5 Endangered Travel Experiences

See These Places Before They're Gone

As savvy travelers know, you can never put your foot in the same river twice. That lovely little hotel you found the last time you were in the Caribbean might be bulldozed and reinvented as a Las Vegas-style resort on your next trip. That charming Eastern European village you backpacked through last summer may be completely modernized and strip-malled 5 years from now.

The world is going global fast, and the cultural differences that make travel so rewarding, rich and photogenic are shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.

Here are 5 destinations to put on your list of endangered spots that you should visit now. All of them will be vastly different in 5 to 10 years, so don't wait until retirement to make these travel dreams come true.

Traditional China
The Three Gorges Dam has already ensured that the villages and landscapes of the Yangtze River Valley, which have inspired Chinese poets and writers for thousands of years, have been changed utterly and forever. Many ancient landmarks are already underwater. And unlike a similarly huge dam undertaking in Aswan, Egypt, little effort was made to preserve the culture that is being subsumed by the river of progress.

One of the matrices of traditional Chinese culture is still the Yunnan province, where life continues on at a time-honored pace. In progress-obsessed China, Yunnan is an anomaly — a relic that is allowed to exist partly for its sentimental value as the backbone of rural China (the fact that it's Mao's birthplace may be part of the reason). But it may not be that way for long. In Yunnan, you may still encounter an ancient village, a water buffalo, a small shop that sells cricket cages and an intact temple or 2.

San Rafael Glacier, Chile
As we all know by now, the world is warming. Polar ice caps in both the Arctic and Antarctic are melting. A visit to Chile's Northern Patagonian Ice Field is in order before the famed San Rafael Glacier melts, changing the landscape forever. Rapid melting is underway at the site because of historically high air temperatures. Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University in Wales was quoted by the BBC as saying, "If the glacier retreats farther up valley, it will cease to calve icebergs into the Laguna San Rafael, and one of the reasons why this area attracts so many tourists will be largely gone." Take a multiday cruise to see it for yourself, getting so close to the ice that you can put chunks of it in the glasses of whiskey traditionally handed around on first contact. The sound of ice melting and cracking is something that, once you hear it, will never be forgotten.

More From Chile

Quirky Caribbean
Among the large resorts and uber-expensive boutique hotels that are taking over the Caribbean remain pockets of traditional Carib culture fused with the less invasive aspect of the hospitality industry. Although "progress" continues apace on Grenada and Martinique, both islands offer travelers traditional accommodations and experiences on the smaller-is-beautiful model. Laluna Resort in Grenada is a gem of a beachside hotel with a limited number of guest rooms and an emphasis on traditional Caribbean culture. The look and feel of the historic city of Fort-de-France in Martinique will take travelers back to the port days of the Pirates of the Caribbean; its streets are as full of its fabled beautiful women as they were in Jack Sparrow's time. (Napoleon's first wife, Josephine, was born not far from here in the town of Trois-Ilets.)

The Red Sand Dunes of Namibia
Namibia is the site of the amazing, endangered red sand dunes of the Skeleton Coast. These red dunes (used by directors in films such as The Cell for their otherworldly beauty) are endangered because of normal erosion, as well as erosion by quad bikes and the quickly burgeoning and unrestrained tourism industry around them. To stay in an eco-friendly resort that blends into the environment, rather than clashing with it, book a room at the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. The luxurious accommodations meld so seamlessly into the landscape that you can barely see the indigenous stone lodge from a distance. You'll feel as though you're camping out, even though you're living in the lap of luxury. Guided nature walks help you understand the delicate balance of the environment. 

More From Africa

Relaxing Riads
Relaxing Riads

Relaxing Riads

For some local flavor, stay at a riad. This traditional Moroccan house house has an interior courtyard or garden, and is often decorated with intricate tile work. Many riads also have rooftop patios where you can relax. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Medina

Medina

Marrakech’s old medina is the ancient walled section of town with narrow streets that are often reserved for pedestrians, donkeys, horses, and the occasional motorcycle or taxi whizzing by. Within the medina, you’ll find historic buildings with antique doors and windows alongside more modern buildings. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Djemaa el-Fna

Djemaa el-Fna

During the day Marrakech’s iconic square, Djemaa el-Fna, is a mix of vendors, performers with monkeys, henna tattoo artists, fruit sellers and locals going about their daily lives. Once night falls, Djemaa el-Fna, which is also a UNESCO Heritage Site, turns into one of the largest street food markets in the world. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström   

Snake Charmers

Snake Charmers

While it’s best to avoid them when you’re in Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s snake charmers are as legendary as the city itself. They reel you in by placing a snake around your neck … whether you’re ready or not! Be careful -- avoid sneaking in photos of snake charmers or you’ll have to pay up. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Colorful Souks

Colorful Souks

No trip to Marrakech is complete without wandering through the maze-like alleyways of stalls and shops that make up its vibrant Berber markets known as souks. With so much to choose from -- from leather bags, colorful slippers and stained glass lamps, to clothes, scarves and jewelry -- get ready to put your bargaining skills to practice. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Within Marrakech’s souks are dozens, probably hundreds, of vendors selling dried fruit and nuts like dates, figs, apricots, almonds and peanuts, which are often used in traditional Moroccan cooking. Buy bags of dried fruit and nuts as snacks, or sample a Moroccan tajine, which is a heavy meat or chicken stew cooked in a dome-shaped clay pot of the same name. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Berber Carpets

