12 Things to See and Do in Antarctica

Antarctica; a place where only 40,000 people visit each year, a landscape so strikingly beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s real, a continent so isolated it takes two days of intense crossing through the Drake Passage to reach it. This is a continent full of wildlife including whales, penguins and seals and a continent worth exploring in your lifetime. From kayaking next to glaciers to discovering the eight species of penguins that call this place home, here are 12 of the top things to see and do while visiting this incredible continent.

12. Visit Deception Island

Often called an island of doom, it was once a whaler’s station and now all that is left is giant rusting barrels that once boiled whale fat, decaying whale bones on the beach and a sense of gloom in the air. It happens to be one of the safest harbors in the world, as it is protected by high cliffs and a narrow entrance. Visiting here is a unique experience, as it tells the tales of the greed of men and creates a stark looking landscape, with an abundance of black lava sand. Visitors can hike up the mountains for incredible views, take a plunge in the waters that are said to be warmer than anywhere else on the continent due to the volcanic heat or enjoy watching the playful penguins. Described as a landscape from another planet, this is one island you won’t want to miss.

Antarctica deception island

11. Take a Helicopter Ride

If you really want to splurge on your trip to this continent, there is only one thing that should come to mind, a helicopter ride over the incredible landscape. This is also the only way to get the unique experience of getting closer to the incredible Emperor Penguins at their secluded rookeries, that aren’t accessible by boat. The scenery below is stunning as landscapes of layered sandstones, lava flows and glaciers tumble out into the ocean as far as the eye can see. If you are lucky enough to land on Brown Bluff, the most scenic spot in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent you can expect steep canyon walls, tumbling boulders, an ice-cap looming above and beautiful volcanic creations. The scene is complete with thousands of adelie penguins nesting on the slopes and a few gentoos mixed in for fun.

Antarctica helicopter

10. Climb Observation Hill

Observation Hill is one of the most iconic features of Hut Point Peninsula and the McMurdo Station surroundings, along with discovery hut and castle rock. This 754 foot volcanic feature is climbed by hundreds of visitors each year to catch amazing views of Mt. Erebus, Mt. Terror, Scott Base (New Zealand), the Dry Valleys, Black Island, White Island, both airports, and Castle Rock. The most notable feature on this hill is the wooden cross that was erected in January of 1913 at the summit, in memory of Capt. Scott’s lost Polar Party of 1912. The trail up isn’t difficult and takes less than an hour. Visitors with good weather will have no wind at the top and spend plenty of time taking pictures of the beautiful 360 degree surroundings.

By Gaelen Marsden - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Gaelen MarsdenOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

9. Whale Watching

If you are most interested in seeing whales on your adventure to Antarctica the absolute best time to visit is February and March, at the end of the summer season. It is at this time when the whales seem to have lost their inhibitions and are more relaxed than ever. There are actually eight species of whales that live in these waters, the Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, Orca, Sei, Southern Right and Sperm. In Wilhelmina Bay, one of the first places many visitors experience, there is normally an abundance of whales, mostly humpback, orcas and Minke. The Bay has actually been nicknamed Whale-amina Bay because of all the whale sightings. No trip here is complete with whale sightings and the great thing about Antarctica is that there are whales everywhere you look. Although the three species, humpback, Minke and orcas are the most popular, some visitors are lucky enough to spot the rare and humongous blue.

Whale Watching antarctica

8. Go Sea Kayaking

If there is one thing to splurge on as an “extra” in Antarctica, let us be the first to suggest sea kayaking. Bigger ships offer this experience as an extra excursion while smaller vessels have daily kayak trips included. Zodiacs will take kayakers into calmer waters where it is advised you know how to get in and out of a kayak and what to do if it rolls, as acting fast in these cold waters is a must. Silently paddling through Antarctica will be nothing like you have ever experienced as wildlife gets closer than ever and the only sounds is the scraping of ice against your kayak. Plan on paddling through ice, sucking on age-old glacier chunks when you are thirsty and experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sea Kayaking Greenland

7. Do the Polar Plunge

It is a rite of passage for anyone visiting Antarctica and if you leave this unforgettable place without doing so, we promise all your friends will tease you. It takes a lot of courage to muster up the will to jump into these water temperatures that often sit around 29 degrees. The history of the polar plunge is much unknown and the earliest recorded plunge was actually in Boston in 1904. Doing the plunge in Antarctica is unlike other polar bear plunges though as the water is extremely cold and dangerous, therefore you will need to spend as little time as possible. If you are travelling on a large ship, a zodiac will take you into the water and it’s a matter of a deep breath before you jump off. Expect to be in shock rather than be cold and don’t try to speak as the cold water sucks that ability right out of you. And when it’s all over, the exhilaration alone will warm you up, along with a shot of something fiery from the bar.

