Whether by the unforgiving hand of time or manmade destruction, some of the world's most beautiful monuments and natural wonders are disappearing. The Great Barrier Reef's coral is dying at a spectacular rate, Venice is sinking beneath its own waters and the Amazon rainforest continues to suffer deforestation. Conservationists are hard at work to preserve these spots, but the possibility they may vanish still looms. Here are eight other destinations that may not be there forever to witness while you still can.
Any "Sound of Music" fans will immediately recognize the Alps as the magnificent backdrop to Julie Andrews' opening number. These mountains are a seemingly indomitable part of the European landscape, but in reality global warming could forever change them. Rising temperatures are responsible for retreating glaciers across the globe, and the Alps are no exception. Experts predict glacial melt is progressing so quickly in the Alps that the mountain's glaciers could be completely gone by 2050, a startlingly close date. Ski resorts and mountain climbing draw visitors from all over the world, but winter sports aren't the only reason to visit the stunning peaks. The Alps are a stark reminder of the simultaneous strength and fragility of nature.
Bangladesh does not have a reputation as a go-to tourist spot, but it has so much to offer. For example, the Sundarbans are a rich ecosystem in southern Bangladesh holding one of the world's largest mangrove forests, which is spread across a series of islands. The Sundarbans are home to approximately 500 Bengal tigers, as well as a species of freshwater dolphins. There are strict laws in place to protect the ecosystem's rare species, but like so many other nations on the water, rising sea levels threaten to take the land. Come visit a country with gorgeous landscapes and, if you're lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare orange and black stripes amongst the mangroves.
The Dead Sea
The surface and shores of the Dead Sea – actually a salt lake – rest more than 1,000 feet below sea level. The lake is bordered by Israel, Palestine and Jordan, making the Jordan River the lake's primary inflow. The lake's salinity earns it the bleak name, as the high levels of salt in the water cannot support fish and aquatic plants. The land surrounding the Dead Sea, however, is very much alive. Hundreds of different species of birds fly overhead and the nearby mountains are home to foxes, ibex, leopards and more. The lake's beauty is being swallowed up by thousands of sinkholes appearing on its shores, some as deep as an eight-story building. Mineral mining at the lake and the diversion of water from the Jordan River are two of the main culprits for the Dead Sea's hastening demise.
Kiribati, also known as the "kiss of the Pacific," is another casualty of climate change. The small country is made up by a string of 33 coral islands in Oceania, and considering the land lays very close to sea level, the rapidly rising waters are a great concern for the nation. The Pacific Islanders living on Kiribati have difficulty getting access to fresh water and healthcare, and homes are crowded and already beginning to flood. If rising sea levels continue unchecked, the entire nation could be swallowed by the Pacific Ocean within just a few decades. Losing Kiribati would not only mean losing an achingly beautiful country, but also the displacement of thousands upon thousands of people. Visit for the white sand beaches, lagoons and the culture of the people living there, but know all of this could easily disappear within our lifetime.
The Maldives are subject to the same threat as Kiribati; rising sea levels threaten to overcome an entire country. The Maldives are a widely scattered country comprised of 1,100 islands in the Indian Ocean, and just a three-foot rise in sea levels could spell the end of them. Already the country is preparing for the possibility of a mass migration of its 350,000 people to another country, likely Australia. Today, the Maldives does a brisk tourist business, with sandy beaches and impossibly blue waters beckoning people from all over the world. Though time may seem to stand still at this picture-perfect destination, its people may soon have to uproot their entire lives.
A mere fifth of the Everglades are protected as a U.S. national park, meaning the rest of North America's largest subtropical wetland is in peril. Already, the Everglades are half the size they were 100 years ago, as human development, pollution and the damage done by nonnative species continues to distress this World Heritage site. The Everglades are home to numerous threatened or endangered species, including the Florida panther and American alligator. These animals will almost certainly vanish if their environment continues to be eaten away, piece by piece. If you visit the park, you can explore miles of hiking trails, kayak through its waterways, watch for the hundreds of different bird species and more, all against the backdrop of a beautiful ecosystem with an uncertain future.
Tikal National Park
Tikal, the capital of Mayan Civilization, stands in modern day Guatemala. The six imposing stone Tikal Temples rise high above the surrounding rainforest, with Temple IV at an astonishing 212 feet. And these temples have largely stood the test of time. Mayan civilization was at its pinnacle thousands of years ago, yet their temples remain as a testament to their culture. But the soft limestone is not immune from the effects of weather, as wind and rain are slowly eroding these monumental structures. To make matters worse, many tourists are not satisfied with coming just for a glimpse into the past, as some are leaving with small pieces of the temple in hand. The combination of natural forces and sticky-fingered visitors could cause these iconic pyramids to crumble over time.
Many of us probably base our knowledge of Madagascar on the series of movies featuring the escapades of adorably animated animals, but there's so much more to the country. Madagascar – the fourth largest island in the world – is truly unique. The majority of the country's wildlife – 95% of its reptiles, 92% of its mammals and 89% of its plants – can be found nowhere else on earth. The island, roughly the size of Texas, has tropical, temperate and arid climates with ecosystems ranging from mangrove swaps and rainforests to deserts and plateaus. The island's forests, and their inhabitants, are threatened by logging, poaching and slash-and-burn farming techniques. Come to the country to stand witness to species that may not survive long enough to be targeted for conservation projects.