In 2018, popular beach destinations Boracay (The Philippines) and Maya Bay (Thailand) were temporarily closed to tourists. This was to allow local authorities to facilitate clean-up operations and help the wildlife in the area to recover from over-tourism.
While Boracay Island has gradually reopened its shores to visitors in stages, Thai officials announced in October that Maya Bay would be closed “indefinitely”. This was because the local ecology needed more time to recover. While tourists are understandably bummed out by the prolonged closure, they can take solace in the fact that these destinations will eventually be open fully once again.
However, that can’t be said for the following popular tourist destinations. Be it from climate change, pollution, natural disasters, or from the adverse effects of tourism, here are 13 popular travel destinations that might disappear soon. Forever.
1. Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
As the world’s largest coral reef, Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef attracts almost 2 million visitors per year. However, the colourful reef colonies are in serious danger of being wiped out due to rising global temperatures and pollution.
It is estimated that, to date, coral bleaching and erosion plagues 93% of the Great Barrier Reef, not only destroying colonies but also devastating the marine life nearby. If this situation continues, there’s a chance that the reefs could be completely gone within the next 100 years, maybe even by as early as 2030!
2. Venice (Italy)
Okay, to be fair, the romantic city of Venice has been sinking for a while now. However, it was within the past 100 years where the situation became alarmingly serious. Rising sea levels and the volume of displaced water as a result of large cruise ships in the area have seen many of the city’s buildings dip lower into the water and increased flooding.
If nothing is done to mitigate the problem quickly, it is estimated that the city will become completely uninhabitable by the end of the century. So you might want to enjoy your gondola rides in the near future!
3. Naples (Italy)
Naples of the most historical inhabited cities in the world. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is the largest in all of Europe. Being a cultural centre since the Renaissance Area, Naples is adorned with plenty of charming cultural monuments and attractions.
The only downside? The city is located right next to Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples. In case you’re wondering, this is the active volcano that completely wiped out Pompeii in 79 BC and has been erupting every 100 years or so. The last eruption took place in 1944, which means the next one is just around the corner.
With the population so much denser now than before, any delay in evacuation could lead to catastrophic loss of life, not to mention the destruction of half the city.
4. Bangkok (Thailand)
Unbeknownst to most travellers, one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations is sinking. Much like Venice, the main threat to Bangkok’s current way of life is rising sea levels. The foundations of many buildings have already been pushed into the muddy soil and it is estimated that Bangkok’s busy streets could turn into canals in less than 100 years.
While Bangkok won’t exactly flood overnight, it’s still advisable to visit Bangkok and do all you want to go there sooner rather than later. That is unless, of course, you want to visit a Bangkok-Venice hybrid city!
5. Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the tallest mountain in Africa. It used to be known as a winter wonderland and paradise for winter activities. However, that all has changed since the 1940s. Look at the picture above. Would you believe me if I told you that back then, snow covered more than half of the mountaintop?
To date, 85% of the ice cover on Mount Kilimanjaro has disappeared and it is estimated that the last remaining glacial ice will melt away by 2020. So, if you’ve ever wanted to hike Africa’s tallest mountain, you’d better do it soon!
It should come as no surprise that some of the most at-risk destinations due to global warming are beaches and islands. Seychelles has long been a popular honeymoon destination for couples but this island paradise located in the Indian Ocean may soon disappear completely from the world map!
Rising sea levels have led to severe beach erosion, leading experts to believe that 50 years is all the time that’s left to save the island. However, I suppose a silver lining from all this is the unique rock formations on the island as a result of the erosion.
7. Glacier National Park (U.S.A)
As the name suggests, Glacier National Park in Montana, U.S.A. is supposed to be a majestic, alluring icy field. Well, at least back in the 1910s, it was. These days, however, only a small portion of the park is covered in ice, and even that may soon be gone.
Less than a century ago, Glacier National Park was home to more than 150 icy glaciers. Today, that number is less than 25. With global temperatures rising rapidly, the last of the ice could well melt away by 2030, drastically changing the landscape of the park and severely endangering all the wildlife that live there.
8. Machu Picchu (Peru)
Here’s one where the problems are almost completely man-made. The Machu Picchu ruins are a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in the slopes of Cuzco, Peru. As the ruins gained popularity in the 1980s, local developers began cutting down the forests to develop the surrounding area to cater to the increasing number of tourists.
Fast forward to 2018, and landslides have become more common as urban development continues to grow at an alarming rate. What’s more, the sheer number of tourists visiting the site have led to the erosion of parts of the ruins from being stepped on too often.
To counter this, the government of Peru have placed a daily quota of 2,500 visitors for the famous site in hope that it would help preserve this iconic landmark. This is one of the few locations on this list where the damage may just be reversible! #fingerscrossed
9. The Galapagos Islands
Much like many other island destinations, the Galapagos Islands off the shores of Australia are suffering from rising sea levels, coral bleaching, overfishing, and pollution. However, adding to the environmental problems are the rampant over-tourism.
More than 170,000 people visit the secluded islands per year, causing immense strain to the local ecosystem. What was once a sanctuary of breathtaking natural scenery has slowly become an overcrowded cesspool. There have been calls to rectify the situation via daily quotas or by shutting the island off for a period of time. So far though, none of these steps has come into fruition.
10. The European Alps
Oh, this one is a big one. We all know how the European Alps have been the very top destination for skiing and other winter-related activities. Not only are the alpine scenery beautiful, the cool climate often provides relief from the summer heat. However, much like Glacier National Park, the ice is melting.
For example, over the past three decades, the French Alps have lost a whopping 5m of their snow! Over in Italy, the Brenva glacier is losing approximately 12m of snow per year! The situation is so severe that some scientists are predicting that the snow covering the lower areas of the alps could all melt away by 2050!
11. The Amazon Rainforest (Brazil)
It’s sad to say that this is another one of the situations that we could have avoided. The majestic Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, covering almost 2.1 million square miles.
Unfortunately, illegal logging, agriculture growth, and forest fires have devastated much of the forested areas. The destruction of the Amazon Rainforest spells doom for many of the world’s most endangered species of flora and fauna and would be detrimental to our own way of life.
12. The Great Wall (China)
Yep, you read that right. I bet some of you weren’t expecting this at all! But yes, the Great Wall may soon have a great fall! Over the many years since its construction, the Great Wall of China has continuously weathered away and by now, about a third of the wall has disappeared.
Some of it is due to natural erosion, but most of it is down to brick theft, urban development in the surrounding area, and, you guessed it, tourism. While it’s unlikely that the entirety of the wall will come tumbling down anytime soon, certain parts of it may be lost forever. So, if you want to experience strolling along the Great Wall, you might want to do it very soon.
13. The Maldives
The threat faced by the Maldives is on a national scale. The entire island nation is at risk of being submerged by rising sea waters in the near future. Given that the tallest point of the Maldives is only 5m above sea level, the entire country might just disappear in our lifetime.
If that happens, say goodbye to your pristine beaches and relaxing sunbathing sessions!
Before it’s too late
While Donald Trump might think that global warming is “fake news”, it certainly doesn’t feel like that for these 13 popular travel destinations! While some of the damage is reversible, unless we can significantly slow down climate change, the disappearance of these locations are mere inevitabilities.
So, before these destinations disappear, you might want to stop putting off that bucket list trip of yours.