Do you feel like getting lost in the backstreets of Venice, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or skiing in the Alps? If so, don’t hang around – tourist hordes have put these much-loved sites and many others at risk.
These places have existed for hundreds of years, so surely they’ll be there for hundreds more? Not necessarily: from tidal erosion and water pollution to excessive energy use, tourism has damaged some of the most “enduring” and popular holiday places. Holiday Lettings rounds up the iconic destinations in danger of being loved to death.
We heart: Venice
This Canaletto-induced clichÉ never fails to work its Casanovaesque charms. From eighteenth-century Grand Tourists to twenty-first century mini-breakers, we all lose our hearts to this beautiful, floating cityscape. Who could forget watching the sun rise over the lagoon, or indeed, being serenaded by a stripy-shirted gondolier?
Venice has, though, rapidly become one of the world’s most important cruise destinations: one in three of all cruises stop-off here. In fact, 650 cruises and 1.8 million passengers now pass through every year. This alone generates 30% of the city’s air pollution, as well as tides that erode building foundations and pollute waterways.
We heart: The Alps
Frankenstein, Heidi and The Sound of Music – three classics, one immortal landscape. The Alps have long been celebrated in works of art, literature and cinema. (Sing-alongs are entirely optional, though we think trying the fondue should be compulsory.)
Tourists have, though, had an impact on even these mountains. Due to global warming, Mont Blanc has already shrunk over 45 centimetres, and the region’s annual snowfall has declined.
Ironically, many local ski resorts have had to create fake snow for skiers, increasing their energy use and so further contributing to the problem.
We heart: The Great Barrier Reef
2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands that stretch over 1400 miles: this is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms, and the only living thing on earth visible from space - but for how much longer?
Sunscreen may protect travelers, but it’s threatening this natural wonder. The chemicals, such as paraben, in many popular sunscreens cause viruses in algae which live within the coral reef. The viruses multiply until the algae bursts, contaminating the ocean and infecting local coral communities. Without the algae, coral whitens and dies.
We heart: Machu Picchu, Amazon Rainforest
Since explorer Hiram Bingham uncovered it in 1911, we've felt the mystical, cosmic draw of this 550-year old citadel in the subtropical forest setting. It’s a mysterious, sacred site – now complete with a helicopter landing zone.
Have the 5,000 clambering tourists who visit every day damaged this site more than the Spanish Conquistadores? A 112-kilometer railway line from San Pedro in Cusco to the highest point of the Picchu mountain, El Arco, certainly allows easy access, but damages the local environment.
We heart: Taj Mahal
This is at once the epitome of Mughal art, a global architectural icon and a timeless memorial to love. The legendary white marble catches pink at dawn, picks up a fiery glow as the sun sets and sparkles silver in moonlight. Who could fail to be touched by this tribute from an Emperor to his wife?
Yet stilettos are doing what 350 years of wars, invasions and natural disasters have failed to do and have begun to damage the monument: marble and sandstone are eroding in many places. Excessive footfall, particularly from high heels, makes the sandstone flake. This results in depression, leading to water accumulation and chipping. It also makes marble slippery.
(written by Felicity Howlett of Holidaylettings.co.uk)