The hard and sad truth is that we’re destroying some of our favorite destinations. The culprit is not always the same, but the outcome is. In this case, we’re focusing on climate change and extreme human interaction. Rising sea levels, glacial melting, increasingly severe weather and extreme temperatures are just a few of the effects of global warming that stand to alter our ability to visit certain places, not to mention the myriad of other adverse implications that are, or are projected to play out across the globe. From the Maldives to the Dead Sea and Great Barrier Reef, this weeks Bucket List brings you seven must-see destinations that are at risk of disappearing or being severely changed in the not-so-distant future.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Patagonia, located in Argentina and Chile, is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular regions in the world. Think expansive and diverse landscapes with rugged peaks, rolling rivers, dense forests, volcanoes and more. An unfortunate mix of rising temperatures and declining precipitation are threatening two of the region's best features, however. Patagonia's glaciers and glacier lakes are retreating, if not altogether disappearing. The Andean wonderland is still very much magnificent. Don't miss the Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares national parks, both of which are still home to some breathtaking glacial landscapes. The UNESCO World Heritage Peninsula Valdes is another bucket list-worthy stop. This nature reserve contains plenty of wildlife, including Patagonia's famous penguins, as well as sea lions, whales and dolphins. For those looking for a bit of guidance along the way, Peregrine offers an immersive and encompassing 11-day tour of the region.
Photo by Chris Ford, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Maldives are home to the kind of idyllic beaches you dream of. They're not in short supply, either. The archipelago has just shy of 1,200 islands. Around 200 are inhabited and of those around 80 contain resorts. There's no denying the Maldives is a welcoming place and tourism is its biggest industry, which is one reason this low-lying archipelago fears the effects global warming could have on its islands and population. In the meantime, it remains an increasingly popular destination among honeymooners, backpackers and travelers looking for a tropical paradise. Aside from soaking up the sun and relaxing on the beach, water activities are the past time of choice. It's the perfect place to learn to surf or try snorkeling. With 26 atolls and expansive coral reefs, it's also home to some of the best dive spots in the world.
Photo by Neville Wootton, CC BY 2.0
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Visit Montana's Glacier National Park and you'll witness evidence of geological processes dating back millions of years. Valleys, mountain peaks and lakes created in part by moving glaciers during the last ice age helped make the park the stunning scene that it is. You can hike, bike, boat and horseback ride your way through the park's many sights, just keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like grizzly bears. While U.S. National Park status and being designated a United Nations Biosphere Reserve are helping maintain Glacial National Park's plant and wildlife, the conservation efforts aren't able to stop the adverse effects of global warming from unfolding before our eyes. According to the United States Geological Survey, "glacier recession is underway, and many glaciers have already disappeared." What's worse, they cite projections that suggest the studied glaciers within the park could disappear between 2030 to 2080. In other words, Glacier National Park is losing its namesake feature. Of the glaciers that remain there now, Sperry, Grinnell and Gem glaciers are especially worth seeing--sooner as opposed to later.
Photo by Shutter Runner, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Home to narwhals, polar bears, fjords and glaciers, the natural landscape and native wildlife are two of the draws of the Arctic. Sadly, the countries falling within the Arctic are starting to see the effects of warming poles and melting ice. As some of the region's best attributes stand to be impacted by these changing conditions, now is as good a time as ever to head north. Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Sweden and Norway are a few of our favorite destinations for exploring the Arctic. Equal parts by land and by sea is the best recipe for truly experiencing it, which is why booking a cruise is ideal. There is no shortage of options, like Peregrin's Sea Adventure. The tour includes Greenland and Canada's fjords, icebergs and glaciers.
Photo by Mariusz kKuzniak, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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If you like the outdoors, you'll love all that Madagascar has to offer. The island nation is home to incredible wildlife and spectacular landscapes. Famous for its lemurs and baobab trees and home to rain forests, deserts, beaches and mountains, there's certainly no shortage of things to take in. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent is all that reportedly remains of Madagascar's original forests. The effects of deforestation pose a great risk to the country's diverse and robust plant and animal life, as well as its natural landscape. Short of traveling back in time, there's no time like the present to see Madagascar in all its natural glory. Don't miss the UNESCO World Heritage Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar's largest nature reserve. It's home to dramatic limestone plateaus, deciduous forest and a variety of wildlife, including orchids and baobabs, as well as chameleons and lemurs. The Avenue of the Baobabs is another must-see. The grove is one of the country's most-visited sites and, as the name implies, is home to a large grouping of baobab trees. Other bucket list-worthy sites includes Isalo, Andisbe and Ranomafana national parks. Getting around the island on your own is feasible, but by no means a breeze. If you're looking for easy travels, consider booking an organized tour, like the 1000 Views of Madagascar trip from On the Go Tours.
Photo by Mariusz kKuzniak, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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No stranger to bucket lists, the Great Barrier Reef includes nearly 3,000 individual reefs, hundreds of islands and covers some 133,000 square miles off Queensland, Australia. As the largest coral reef system in the world, it's a snorkeler and scuba diver's paradise. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to an impressive variety of marine life that, despite being protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, are being impacted negatively by human and environmental factors. Rising ocean temperatures due to global warming have led to mass coral bleaching and in some cases large stretches of coral dying off. In fact, studies have found that around 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching, which puts it at greater risk of dying. Despite these depressing facts, scuba diving and snorkeling are still widely possible in designated areas and glass-bottom boat cruises, along with helicopter tours of the reef will still succeed in taking your breath away.
Photo by FarbenfroheWunderwelt, CC BY-ND 2.0
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While sea levels are rising and coastlines are disappearing around the globe, the opposite is happening to the Dead Sea. Its waters are retreating at a considerably rapid rate due to the diversion of incoming water, excessive mineral extraction, as well as other environmental factors. Located between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, the Dead Sea is officially the world's deepest hypersaline lake and it also happens to be the planet's lowest elevation on land. It has been drawing crowds for millenniums in search of wellness, relaxation or simply the chance to float effortlessly in its dense, salty waters. More than 20 hotels and resorts line its coast and at present, some of the older resorts sit considerably far from the water. The surface level is dropping at a reported three or more feet per year. Despite its name, researchers don't believe the Dead Sea will ever fully disappear for a variety of reasons, including conveyance and stabilization efforts by its surrounding nations.
Photo by Christian Haugen, CC BY 2.0