.
Dton Loong;66-53/281-789; www.lisulodge.com; one-night stay with tour $120 per person, including all meals and activities.
18 Paperbark Camp, Australia
THE SETTING Along a sun-splashed creek in a grove of peeling eucalyptus.
THE PAYBACK The Aboriginal community of Wreck Bay is usually off-limits to outsiders, but guests at Paperbark Camp can hire an indigenous guide to take them on a traditional search for pipi, the local mussels, which tend to be found on pristine stretches of snow-white beachfront. Back at camp, 10 solar-powered safari tents, imported from Africa and retrofitted with open-air showers and handcrafted bush furniture, allow for romantic nights illuminated by solar lights.
Huskisson, three hours south of Sydney; 800/227-9246 or 61-2/4441-6066; www.paperbarkcamp.com.au; doubles from $220, including breakfast and dinner (two-night minimum); closed July and August.
Places so remote, they must reuse and recycle everything in order to survive—and they do it with style.
19 Adrere Amellal Oasis, Egypt
THE SETTING Near the famous Saharan oasis at Siwa, eight dusty hours from Cairo.
GREEN FACTOR Sand and stone, fire and sky, wind and water. Minimalism makes the maximum impact at this spectacular desert outpost. Inspired by the Berbers of yore, the 34 Casbah-style rooms are ingeniously fashioned from salt rock and clay, with stylish palm roofs shading guests from the blazing sun. Sans electricity, nights sparkle with candles and constellations. The flat-edged pool's water bubbles up from Roman springs. And with endless views of the dunes, visitors will want to stay a thousand and one nights.
10 miles north of Siwa; 20-2/738-1327; doubles from $400, including all meals and activities.
20 Al Natural Resort, Panama
THE SETTING An area of Bocas del Toro that hasn't changed much since Columbus sailed these waters 500 years ago.
GREEN FACTOR The simple pleasures at Al Natural act as an antidote to the distant, digitized world. Inspired by the ancient craftsmanship of the nearby Ngobe-Bugle Indian village, the five spare wood-and-thatch bungalows are open to the seas yet private enough even for jungle greenhorns. Showers come from vats of collected rainwater, and a 12-volt solar energy system powers the ceiling fans and mood lighting. The calypso-loving Belgian owners-managers are Panama's hippest castaways. Old Point, Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro; 888/995-0909 or 011-507/757-9004; doubles from $170, including all meals and activities.
21 Bathurst Inlet Lodge, Canada
THE SETTING On top of the world, almost literally, 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
GREEN FACTOR Since 1969, retired Mountie Glenn Warner and his wife, Trish, have co-owned the converted trading post and oblate mission with members of the local Kingaunmiot Inuit community, and together they guide 20 guests at a time across the rocky skeleton of the land. One day, it's a kayak ride along boreal forest rivers; the next, a quiet stroll among the caribou. The rooms, although utilitarian, with wood paneling and warm blankets, are the hotel equivalent of diner comfort food at the end of a long drive.
Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut; 867/873-2595; www.bathurstarctic.com; seven-day trip for two $5,580, including all meals and activities; open June 27August 1.
22 Bay of Fires Lodge, Australia
THE SETTING At the edge of Mount William National Park on Tasmania's rarely visited northwest shore.
GREEN FACTOR The only way in is to walk—12 miles for two days along squeaky white sand. Good thing the rare Forrester kangaroos know the way. Architect Ken Latona's spare shedlike design, complete with roof-water collection, gray-water treatment systems, composting toilets, and 100 percent solar power, has won every award in the book. Still, the greatest prize is spending an evening by the glow of the outdoor fire pits, waiting for those Tasmanian devils to whirl into view.
Mount William National Park; 61-3/6331-2006; www.bayoffires.com.au; $918 per person for three-night trip (with two nights at lodge), including all meals; open OctoberMay.
23 Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
THE SETTING Part of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, a 300-square-mile national wildlife park in the Maya Mountains.
GREEN FACTOR Up in the pine-scented highlands of Belize, owner Francis Ford Coppola found that it made more sense to harvest hydropower than to run wires through the jungle (the director had already done that for one movie). Equally convenient was having an organic garden full of tropical fruits and Italian culinary staples like eggplant, basil, and tomatoes. Leave it to Coppola to add some drama to recycling, too. Around the seven thatched-roof cabanas, five palatial villas, and public areas are old family photographs and movie set relics—the whirling fan over the bar was pilfered from Apocalypse Now.
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Cayo District; 800/746-3743 or 011-501/824-3878; www.blancaneaux.com; doubles from $150, including breakfast.
24 Kaya Mawa, Malawi
THE SETTING On a lake in the most isolated corner of the most isolated country in Africa.
GREEN FACTOR No matter how you slice it, getting to Kaya Mawa is a serious commitment involving white-knuckle þights or an old-fashioned ferry crossing. That's why British eco-mavericks Andrew Came and William Sutton made their enchanted lakeside lodge entirely self-sustainable, with water-pumping windmills and solar panels that juice the computer, refrigerator, and satellite phone. Divers in Lake Malawi encounter more freshwater fish species than are found in Europe and North America combined. The artisan-built stone honeymoon cottage—with a seven-by-eight-foot four-poster bed—sits on its own weensy island.
Likoma Island; 871-761/684-670; www.kayamawa.com; doubles from $320, including all meals and activities.
25 Tiamo Resort, Bahamas
THE SETTING Sixty breezy miles off the coast of Cuba.
GREEN FACTOR Totally powered by the sun, Tiamo has the largest solar facility of any private hotel in the West Indies or Latin America. Employees vow not to serve overfished conch and lobster. Waste is converted to fertilizer; glass bottles are ground into cement. To save paper, Tiamo nixes brochures. And when guests leave the eight very private bungalows, they pack out their own plastic.
South Andros; 800/504-1794 or 242/357-2489; www.tiamoresorts.com; $245 a person per night, including all meals and activities.
DAVID HOCHMAN, a frequent contributor to Esquire and the New York Times, is writing a book on eco-hotels around the world.