Climate change and travel: See these 10 tourist destinations now before they're gone

Rising sea levels, bushfires and dramatic weather events are impacting many famous tourist destinations. Here are 10 you'd best visit (responsibly) before they're gone.


Copacabana beach. credit: istock
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Photo: iStock

Few of us will live until 2100 when rising sea levels might, according to predictions, inundate Rio's seaside neighbourhoods and international airport, but in the meantime floods, landslides and heatwaves are causing problems. Go now to enjoy hip beachside suburbs Copacabana, Ipamema or (if you're a surfer) Arpoador, all famous for beautiful bodies, sand and sunsets. Tijuca Forest National Park is home to toucans and monkeys. See


The Maldives is the worlds lowest lying country.

The Maldives is the world's lowest lying country. Photo: Carl Court/Getty

These Indian Ocean islands have an average height of 1.3 metres above sea level and some communities are already being displaced by rising water. Some predict this archipelago known for its luxury resorts, impeccable white sands and superb snorkelling and diving will vanish altogether. How you get there to see it before that happens is a knotty problem given the carbon footprint created by long-haul flights. See


Red Aloe flowers in full bloom with a mountainous backdrop credit: istock
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Photo: Julian Parsons/iStock

This southwest corner of South Africa around Cape Town has among the world's highest levels of biodiversity and is famous for its wildflower season and fynbos scrubland where proteas, geraniums and gladioli originated. Table Mountain National Park and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden are must-sees for flower enthusiasts. Sadly, droughts, bushfires and warming temperatures are currently impacting both flora and bird life. See


WTF077 Beautiful landscape in Greenland Credit: Alamy
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Photo: Alamy

Eco-tourists have been flocking to Greenland as ever more icebergs break off glaciers or float down from the Arctic to provide a spectacular seasonal sight. Eventually all that ice might run out entirely. The fjord is splendid by boat, but a scenic flight gives you a better impression of the ice retreat. The groaning and cracking of the glacier sounds like a cry for help. See



Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Photo: iStock

Having just undergone its fourth coral bleaching event in six years, and subject to warming waters and unusual weather patterns, our famous natural wonder is increasingly fragile. For the moment, the world's largest reef system remains a staggeringly beautiful sight where peacock-coloured waters, fabulous corals and a kaleidoscope of fish mingle. Other tropical reefs from Belize to the Bahamas are also under threat. See


Lovely girls floating in salty water of Dead Sea and reading newspaper. Unusual buoyancy caused by high salinity. credit: istock
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Photo: iStock

A third of this salty, buoyant sea has vanished, and its shoreline shrivels inwards at about a metre a year. Human interference is mostly to blame, but hotter temperatures accelerate the problem. The northeast coast has swanky spa resorts that gaze over the sea towards the twinkling lights of Jerusalem, but some say the Dead Sea will be gone by 2050. See,,


The aerial view of Chioggia in Venice.

Chioggia in Venice. Photo: iStock

Venice has always flooded, but its floods are getting more severe and more frequent and the city is embroiled in a scandal- and delay-ridden barrage project to try and control the tides. In the meantime, you can't help but be spellbound by this seemingly floating city of canals, tilting marble palaces, domed churches and warren of rambling alleyways, even if it is increasingly damp and inundated. See


3 ring-tailed lemurs running in a row over a branch credit: istock
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Photo: iStock

Madagascar is often listed among the top five countries likely to be most impacted by climate change. Change is already affecting its famous animal species such as lemurs and chameleons. Human population movement from the drought-ridden south are impacting national parks, while increasingly severe rainfall is damaging the north and destroying mangrove habitat. Boab forests, Manambolo River Gorges and Isalo, Marojejy and Bemaraha national parks are natural highlights. See


Hidden Lake in the background Bearhat Mountain, in Glacier National Park, Montana credit: istock
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Photo: iStock

This vast national park in Montana has a problem common to many other places from the European Alps to the Himalayas: its glaciers are rapidly melting, and some have almost gone, which in turn affects flora, fauna and micro-climates. With 39 glaciers to choose from, visitors to Montana can nonetheless see plenty of ice among stunning mountain landscapes easily accessed on hiking trails. See


2A9171A France, Drome, Tain l'Hermitage, AOC vineyard of the Rhone valley, view from the hill and Hermitage vineyard,  Saint Christophe chapel // France, Drom Credit: Alamy
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Photo: Alamy

The Rhône Valley is a world-famous wine-making region, perhaps most notable for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All of its vineyards are in trouble from rising temperatures, with some experts forecasting an 85 per cent decrease in vines over the next 50 years. Base yourself at lovely riverside Tain l'Hermitage and set off to sample Côtes du Rhône wines at cellar doors before it all runs out. See

Brian Johnston has travelled as a guest of numerous tourism offices and travel companies.

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