As the planet warms and sea levels rise, many places that we take for granted could become just stories and pictures in history books—as soon as within the next decade.
Because of that, it can feel like a race against time, to see and experience some of the most beautiful travel destinations and natural phenomena on Earth. Don't let procrastination get the better of you and leave them just collecting dust in your bucket list. It’s time to pack your bags and head to these amazing destinations before it’s too late.
1. Venice, Italy
Venice, the famous Italian “floating city”, may sink completely by the year 2100. In the last century, the city has already sunk 15cm, accelerated by groundwater extraction and rising sea levels. As it is, the rising sea levels has been managed by building sea walls separating the corner of the country from the Adriatic Sea.
At its peak in 2019, Venice was welcoming 4.8 million international tourists, flocking to absorb the city before it’s too late.
The city is hailed as an engineering wonder–it spans across 117 small islands, connected by its world-famous canals and magnificent bridges.
Here, you can enjoy the peaceful sights of one of the oldest tourism and cultural hubs on the planet in a romantic ride down Venice’s Grand Canal in an authentic gondola. The city can also be explored on foot, specifically areas like its historic centre which is pedestrian-only.
It is also known for its beautiful architecture and intricately-designed cathedrals like St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
Venice is also the capital of the art of glass-blowing. Head to Murano Island to catch a demonstration and maybe even buy a couple pieces of unique Murano glass pieces for yourself.
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The low-lying, coastal country of the Netherlands is one of the countries most threatened by climate change. While the country has developed an elaborate strategy for flood-prevention, rapidly rising sea levels may swallow the western area of the country–which includes Amsterdam–by 2030.
A visit to the Netherlands is never complete without a tour of Amsterdam, the country’s capital, well-known for its picturesque canals, unique architecture, and exciting nightlife. Spend a day indulging in the city’s rich arts and culture by going museum-hopping in the most museum-dense city in the world. One of Amsterdam’s most famous museums includes the Van Gogh Museum, which holds the largest collection of some of the Dutch artist’s paintings, letters and drawings.
Or drift along the canals on a relaxing boat ride to admire the colourful and quirky houses that line the street. Try to catch a glimpse of the famous Anne Frank House, a biographical museum dedicated to the famous Holocaust diarist.
3. The Dead Sea, Jordan and Israel
The Dead Sea, a salt lake bordering Jordan and Israel, is drying up because of overexploitation through mineral mining and climate change. Its water level is dropping about 1.2 metres every year and in the last half a century, has lost two-thirds of its surface area.
The Dead Sea is one of Earth’s most fascinating natural phenomena. Its glistening turquoise waters hold 10 times more salt content than ordinary seawater, and as a result, cannot sustain any life in its waters.
It's the world’s most natural spa. Both tourists and locals flock to it for its healing properties–it’s said that its mud can treat skin conditions and that its salt can treat illnesses like osteoporosis and arthritis.
Experience zero-gravity on Earth on the surface of the Dead Sea, thanks to its powerful natural buoyancy. It’s the perfect place to let the calming water wash all stress and fatigue out of your body as you float weightlessly.
The Maldives is an independent country consisting of low-lying islands, located in the north-central part of the Indian Ocean. Rising sea levels threaten to swallow the country and experts predict that 80% of Maldives may be uninhabitable by 2050. The loss of the Maldives means we say goodbye to its white, sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and diverse marine life.
Grab your sunglasses and swimwear and take a dive into the waters of Banana Reef to catch a precious glimpse of the local colourful corals and fish before you lose your chance. The tropical paradise is the perfect destination for a summer getaway. For active travellers, make sure not to miss out on the myriad of water sport activities such as jet-skiing, scuba diving, snorkelling and canoeing.
But if what you're looking for is a laid-back holiday, Maldives is also home to numerous resorts where you can sit back on sun-kissed beaches and unwind with spas and massages.
5. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the largest and diverse coral reef system in the world. But because of rising temperatures, it has lost half of its coral cover in the last 30 years. If damage continues at this rate, the Great Barrier Reef could be completely gone by 2050.
The whole area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich biodiversity and scientific and historical significance. It’s home to many endemic species, like the humpback whale, and dugong (sea cow), which may be lost together with the reef.
Fully experience the millenia-old reefs and vibrant marine life by diving or snorkelling in its beautiful waters, or take a bird’s eye view by opting for an air tour.
The reef stretches from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in the north all the way down to Bundaberg, so tours of the reef are usually easily available from the city of Cairn or Whitsundays.
6. Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland
The Ilulissat Icefjord is a long, narrow inlet with cliffs on its sides, created by the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, found along the west coast of Greenland. As the planet warms, the fjord may become a phenomenon of the past.
The Ilulissat Icefjord is a spectacle because of the glacier’s speed. The Sermeq Kujalleq glacier travels almost 40 metres in a day, and creates massive icebergs, sometimes the size of a skyscraper, visible from the town of Ilulissat.
See the towering heights of ice up close by booking a kayak or boat tour, or you can even hike and explore the fjord yourself along a wooden boardwalk. For a glimpse of the magnificent fjord in all its glory, take to the air in a scenic flight of the area.
Ilulissat lies on the shoreline of Disko Bay, a whale-watching hub. Complete the full Greenland experience by opting for a day tour to catch sight of minke, fin and humpback whales.
There is also an occasional sighting of blue whales and killer whales. These tours are usually only available during the summer months, so plan your trip accordingly!
7. The Sundarbans, Bangladesh and India
The Sundarbans are one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, extending across the coasts of India and Bangladesh. But as water levels rise, its islands are slowly being swallowed into the Indian Ocean.
This is another UNESCO World Heritage site, protected for its endangered wildlife. The beautiful forest is home to the Bengal tiger and the Indian python, and a must-visit for nature-lovers.
Get in touch with Mother Nature again by visiting the watchtowers found in the Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, or explore it up close via the various hiking trails.
One such watchtower is the Burir Dabri watchtower, found on the Raimangal River. Take a scenic walk over the mangrove on a canopy walk.
Cover more land by choosing a boat tour by local guides, and keep your eyes peeled for various wildlife. The sanctuary even allows night safaris, to see the mangrove in a whole new light.
Time is ticking. Every year, these travel destinations, and countless others globally, are at danger of disappearing from the face of the Earth completely. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to book that flight, the time is now.
And while we can still enjoy these sights and wonders of the world in our lifetime, there’s more we can do as sustainable travellers to preserve their beauty for future generations.
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