Time is an impatient mistress. One moment you’re making daisy chains with your friends; the next you’re weaving loom bands with your kids.
Life doesn’t wait.
If you want to travel the globe, complete your bucket list, cross continents and see the natural world at its most enchantingly, mesmerisingly beautiful, your journey starts today. Where would you like to be three months from now?
If your answer is “Reading about cool places on the internet”, bookmark this article and return to it later. If your answer is “Swimming the Great Barrier Reef” or “Exploring the plains of Salar de Uyuni” then keep reading. We’ll supply the inspiration (the accommodation too if desired); then it’s up to you to make it happen.
Some of these places won’t be around forever – so make a date with them while you still have the chance.
Mount Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaPhoto: Captain Oates
Reasons to visit: Kilimanjaro is the preferred obstacle of fund-raisers, amateur athletes and other go-getters facing their demons. Discover yourself while discovering yourself on Africa’s grandest mountain. Along the way, you’ll encounter enough pretty to fill a flash drive: Kilimanjaro’s diverse forests and grasslands are click-a-minute special. Between the mesmerising views and gruelling ascent, breath may be at a premium by the time you reach the summit.
Time left: By 2020, the famous peak is predicted to have lost its frozen cap – in the last 15 years, a quarter of Kilimanjaro’s snow has already trickled down the mountainside. Scale the mountain before its height and might are irreducibly diminished.
Great Barrier Reef, AustraliaPhoto: eutrophication&hypoxia
Reasons to visit: 3,000 reefs, 600 islands, 300 cays: the Great Barrier Reef is huge, but it’s shrinking like a pricked balloon. Pollution, global warming and fishing have all taken their toll on the aquatic paradise. Visit the Reef from a holiday home in Queensland and savour it while you still have the chance.
Time left: It’s feared that 95% of the coral reef could be gone by 2050, so don’t dally – go there (but visit responsibly.)
MadagascarPhoto: David Dennis
Reasons to visit: 50 unique species of lemur, unique birds, unique plants, unique everything. Madagascar’s greatest asset – its dense rainforests – are also its greatest liability. Everyone wants a piece, from loggers to cattle farmers. Despite these existential threats, Madagascar is still an exquisite place to visit – for now at least.
Time left: Only 17% of Madagascar’s lush vegetation remains. Conservationists are currently in a race to safeguard – and in some cases discover – species before they go extinct. Provided you choose a sustainable tourism package, you can enjoy this natural haven without hastening its demise.
The ArcticPhoto: NOAA National Ocean Service
Reasons to visit: When the world warms up, the Arctic is the first to sweat. What started out as a trickle of perspiration has turned into a torrent as ice caps are greedily swallowed by the ocean. The rising sea levels will inconvenience littoral communities the world over, but they’re particularly devastating for the Arctic’s birds and mammals.
Time left: Polar bears could be wiped out by 2100. Their current presence might not entice you to visit, but it should certainly encourage you to appreciate the fine documentaries and conservation projects that are focused on this precious region.
Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaPhoto: Patrick Nouhailler
Reasons to visit: The world’s largest salt flat is desolately beautiful, hauntingly epic and overwhelmingly vast. It’s also sitting on the world’s largest lithium deposits, which is why there’s a good chance it’ll be dug up to fuel our lithium battery smartphones.
Time left: About 50 years.
Venice, ItalyPhoto: Tim Sackton
Reasons to visit: The culture. The history. The architecture. The waterways. It’s Venice, isn’t it? Italy’s most romantic city has been wooing visitors for centuries, but that love affair is in danger of ending in tragedy.
Venice has always been prone to flooding, but in recent years the city has been losing its battle with the Adriatic. Whether it’s rising tides or rising tourist numbers that ultimately submerge the city remains to be seen; either way, the Venice of the next century could look very different to the seductress who smoulders today. Leave it too late and the City of Bridges could be a city submerged.
Time left: 80 years at best.
Virunga National Park, CongoPhoto: Heather Thorkelson
Reasons to visit: Should you visit Africa’s oldest national park? On the one hand, there are 2,000 plant, 700 bird and 200 mammal species to admire. On the other hand, it’s situated worryingly close to a war zone. As a rule, any country with Democratic in its name isn’t very democratic and Democratic Republic of Congo is no exception. With Rwanda lurking across the border, the neighbours are also pretty rowdy. Natural riches and poverty are regular bedfellows; in Africa, their union invariably leads to poaching and habitat destruction.
Time left: The illegal charcoal trade could decimate Virunga’s hardwood forests within a decade. A visit to Congo’s National Park promises to be a life-changing and life-affirming experience – but do your research before entering the DRC.
Dead Sea, JordanPhoto: Arian Zwegers
Reasons to visit: Where else can you read the paper while bathing without soaking the sports section? Like every attraction on this list, the Dead Sea is unique – unique and endangered. While melting ice caps are lifting sea levels elsewhere, the Dead Sea is dropping fast. Water is a scarce resource in this part of the world; with man and beast claiming increasing quantities, the saline sea has already shrunk by a third.
Time left: That all depends on controversial plans to stabilise the Dead Sea. One thing’s for sure: the sooner you get there, the more water you’ll have to play with.
Machu Picchu, PeruPhoto: Pedro Szekely
Reasons to visit: This is a tricky one. Machu Picchu is undeniably gorgeous, its Incan remains the obsession of amateur photographers, historians and conspiracy nuts – plus the million casual tourists who descend on the ruined city every year. Construction projects to sustain the increasing footfall are doing the Andes’ ecosystem no favours, with river erosion and landslides among the side-effects. The locals are heavily dependant upon the booming tourist trade however and besides, what’s the point of a spectacular city if no one can appreciate it?
Time left: With numbers swelling by 30% a year, you’ll want to move fast but tread carefully before Machu Picchu becomes the Peruvian Goa, where the tourists have left the purists in despair.
Planet Earth, Milky Way
Located in the Solar System, Earth is the only celestial planet known to host life. It’s a diverse and stunningly beautiful place, but if you want to see it, you’ll need to hurry – in 7.6 billion years, it will be engulfed by the sun which will exterminate all life as the planet burns to a crisp.
This pales into significance, however, when you consider that 100 years from now, you’ll already have ceased to exist. So what are you waiting for? In the words of Tyler Durden, “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.”
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered.
Where would you like to be three months from now? Either find out via our tailored-to-you Places to See Before You Die microsite, or share your own places to visit in the comments below – and don’t leave it too long to pay a visit before they’re gone forever.
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