Photo by: Four in Travel
Photo by: Four in Travel

6. Survive the Drake Passage

Most people get to Antarctica by boat and that means one thing, surviving the Drake Passage. It is the body of water between the southern tip of South America and the northernmost reaches of Antarctica and is the shortest route to reach this continent. The weather and sea conditions here can be described as chaotic, violent, unpredictable and notorious. It is a two-day journey across these waters and visitors should expect to get knocked around, seasick and unable to read, concentrate or doing anything other than try to keep down the morning’s breakfast. The good thing about this crossing is that it allows you sufficient time to learn about the destination, with biologists on board to give daily lessons, guides to brief you and plenty of wildlife to look at. And once you spot your first iceberg, this journey will all be worth it. Just don’t forget you have to cross it once more to get home.

Drake Passage antarctica

5. Visit Port Lockroy Museum

This natural harbor was discovered in 1904 and used as a whaling station until 1931. It was in WWII when the British decided to build the Port Lockroy base and it continued to operate until 1962 as a research station. Luckily for visitors to this continent, this base was renovated in 1996 and turned into a museum and post office. During the summer there is a staff of four who are responsible for sorting through the 70,000 letters that are sent by visitors. That’s right; it is here where you can send yourself a postcard from the southernmost post office in the world. Visitors here should be prepared for the smell as a colony of penguins has taken over the island as their own and needless to say, it doesn’t smell great. There is a small museum and gift shop here as well, perfect for picking up a souvenir and proceeds go back to upkeep of the site and other monuments around the continent, a worthy cause in our opinion.

Port Lockroy Museum

4. Go Zodiac Cruising

If you are travelling on a larger ship you will want to make sure you book a day or two out in the zodiac. A normal zodiac only fits about 8-12 people and can zip in and out of smaller places that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Some of the smaller passages in Antarctica are absolutely loaded with beauty and although you may want to put your camera in a waterproof bag, there will be plenty of picture taking opportunities. Get up so close to glaciers that it feels as though you can reach out and touch them, watch as huge ice chunks fall off and splash into the water and see wildlife up close and personal. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for penguins jumping in and out of the water, whales who will surface in front of you and leopard seals that will glide right beside you.

Zodiac Antarctica

3. Discover Paradise Bay

Technically it’s called Paradise Harbor, a name that was given by whalers in the early 1920’s but most people refer it to Paradise Bay. It is only one of two harbors used by cruise ships to stop on the continent and get yourself ready for some incredible scenery. Surrounding the harbor are glaciated mountains and ice cliffs, which in turn help to protect the harbor and on calm days the water is as clear as glass. One of the best ways to discover this bay is to paddle it in kayaks, coming closer to the glaciers than you ever thought possible. Wildlife will surround you in the varying shades of blue and white, seals lounging on ice flows while albatrosses spread their wings overhead. If there is one place to truly experience the magic of this landscape, this would be it.

Paradise Harbor

2. Cruise the Lemaire Channel

The Lemaire Channel is one of the most scenic waterways in the world, often called the Kodak Gap because it is so photogenic. This steep sided channel is only 5250ft wide and runs for 7 miles between the mountains of Booth Island and the Peninsula and if you are lucky enough to be here when the ice is not blocking it, count on snapping some amazing photos. So what makes this channel so photogenic? To start with the mountains rise dramatically out of the water, vertically, covered in glaciers and snow. When the wind is still the water is as smooth as glass, creating incredible reflections. Fairly devoid of wildlife, seals can sometimes be seen lounging on the floating pieces of ice. Whether you will pass through this channel or not will be a mystery as it is entirely dependent on conditions but cross your fingers you do as this is something to check off your bucket list.

