View 7 images in this gallery.

Ed Leahy goes green.

A tour guide in Guyana once said to me to "take only photos and only leave footprints". It's a simple but effective motto to employ when traipsing about the wonders of nature. And while you will rarely find a hotel these days that does not offer you the option of reusing your towels in a bid to 'save energy', this can often be a budget-saving initiative for many chains. That said, the values of Ecotourism are now being embraced in many quality hotels throughout Europe. Here are a few to consider when planning this year's European vacation:

Hotel Sezz St Tropez (France)
Hotel Sezz is very much at home in St Tropez, the playground of Europe's rich and famous, and is set on two acres of lush grounds, centred by the oasis of the 25-metre pool and shaded by pine, olive and palm trees. All rooms have five-metre floor-to-ceiling French windows - delivering an unmatched sense of space and light - and also feature an outdoor cascade shower, a private serene garden and a plunge pool. Amidst all the finery, the hotel focuses its attention on rainwater recycling and LED technology so that guests can indulge guilt-free. The hotel was designed to integrate into its natural surroundings, and to that end, its builders managed to preserve nearly every existing tree on the site. The Dom Pérignon bar might indicate the type of clientele who frequent Hotel Sezz, so while the environment is not getting damaged, your credit card might.

The Scarlet (England)
Set in a stunning location on the Cornwall coast, The Scarlet is an award-winning hotel for adults, built to the highest eco standards and boasting delicious locally-sourced food and an Ayurvedic-inspired spa. Influenced by the natural rhythms of Mother Nature, The Scarlet's aim is to reduce its negative impact on the environment, without compromising the experience or service guests receive. The hotel recycles everything possible - from food waste to leftover guest soaps - is constantly reducing its water footprint and aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% each year.

Chateau Mcely (Czech Republic)
Located just outside Prague, this five-star, eco chic chateau hotel offers a wide range of facilities in the utmost luxury. The chateau is home to: 23 original rooms and apartments; elegant chateau salons; the renowned Piano Nobile restaurant with its outdoor patio; the 17th-century Alchemist Club and Wine Cellar; the Mcely Spa for healing and relaxation; a library in the tower of the chateau; a rooftop observatory and a well-maintained English park with swimming in a natural bio-lake with a white sand beach. The hotel also enjoys an on-site herb garden and is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World network. Its ecotourism credentials are all first-rate, as it has been named the World's Leading Green Hotel and holds the highest European Union certificate for green hotels.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel (Ireland)
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is an excellent, four-star luxury castle hotel set in a private 450 acre estate of woodland, rivers and walks in the heart of Connemara. The hotel overlooks its famous salmon fishery, with a backdrop of the beautiful 12 Bens Mountain range. The hotel has made a big commitment to embracing ecotourism in Ireland and is a partner of the Leave No Trace Programme ( - guests can get involved and plant a tree at the hotel. Activities in this stunning location include hiking, taking a fly-fishing tutorial, playing tennis, biking, or simply sitting in the tranquillity of the grounds, listening to the sounds of the flowing river.

Hotel Tritone (Italy)
An oasis of wellness awaits at Hotel Tritone, situated on the UNESCO-listed Aeolian Islands, known as the 'seven pearls' of the Mediterranean, off the coast of Sicily. The ecohotel boasts amazing panoramic views of the sea, a wellbeing centre, a swimming pool with hot natural water coming from the volcanic origin and a therapy hydro massage bath. Enjoy breakfast on the terrace or share a moonlit dinner al fresco in the hotel's renowned restaurant, which serves typical Mediterranean and Aeolian cuisine. The hotel scores five-stars for its Green Star rating.

Urnatur (Sweden)
Located in the woods outside Ödeshög, in the middle of southern Sweden, the Urnatur resort describes itself as a poem of Swedish nature and believes that there is a strong yearning for the natural and down-to-earth. The resort has been described as a wood hermitage, an eco lodge, retreat tree house hotel or natural design hotel and allows you to experience Sweden's wonderful nature and be part of it. Accommodation options include a charcoaler's hut with a moss roof that vanishes into the surroundings of the forest; treehouses which offer magnificent views of a small dale where you can spot both tawny owl and moose; and a tin castle with views over the lake. Urnatur is a two- to three-hour drive by car from Gothenburg, Stockholm or Malmö.

Los Castanos (Spain)
A green hotel located in the Alto Genal Valley, Los Castanos is an oasis of calm in the heart of a pueblo blanco - a typical white Andalusian village. Cartajima is one of the seven villages of the Alto Genal, an unspoiled valley in the Serranía de Ronda. Step back in history to explore Phoenician, Roman, Moorish, Christian and Jewish Spain and you can hike through stunning landscapes as you scale Los Riscos for amazing views of Africa. All the rooms are designed to provide a sanctuary throughout the hot summer months. Day trips can be arranged to all the interesting cities of Andalusia, including Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Malaga, Jerez and Cadiz.

Choupana Hills (Madeira, Portugal)
Boasting spectacular views from atop the hills of Funchal, this award-winning, five-star eco hotel is a luxurious retreat set amidst scented eucalyptus trees and surrounded by luxury. The hotel's infinity pool adds to the tranquillity and serenity of the outdoor relaxation area, which enjoys a natural soundtrack provided by the adjacent waterfall, while wellness is a priority with an on-site Spa designed to soothe both the body and soul. Gastronomy is another area where the hotel excels, and the expertly prepared food will be complemented by amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. The nearby Laurissilva Madeirense forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ed Leahy

RTÉ is not responsible for the content of external websites.