It’s always good to see a major news outlet wake people out of their slumber and shake them up a bit. Newsweek just did a cover story on “The 7 Most Endandered Wonders of the World,” complete with an enticing picture of Machu Picchu on the cover. The danger is not just from too many visitors, though that’s a big part of it. Global warming is affecting a whole lot of places, from Antartica to the Maldives to Kilamanjaro.
I’m not sure I like their premise though–that everyone should rush there now to see them before it’s too late. That seems a bit selfish and short-sighted. Plus huge crowds are the main reason people are disappointed in a hyped-up place upon arrival. You don’t see a picture of Machu Picchu with a thousand people crawling around, or one of the Great Pyramids with a hundred touts and vendors hassling everyone to death. That’s reality though, and thankfully Newsweek at least included some photos like this inside, like the one of a wall-to-wall crowd at the Great Wall.
Perhaps the real solution is to get people to put away the checklists and start going beyond the main tourist attractions. There’s plenty to see in the Czech Republic outside Prague. There are plenty of Mayan ruins beyond Chichen Itza and Tikal. There is no shortage of mountains to climb besides Kilimanjaro–and the views are better. Branch out and discover your own places beyond the first tier and you’ll probably find you like them more in the end. It’s hard for the famous places to live up to the hype when you’re jostling with hundreds of other tourists and guides are droning on with their spiel.
By the way, Newsweek goofed on the “7 Most Endangered” slide show on the web site. The Inca Trail is capped at 500 per day, not the archeological site. For an in-depth piece I wrote for Transitions Abroad on Saving Machu Picchu, click here.
One of the seven mentioned was the Coral Triangle of Indonesia. For an article by Jeff Greenwald on some man-made ingenuity that’s helping regrow the reefs, go to this Perceptive Travel article