Trips that respect the environment and benefit local people make for particularly enriching breaks, as our picks from Belfast to Costa Rica show
I was amazed to discover that it is possible to enjoy the extreme beauty of Ladakh while treading lightly and investing locally. Plastic-free co-operative shops that would be the envy of Brighton and Bristol abound in the capital, Leh. At shops like Dzomsa on Old Fort Road you can fill up your water bottles, scoop bulk fruit, nuts and herbal teas into paper bags and pick up unpackaged, locally made soap and knitted goods – the sun-dried Ladakhi apricots are wonderful. We trekked for eight days through Markha Valley. Solar-powered homestays, run by women, provide cosy accommodation and delicious home-cooked meals. All homestays (which we didn’t book in advance) had exceptionally clean compost toilets, supporting water conservation and organic agriculture.