In our last blog post, we shared some advice on the art of writing your adventure travel bucket list – how to find inspiration for where to travel, how to organise your list, and how to make it happen. One of the aspects we covered in the post was deciding which order to actually start ticking your bucket list off in. And, whilst there are many elements to take into account when planning your travels, there is one factor that we felt we had to explore in more detail: bucket list destinations that you should visit before it’s too late.
Because, unfortunately, some of the most amazing places in the world are changing – and not always for the better. Some of the destinations that are main features on your bucket list could well be under threat because of global warming or human interference.
So, which wonders of the world do you need to tick off your travel bucket list while they’re still at their best? And what can we do to help them remain that way? Keep reading to find out…
Machu Picchu, Peru
Unless you’ve been following recent travel news, the first destination on this list might come as a bit of a surprise to you. Indeed, Machu Picchu itself isn’t going anywhere (thankfully!) – contrary to rumours, the site is not closing, and there are no plans for it to do so. So, why should you visit Machu Picchu now rather than later?
Many travellers who have experienced the magical atmosphere of Machu Picchu are recommending others to visit as soon as they can because the Peruvian government is currently in the process of building a new international airport at Chinchero, on the road to Aguas Calientes and the ruins themselves.
Currently, the nearest airport to Machu Picchu is in Cusco itself, but it only accommodates small aircraft such as domestic flights to and from Lima. However, the new airport will serve larger planes arriving from all over South America and even direct from the U.S. The plans set the new Chinchero facility to open in 2023.
The main concerns for travellers who want to tick Machu Picchu off their bucket list are air and noise pollution from low-flying planes passing over Ollantaytambo archaeological park. Visitors to the Sacred Valley cherish the remote feel of the area, and the walk up to the ruins provides a unique opportunity to connect with the landscape and history of this very special place. With aeroplanes whirring overhead, many feel that this experience will be altered.
On the other hand, it is clear that the Peruvian government are putting measures into place to avoid overcrowding and to preserve the ancient site. There is a cap of 500 people per day allowed to begin the Inca Trail, for example, and plastic bottles have also been banned at the site to reduce litter. These are all positive steps, but it remains to be seen how the new airport might impact this ancient site.
Supporters of the airport say that it will increase accessibility to the ruins, because those who can’t hike to the site will be able to take a short train ride to reach Machu Picchu. This is great, but we hope that those who are physically able to partake in the trek to Machu Picchu will continue to do so. Popping in and out of the ruins in a day, without seeing any of the surrounding landscape or encountering the unique culture of Peru, is just not the same experience.
That’s why, for us, any trip to Machu Picchu will always be about the journey – from exploring the country’s unique cities, to trekking through remote mountains, meeting local people and their alpacas and, finally, seeing the awe-inspiring site of Machu Picchu. But still, if you want to avoid the side-effects that the new airport could bring, it’s better to get this trip booked in sooner rather than later!
How to help: To put it simply, the best way to help keep Machu Picchu sacred is to avoid using this new airport! Help to maintain the beauty and intrigue of the Sacred Valley by reaching Machu Picchu on foot, either on the Inca Trail, Lares trek or Salkantay trek. This way, you will not contribute to the pollution that comes with the airport, and you will also support local people working in tourism. Not to mention you’ll see much more of the beautiful landscapes and culture along the way!
The Dead Sea, Jordan
One wonder of the world that is disappearing, though – and at a frankly alarming rate – is the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth, at -430 metres below sea level. It is also the saltiest body of water in the world – ten times saltier than the ocean. This causes a phenomenon that attracts visitors from far and wide, whereby you can actually float in its buoyant waters.
The Dead Sea is definitely bucket list material, whether because of this novelty experience, for its striking salt deposits in contrast with turquoise waters, or for the medicinal properties of its salts and mud. It truly is an other-worldly and enchanting landscape, and deserves its status as one of the wonders of the world that everyone should visit in their lifetime.
However, it is shrinking – and fast. In 1950, the Dead Sea was around 50 miles long. Today, it is only 30 miles long. Its water level drops at a rate of around 4 feet per year, and its total area has shrunk by around 1/3 over the past 40 years. Today, formerly beachside restaurants sit almost a mile from the shore. As you can see in this interactive map by Haaretz, the scale of the changes are quite striking.
When we visited Jordan to test out a new Bucket List trip in June, we saw this for ourselves. At the hotel where we were staying, placards were placed on the route down to the beach indicating where the water level used to reach. It was pretty shocking how far the sea has retreated in just a matter of years.
But why is this? Well, the main reason is because of human interference. The Jordan River is the sole source of the Dead Sea, and its waters are being redirected, primarily by the Israeli government, who in the 1950s built a dam across the southern section of the Sea of Galilee to restrict the volume of water flowing into Jordan – and the Dead Sea itself. This is not only pulling water away from the Dead Sea, but also limits Jordan’s access to a water supply, making it one of the most water-poor countries in the world – even though it should have plenty of it!