Lemaire Channel

1. Discover the Penguins

Penguins are the number one attraction for many visitors that go to Antarctica and it is guaranteed you will see at least of few of them on your adventure. Although there are 17 species of penguins throughout the world, in Antarctica you will only find 6-8 different species. Not that that will matter once you are a mere few feet from one of these unique creatures. Notably the Emperor Penguin is what people hope to see here, standing at nearly 4 feet tall; these incredible animals are quite the sight in person. The Magellanic penguin that is found here is perhaps the one that is most familiar to people, the one that looks like a little man wearing a tuxedo. These playful penguins will whip by you underwater, waddle their way across the ice and the chicks are often very curious of humans. Just make sure to follow the rules set out by your guide.

emperor penguins

The Top Destinations Being Destroyed By Tourism

More people than ever before in history are exploring beyond the boundaries of their own country to take in the incredible beauty the world has to offer. In fact, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with over 1.1 billion people traveling internationally in 2015 alone!

While travel certainly has many economic benefits, such as providing people with jobs, it also has some negative impacts as well. For these 10 natural wonders and historic sites, the swell of tourists has begun to threaten their long-term preservation. If we’re not careful, we could destroy these precious places for good.

10. Venice, Italy

Photos By: Shutterstock

It’s no secret that Venice is sinking, and the hordes of tourists that flock there each year certainly aren’t helping. During peak season, the picturesque floating city can see upwards of 80,000 tourists per day, making it so overcrowded that some of the main tourist attractions become inaccessible. And many of these tourists are brought to the city by cruise ships, whose traffic threatens the waterways and historic areas they travel through.

9. Great Pyramids, Egypt

Photos By: Shutterstock

Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. At the current rate of deterioration, however, it—along with the Sphinx other pyramids at the historic site—may not be around for much longer. Many decades of mass tourism to this area of Egypt has led to irreparable damage to these ancient structures, and any attempt to restore them has only led to further destruction.

8. Roman Colosseum, Italy

Photos By: Shutterstock

The grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum is certainly not what it was when it opened in the year 80 AD. Almost 2,000 years of wear and tear has not been kind to the structure, nor have tourists, who have been caught moving or stealing stones and graffiting the remaining pillars. Although the site is now mainly piles of broken stone, it is a historic site from which there is still much to be learned and needs to be preserved and respected as such.

7. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Photos By: Shutterstock

The still-unexplained phenomenon that is Stonehenge draws many thousands of tourists each year. They have, unfortunately, caused quite a bit of damage to the prehistoric stones by chipping away at them, and restoration attempts have not returned them to historical accuracy. Several busy roadways that are located in close proximity also threaten the area.

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo By: Shutterstock

Proudly displayed on Cambodia’s flag, this ancient temple boasts classical style Khmer architecture and is one of the country’s top attractions. While money from tourism is used to restore the structure, it is one of the leading causes of its damage. Not just from foot traffic either; graffiti has been found on many of the walls. Unless the government takes action to limit tourist traffic, this World Heritage site could be destroyed beyond repair.

5. Antarctica

Photos By: Shutterstock

This once-remote location is no longer quite so. The rise in cruise ship traffic has increased water pollution, threatening the continent’s coastline and the species that inhabit it. Fortunately, the Antarctic Treaty has limited the number of people on-shore to 100 at a time, and ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed at any of the landing sites.

4. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Photos By: Shutterstock

Since being featured as a private paradise in the 2000 film The Beach, the Phi Phi islands of Thailand have become a bucket list destination for many. The pristine beaches and clear water of these virgin islands may not last for much longer, however, as the rise in tourism has attracted resort developers. It seems as though Thailand is serious about preserving their land though, as another popular tourist island, Koh Tachai, was recently closed indefinitely to tourists in order to allow the environment to rehabilitate.

3. Great Wall of China

Photo By: Shutterstock

Although it once stretched more than 5,000 miles, over the years approximately two thirds of the Great Wall of China has been destroyed. This is largely due to the thousands of tourists that walk, vandalize and graffiti it each year, but also because of environmental erosion and sections being torn down to make way for development. A lack of government funding for protection of the Great Wall mean these factors will continue to threaten it in future.

