Travel is one of the best things in things in the world. Whatever your reasons are for going, it’s probably assured that you’ll benefit from the experience. But what about the places that we travel to? Traveling is now cheaper and more accessible than it has ever been before, and as a result visitor numbers to historic sites are exploding. Unfortunately, many countries are unable to deal with the massive influx of visitors and lack the necessary resources to protect and preserve these sites, leaving their futures uncertain. These are 7 sites that are destined to be ruined by too many visitors – whether by literal destruction of the site or the eventually certainty of it losing what made it special in the first place.
1. Machu Picchu
High in Peruvian mountains lies this “Lost City of the Incas”, an architectural and historical treasure of the new world that was left virtually untouched until its modern discovery and popularization in the 20th century. Recently, Peru’s government implemented plans to build a road directly to the site, a plan that was met by criticism from the world community. According to UNESCO, Machu Picchu is facing “urgent problems with deforestation, the risk of landslides, uncontrolled urban development and illegal access to the sanctuary”. Yikes.
2. The Galapagos Islands
The incredible biodiversity of the Galapagos, combined with it’s significance to Darwin’s scientific discovery has led a mass movement of tour groups and cruises visiting the islands every year. The habitat is extremely fragile and is easily influenced by visitors, including the extinction of some native species due to animals which have been brought by visitors to the island.
3. Maasai Mara
Located in Northern Kenya, the animal populations of Maasai Mara are facing increased pressure from tourism and human settlements bordering the park. A study in 2009 concluded that animal populations were declining rapidly. Efforts have been made to curb the influence of massive tourism industry on the park, but some worry the efforts are coming too little, too late.
4. Mount Everest
Once viewed as a nearly insurmountable climb for only the most experienced of climbers, Mt. Everest has become a hike accessible to anyone with enough cash. Trash litters the path of up mountain, with the Nepalese government concerned about the sustainability of so many climbers annually. Climbers are now required to pack out their trash, but with more and more people climbing each year, is it enough?
5. The Islands of Thailand
Thailand is one of the fastest growing tourism hotspots in the world. Visitors young and old are flocking to the South East Asian nation to take advantage of its pristine climate and cheap cost of travel. Many of the destination islands, however, are suffering from the massive influx. Islands that only five years ago had no power are struggling with the demand of thousands of visitors a year. While many unexplored islands still remain, locals and long time fans of Thailand have been left wondering if the days of authentic island life in Thailand are over.
Thanks to global warming, Antarctica is in danger even without human involvement. But, increased accessibility of the 7th continent have led to concerns from many environmental groups that we are ruining the ecosystem of the largest landmass on Earth. With so many visitors making the icy trek annually, we very well may lose the mystique and wonder that makes Antarctica a destination of every adventurous traveler.
7. Angkor Wat
The vast complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one the architectural wonders of the ancient world, having survived centuries of strife, warfare, and enviromental dangers. However, the tourism industry is now posing the greatest threat to the ancient marvel. In 1993, only 7,600 travelers visited the site. In 2014, that number was closer to 3 million. Experts warn that without drastic action by the Cambodian government, massive sections could be lost forever.
What about you? Do you know of any popular destinations near you that are in danger, or have any stories of witnessing the effects of irresponsible tourism first hand? Let us know in the comments section!
Note: For anyone else interested in learning about the negative effects of irresponsible tourism, I highly recommend the documtary “Gringo Trails”. You can see the trailer below.