The disappearance of the Dead Sea is having various impacts on the environment and the people who rely on it. Thousands of sinkholes have formed around the shore, which form when the underground salt deposits left as the Sea retreats either collapse or dissolve when fresh water seeps underground and causes the ground above to give way. The craters can reach up to 100 metres across and 50 metres deep. Luckily, we didn’t come across any of these in Jordan – geologists can now predict where they will develop pretty accurately – but it is not good for the local people who make their livings off the surrounding land.
Right now, the Dead Sea is still a unique and wonderful destination to visit, and still earns its place on many a travel bucket list. Many scientists say that the Sea retreats and returns naturally, and that it actually has the ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere when it reaches a certain low point – so it is unlikely that the Dead Sea will disappear entirely. However, if you want to experience it in all its glory, you should get there now!
How to help: Whilst the diversion and exploitation of the Jordan River is by far the biggest cause of the disappearance of the Dead Sea, there are a few other contributing factors that individuals can help mitigate. For example, the demand for “Dead Sea salt” products is encouraging the depletion of the Sea’s resources, so avoiding these products may help. If you do end up being lucky enough to visit the Dead Sea, avoid the temptation to take any mud or salt back with you. Hotel staff assisting visitors at the beach may well tell you that they can fill a bottle with mud for you and it’s perfectly fine – but it’s still removing natural resources – and isn’t allowed through airports, anyway!
If the Dead Sea is at the top of your bucket list, don’t worry, we’ll be revealing a trip to help tick it off very soon! Keep an eye on our Trailblazers page over the next few weeks to be the first to find out!
Madagascar – it’s one of those places that we all dream of visiting for its pure and untouched natural beauty. But is it actually that untouched? Sadly not.
Over the course of the past few centuries, around 80 per cent of Madagascar’s rainforests are thought to have disappeared. Well, they haven’t disappeared, actually, they’ve been destroyed by logging, poaching and deforestation for agricultural land. Whereas the forest was once 120,000 square miles of pristine wilderness, now only 20,000 square miles remains. If this continues at the same rate it has been doing, Madagascar’s unique rainforests could be gone in under 35 years.
This level of deforestation is a massive environmental issue in any part of the world, causing the loss of habitats and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees. However, in the case of Madagascar, it’s devastating.
This is because Madagascar is a truly unmatched destination for wildlife. Over 80 per cent of Madagascar’s flora fauna are found nowhere else on Earth. It is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and is home to thousands upon thousands of endemic species, from colour-changing panther chameleons, to curious aye-ayes and Darwin’s black spiders, which produce silk that is – amazingly – 10 times stronger than Kevlar!
The nature of Madagascar is not only unique, it’s ancient. In fact, the iconic Baobab trees that cover the island and grow up to 35 metres high can be up to 1,000 years old!
So, it is clearly of the utmost importance that what remains of Madagascar’s rainforests are protected at all costs. Today, Madagascar remains an utterly phenomenal bucket list destination. The island boasts 5000 kilometres of spectacular azure coastline, with vibrant coral reefs that are home to fascinating marine life. It also has twenty three special reserves, eighteen national parks, six nature reserves, five marine reserves and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That’s a lot of bucket list material in one place!
Not only this, but the culture of the island is also completely unique, and incredibly dynamic. In Madagascar, there are eighteen different ethnic groups, from the indigeneous Africans and Polynesians to Arabic groups, Indians and Europeans. The result is a brilliantly multicultural country, which you can experience everywhere from Madagascan music to its delicious food.
There is so much that makes Madagascar worth preserving. Visit now and you can raft down the narrow gorges of the Tsirbihina River and hike through the rainforest in Ranomafana Park to see incredible creatures, gushing rivers and stunning waterfalls. But, whilst efforts are being made by international conservation bodies to protect Madagascar’s natural bounty, it’s still highly advisable to visit now to see this paradise whilst you can.
How to help: There are a few ways that individuals can help to prevent further destruction of Madagascar’s rainforests. The most obvious way is to donate to reforestation projects, such as the Rainforest Trust’s Saving the Lost Forest of Madagascar fund. You can also avoid purchasing items made of out precious woods logged in Madagascar. If you have the good fortune of visiting the island, the best way to support conservation efforts is to book activities with ethical and reputable organisations, as well as supporting local communities by buying handicrafts and visiting family-owned restaurants.
Keep an eye on our Trailblazers page over the next few months to see how you could experience the wonderful world of Madagascar while it’s still thriving.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Every time we take Bucketlisters on the Everest Base Camp trek, they are absolutely beside themselves at the raw and spectacular beauty of the world’s highest mountain and its Himalayan home. However, lately, a less pure and untouched side of Everest has been causing quite a stir among travellers, mountaineers and environmentalists alike.
