Mythical Places to Visit Before They're Gone

Beautiful destinations to visit before they someday disappear.
Mythical Places to Travel to venice
Design: Tiana Crispino
Jen Murphy
by Jen Murphy
Updated May 21, 2024
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Some of the world's most beautiful places could fade away to mythical places and soon be only paradisiacal memories. Climate change, rising sea levels, erosion, deforestation and other environmental factors are threatening natural wonders like the biodiverse Amazon rainforest and the ice shelves of Antarctica.

These are nine destinations you should bump to the top of your travel list for a couple's getaway, memorable honeymoon or anniversary trip before they disappear. To help protect them for future generations, consider offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight through the airline or donating to an environmental organization such as the Rainforest Alliance or the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

In This Article:

Venice, Italy

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Why go now: This watery maze of a city is built atop more than 100 islands connected by nearly 400 bridges. As sea levels rise and the foundations of Venice's centuries-old buildings continue to slowly sink, experts fear the city could be completely submerged by 2100.

When to go: Avoid the peak summer crowds (and humidity) and visit between April and June or September and October.

How to visit: Arrive by water taxi to the private jetty of The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel. This 15th-century former palace, once owned by the Doge of Venice, has an unrivaled location overlooking the Grand Canal, 82 rooms decked out in Murano glass and antiques, and an in-house cooking school. From $815; Marriott.

Essential experiences: Explore the city's iconic canals on a gondola ride (from $87 for 30 minutes), then pop into the famed Bar Longhi to sip a cocktail from the martini trolley. Bar manager Cristiano Luciani's signature libation is the wild fennel 'tini. In the evening, catch a show at the renowned opera house Teatro La Fenice.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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Why go now: In the last three decades, the world's biggest coral reef ecosystem has lost half of its coral cover, and the warming sea continues to bleach coral.

When to go: The best visibility for snorkeling and diving is from June to October.

How to visit: Book one of the 14 cottages at Orpheus Island Lodge, a luxe retreat with a palm-fringed white-sand beach and serious eco cred. Its main dive site is home to 1,100 of the 1,500 fish species on the reef. From $4,550 for two nights, all-inclusive; Orpheus Island Lodge.

Essential experiences: Explore and learn about the delicate ecosystem with guided low-tide walks and reef snorkels.

The Galápagos, Ecuador

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Why go now: Overfishing threatens to disrupt this fragile marine ecosystem, and the islands' native flora and fauna are increasingly vulnerable to invasive species.

When to go: The weather is warm and water visibility is crystal clear for snorkeling and diving from December through May.

How to visit: Mass tourism is a concern in Sthe Galápagos. Choose a responsible base like Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island. Located on the edge of an extinct volcano in the heart of a private giant tortoise reserve, this 29-room, carbon-o!setting Relais & Chateaux property embraces a land-based tourism program that ensures money goes back to local communities. The lodge's reforestation program offsets carbon dioxide emissions. From $9,200 for three nights, all-inclusive; Pikaia Lodge.

Essential experience: Island-hop aboard Pikaia's 145-foot yacht. Full-day, naturalist-led excursions are included in your stay. Take in the secluded beach of Tortuga Bay, pristine snorkeling spots and one-of-a-kind wildlife, including the Galápagos blue-footed booby and tiny Galápagos penguin.


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Why go now: Nearly 65 percent of Antarctica's native species, particularly the emperor penguin, could disappear before the end of the century as a result of melting sea ice.

When to go: The short expedition season is November through March, when the sun shines nearly 24 hours. Baby penguin chicks start to hatch in December.

How to visit: Silversea's Antarctica Bridge tour skips the treacherous two-day sailing across the Drake Passage (and its 40-foot waves) and instead arrives at the White Continent via a scenic two-hour flight. The 200-passenger Silver Endeavor expedition ship has a 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio, butler service for every suite and a fabulous French restaurant. From $43,800 for six nights, all-inclusive; Silversea.

Essential experience: Book an excursion on a Zodiac boat for an up-close look at massive glowing blue icebergs, Gentoo penguin colonies, and chance encounters with breaching humpbacks and orcas.

The Amazon, Peru

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Why go now: Close to 20 percent of the Amazon forest—home to over 3 million species—has been lost in the last 50 years as the result of deforestation, man-made fires and other climate-related threats.

When to go: June to November is the dry season. December through May brings sporadic rains but prime wildlife spotting.

How to visit: Aqua Expeditions Aria Amazon bills itself as a floating boutique hotel that cruises the main stem of the Amazon River. The boat's 16 suites have floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can spot pink dolphins from bed. Star chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino showcases Amazonian ingredients in the restaurant. $6,144 for three nights; Aqua Expeditions.