Berber Carpets

Dozens of carpet dealers in Marrakech sell beautifully hand-woven carpets that are often popular souvenirs to bring home. If your budget can handle it, spend some time looking through rolls of brightly colored wool carpets and bring home a piece of local culture. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Winding Alleyways

Winding Alleyways

If you visit one of Marrakech’s souks for the first time, you will get lost -- guaranteed. Networks of winding narrow lanes with vendors all selling similar items can easily confuse even the most intrepid travelers. Relax and have fun exploring these narrow alleyways; you never know what gems you’ll find along the way. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa was once an Islamic college (madrasa); today this historic site is the largest madrasa in the entire country. Open for tours, the site has gorgeous earth-toned tiled clay and stucco walls around a large central courtyard with a small pool. Its walls also have geometric patterns and inscriptions, and it has about 130 small rooms that used to be classrooms. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Lamps

Lamps

From hanging lamps with round metal frames to shades made of patterned cloth, you’ll find thousands of signature lampshades at Marrakech’s souks. The lights from the lamps also add ambiance to the souks and are great to photograph. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Diversity

Diversity

While Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, it’s also contemporary in many ways; you’ll find women in hijabs (headscarves) and abayas (long flowing cloaks) alongside women in jeans. In Morocco, there’s freedom to practice one’s own religion, whatever it may be. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Horse-Drawn Carriages

Horse-Drawn Carriages

For a quick and intimate way of exploring Marrakech, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through its narrow streets and alleys. You can ride alongside the city’s ancient walls and explore gardens within its medina. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Al Fassia

Al Fassia

Run entirely by women (female chefs and waitresses), Al Fassia serves up some of the very best traditional Moroccan cuisine in Marrakech. You can enjoy lamb tajine with dates and fresh vegetables served with fluffy couscous. 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Ancient Walls

Ancient Walls

More than 800 years old, Marrakech’s medina is surrounded by a 12-mile-long protective wall and ramparts. In addition, 22 impressive gates provide various entry and exit points in and out of the medina. The clay wall’s signature orange-red hue gives Marrakech its nickname “The Red City.” 960 1280

Lola Akinmade Åkerström  

Tsimbazaza Zoo
Tsimbazaza Zoo

Tsimbazaza Zoo

Located in southern Antananarivo, Tsimbazaza Zoo and its botanical garden are one of a kind in Madagascar. The zoo has an environmental teaching center, a collection of unique species native to the country and a museum that offers multiple collections, including indigenous tribal carvings. 960 1280

Frank Vassen, Flickr  

Antsiranana Windsurfing

Antsiranana Windsurfing

Looking for an adventure in Madagascar? Antsiranana -- known as Diego Suarez prior to 1975 -- is a popular spot for windsurfing and kite surfing in Antsiranana. Thrill-seeking adventurers can go tree climbing in Vallee des Perroquets or take a low-key trip to Sainte Marie for whale watching. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Mahamasina Municipal Stadium

Mahamasina Municipal Stadium

Become part of the local community in Antananarivo. Experience a rowdy rugby game or exciting soccer match at the multipurpose Mahamasina Municipal Stadium (Stade Mahamasina). The stadium seats 22,000 people but is capable of accommodating 40,000 spectators. 960 1280

Bernard Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons  

Madagascar Fody

Madagascar Fody

Madagascar is home to 204 species of birds, including the Red Fody, also known as the Red Cardinal Fody. Diego Suarez, Amber Mountain, Tana, Perinet, Ifaty, Isalo and Ampijoroa are a few prime spots for bird-watching tours. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Avenue of the Baobabs

Avenue of the Baobabs

Avenue or Alley of the Baobabs -- a group of 20 to 25 baobab trees that line the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina -- is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madagascar. These trees are considered one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders and can live up to 800 years. Despite its popularity, the area has no visitor center or gate fees, and local residents receive little income from tourism. 960 1280

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Nosy Be

Nosy Be

Welcome to Madagascar’s largest and busiest resort area, Nosy Be. Formed by volcanoes, the island is forested and has numerous craters and crater lakes. Its highest point is Mount Passot -- a 1,079-foot hike for the adventurous traveler. 960 1280

  

Moraingy

Moraingy

Moraingy is a popular barefisted martial art that originated during Madagascar’s Maroseranana dynasty from 1675 to 1896. Young men and women between the ages of 10 and 35 who participate in these hand-to-hand combat matches are respected and sometimes feared by fellow villagers. As part of the experience, fighters and participants typically engage in dances during and between the matches to provoke the supporters of the opposing fighter. 960 1280

Hery Zo Rakotondramanana, Flickr  

Rova of Antananarivo

Rova of Antananarivo

See where the royals lived from the 17th century through the 19th century when you visit the Lost Palace and Royal Rova in Antananarivo. Take a stroll along the maze of alleys and stairs linking the lower section of the city to the hillside area and see the summer palace of the queen, the eerie tomb complex and a museum with a salvaged collection of antiques, historical documents and royal artifacts. 960 1280