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

Photo By: Shutterstock

Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the ancient Inca village of Machu Picchu is truly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder it tops many people’s bucket lists. But such a massive influx of visitors has threatened the preservation of this ancient archaeology; UNESCO has even considered placing it on their list of World Heritage in Danger. The country’s government currently limits the number of tourists to 2,500 per day, but even that may be too many to prevent irreparable damage.

1. Galapagos Islands

Photos By: Shutterstock

The incredibly diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands is what helped Charles Darwin develop his Theory of Natural Selection, but it is incredibly fragile to outside influence. So much so, that UNESCO placed the location on its World Heritage in Danger list in 2007. In order to preserve the land and its wildlife, many tourist restrictions have been put in place—including the requirement that a licensed guide accompany all visitors of Galapagos National Park.

The 10 Coldest Places in the World

Winter is coming. Actually for many places, the season of chapped lips, cracked knuckles and putting on five layers before stepping foot outside is already here. Those living in the far north know what it’s like to have to ‘endure’ a long, bleak winter and for some living in the really remote areas, winter is a year-round way of life. To kick off the impending snow season, EscapeHere presents an ode to winter with the 10 coldest places on earth:

10. Denali/Mount McKinley, Alaska

Denali Alaska, (formerly known as Mount McKinley) has long been known as the coldest mountain on earth. Located in the Alaskan Range of Denali National Park, it’s summit is a staggering 20,310 feet about sea level. On December 1, 2013 the peaks weather station recorded a temperature of −75.5 °F (−59.7 °C) and even in the summer, this chilly mountain can register temperatures as low as −22.9 °F (−30.5 °C) or −59.2 °F (−50.7 °C) with the windchill.

Denali Mount McKinley, Alaska

9. Eureka, Canada

Few Canadians ever venture up to the remote Ellesmere Island region of the Nunavut territory, and unless you’re a research scientist or a First Nations person, you probably haven’t ever heard of Eureka. This active research settlement has an average temperature of around −1.8 °F (−18.8 °C) and has seen a record low of −67.5 °F (−55.3 °C).

"Eureka Research Station, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, 2005 -c" by ceedub13 - 2005 Eureka, NU. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Eureka Research Station, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, 2005 -c” by ceedub132005 Eureka, NU. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

8. Amundsen-Scott Station, South Pole

It’s not just the far north that sees some cold temperatures, the far south can be just as inhospitable. The Amundsen-Scott Station located at the South Pole is an American scientific research station and is known as the southernmost place on earth. Because of its unique location, the sun rises and sets only once a year creating a continuous six months of sun followed by six months of darkness. The lowest temperature recorded happened during the cold dark period was −101 °F (−74 °C) in 1957. This kind of temperature is only survivable with specialized equipment.

"Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station" by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Amundsen-Scott_South_Pole_Station.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station” by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Amundsen-Scott_South_Pole_Station.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

7. Verkhoyansk, Russia

Unlike the previous location on this list so far Verkhoyansk Russia has an actual year-round population. Approximately 1,300 hardy residents live in this town on the Yana River near the Arctic Circle. The town is notorious for extreme lows in winter and some of the highest temperature differences between winter and summer on earth. The lowest temperatures of the winter are around −49.7 °F (−45.4 °C) while summer can reach upwards of 61.7 °F (+16.5 °C).

"Werchojansk Kältepoldenkmal II" by Becker0804 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Werchojansk Kältepoldenkmal II” by Becker0804Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

6. Prospect Creek, Alaska

This small Alaskan settlement was once home to several mining expeditions and camps for the 27,000 people involved in the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. It’s also home to the record for the lowest recorded temperature in the United States of America. On January 23, 1971 a record low of −80 °F (−62 °C) was reached. Despite the extremes, wildlife can still be found here including bears and bald eagles.

Photo by: UAF
Photo by: UAF

5. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, the largest and capital city of Mongolia makes the list as being the most populated city with extreme low temperatures. The total population of the city is over 1.3 million and residents experience very short but warm summers followed by bitterly cold and dry winters. The lowest recorded temperature here is −56 °F (−49 °C). Because the city lies in an area of permafrost, building can be difficult so many suburban residents live in traditional yurt houses which sit above ground.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

4. Oymyakon, Russia

The Russian town of Oymyakon is officially recognized as one of the two coldest continuously inhabited places on the planet (along with the previously mentioned town of Verkhoyansk, Russia). The population of around 500 people must endure some of the coldest temperatures in which a person can live. On February 6, 1933, Oymyakon set a record for the lowest temperature recorded in a permanently inhabited place at −90 °F (−67.7 °C).