Essential experience: Canoe through wildlife-rich Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and fish for red-bellied piranhas.

The Alps, Switzerland

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Why go now: Unless greenhouse emissions are curbed, experts predict the Alps could lose 70 percent of their glacier ice cover by 2100. Book your ski trip now.

When to go: The winter season runs from December to early April. Skip the crowds around the holidays.

How to visit: Host of two Winter Olympics, the annual Snow Polo World Cup and thrilling toboggan races, St. Moritz is a snow-sports mecca with a storybook alpine setting and perpetual sunshine. You'll feel like a celebrity (and probably spot a few too) at Badrutt's Palace, a glamorous landmark hotel with 10 restaurants, including après hot spot Paradiso, which sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet. From $800 in winter; Badrutts Palace.

Essential experiences: Get an adrenaline rush as a passenger on St. Moritz's famed Olympia bobsleigh run ($290). Oenophiles shouldn't miss a meal in Krug Stübli, the hotel's rustic 30,000-bottle wine cellar.

The Maldives

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Why go now: Scientists predict that 80 percent of this Indian Ocean archipelago of nearly 1,200 islands won't exist by 2050, due to climate change and rising sea levels.

When to go: Visit between November and April to avoid monsoon season.

How to visit: Located in the South Male Atoll, the newly renovated, adults-only Anantara Veli Maldives Resort offers a choice of beach pool villas, dreamy overwater bungalows, and a wellness villa with daily yoga and personal training sessions. A hydroponic farm supplies ingredients for its half-dozen eateries, including über-romantic Baan Huraa, a Thai restaurant perched on stilts above the lagoon. From $750; Anantara

Essential experience: Snorkel with nurse sharks, eagle rays and mantas while ogling colorful coral at nearby Vaavu Atoll.

The Dead Sea, Jordan

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Why go now: The salty lake is shrinking by more than 3 feet a year as humans harvest minerals and extract water for drinking and irrigation.

When to go: The heat is most tolerable from March to May and September to November.

How to visit: Set on the north side of the mineral-loaded waters, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea boasts nine swimming pools, a private beach and one of the largest spas in the Middle East. Splurge on the honeymoon suite, which has a private, lake-facing terrace with a Jacuzzi. From $200. Honeymoon suite from $675; Kempinski Hotels.

Essential experiences: Of course, you must float in the Dead Sea. But you should also tack on a visit to the UNESCO-listed archeological wonder Petra. Experience Jordan offers a two-day o!-the-beaten-path tour that can be booked privately or with a group and covers 7 to 10 miles of trekking each day to lesser-known sites. From $750; Experience Jordan.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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Why go now: Storms, erosion and sea level rise will continue to put The Big Easy's people and historic spaces in peril.

When to go: The weather is best in spring and fall. Mardi Gras is typically celebrated in February.

How to visit: Worthy of a Wes Anderson film, 67-room Maison de la Luz feels more like a home than a hotel. There's a daily wine-and-cheese hour, an intimate cocktail bar and a decadent breakfast (think griddle cakes with passion-fruit curd). The hotel doesn't serve dinner, but the concierge can make you a reservation at one of NOLA's top restaurants. From $378; Maison de la Luz.

Essential experiences: Catch the last set at Snug Harbor, a cozy jazz bistro just outside the French Quarter, and share the famed hot dog from Dat Dog after the show. If your visit coincides with crawfish season (March to June), grab a few pounds of the boiled crustaceans from Zimmer's and peel 'n' eat them along Lake Pontchartrain.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

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Why go now: Erosion, rising sea levels and increased foot traffic across the region are affecting the island's natural landscape and beaches.

When to go: The weather is best in summer and early fall. Early June and late September are especially idyllic options for those who prefer the warmth of the summer months, combined with a quieter experience. Locals, however, will say the holiday season is a magical time to visit to see Straight Wharf on Nantucket lit up for festivities.

How to visit: Home to industry titans and billionaires, Nantucket sees an increased volume of visitors in the peak summertime months of July through Labor Day Weekend. Most visitors and residents will fly into ACK (Nantucket Memorial Airport) or take the ferry. Lunch or a sunset dinner at Topper's at The Wauwinet, a historic landmark and adults-only property, is one of the most coveted reservations on the island. For a well-accommodated and serviced stay, book a cozy cottage at The White Elephant. From $399; White Elephant.

Essential experiences: A visit to the Whaling Museum, along with a guided walking tour of Nantucket town, will provide more context about the island's whaling history and the shingled homes that have characterized the destination for generations.

—Esther Lee contributed to the reporting of this article.

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