Sometimes you have to say no to the ones you love.
The editors at Fodor’s have a deep belief that this world is worth exploring, and we do our best to recommend destinations of wonder based on more than personal taste. We believe that we’re not only passengers on this trip, but are stewards of this land. This planet offers an abundance of majestic vistas and fascinating culture that we recommend you seek out often. But this world is also more than a static viewing point—as travelers, we are witness to the many misfortunes that happen upon it. Travelers must decide how and where we can concern our efforts to observe and preserve the splendor of life around us, and we do that with everything from our currency to our presence.
Fodor’s No List is a reflection of those considerations: where should we go—or not go—that best reflects our courtesy and concern for this wonderful world. Because sometimes you have to say no to the ones you love in hopes that they can recover, reconsider, or reform. A “no” in 2018 is resolved with faith for 2019. See you then, hopefully.
The Galápagos Islands are unlike anyplace else in the world. They’re home to species of flora and fauna that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. But the centuries of extreme isolation that resulted in the archipelago’s many unique species have left them very vulnerable to outside factors. The Ecuadorian government has instated incredibly strict laws in order to preserve the fragile marine and terrestrial ecosystems from human and, more specifically, tourist interference. It’s not even enough for the government to instate said laws and regulations if visitors are consisting flouting them (some people can’t even be trusted not to steal four whole iguanas from the islands, let alone follow basic “leave no trace” ethos). Even if you follow the rules to a tee, seeds or tiny insects still find a way to reaching the islands and wreaking havoc on endemic populations.
So be very careful when considering the Galápagos as a destination because once the things that make it such a magical place are gone—the fearless animals, the unique species, the otherworldly environments—we’ll never get them back.
The Places That Don't Want You to Visit
Sometimes, the economic boon brought in by tourist dollars just isn’t worth the strain it puts on the destinations themselves. Venice recently banned the docking of cruise ships because of the damage they do to the lagoon’s ecosystem. Peru has limited the amount of time people are allowed to visit the site of Machu Picchu. Amsterdam’s population of 800,000 is pummeled by over 5 million tourists a year.
And while it may be tempting to think, “Well, what’s the worst that can happen? How much damage can little old me really cause in a sea of millions?” Well, the high numbers of tourists on Thailand’s Koh Tachai up and put a ban on all tourist activities for months because the island’s natural beauty was so marred by discourteous visitors. The residents of these destinations, humans or otherwise, need a staycation–from the rest of us–in 2018.
The Taj Mahal
Anyone who’s taken the time to craft a bucket list has probably placed the Taj Mahal pretty close to the top. The 17th-century mausoleum is a work of unquestionable beauty that’s endured for centuries. But as with any great beauty, there’s upkeep involved. And, as it turns out, mud masks aren’t just good for people–they’re good for iconic Indian structures.
The Archeological Survey of India determined that the Taj Mahal’s dome (as well as four minarets) would undergo mud-pack therapy in order to correct the surface’s yellowing. Originally, this was to be wrapped up by March of 2018 but now officials are saying that work won’t begin until March of 2018. So unless your dream Taj Mahal visit involves being photographed standing in front of a mud-caked and be-scaffolded dome, maybe give it until 2019 at the earliest.
And while mud masks are always great for self-care, New Dehli might appreciate the time to take a deeper cleanse, as its air quality in the previous year reached toxic levels. Because the beauty of the Taj should be what takes your breath away–not the haze.
Phang Nga Park, Thailand
Let’s try a magic trick. Close your eyes, and think of a tropical beach vacation in Southeast Asia: the water is emerald green and there are dozens of tiny islands with secret coves, and even sea caves with white sand beaches, perfect for a picnic lunch. Now open your eyes. You’re thinking of Thailand, and probably a group of islands that looks a lot like Ao Phang Nga National Park. How did we know that? Because we are wise and powerful travel gurus. And because that’s the picture most people have in their heads. Thailand is one of the world’s most popular, most photographed destinations by quite a lot.
Because of the images they conjure in our collective imagination (as well as on-screen–The Beach and James Bond films, to name just a few), the rush to paradise has overwhelmed the islands, causing Thailand’s government to create a rating system for its beaches based on “water quality that includes both solid waste and pollution in the sea; plastic and oil pollution and residue; coastal and beach trash management; condition of reefs and national park resources; environmental control, and tourism management.” While many beaches are recovering, scoring high in the 5-star ratings, Ao Phang Nga National Park desperately tries to recover from its manmade threats: tourists who feed fish, pollute coral reefs, and catch marine life, to name a few.
And because the beaches around this park are just as pristine and lauded for their recovery initiative, there’s even more reason to take the road less littered and enjoy a tropical vacay away from the fray.
Myanmar is an incredible place–we selected it for the 2013 Go List for its unbelievable sights (a temple complex completely covered in gold and diamonds, said to enshrine eight hairs of Gautama Buddha), charming festivals (the new year is ushered in with a three-day-long, country-wide water gun, balloon, and gallon-bucket fight), and rich history, flora, and fauna (Marco Polo said he spotted a unicorn in the lush jungle here, which is also home to elephants, tigers, leopards, and rhinoceros).
But since August 25, the UN has labeled the human rights violations by Myanmar’s military as a “textbook case” of ethnic cleansing. What is happening to the Rohingya, members of a local ethnic Muslim minority, has been described as “horrific” and compared to the Rwandan genocide. In the past few months, 600,000 have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to a camp that is growing so quickly it can be seen by satellite.
