Endangered Destinations 2011

Ten destinations that are on our critical list and what you can do to save them

6 mins

Rampant development. Government greed. Uncontrolled visitor numbers. From the national parks of Africa to the ancient cities of Asia, some of the world's most iconic destinations are under threat. Even a worldwide recession doesn't seem to have dampened our desire to tramp – in numbers – to the far corners of the world. Even when the intentions are good, like with the Three Peaks Challenge, the consequences can be dire.

It's not just emerging destinations like the Çoruh River in Turkey and the Wadi Rum in Jordan that are in danger. Sometimes old favourites lose their way too. New York City isn't going to fall off the travel radar any time soon, but with the introduction of minivans to replace its iconic cabs is it in danger of losing its soul? And isn't it the soul of a place that we search for as travellers, and that we cherish when we return?

Three Peaks Challenge, UK

Their intentions are good – but are charity walkers ruining Britain’s countryside for everyone? 

The challenge to ascend the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland within 24 hours, often for charity, has become hugely popular. But in their rush to reach the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, some participants leave litter, drive dangerously, disturb local residents’ sleep and contribute little to local communities. Hills and verges have become scarred by hikers, streams are polluted and repairs to the pathways are costing the authorities thousands. 

Borough Market, UK

All is not Ian Bell at London’s premier foodie market

Visitors have swelled to 4.5 million a year and many tourists come purely to take pictures rather than spend money. In addition, major development work as part of the Thameslink Project is destroying the historic face of the market. 

Read what Peter Wilkinson, chairman of the Borough Market Trustees, has
to say about the criticisms levelled at the Borough Market

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Unesco’s latest gem is getting too popular for its own good 

Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in June 2011, Jordan’s Wadi Rum valley has become an increasingly popular tourist spot but limited infrastructure has led to a lack of environmental protection. 

Matthew Teller reveals more detailed analysis on the situation in Wadi Rum

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Is a gorilla worth more than a barrel of oil?

Africa’s oldest national park – home to more than one-fifth of the world’s 700 critically endangered mountain gorillas – is at risk from armed militia, local politicians and proposed oil drilling. 

Riga, Latvia

Quaint town centre echoes to the sound of barfing Brits

Hordes of rowdy British stags and hens descend on the World Heritage Site of Riga’s city centre every weekend and are destroying the atmosphere of the historic centre. 

Çoruh River, Turkey

You can’t go whitewater rafting without any water

The river is a white-water kayaking destination but water-sports-lovers can no longer navigate the entire river without portaging around two hydroelectric dams, with 11 more due to be constructed. The wildlife rich area surrounding the river would be dramatically changed by the plan. 

Beijing hutongs, China

The last remnants of ancient Beijing are under threat – again

Beijing’s hutongs, the old alleys of courtyard houses that have been part of the city’s fabric since 1279, are disappearing at an alarming rate due to unchecked development. 

Jasper Becker, author of City of Heavenly Tranquility, about what the future holds for Beijing's hutongs

Lamu, Kenya

Swahili’s sleepy gem could be about to get a bit grubby

Ancient dhows traversing the sleepy straits between Lamu and the Kenyan mainland could soon be jostling with cargo ships and oil tankers if the planned £16 million development turning Lamu into Kenya's second biggest deepwater harbour goes ahead. 

More detailed analysis with author Richard Trillo on the Lamu Port Corridor proposal


The world’s Garden of Eden is heading for an epic fall

The African island’s unique fauna is under unprecedented threat from civil unrest, corruption and the overexploitation of resources. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has declared the Malagasy ecosystem one of the most threatened in the world. 

New York, USA

America’s most iconic city is shedding its own icons at an alarming rate

America’s most iconic city is shedding its own icons at an alarming rate: its world-famous yellow cabs are being replaced by minivans, and the Statue of Liberty is now a less popular photo opportunity for visitors than the Apple Store on 5th Avenue. 

New York-born travel writer Doug Lansky reveals what New Yorkers make of the changes

More like this

Threatened Wonders 2010 | Destinations... More

Related Articles