Iceland's Reykjavik tops index for green city getaways

Fireworks are seen in Reykjavik on New Year's Day in Iceland, on Jan 1, 2018.
Fireworks are seen in Reykjavik on New Year's Day in Iceland, on Jan 1, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Iceland's small, snowy capital, Reykjavik, has been crowned the greenest city for travellers, with the most green space per head of 50 cities surveyed, a travel agency said on Tuesday (April 24).

Auckland in New Zealand came in second, followed by the Slovakian capital Bratislava and Sweden's Gothenburg, with Sydney in Australia taking fifth place in the Green Cities Index published by TravelBird, a Dutch online holiday provider.

"Many popular city destinations around the world have made significant strides towards both preserving and manufacturing green spaces," Fiona Vanderbroeck, chief traveller officer at TravelBird, said in a statement.

"We aim to inspire travellers to see city trips differently - inviting them to connect with nature whilst also enjoying the vibrancy, culture and liveliness they look for in a city."

The United Nations estimates that by 2050 more than two-thirds of the world will live in urban areas and has called for a radical rethink of urban planning.

Green spaces cool down cities, encourage physical activity and can provide stress relief, increase social interaction and improve mental well-being, the World Health Organisation says.

The index analysed mapping data from 50 popular city break destinations evaluating the types and number of green spaces such as parks, golf courses, meadows, vineyards and farms.

It found that coastal Reykjavik, home to about 120,000 people, has some 410 square metres (4,413 square feet) of greenery per inhabitant, boosted by its large national parks.

Tokyo was the least green city, followed by Turkey's Istanbul, Athens in Greece, Lyon in France and Chile's Santiago, all with less than 8 square metres of greenery per resident.

Edinburgh ranked the greenest city in Britain and Washington DC and Los Angeles came top in the United States.

Cities are taking steps to improve their green credentials - banning diesel vehicles, using zero-emission buses and setting tougher air pollution limits - to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.