Oymyakon, Russia

3. North Ice, Greenland

It’s no surprise to see a location in Greenland on this list. After all, the country is 85% covered in ice and snow and the temperature only rises above freezing during the month of July. North Ice was a British research station in the country’s northern interior. On January 9, 1954, the station recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded in North America at −87.0 °F (−66.1 °C).

Photo by: Polar Field Services
Photo by: Polar Field Services

2. Snag, Yukon Territory

Canada has a reputation for being a cold place and the town of Snag certainly helps that reputation remain intact. Located in the Yukon Territory, the village was established during the Klondike gold rush and was home to about ten First Nation people plus 15-20 airport staff and meteorologists. On February 3, 1947, Snag set the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in continental North America at −81.4 °F (−63.0 °C).

Photo by: Amazing Station
Photo by: Amazing Station

1. Vostok Station, Antarctica

Our number one pick for coldest place on the planet is actually the official current record holder for having the coldest temperature on earth. The Russian research station located at the Antarctica’s Pole of Cold measured a bone chilling temperature of -128 °F (-89.2 °C) on July 21, 1983.

"Russian station Vostok" by NSF/Josh Landis, employee 1999-2001 - Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Russian station Vostok” by NSF/Josh Landis, employee 1999-2001Antarctic Photo Library, U.S. Antarctic Program. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Top Places To See Before It’s Too Late

Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.

20. Gozo, Malta

CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.

Gozo Malta

19. St. Kitts

With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.

St. Kitts

18. The Seychelles

National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.

Seychelles

17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada

With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.

Athabasca Glacier Canada

16. St. Helena

In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.

St. Helena Island

15. Taj Mahal, India

Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.

Taj Mahal

14. Dead Sea

There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.

Dead Sea

13. The Galapagos Islands

Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.

Galapagos Islands

12. Glacier National Park Montana

In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.

Glacier Bay National Park Montana

11. South Australia

One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.

McLaren Vale, South Australia

10. Greek Islands

There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.

Aigiali village in Amorgos island in Greece

9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

7. Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.

Lake Nicaragua

6. Papua New Guinea

There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.

Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com
Amy Nichole Harris / Shutterstock.com

5. The Alps, Europe

The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.

French Alps

4. Venice, Italy

Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.

Venice Italy Lagoons

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.

Great Barrier Reef Fish

2. Cuba

Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.

Kamira / Shutterstock.com
Kamira / Shutterstock.com

1. Antarctica

Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.

Antarctica

8 Destinations Putting a Cap on Tourist Numbers

It is quickly becoming a hot debate as more cities and places are talking about placing limits on the number of tourists that visit each year. While some critics argue that putting a cap on the number of tourists will hurt local economies, others argue that we are quickly destroying natural environments and overcrowding cities. The age old question remains then, what is this balance? For these eight places and cities, the solution is to begin implementing a cap on tourist numbers and from Australia to Spain, only time will tell if this is the way of future travel.

8. Bhutan, South Asia

The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on high value, low volume tourism and lets an average of 140,000 tourists in each year. In order to visit this unspoiled landscape and culture, foreign visitors need to get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. The Royal Government of Bhutan sets a minimum daily package price each month that visitors have to transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan; normally it is between $200-250 a day. This sounds pricey but that money covers all accommodations, meals, guides and internal transport. Part of this money also goes towards a royalty that provides free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation. There are over 75 licensed tour operators to choose from in this country and you can be promised an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you visit this awe-inspiring landscape and connect with the people here.

Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR
Photo by: EL ANDINO OUTDOOR

7. The Forbidden City, Beijing

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City announced plans in 2014 to limit the number of visitors to this incredible site to 80,000 a day. The reason for this tourist cap is overcrowding as this museum is the most visited museum in the world, topping over 15 million people in 2014. They are certainly making it easier for more visitors to visit in the winter, offering half price tickets as right now they see the majority of visitors in the summer. New seating, bilingual signage and a ban on tour guides using amplified microphones have all been put in place in recent years to make this experience even better for tourists. Tickets will be purchased online, letting guests know what time they can gain access to the Forbidden City, and this museum should be applauded for quickly figuring out how to reduce tourism in the best of way.

