Bucket-list destinations that tourists are ruining

By Lauren McMah

Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera, is a bucket-list destination that is straining under its immense popularity with tourists. Photo / iStock
Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera, is a bucket-list destination that is straining under its immense popularity with tourists. Photo / iStock

Some places in the world are just too irresistible for their own good.

Whether for their history, uniqueness or unmatched beauty, they earn their spot on travel bucket-lists and attract massive numbers of tourists - but ultimately can no longer cope with their own popularity.

Another destination has been added to that tragic list. Authorities in Thailand announced Koh Tachai, an island off the southern Thai coast, would be indefinitely closed to visitors following concerns tourism had brought the beach paradise to the brink of destruction.

Koh Tachai had been touted as Thailand's most beautiful island, but that also marked its downfall - the island's popularity with tourists had endangered its land and marine environments, authorities said, and it needed indefinite time out to regenerate.

It's not the only tourist attraction that has faltered under the weight of its own massive popularity.

These are some of bucket-list destinations that have already been shut down thanks to destructive tourists - and others we risk losing for good.

Where the fun's already over

Wedding Cake Rock, NSW

The iconic cliff top has been a favourite for Instagrammers. Photo / iStock
The iconic cliff top has been a favourite for Instagrammers. Photo / iStock

This picture-perfect rock in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, was closed to the public last year after geotechnical research revealed it was likely to collapse within the decade.

The damning report followed a surge in foot traffic to the site, rising from 2000 people per month to more than 10,000 visitors over the same time period.

The site has already proved dangerous. In 2014, a French man fell 40m to his death after a nearby sandstone cliff crumbled away, while in November, two men had to be winched to safety after falling from the iconic cliff top onto a ledge below.

Fences now restrict visitors' access to the ledge but that hasn't stopped daredevil visitors from risking their lives for an Insta-worthy snap - and now frustrated park rangers are slapping them with on-the-spot fines.

Pont des Arts bridge, Paris

Tourists have attached more than one million lovelocks to the Le Pont Des Arts in Paris. Photo / iStock
Tourists have attached more than one million lovelocks to the Le Pont Des Arts in Paris. Photo / iStock

It is still possible to walk across Paris' most famous pedestrian bridge - but if you hope to attach a "lovelock" to the bridge, like millions of tourists have done before, you're out of luck.

For the past decade, loved-up visitors to Paris have kept a tradition of attaching signed or engraved padlocks to the bridge, and tossing the keys in the River Seine, as a sign of their unending romance.

A couple of years ago, concerns were raised about the possible damage caused by the weight of the locks, and authorities began encouraging tourists to declare their love with a selfie instead.

Last year, council workers began cutting all the locks off the bridge. About a million padlocks, weighing close to 41 tonnes, have been removed.

Gum Wall, Seattle

Seattle's famous Gum Wall was named one of the world's top five germ-ridden tourist destinations, second only to the Blarney stone. Photo / iStock
Seattle's famous Gum Wall was named one of the world's top five germ-ridden tourist destinations, second only to the Blarney stone. Photo / iStock

In the 1990s, for reasons unknown, people began to stick their chewed-up pieces of gum on a brick wall in an alleyway in downtown Seattle, near the Market Theatre.

More people joined in, plastering the wall with colourful blobs of discarded chewing gum. Soon the wall was curiously famous worldwide. It became an official tourist attraction in Seattle, alongside the Space Needle and the city's iconic waterfront. It was also a popular wedding photography location.

But last year, Seattle authorities said sugar in the chewing gum had begun to compromise the wall's historic brickwork and had to be removed.

And so in November, as part of wider efforts to preserve historic buildings in the downtown district, workers spent 130 hours removing around 1.6 tonnes of chewing gum from the Gum Wall.

Are these places the next to go?

Cinque Terre, Italy

Tourists have overwhelmed the Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo / iStock
Tourists have overwhelmed the Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo / iStock

The five picturesque villages atop the rugged coast on the Italian Riviera is one Italy's many tourist drawcards.

About 2.5 million tourists flocked to see Cinque Terre and colourful clusters of terraces last year - but the influx of cruise ships and coaches has put the site under strain.

Italian officials announced this year they would take measures to protect the delicate environments of Cinque Terre by capping the number of tourists who can visit each year at just 1.5 million.

Tourists will now have to buy their tickets well in advance for the chance to see clifftop wonder.

"We will certainly be criticised for this, but for us it is a question of survival," Cinque Terre National Park president Vittorio Alessandro told la Repubblica newspaper.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's mayor has taken aim at the city's many tourists. Photo / iStock
Barcelona's mayor has taken aim at the city's many tourists. Photo / iStock

Last year Barcelona earned the title of the third most visited city in Europe, behind London and Paris - but that's not something the city's new mayor, Ada Colau, was too proud about.

After she was elected to office in June 2015, Colau threatened to put a cap on the number of visitors to the city, fearing it would "end up like Venice", a city in which tourism has been blamed for driving locals away.

The number of annual visitors - about 7.5 million in 2013 - grossly overwhelms the number of actual residents, of which there are about 1.6 million.

Concerned about a growing inequality between tourists and locals, especially with regard to real estate, Colau put a one-year moratorium on new licences for hotel and tourist apartments.

Barcelona also recently introduced a restriction on tourists visiting the famous La Boqueria markets, banning groups of more than 15 tourists from entering the market during peak hours.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Measures have been introduced to protect Machu Picchu from the destruction of tourism. Photo / iStock
Measures have been introduced to protect Machu Picchu from the destruction of tourism. Photo / iStock

Since it was revealed to the world a century ago, Machu Picchu - an Inca citadel perched high in the Andes Mountains - has been one of the world's top tourism drawcards, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

But 100 years of tourist interest now threatens the ancient ruins. Peru and UNESCO recently outlined new rules for visitors to Machu Picchu, with the aim of protecting the precious wonder: visitors have to stick to one of three approved hiking routes only, and a maximum of 2500 people are allowed to enter each day.

Taj Mahal, India

Indian tourism officials have been concerned about the future of the Taj Mahal, one of the greatest landmarks in the world. Photo / iStock
Indian tourism officials have been concerned about the future of the Taj Mahal, one of the greatest landmarks in the world. Photo / iStock

Officials in India have previously raised the possibility of closing the country's most famous tourist attraction to visitors, thanks largely to natural and human-made erosion at the site.

The seven to eight million tourists who visit the Taj Mahal each year have already been stopped from accessing it by car, in a bid to reduce air pollution.

And pollution in the nearby Yamuna River has already taken its toll on the grand mausoleum, slowly turning its white marble exterior yellow.

Cracks have appeared on the structure and there is concern its wooden foundation may be rotting. Reports in 2011 suggested the Taj Mahal could collapse within five years.

- news.com.au

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