There are so many places around the world that I am dying to see. Whenever I see something online I add it to my list. My list, which is ridiculously long, would take years, if not the rest of my life and longer, to accomplish. Not sure if I will ever manage it, but there are a few places that rise to the top of my list and those I hope to see soon. Here they are, in no particular order.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
About 40,000 years ago a giant salt lake, probably originally created by the surrounding land being thrust up from the ocean, dried into the largest salt flats in the world. Uyuni is a desert now, with extreme temperatures—freezing at night and scorching during the day. The extreme landscape has amazing vistas and unique algae growths that create colorful red, yellow and green lakes after a rainfall.
Petra is an amazing place. They carved out an entire city from solid rock! There is also some pretty cool science behind how they survived. For one thing there is no water in the area. So they developed a complex system of little channels that collected water from the morning dew and channeled it down into the city where it was kept in underground cisterns. Being a major crossroads and also having available water meant that Petra was quite powerful during its height. It only collapsed because the trade routes changed.
When I first saw a television show about the terra-cotta warriors on National Geographic I knew that I had to see them. What I find absolutely amazing about them is that they are all unique—not one of them is duplicated—and there are several hundreds of them (all life-size!). Perhaps even more interesting is the possibility of an underground tomb of the First Emperor. Supposedly it contains a replica of the then known world with stars made of jewels and oceans made of mercury (which would produce a highly poisonous gas making excavation difficult).
Not the movie, but the island nation off the eastern coast of Africa. Madagascar is one of those places that has very unique flora and fauna. From baobab trees to lemurs, Madagascar has a lot interesting natural sites to see. They have everything from rain forests to deserts, not to mention beautiful beaches that are relatively unvisited.. Unfortunately, slash and burn farming techniques are doing a great deal of damage, but the current president seems to be trying to expand protected areas.
Easter Island, Chile
Why did the people of Easter Island decide to build giant monolithic statues that weigh over 40 tones? It’s an interesting question that has yet to be answered. The island is alliterative with the statues and how and why they were built-in the topic of major scientific debate. For me, I just want to see them. After all, Easter Island is the most remote place on Earth. There is no other place that it is as far from a mainland or another island than Easter Island. The mystery of how and why the statues were built, along with the isolation of Easter Island, makes it that much more interesting.
Great Barrier Reef
The sad thing about the Great Barrier Reef is that it is disappearing… rapidly. With the destruction of the coral from illegal fishing, coral bleaching, and coral collection, scientists estimate that the Great Barrier Reef will be gone in about 20 to 30 years (maybe sooner). I really want to see it before it is gone for good. I love to dive and I think most divers would agree, the Great Barrier Reef is the pinnacle of diving.
Amazon Rain Forest
Another amazing place is the disappearing Amazon rain forest. The Amazon rain forest is being destroyed by illegal logging, road building that is spreading pests and disease, and slash and burn farming that continues to encroach on the forest. The sad thing about losing the Amazon rain forest will not only be the loss of a beautiful place, but also the loss of potential life-saving drugs from plant and animal species yet discovered.
Perhaps the number one place that I want to visit, yet the least accessible, is Socotra. You might think that it would be Antarctica or the Amazon Rain Forest, but because of politics Socotra is. Socotra sits right off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula and has a long history of political problems. Nonetheless, there is arguably no other place on earth with such a unique ecosystem that looks like it could be from a science fiction movie.
Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Jellyfish Lake is simply cool because it’s so unique. There’s really nothing else like it in the world. About 12,000 years ago rising sea water filled the lake. The salt eventually was removed through rain and streams, leaving the jellyfish in freshwater. Without any predators, over time they lost their stingers and now are completely safe to swim with. The jellyfish have algae in them that produce their food. They rise to surface during the day for light and at night go to the nitrogen-rich bottom to fertilize them. It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Although known locally, Machu Picchu was not discovered by archeologists until 1911. It was built most likely as a summer residence (though some think it is religious) during the time of the Spanish Conquest, but remained undisturbed because the Spanish did not know if its existence. The technology used to construct it is really impressive. Scientists are just now discovered a complex construction and drainage system that has prevented Machu Picchu from literally sliding down the mountain side.
While technically not as remote as Easter Island, it certainly seems like Antarctica would be. As with most of the places I want to visit, Antarctica is changing rapidly and not for the better. The natural balance is being upset by global warming, with ice shelves melting away and massive habitat changes that are threatening animals that live there. There is talk of stopping or severely limiting tourism to Antarctica, but that is not likely to really change the situation. There are few visitors and the real threat is from the massive amounts of carbon being dumped in the atmosphere.
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still remaining, the pyramids have fascinated people for thousands of years. The sheer size of them makes them an impressive engineering marvel (no, it wasn’t aliens that built them). Interestingly, I read an article recently about new pyramids being found through Google Earth. You would not think we would miss a couple of giant pyramids, but it seems we have.
Bonus: Great Pacific Garbage Patch
A wonder in its own way, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is probably the future of tourism the way things are going. So many natural wonders are being destroyed that all that will be left is the debris of modern society. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the Fresh Kills of the Pacific Ocean, the place where all the trash thrown into the oceans has collected over the years due to ocean currents. It is made up of plastic, chemical sludge and trash, killing many animals every year. Don’t worry if you are not near the Pacific Ocean, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans have their own too!
What places are at the top of your list? Share them in the comments below.