Culture Travel 15 Travel Destinations Being Ruined by Tourism By Bryan Nelson Writer SUNY Oswego University of Houston Bryan Nelson is a science writer and award-winning documentary filmmaker with over a decade of experience covering technology, astronomy, medicine, and more. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Bryan Nelson Updated November 29, 2019 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Culture History Travel Sustainable Fashion Art & Media Holidays Community Treading lightly Photo: Song_about_summer/Shutterstock Travel and the freedom of movement are some of the great equalizers in the world. It allows people to discover different cultures, to learn about exotic places and grasp the grand scheme of Earth's entwined ecology. But as we explore the Earth, we must remember to tread lightly. Tourism is good for people, but it isn't always good for the landscape. Some of the most beautiful places in the world are being marred by too many visitors. Here's our list of the top 15 travel destinations being ruined by tourism. (Text: Bryan Nelson) Machu Picchu kudumomo/Flickr. Perched high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, this "lost city of the Incas" remained hidden to the outside world until 1911, when historian and explorer Hiram Bingham was led there by local Quechuas. Since then, hundreds of thousands of visitors have flocked to Machu Picchu every year, threatening the fortitude of the ancient ruins. For this reason, UNESCO has recently considered putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. Great Barrier Reef brewbooks/Flickr. The world's largest reef system can be seen from space and is home to billions of organisms. The Great Barrier Reef is also one of Australia's most spectacular attractions. Despite its massive size, it's also exceptionally fragile. Vast tracts of the reef have become bleached by pollution and the abuses of too many tourists, and a recent oil spill has decimated the ecosystem. Without proper care, the Great Barrier Reef could disappear within a generation. The Galapagos Islands Roubicek/Flickr. The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin to conceive the theory of natural selection. Today, thousands of tourists flock there annually to retrace his footsteps, but this island habitat is extremely sensitive to outside pressure. In 2007, UNESCO added the Galapagos Islands to its World Heritage Sites in Danger List. Teotihuacan Crystian Cruz/Flickr. Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico and one of the most important representations of ancient civilization. As a result, the ruins have been trampled on for millennia. Today the site is under increased threat from development. In 2004, Wal-Mart Stores opened a branch there, building a large store within the archaeological zone of the park. Antarctica Christian Revival Network/Flickr. This massive continent to the South is largely uninhabited, and that's part of its allure. It is a top item on many an adventure traveler's wish list, and the continent is beginning to feel the outside pressure. (Cruise ships regularly visit its shores.) Antarctica has a fragile ecology, including many native animal species that are sensitive to change. Perhaps it's best to leave at least one of the world's seven continents alone. Masai Mara Paul Mannix/Flickr. The Masai Mara in Kenya, the northern continuation of Serengeti national park, is one of the most storied large game reserves in Africa. Unfortunately, it is also losing animal species at an unprecedented rate according to a 2009 study. An average day for a big cat in this reserve means being almost constantly surrounded by tourists on safari. Angkor Wat tylerdurden1/Flickr. With its classical style Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat is one of Cambodia's largest tourist attractions. The ancient structure even appears on the Cambodian flag. Although tourism helps pay for restoration work, it is a double-edged sword — wear and tear from the annual flood of visitors threatens the integrity of the ancient structure, and graffiti is evident on some of the walls. Stonehenge El Bichologo Errante/Flickr. Known for its mystical design, Stonehenge is one of the most visited ancient structures in Europe. Over the years, the stones have been disrupted by restoration attempts and disrespectful tourists. The site is also threatened by several major roadways that are dangerously close. Mount Everest stevehicks/Flickr. Once a forbidding place scaled only by the most daring explorers, Mount Everest today is littered with trash from invading visitors. Straddling the border between Nepal and Tibet, the area is a place of great spiritual and cultural value. Today, garbage on the mountain includes climbing equipment, food, plastics, tins, aluminum cans, glass, clothes, papers, tents and even the remains of failed adventurers. Taj Mahal voobie/Flickr. The Taj Mahal is widely considered one of the great architectural achievements in human history. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and it is visited by millions of tourists every year. But local development and the onslaught of visitors are taking a toll. Pollution, mostly from the nearby Yamuna River, has even been turning the Taj Mahal yellow. Phi Phi Islands Argenberg/Flickr. The islands came to worldwide prominence when they were featured in the 2000 British-American film "The Beach" (to this day, filmmakers are being blamed for damaging the local environment), and today they are one of the major destinations for visitors to Thailand. This picturesque place still has pristine beaches and clear water, but it may not have them for long if resort development and travelers continue to flock here en masse. Ngorongoro Crater geoftheref/Flickr. Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa's geological and biological treasures. This large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera has provided a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife, making it an ideal location for conservation efforts. Unfortunately the enclosure also leaves wildlife with no escape from the barrage of tourists who flock here to enjoy the crater's mystique and beauty. Cozumel Ken Thomas/Wiki Commons/public domain. Mexico is a popular tourist destination for many American tourists, which has been a burden and a boon — at least for local ecosystems. Known for its beautiful beaches and tropical reefs, Cozumel was once a peaceful place until docks were built for cruise ships. Today the fragile reefs are threatened from pollution from development, and Cozumel is beginning to lose its pristine mystique. Great Wall of China Jakub Hałun/Wiki Commons/GNU. Many sections of China's Great Wall have fallen into disrepair because of the scores of tourists who walk along its walls annually. Many parts of the wall have been marred by vandalism and graffiti. In certain regions, the Great Wall has been destroyed to make way for development. Bali Nate Robert/Flickr. Bali's delicate island ecosystem is under threat from continued encroachment. Situated at a point where Asian mainland ecology transitions to the ecology of the Pacific Islands, Bali is under threat of increased deforestation, as the area makes way for the tourism industry and Indonesia's growing population. Non-native animals and plants also threaten this biological jewel.