Over the past couple of years, Everest’s rubbish problem has become big news. The Everest Summiteers Association estimates that there is currently around 90 tonnes of rubbish on Mount Everest itself, not taking into account the litter on the trails leading to Base Camp. Since the issue came into public consciousness, many people have been working to improve the situation – in Nepal, volunteers have picked up around 6,600 pounds of rubbish since April this year, from tents to plastic.
In fact, the issue has got to such a stage that the Chinese government have actually put rules into place limiting the numbers of climbers allowed to scale Everest’s north side by a third – capping expeditions at 300 people in 2019. Currently, Nepal has no such rule, but requires every Everest climber to pay a refundable deposit of $4,000, which they receive back only if they bring down at least 17.6 pounds of rubbish from the mountain.
In a bid to combat the problem, China has set up initiatives to sort, recycle and break down the rubbish on their side, whereas in Nepal, organisers have started sending bags up with climbers in the spring season, allowing them to collect litter from the mountain and then carry them back to Base Camp via helicopter. As The Independent reports, “in 2018, porters carried down 14 tons of waste from base camp and other locations.” However, this is still not ideal, because all of the biodegradable waste was emptied into pits on a frozen lake bed near Gorakshep village.
Of course, the main problem is on the slopes of Everest itself, where it is very difficult to take rubbish down. Base Camp and the trails leading to it are comparatively clean, but waste management is still tricky.
Still, if we are to prevent any more limitations from being put into place, everyone who visits this spectacular natural wonder must do their bit to tackle the litter problem around Everest. And, if you want to see the roof of the world in person before any other regulations are proposed, now is the time to do so!
How to help: The best way that hikers can ensure that the trails around Everest are kept open is to be responsible travellers when they trek to Everest Base Camp. Take any rubbish you create back down the trail with you, and when this isn’t possible, use only the bins provided in teahouses. We also advise you to use reusable water bottles to reduce the presence of single-use plastic on the trail. The cleaner the Everest region is kept, the more people can enjoy it.
Finally, we have a bucket list destination that we all know is under real threat from global warming – the Arctic.
You’ve probably heard the stats about the disappearance of Arctic sea ice – it’s been a topic of conversation for years, and one that has fortunately been brought back to public attention since the movements of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the likes.
The Arctic is warming at twice the speed of the rest of the world. As Bloomberg reports, “Ice flows are melting faster than average rates observed over the last three decades, losing an additional 20,000 square kilometers (12,427 miles) of cover per day — an area about the size of Wales.”
All of this is unlikely to be new information for any of our readers, and we’re certainly not advocating that tourism is the way to solve the problem – but awareness certainly helps to push us to act. And those of us who do wish to visit the Arctic in our lifetimes will know that it is worth putting in the work to protect this wonderful and irreplacable environment.
The Arctic is not only an important regulator of sea levels and water temperatures, it is also a stunning and unique part of the world in its own right. Here, one can encounter wildlife you can find nowhere else, from polar bears to narwhal, reindeer to Arctic foxes. As sea ice depletes, this affects the whole food chain of the Arctic. This is because it stimulates the formation of ice brine, which feeds zooplankton, which in turn feeds larger animals.
Of course, the Arctic is also the home of countless unique cultures, such as the Inuit peoples with their own systems of belief and ways of life in some of the most remote and challenging landscapes in the world. Even the small towns such as Longyearbyen, Norway, which we visit on our husky sledding trips, have a special history and support communities that thrive in these wintery conditons.
It is also an incredible destination for winter sports, from snowmobiling to husky sledding, and attracts visitors from all around the world who want to take in its breathtaking expanses of white wilderness. But, with the Arctic melting at its current rate, it cannot be denied that you would be best advised to get there while you can to see it in all of its snowy glory.
How to help: Unfortunately, the melting of the Arctic is a pretty large-scale problem caused by global warming as a whole. Because of this, the best thing individuals can do to support its conservation is to reduce their carbon footprint, consume in the ‘greenest’ way possible, and lobby big corporations to cut carbon emissions. Of course, buying handicrafts and engaging with the community is also a great way to understand and support to local cultures if you do get the chance to visit this remote part of the world. And when you get home from an amazing week dog sledding in Svalbard, don’t forget to tell everyone you know how special the Arctic is, and how important it is that we all work together to protect it!
These are just a few of the bucket list destinations around the world that are rapidly changing under global warming, capitalism and the other challenges of our time. Whilst there are many groups of people trying to protect these wonders of the world, it is still a case and point that we should all take every opportunity we get to go out and explore them, while we can!
For more information on the trips we run to these amazing locations and many more, click here or contact us today on 01769 309 007.