Overtourism is a problem in a lot of places around the globe. Natural places, especially, are susceptible as they can easily see negative human impacts. Some places simply aren’t built to handle so many people, and can be effectively ruined by our simple presence. Of course, littering is another big reason certain places are heavily impacted. Here are five places that are now off limits thanks to tourists.
Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet
The Chinese base camp is accessible by car, and has been closed to tourists without hiking permits because of the increased amount of waste left by visitors. The Nepalese base camp is only accessible by a two-week hike, making it difficult to reach for a typical tourist. That’s why so many head to Tibet. Or that’s why they did, at least. Only 300 permits will be issued each year, and with the recent deaths of 11 climbers, it's not unreasonable to think that number could be chopped down.
Boracay Island, Philippines
While this island in the Philippines has reopened, it’s still undergoing restoration and is under the threat of closing once again. It closed in 2018 to visitors for about six months to recover from heavy tourism and utility issues like sewage running into the ocean from nearby hotels. It was used as a party island, essentially, since the 1980s, and saw 1.7 million visitors in a 10-month span in recent years, many of them from cruise ships passing through. It has strict new rules like “don’t vomit in public.” There are also bans on pets, grilling meat, fireworks after 9 p.m., casinos and single-use plastics.
Komodo Island, Indonesia
With the island’s famous inhabitants, the Komodo dragons, being stolen and sold on the black market in recent years, Indonesia’s Komodo Island has been closed to tourists through at least January 2020. Millions of visitors to an island that can’t handle that impact has also been an issue. Other islands that are part of Komodo National Park remain open.
Maya Bay, Thailand
Famous for being in Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach (2000), Thailand’s Maya Bay saw a massive increase in visitors after the film. Before, it only had some 100 people on its shores every day. By 2018, it was 5,000 a day. In June 2018, the country’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation announced they would be closing the beach temporarily — maybe a couple of months. However, the damage was so severe that it’s still closed today, having been indefinitely off limits to visitors since October 2018. Authorities may not have a set reopen date but are working to determine the true capacity of the beach, which will make human impact more minimal.
Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland
The most recent victim of overtourism is Iceland’s stunning Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon. Blame Justin Bieber. More than 1 million people visited the area since the pop star released a music video filmed there in 2015. The country itself has also received a massive uptick in visitors — up to 2.3 million in 2018 from 600,000 just eight years ago. With that in mind, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, the Minister of the Enviroment, said it is “a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber.” But we’re going to anyway, because he added: “Rash behavior by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows.” And it did. The canyon also requires only a half-mile or so of hiking to reach the panoramic views. Fences, signs and park rangers are in place to keep people out, but the number of people who try to go is still overwhelming.