The black rhino, Sumatran tiger and leatherback turtle aren’t the only wonderful things in the world at critical risk for extinction. Some of the world’s most incredible places to visit are also on the endangered list. The National Trust for Historic Preservation released its most-endangered historic places in the country this summer, and others are more speculative, based on trends, the location or other risk factors.
Although you can find skeptics and people on all sides of the argument, some saying there may be no real reason to worry, these spots are all undoubtedly fragile–and they’re all changing.
Here are 10 of the most incredible places around the world that you won’t believe may be going, going and some day gone. See these sites today, while you still can.
Machu Picchu in the clouds — Photo courtesy of Flickr user magickevin
Peru’s Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is not only awe-inspiring to look at, but it’s historically important. But part of what makes this 15th-century Inca citadel so interesting is its location: in a ridge between two fault lines. The location on an earthquake hot spot has some concerned, while the World Monuments Fund also placed the site on an endangered watch list due to the harsh impacts of tourism and development.
The Great Barrier Reef — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Toogood
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
This impressive reef is one of the world’s most beloved snorkeling spots, but acid in the water from pollution and carbon dioxide is affecting the symbiotic algae on the coral. Half of the reef has already vanished over the past 30 years. Add that to development and the potential for oil and gas exploration in the area, and the Great Barrier Reef may continue to suffer under the strain.
Glacier National Park — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Christopher Michel
Montana’s Glacier National Park
Few people dispute global warming these days, and the melting of the glaciers is evident at Glacier National Park, one of the nation’s most popular national parks. Close to 150 original glaciers have faded into a mere 25, and some climate experts fear all of the major glaciers could be gone in the next 15 years.
A view of Kilimanjaro — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Stig Nygaard
Kilimanjaro’s ice cap
Warmer temps strike again. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain and one of the esteemed Seven Summits (the tallest mountains on each continent), has lost a large amount of its ice cap in the last 100 years. Climate experts predict the ice could be nonexistent in 20 more years, which would erase one of world’s most famous landmarks.
The Constance Halaveli Resort & Spa in the Maldives — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mac Qin
The Maldives is a beach-lover and luxury traveler’s paradise, with ample water activities, top-notch resorts and beautiful beaches. It’s also only four feet above sea level, on average. Some climate experts are concerned about the rising ocean levels, estimating it could sink the entire chain of islands in less than a century.
The Alps — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Inga Vitola
One of Europe’s most beloved spots for skiing and hiking is feeling the heat from global warming. Climate experts have noticed the Alps warming at a quicker rate than the European average, which may put the ice and glaciers at risk–and with that, a large amount of Europe’s fresh water supply. The Alps may not always be ski-able.
The Dead Sea — Photo courtesy of Flickr user tsaiproject
Israel’s Dead Sea
The Dead Sea has long been visited for its saline water and mineral-rich mud, touted for its health benefits. But the Dead Sea is shrinking. It has already shriveled up by more than a third, due to evaporation and a diversion of the Jordan River. As it continues to lose more than three feet per year, some fear it could be dried up in 50 years. As it dries up, it has left behind hundreds of dangerous sinkholes.
The Venice canals — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Trish Hartmann
It’s hard to imagine a vacation to Italy without the Venice canals, but they are actually rising, as the entire city sinks, causing flooding. Venice has been slowly sinking for many years, but as it worsens, some residents are moving inland. The city has plans to try to save itself, but some experts worry Venice could be uninhabitable in less than 100 years.
The Taj Mahal — Photo courtesy of Flickr user Steve Jurvetson
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, one of India's most spectacular landmarks, has survived hundreds of years, but modern pollution may be too much for the famous building to stand. As acid rain has been hard on the marble exterior, the building is already looking shabbier, and some fear the Taj may have to close down some day.
The Grand Canyon — Photo courtesy of Flickr user photophilde
The Grand Canyon
The famous canyon is the most recent addition to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the nation. The concern: development proposals that could include mining or resorts. Ironically, the very resorts designed to attract visitors could ultimately put the canyon at risk for irreparable damage.