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Highlands included in Nat Geo 'Best of the World' nature destinations list

By Niall Harkiss

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The Highlands has been named as one of National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023.

The award-winning natural history publication revealed that the region is one of only two UK destinations to make the annual list.

Beautiful image of Glen Affric. Photo credit CI Photography.
Beautiful image of Glen Affric. Photo credit CI Photography.

The Highland region has been shortlisted in the Nature category, alongside Botswana, Slovenia, Big Bend National Park in Texas and the Azores.

The travel list, which is created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveller’s international editorials teams, celebrates Scotland’s rewilding efforts, which aim to restore the original landscape of the Highlands by replanting and restoring native species.

It references areas such as Alladale Wilderness Reserve and the Affric Highlands project which will start restoring 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness to the West Coast.

Highland Council Leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner, said: “To have the Highlands shortlisted as one of only two UK destinations in such a prestigious list of nominees is testament to the stunning unspoilt nature of the place we are lucky enough to call home.

“What is really pleasing is to receive recognition from National Geographic for the efforts in restoring the Highlands’ ecosystems through projects like Affric Highland in the rewilding of 500,000 acres, re-introducing native species, improving biodiversity being carried out in areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, and in the rewilding planned to improve biodiversity across 500,000 acres as part of the Affric Highland Project.”

He added: “Our natural assets bring thousands of visitors to the region every year. Like the rest of the world however we are not immune to the effects of Climate Change. As a region it is vital that we work together in the development of a more sustainable tourism infrastructure. Areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve are proof of what can be achieved when you focus on restoring the balance of nature.”

In response to the Highlands addition to the National Geographic Best of the World line-up, Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “This is excellent news, Scotland continues to go from strength to strength in developing sustainable tourism and to be recognised alongside Botswana and the Azores reinforces that tourism and environmental protection can be developed alongside each other through strategic planning and appropriate interventions.

“Our scenery is one of the largest draws for our international visitors and it’s important that we preserve it for generations to come. Sustainability is therefore a key strand of our Tourism Strategy: Scotland Outlook 2030 and it’s encouraging to be recognised for this.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: “Our landscapes and scenery is one of the top reasons that people visit Scotland and the Highlands is home to some of the country’s most important and special natural assets.

“It is fantastic that National Geographic has recognised the valuable environmental efforts that are being undertaken across the region and are sharing this with audiences across the world."

He added: “VisitScotland wants to play a leading role in the development of Scotland as a globally recognised responsible destination. We are committed to working with the industry, communities and visitors to preserve and protect the natural, social and cultural assets which are so vital to Scotland’s brand and its future prosperity.”

For more information visit: Nat Geo or www.visitscotland.org.

The National Geographic’s “Best of the World 2023” list includes:


Appian Way, Italy

Busan, South Korea

Longmen Grottoes, Henan Province, China


Charleston, South Carolina


Scottish Highlands



Big Bend National Park, Texas



New Zealand

Choquequirao, Peru


Austrian Alps

Revillagigedo National Park, Mexico


Dodecanese Islands, Greece

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Alberta, Canada




Trinidad and Tobago

San Francisco, California


Manchester, UK


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