Forbidden City

6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These 19 islands that are located approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador are home to roughly 9,000 species, both on land and in water. By the year 2007 both residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the UN listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Thankfully in recent years they have developed a systematic program that regulates how many tourists are visiting each island daily. Regulations require that visitors must have a trained naturalist guide with them on each island, as the trails change in order to keep them from being overrun. New rules also came into effect that allows travelers to stay for a maximum of four nights and five days per ship. Tourists visiting the islands are only allowed to travel to specific visitor sites and must adhere to the rules and regulations that are set out by the National Parks.

Galapagos Islands

5. Machu Picchu, Peru

It wasn’t long ago that visitors were allowed to roam freely around this 15th-century site, exploring the breathtaking ruins and surrounding landscapes. New regulations are currently being implemented to limit tourists due to conservation efforts. UNESCO and Peru are working together to ensure that this site remains in its pristine condition. The daily limit was once set at 2,500 visitors but recently topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2014. New regulations will require visitors to hire an official guide to enter the Inca Citadel, follow one of three routes through the complex and will face time limits at specific points to keep the crowds moving. Although many fear this will discourage visitors from coming here, it seems unlikely that at least 2,500 won’t visit; the recommended amount.

Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Lord Howe Island, Australia

This seven-square mile island is located 370 miles off mainland Australia and offers rare flora, fauna and marine life. The surrounding crystal clear waters offer more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. It also just happens to be one of the cleanest places on Earth, with 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation undisturbed. Only 350 residents call this island home and only 400 tourists are allowed to visit the island at any one time. This island is geared towards outdoor recreation so plan on snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and bird-watching if you are lucky enough to visit here. There are limited accommodations, no pubs or bars and formal restaurants don’t exist here. But if you are looking to get away from it all and experience a true authentic island, teeming with wildlife, this is the place for you.

Lord Howe Island, Australia

3. Antarctica

Tourism was growing steadily and dangerous up until 2009, when finally the 28 country members of the Antarctic Treaty decided to limit tourism in the region, to prevent it from environmental damage. Recent studies have shown that even short visits to the concentrated landing sites could have an adverse effect on the environment. The main tourism restriction here is the number of passengers and boats, any boat carrying over 500 passengers will not be allowed to dock in the region. Only one boat is allowed to dock in each dock and only 100 passengers are allowed on shore. Today visitors have to travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their national authorities. Don’t expect to spend too much time in this pristine environment as your time both on-shore and in water will be closely monitored by officials.

Antarctica

2. The Seychelles, Africa

Yes, it is where Prince William and Kate spent their honeymoon and in recent years these islands have seen a tremendous growth of tourists, reaching more than six times the number of residents. Just recently in 2015 the minister of tourism and culture for the Seychelles told the world that they are planning a cap on annual visitors. A ban has already been put in place on the building of large hotel developments and now locally small run properties are the only one granted permission to start operations. Expect to see a cap on the number of visitors by next year, as this group of islands is determined to take the issue of sustainable travel more seriously. Although tourism is the Seychelles single biggest industry, they are determined not to demean the value of these gorgeous islands.

Seychelles

1. Barcelona

Barcelona is the most recent city to consider putting a limit on tourists as the incoming Mayor is determined to put a cap on the number of tourists by the end of 2015. Believing that the city is becoming out of hand and overrun by tourists, as in the last 13 years the numbers have doubled, there seems to be no other solution than to cap the numbers. Any visitor who has been here in the last few years has certainly noticed the throngs of people in their path as they try to make their way through the city. It has also become a sort of landing ground for young backpackers who don’t always have the best intentions. As well as introducing a cap on the number of people to visit, the new mayor also wants to put a six month freeze on new hotel developments and tourist rental apartments. Barcelona wants to assess the tourist situation and understand which areas can sustain further development and increase their intake of visitors, and which places are already overrun.

Top Cities 2013 - Barcelona