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Mauritius

Mauritius

While you’re in Madagascar, take an inexpensive airplane ride to the tranquil island of Mauritius. Go sunbathing on Pereybere Beach, shop in Grand Bay, explore the Balaclava Ruins or go mountain biking and hiking through the Labourdonnais Orchards. 960 1280

Andreas Lindlahr +491734558080  

Zebu Cattle Wrestling

Zebu Cattle Wrestling

Savika or zebu cattle wrestling is a popular spectator sport in Madagascar. It’s usually a rite of passage for young men who want to prove their manhood, and anyone who takes the daring dance with an angry zebu is considered a hero among locals and more attractive to women. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Ring-Tailed Lemur

Ring-Tailed Lemur

Wildlife explorers visiting southern and southwestern Madagascar may bump into this furry creature. Usually seen living in groups, ring-tailed lemurs are vocal -- as a means to socialize or call for help when they are in imminent danger. Andohahela National Park, Andringitra National Park, Isalo National Park, Tsimanampetsotse Amboasary Sud, Berenty Private Reserve and Anja Community Reserve are a few places to catch the ring-tailed lemur in action. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Antananarivo

Antananarivo

Explore and go sightseeing in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar and the country’s largest city. Stay at the luxurious Hotel Colbert or Hotel Carlton, both equipped with top-notch amenities, including gourmet restaurants and boutiques. Outside of the hotels, tourists can try authentic Malagasy food at La Table de Mariette or sample French-influenced Malagasy food at Ku de Ta restaurant. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Go Diving!

Go Diving!

Discover your inner adventurer in Madagascar and visit the Alley of the Baobabs, go windsurfing in Antsiranana, witness a traditional moraingy combat match, go sunbathing in Nosy Be and much more! 960 1280

Getty Images  

Woman walks along the ocean road
Woman walks along the ocean road

Woman walks along the ocean road

Located in East Africa, Mozambique is nestled against the Indian Ocean and is home to 23 million people. 960 1280

  

Women dancing in Mozambique Africa

Women dancing in Mozambique Africa

The traditions and colors of Mozambique are some of the prettiest in Africa. 960 1280

  

Coconut milk dish in Mozambique Africa

Coconut milk dish in Mozambique Africa

Coconut milk is a staple item used in several Mozambican dishes that have origins not only in Africa but in Brazil, India and Asia. 960 1280

  

giant crayfish in Mozambique Africa

giant crayfish in Mozambique Africa

There is an abundance of seafood along the coast (pictured here: giant crayfish). Unfortunately, not everyone has the money to transport the seafood to the interior. The cost of refrigeration and transportation is so high that much of the colorful and delicious seafood is mainly available in restaurants along the coast. 960 1280

  

Giant prawns in Mozambique Africa

Giant prawns in Mozambique Africa

Giant prawns are a popular dish -- basted with butter and grilled to perfection. 960 1280

  

tiger prawns and maze in Mozambique Africa

tiger prawns and maze in Mozambique Africa

A popular local dish: tiger prawns and a staple made from ground maze, which resembles the West's popular Southern dish of shrimp and grits. 960 1280

  

Peri Peri grilled chicken in Mozambique Africa

Peri Peri grilled chicken in Mozambique Africa

The famous Peri Peri grilled chicken is smothered in the popular Peri Peri sauce. On a recent trip to Mozambique, Tony Bourdain found himself savoring each bite.
"Why is the food so good here?" -- Tony Bourdain
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Peri Peri pepper and sauce

Peri Peri pepper and sauce

A close-up of the Peri Peri pepper (left), which is the main ingredient in the Peri Peri sauce that also consists of peanut oil, tomato, minced garlic and lemon juice (right). 960 1280

  

Statue of Vasco da Gama in Mozambique Africa

Statue of Vasco da Gama in Mozambique Africa

Vasco da Gama arrived in Mozambique in 1498 in search of the spice route to Indian. 960 1280

  

Ship Graveyard on Beira in Mozambique Africa

Ship Graveyard on Beira in Mozambique Africa

Beira, Mozambique -- worth a visit, even if just to see the massive beached ships. 960 1280

  

People on beach promenade in Maputo Mozambique Africa

People on beach promenade in Maputo Mozambique Africa

Marginal (beach promenade), located in Maputo (Mozambique’s capitol and largest city) is a popular place after work and school to hang-out with friends and grab a bite to eat. 960 1280

  

Village Culture in Romania
Romania's mountain villages — especially those in the Apuseni Mountains, now endangered by strip-mining concerns — are home to an amazingly colorful traditional culture. It has been likened to a Pennsylvanian Dutch Country in the Alps. Spend a week in the old villages of the Carpathian and Apuseni mountains, and you'll feel as if you've gone back in time to an age of kings, knights and ladies fair (men here still kiss women's hands in traditional greeting). Horse lovers will find special delights in exploring a culture where people still use the family horse the way we use SUVs. 

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