You’ll always have the Eiffel Tower in Paris and London’s Buckingham Palace. But these days it’s harder than ever to find places untouched by civilization. From the jungles of Thailand to the Amazon rain forest and other places threatened by political, economic, cultural or environmental degradation, we’ve compiled a list of must-visit places.
Hong Kong. This bustling city of neon lights and Asian financial markets was a British Colony until five years ago, when it was handed back to the Chinese government. British policies and cultural influences are now being overturned by the Chinese, which could make Hong Kong a drastically different place politically, socially and economically over the next decade.
Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Over 2,000 years ago, the Tarahumara Indians settled in this vast system of mountains, valleys and chasms, four of which are deeper than the Grand Canyon. Each year, hundreds of acres of the Canyon’s vast pine and oak forests are felled, and roads, hotels and tour companies are encroaching. Visit Copper Canyon on foot, horseback or burro now before the region’s beauty and cultural heritage are lost forever.
Vietnam. After 50 years of ongoing distrust and animosity between the United States and Vietnam, the two countries have reached a trade agreement and Vietnam is slowly opening its doors to the US and the rest of the world as a travel destination. Visit this lush, beautiful and culturally rich country and dispel any pre-conceived notions.
The Florida Everglades. While Florida is well known for its expansive beaches and nightlife, there’s more to this destination than meets the eye. In the southern part of the state, urban growth, runoff from fertilizers and a drop in water levels are taking their toll on Florida’s Everglades swamp system. We recommend that travelers explore the Everglade’s unique ecosystem on a kayak.
Katmai National Park, Alaska. Increased bear-human interaction resulting from a boom in visitors to the park has led park authorities to re-locate bear-viewing platforms. There’s no time like the present to enjoy the wildlife of Katmai by traveling in small groups with a naturalist guide as a way to practice sustainable eco-tourism.
Vanishing Treasures of Italy. Two of Italy’s most popular destinations, Venice and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, are both at risk of succumbing to the forces of gravity. In Pisa, the leaning tower is doing more than leaning — it’s actually crumbling. And Venice has been at risk of sinking into the sea for years; Dutch experts have been called in to try to help save the city. These two spots are must-sees.
The Amazon. Deforestation and depletion of natural resources are taking their toll on the Amazon River basin in Brazil. Birds and other wildlife are losing habitat, and runoff is polluting the massive waterway and its tributaries. Visit this natural treasure while staying in an eco-lodge that adheres to sustainable tourism practices.
Indigenous Cultures of New Guinea. As the world truly becomes a global village and the earth’s population increasingly tunes in to the same television programs, the rich diversity of indigenous cultures, such as the Asmat of Papua New Guinea, is at risk of being eliminated. Embark on a cultural odyssey to learn about the Asmat and other unique indigenous cultures in Papua New Guinea.
Northern Thailand. As is the case in so many Pacific and Asian countries, the time to visit Thailand’s hill tribes is right now. As western influences penetrate and dilute the rich cultural traditions of tribes like the Karen Padaung, whose women elongate their necks by wearing gold rings around them, ancient traditions and lore are being lost. Don’t wait to go visit!