International Travel

These tourist attractions could vanish in your lifetime

These tourist attractions could vanish in your lifetime

1. Machu Picchu

Located in southern Peru, Machu Picchu is the remains of a huge stone citadel that was built during the 15th century. These incredible Incan ruins are widely considered one of the must-see spots in South America. Unfortunately, this has backfired in a way. The site has been a victim of over-tourism, seeing the detrimental effects of the surge of tourists it gets as they wear down the structures. In addition, the area surrounding Machu Picchu has seen rampant urbanisation, as well as mudslides and fires, in recent years, leading UNESCO to work for its preservation.

2. Portobelo-San Lorenzo forts

While not as ancient as some of the other sites mentioned here, these fortifications on the Panama coast are considered historically significant. The Portobelo-San Lorenzo forts were constructed by the Spanish in Panama in efforts to protect trade routes; they were built over two centuries, starting in the 1590s. They demonstrate a wide range of architectural styles, featuring everything from medieval-style castles to neo-classical 18th-century redresses. The forts face a couple of challenges, urbanisation has encroached upon them on land, and a shrinking coastline and erosion present natural threats on the coastal side. Maintenance has also fallen by the wayside. They were listed as endangered in 2012.

3. Hatra

These grand ruins stand in the Al-Jazīrah region of Baghdad, Iraq. As the capital of the first Arab Kingdom, Araba, Hatra is a site of massive historical significance. It withstood Roman military force in the second century CE. It was the king of the Sāsānian Empire, an early Iranian regime, who eventually destroyed it in the third century. The ruins went undiscovered until the 1830s; German archaeologists only began excavating it in the early 1900s. In addition to becoming a UNESCO world heritage site, Hatra was also immortalised as the temple featured in The Exorcist. Sadly, it became a target of ISIS in 2015. Militants assailed the structures with bullets and destroyed statues, seeking to dismantle remnants of polytheism. It was after this that UNESCO gave it an endangered status.

4. Nan Madol

This remarkable architectural jewel of the ancient world dates back to the 1200s. It spans more than 100 islands and islets surrounding the Federated States of Micronesia, to the northeast of Papua New Guinea. Throughout the 1200s to the 1500s, indigenous people from the island of Pohnpei built an expansive ‘city on water’, constructing more than 100 man-made islets out of coral boulders and basalt. The stunning expanse, untouched for hundreds of years, is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of ancient Pacific Islander peoples. However, it’s the forces of nature this time that pose a danger to it as plants, storms and water damage encroach upon the impressive structures. It has been on UNESCO’s endangered sites list since 2016.

How to help

There are plenty of resources you can use to help preserve endangered spots like these. For starters, you could donate to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. UNESCO also gives citizens an option to report threats to protected sites (scroll to the bottom of this page for contact information. And if you choose to visit these spots, treat them with the utmost care! Be respectful, don’t touch anything you’re not explicitly allowed to touch, and do your part to keep the area clean.

Written by Meghan Jones. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.

Our Partners