No amount of worldly wonder could in good consciousness sustain our recommendation to visit Myanmar while the persecution of the Rohingya people continues.
If you’re a reasonable person, there are already plenty of reasons to eschew the world’s highest point for slightly lower peaks to conquer. There’s the price tag, which’ll run you $25,000 on the low end and about $45,000 on the high. Then, there’s the danger. While there’s no shortage of the number of precautions, it’s still a perilous trek–the mountain claimed 6 lives in 2017 alone. Indeed, it’s possible climate change and the subsequent melting of snow and ice (which makes the trek less stable and possibly more susceptible to avalanches) may be rendering Mt. Everest more dangerous than ever. So good luck putting your tenuous mortality out of your mind as you climb with the knowledge that over 200 bodies are still on the mountain, some of which act as trail markers for those making their way toward the summit.
Bragging rights aside, Mt. Everest is, after all, a uniquely beautiful and spiritual way to be one with nature and test your mettle. But as with every other natural wonder in the world, Everest’s once pristine landscape has been marred by the trash left behind by climbers. Rescue crews are unable to take on the huge risk of retrieving human remains from Everest’s slopes, so don’t expect a clean-up crew to be dispatched after littering climbers, well, ever.
The Show-Me State is full of wonders that belong on anyone’s travel bucket list. It’s home to breathtaking limestone caverns, the Budweiser Clydesdales, Kansas City-style BBQ, great jazz, the Silver Dollar City Amusement Park, and even a museum that purports to house the holy finger of John the Baptist.
Unfortunately, Missouri is also the place where SB 43 was passed making it more difficult to sue employers for discrimination, a state representative argued that homosexuals weren’t human beings, a tourist who got lost and ran out of gas was later found murdered in his jail cell without ever being put under arrest, and two men were hunted down and shot on suspicion of being Muslim on the outskirts of Kansas City. And that’s just in 2017.
Those are just a few of the startling headlines from the state that prompted the Missouri chapter of the NAACP to advise tourists to skip this state and the “looming danger” for visitors when they’re touring United States.
Missouri has “a separate standard of laws that are only applicable to some people,” Nimrod Chapel, Jr., head of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, told Fodor’s. He includes people of color, women, the disabled, senior citizens, foreigners, and people of faith as among those who are discriminated against.
He further cautions against the manner in which these laws are policed in the state. “Not everyone dies after an encounter with law enforcement, and we wouldn’t suggest that. But there [are] so many negative outcomes that would indicate that there’s some bias in the way that their laws are enforced that we think that people have to be aware of the danger and, you know, decide for themselves.”
Did you know that Honduras has some of the best diving in the world? It’s inexpensive, and one of the only places to see endemic baby whale sharks, manatees, and breathtaking expanses of coral reefs. It’s also home to tropical rainforests, mangroves, and wildlife you can’t spot anywhere else in the world.
Sadly, when Honduras makes headlines it’s more often for its murder rate. Not only does Honduras have one of the highest murder rates in the world, members of the LGBTQ community are one of the most common targets.
And police officers are the “primary perpetrators” of those murders. Harassment and abuse often take place at the hands of local law enforcement. In fact, fears of local law enforcement from locals and travelers make Honduras one of the best places to root for accountability and vote your (lack of) dollars in the upcoming years.
Great Wall of China & Beijing, China
The Great Wall of China’s status as one of the Seven Wonders of the World is indisputable. With a more recent archaeological study determined that the wall is 13,000 miles long (for reference, the continental U.S. is 2,680 miles wide) it’s perhaps the foremost architectural feat in the world. And yet, at the current rate, it’s in danger of going the way of such Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
Despite having survived for nearly two millennia, the Great Wall is under threat from a number of sources—mining, erosion, graffiti, construction, and even rural farmers who have taken to turning the structure into shelters and fertilizer. Oh, and that all too omnipresent force of destruction—tourism overload.
The sections of the wall that are best preserved can be accessed via Beijing … which might make for a better destination once its plan to reduce the city’s overwhelming smog has had time to result in more lung-friendly conditions. 2017 saw China issue it’s first ever national red-alert–the highest level in the country’s four-tier warning system for air pollution.
Politics have all but made it impossible to keep track of the rules for Cuba travel, with the latest State Department issue prohibiting American access to the country’s malls, shops, marinas, and hotels on the island. But if you’re not ready to give up your dream of touring Old Havana in a pink 1952 Chevrolet deluxe, spotting flamingos or crocodiles in the famously beautiful wetlands, or doing the mambo in the street to the sound of Cuban drums, you still have options.
Flying to Cuba is still legal and several government-sanctioned tour companies are allowed to take US citizens who fill out the proper paperwork on US-government approved cultural tours. Under the supervision of a minder, you will be taken to legal hotel accommodations and taken to see all of the government-approved sites on the island. Exploring a place means embracing its true culture, a frustratingly low priority of the US government’s agenda.
And even if you’re willing to take on bureaucracy and state-sanctioned itineraries, be wary of places where American embassies suffer undetermined threats. A mysterious illness–now suspected as a “health attack” (with possibilities of sonic, virus, poison, or radiation weapon use)–felled ill 21 employees at the embassy last September. Symptoms have included hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance and visual problems, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping–some injuries permanent. While both the US and Cuban officials believe a third party is to blame, caution is urged until the cause of the attacks is uncovered, and the remaining embassy staff in Havana will carry out only emergency services.