Threatened Wonders: 8 Spots Needing Some TLC

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stonehenge: A “national disgrace.” Did I miss something?

I’ve never thought of the remarkable prehistoric wonder as such, but a committee involved with the globally-known monument recently described it that way (as well as the Guardian and the Telegraph). The reason is that the million or so people who travel there each year are now forced to pay a fee and walk from their spot to a remote viewing platform near the noisy junction of two highways. Throwing elbows to catch a glimpse of the the circle doesn’t really appeal to me, either.

There are seven other destinations highlighted by Wanderlust that are threatened by too many people, bad planning, and poor security. The kicker? This is their second list. Are we beginning to lose too many places?

Picture this. Tulum, Mexico. The 1970’s peaceful Mayan fishing villages versus the “Girls Gone Wild”-Cancun ridiculousness. Nuff said.

The desert outside of Wadi Rum, Jordan, is being pummeled by the hodgepodge of tours seemingly playing by their own sets of rules. Yangsao, now a fixture on the Chinese tour group itineraries, is being run over by the over 3 million people visiting a year. Although biking is still a way to find some quiet, locals have sold out to entrepreneurs selling hordes of trinkets, and much of the cities charm in the meantime.

Despite surviving wars and earthquakes, Machu Pichu wasn’t designed to handle 2,500 people a day. The damage has led to its listing on the World Monument Fund’s endangered 2010 Watch list. Timbuktu is nearly off limits due to security concerns. The increased water usage at the golden fort in Jaisalmer, India, is literally dissolving the city’s sandstone foundations. Rough Guides describes the Bay of Fires in Tasmania, Australia, as a, “free for all.” Need I continue?

There is a silver lining, though. (Come on, I couldn’t leave you with too negative of a post.) The other side of the coin, destinations on the up-and-up, are on the rise. So, until the others get straightened out a bit, I would recommend the following.

With increasing economic and political stability, and paired with incredible safaris that have weathered the hard times, Zimbabwe is back. Northeast Thailand is still the biggest bang for your buck, and you can take full advantage of the 15% drop in visitors the region has recently experienced. Lastly, Madagascar’s increasing eco-tours are providing money for the locals as well as informally policing the wilds.

There’s still hope.

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