When it comes to reconnecting with our past and learning about our history, tourists are fortunate enough to have full access to some of the oldest sites in the world. Not only does this make the past more real for us, but it preserves important pieces of our essential identity.
While many may roll their eyes at historic tourist traps, millions of people love visiting these locations and are fascinated by their universal, timeless significance. Historical sites also boost the local economy, creating jobs for the citizens of the region, and can be both educational and profitable.
However, modern day tourism is a double-edged sword; while it gives exposure to its location, and raises money to preserve the historical treasure, that same exposure means virtually anyone can come in for a visit.
If the tourists are respectful, it can be a mutually beneficial situation. But if the tourist doesn’t follow the rules, by defacing the property, or even damaging the site, tourism can become a plague. Unfortunately, because of other people’s mistakes, limitations are now placed upon tourists and historically significant sites are becoming increasingly inaccessible.
In fact, several historical places have been ruined by tourists. It only takes one bad egg to ruin it for the rest, and unfortunately some of the world’s most treasured historical places have been nearly decimated because of disrespectful tourists.
In order for these historical sites to last as long as possible and to remain open to the public, they need to be taken care of in a cooperative effort by both staff and visitors alike.
10. The Great Pyramids & Sphinx
The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are the iconic and historical sites of Ancient Egypt. Not only are they testaments to the innovations and technology of the Egyptians, but also stand as a reminder of the slavery of the Jewish people, who helped erect these vast monuments to deceased pharaohs. The sites have been threatened by terrorists in the midst of war, but these monuments continue to stand.
However, recent visitors to these sites have noted that there has been a rapid deterioration from hosting so many tourists over the last few centuries. Also, the restoration team for the pyramids have been causing damage in their restoration procedures without even realizing it. Hopefully, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx will be subject to more sustainable practices in future, in order to preserve this wonder of the ancient world.
9. Roman Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum is one of the most iconic historical sites in the world. Located just east of the Roman Forum, construction of the Colosseum was completed in 80 AD, and has hosted a slew of events from chariot races, bear trapping, gladiator matches, and more. Today, the ruins stand strong in Italy, and is one of the most visited historical sites in the world.
However, the vandalism is so bad at the Colosseum that Roman officials have started enforcing a fine of over $20,000 if you’re caught carving into the walls. Just over a month ago, two female tourists from the United States were arrested for causing aggravated damage to the site. Rome is cracking down on tourists in efforts to preserve one of their most famous spots.
8. Angkor Wat
Located in Cambodia, Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious buildings in the world as well as being one of the largest tourist attractions in the country. Angkor Wat holds so much significance that it is even featured on the Cambodian flag. It was built in the early 12th century, and is one of the best-preserved temples on site. Thanks to tourism, the government has been able to restore the temple to its original glory, and continue restoration work throughout the year.
However, that doesn’t mean the tourists are always kind to the temple. Graffiti has been an ongoing problem, and the structure of the temple is weakening due to the high traffic of tourists coming through every year.
7. Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the largest man made structures in human history. The Chinese were building walls as far back as the 7th century, and the Great Wall stands as a testament to the innovation of the country. You can even see the Great Wall from space, and millions of tourists visit the Wall each year, walking and scaling the stones.
However, tourists are slowly destroying the Great Wall, which wasn’t built to withstand so much foot traffic – it was originally intended to act as a barrier against enemies. Tourists have also been caught vandalizing the Wall and adding graffiti. What’s even more depressing is that parts of the Wall have even been destroyed to make room for new development.
6. Roman Forum
Some of the most famous and formative historical events took place at the Roman Forum in the city of Rome, Italy. Some of the most important decisions were made at the Forum that have impacted the course of human history.
Today, the Roman Forum is a pile of ruins, but there’s much to learn from them. Guided tours of the space are strongly encouraged because most people won’t be able to recognize what they are looking at without the assistance of a guide. However, the ostensibly haphazard appearance of the ruins means many tourists feel they can do whatever they want at the Forum and can often be seen moving rocks, placards, taking stones, and even graffiting the pillars.
Located in India, Jaisalmer is a city that dates back to the medieval times, and is considered to be a World Heritage site. In the last 10 years, the tourism for Jaisalmer has quadrupled. Not only does the site have considerable historical significance, but it is also considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing historical sites in the world.
However, even though the site is popular, the city itself can’t withstand the volume of tourists. The sewage system is incredibly outdated, and water seeps into the sandstone from cracks in the old pipes. Given that the city is pretty much made of sandstone, that’s a big problem. However, because the city survives on tourism alone, limiting the tourists would be a harmful decision economically.
Tulum, Mexico was one of the last cities inhabited by the ancient Mayan people, and even lasted for an additional 70 years after the Spanish occupied Mexico. This walled city sits upon the cliffs of the Yucatan Peninsula, almost 40 feet above the crashing waves of the coast. The diseases that were brought by the Spanish settlers eventually wiped out the city.
Visited annually by over one million visitors each year, Mexico has had to catch up to the tourism demands. What was once a deserted beach is now filled with shopping centers, hotels, and amusement parks. The government is currently planning to build an airport and a recreation center. All of these new developments are slowly swallowing up Tulum, causing its historical roots to disappear.
3. Machu Picchu
For hundreds of years, Machu Picchu lay dormant in the Andes Mountains. What was once a vast city for the Inca people in Peru, Machu Picchu was built around 1450, and then abandoned a century later when the Spaniards came through. But the city remained a mystery and legend to the rest of the world until 1911 when explorer Hiram Bingham was led there by locals.
Today, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Machu Picchu every year, jeopardizing the fortitude of the ancient ruins. While the tourists largely mean well, their very presence is rapidly causing the ruins to break down. The condition of Machu Picchu is so bad that UNESCO is considering putting the location on the list of historical sites that are in danger.
2. The Parthenon
The Parthenon sits upon a hill in Athens, Greece, known as the Acropolis. One of the oldest ancient ruins still standing, the Parthenon was built as a temple to the goddess Athena between 438 and 447 BCE. The vast temple was later converted into a church, and then a mosque, over the course of its existence. It also shares the hill with other historic sites like the Temple of Athena Nike and Mars Hill.
While Athens benefits economically from tourism, guests have often been caught drawing on the ancient pillars and carving their name or other things (such as gang symbols). The damage to the ancients has even forced the government to start prohibiting the taking of rocks from the ground.
Stonehenge is located in the United Kingdom and is one of the most compelling historical locations in history. Not only is it one of the most ancient historical sites, but it has been central to much debate as to how the stones came to their location in the first place with prehistoric technology. Stonehenge has been the center of alien conspiracies and evidence for the existence of Merlin and magic. But despite all of the debate, it is still a centric part of human history.
Unfortunately, those who have visited this location in the past have not been quite as respectful as they should. Tourists have chipped away pieces of the stones, and builders have restored them according to aesthetics rather than historical accuracy. The original look and location of the stones aren’t even legitimate anymore.
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