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Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Dur­ing a trip to the Czech Repub­lic this sum­mer, Bret Love des­per­ately wanted to escape the crowds at Prague Cas­tle but couldn’t. ‘‘There were thou­sands of peo­ple jostling for space,’’ said the co-founder of Green Global Travel. ‘‘You start to feel like cat­tle be­ing herded.’’

No mat­ter what you call it – over-tourism, over­booked or a for­eign in­va­sion – it’s the same squeeze: A hand­ful of des­ti­na­tions around the world are un­der siege. The stam­pede is hav­ing a dele­te­ri­ous ef­fect on the cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment and spirit of these places.

‘‘You try to keep these cities liv­able for the res­i­dents,’’ said Martha Honey, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Re­spon­si­ble Travel, ‘‘but over­tourism is killing these neigh­bour­hoods and the rea­sons we go there.’’

The is­sue is not the in­dus­try it­self but the hordes of peo­ple who de­scend on one place in the same time pe­riod (of­ten sum­mer). Des­ti­na­tions that are ill-equipped for the masses can’t keep up with the de­mand, and ev­ery­one suf­fers for it.

Trav­ellers can help ease the pres­sure by tweak­ing their trips. For in­stance, visit off-sea­son, book tick­ets to ma­jor at­trac­tions in ad­vance and ven­ture be­yond the his­tor­i­cal core.

To fur­ther help be­lea­guered des­ti­na­tions, we sin­gled out 10 prized spots buck­ling un­der the weight of too many feet and pro­vided less touristy al­ter­na­tives. Span­ish con­quest, a scan­dal in­volv­ing a Yale ex­plorer, and flood­ing, but its down­fall could be tourists. In 2013, Un­esco aired its con­cerns about the degra­da­tion of Peru’s top at­trac­tion. Among its myr­iad of­fences: ‘‘Im­pacts of tourism/vis­i­tor/ re­cre­ation.’’ In re­sponse, the num­ber of daily vis­i­tors was capped at 2500. How­ever, last year, 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple toured the ruins, a clear breach of the di­rec­tive. To con­trol the chaos, the gov­ern­ment an­nounced new re­stric­tions last July, such as re­quir­ing ac­cred­ited guides to ac­com­pany all vis­i­tors and no more stay­ing all day. Machu Pic­chu and Cho­que­quirao might as well be twins – both are sim­i­lar an­cient In­can cities in Peru’s An­des Moun­tains, though the Cho­que­quirao Hike is more ar­du­ous than the Inca Trail. De­spite the sim­i­lar­i­ties, lesser known Cho­que­quirao, which is three times larger than Machu Pic­chu, re­ceives a tiny frac­tion of vis­i­tors – a dozen to 30 ad­ven­tur­ers a day. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists did not start ex­ca­vat­ing the ruins un­til the 1970s, more than a half-cen­tury af­ter Machu Pic­chu was cleared. As part of an ini­tia­tive to dou­ble tourism by 2021, the gov­ern­ment has floated plans to build a road con­nect­ing the two sites, which sit about 65 kilo­me­tres apart, and in­stall a ca­ble car. guests closer to the heav­ens on a rooftop walk. If pressed for time, go straight to the Royal Al­cazar, a palace com­plex with a strong

Mude­jar streak. Moor­ish in­flu­ences – chick­peas, cumin, aubergine – ap­pear in the tapas. Of course, the primo in­gre­di­ent is ja­mon Iberico. Or eat a Seville or­ange. Go ahead and wag a fin­ger at Ice­landair. The bud­get air­line pop­u­larised the prac­tice of adding a free stopover in Ice­land en route to con­ti­nen­tal Europe. More re­cently, Wow Air, which started ser­vice in 2011, ex­tended the perk to its pas­sen­gers. Most tourists con­gre­gate in Reyk­javik and the south-west re­gion, clog­ging the cap­i­tal and the Golden Cir­cle, the driv­ing loop fizzing with geo­ther­mal fea­tures. The gov­ern­ment has placed re­stric­tions on Airbnb prop­erty own­ers. Closer to the air­port, the Blue La­goon, which at­tracts nearly a mil­lion guests each year, can feel very crowded. Baf­fin Is­land, in the north Cana­dian ter­ri­tory of Nu­navut, is the fifth-largest isle in the world. The land mass in the North At­lantic ocean shares sev­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics with Ice­land, such as fjords, the mid­night sun, North­ern Lights, Arc­tic Cir­cle and, ac­cord­ing to re­cent ar­chae­ol­ogy digs, Vik­ings. Though the Nu­navut cap­i­tal of Iqaluit is mi­nus­cule com­pared with Reyk­javik, vis­i­tors can soak up the north­ern cul­ture at the Nu­natta Su­nakku­taan­git Mu­se­u­mand, dur­ing the Toonik Tyme Fes­ti­val, a spring­time cel­e­bra­tion of tribal tra­di­tions in­clud­ing igloo-build­ing, dog sled­ding and ski­jor­ing. Out­side the city, plunge into the out­doors at sev­eral na­tional parks. At Auyuit­tuq Na­tional Park, you can ski, hike on glaciers and ice fields, and climb Mt Thor, which has the world’s long­est ver­ti­cal drop. Or scour Sir­mi­lik Na­tional Park for nar­whals, cari­bou, po­lar bears, ringed seals, bel­u­gas, and killer whales.

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