Photograph by Reinhard Schmid, SIME
Facing Trouble: Under severe pressures, many places working for recovery.
Tunisia: Coastal Resort Region
"Incredible archaeological sites" and "overdeveloped resort enclaves" both attract visitors to Tunisia's fertile northwestern coast. Construction has taken off in recent years and caused ecological damage.
Florida: Treasure Coast (Boca Raton-Vero Beach)
This stretch of Florida's southern Atlantic coast is still less built up than super-developed Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but it is hardly pristine wilderness. "Pockets of preservation" and well-managed state and county parks occasionally interrupt a "wall of concrete that faces the beach almost everywhere."
Arizona: Lake Powell
"Unsightly commercial enterprises," prolonged drought, and unsustainable levels of recreational boating have taken a toll on the aesthetic appeal and ecological health of the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States.
South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal Coast
This coast presents a diverse array of "spectacular" landscapes, ranging from dune-backed windswept beaches to palm-crowned rocky shoreline. Unfortunately, "very high levels of crime everywhere" discourage visitors from leaving all-inclusive resorts to explore all that the region has to offer.
Albania: Coastal Regions
Shunned by the travel industry during Albania’s years of political isolation, this coastline is now seeing “the beginnings of typical Mediterranean mass tourism.”
Greece: Crete—North Coast
Minoan masterpieces share in-demand beachfront real estate with modern monstrosities on Crete's north coast. While some places are "beautiful and rugged with an authentic feel," the whole area suffers from "poor environmental management." Some archaeological sites are well preserved. Others show the wear and tear that comes from over-visitation.
Indonesia: Bali Coasts
We included Bali in our 2004, 2007, and 2009 surveys. It rated 58, 57, and 59, respectively. This year we asked panelists to restrict their assessments to the island's coastline. A significantly lower score suggests that the ecological damage and loss of cultural authenticity that the island as a whole faces may manifest themselves most acutely along the coast.
With verdant, mist-bound mountains and excellent surfing beaches, this teardrop-shaped island has been nicknamed "China's Hawaii." Its burgeoning hospitality industry has brought economic growth and environmental challenges. "Locals may benefit" from tourism, but "outsiders benefit more."
Thailand: Andaman Coast
Everything from relatively unspoiled beaches to centers of "unregulated mass tourism" can be found along Thailand's hundreds-mile-long west coast. The hospitality sector has "recovered rapidly" from the 2004 tsunami, but developers have not learned from past mistakes. Large resorts are popping up in vulnerable locations. Few have "specific regional features or character."
South Korea: Pusan
Growing pains have come with rapid population growth in South Korea's second largest city. The air is polluted, the streets are crowded, and the "built heritage is being overwhelmed by modern construction." On the upside: local culture continues to thrive, and "the city center retains its original appeal."
Kenya: Mombasa to Malindi
While "vacant white sand beaches" still line parts of the coast, overdevelopment is invading. Local residents rarely benefit from the tourism industry, which is dominated by walled-off all-inclusive resorts. The United Nations has begun to implement a sustainable tourism management initiative, offering some hope for the future.
Bulgaria: Black Sea Coast
Resort developers are snatching up large swaths of Bulgaria's coastline, increasingly regarded by price-conscious Europeans as an affordable alternative to Spain and Greece. They have left in their wake a built landscape that "does not adequately reflect the area's cultural resources and heritage." Nevertheless, travelers who venture far enough off the beaten path find pockets of "untouched natural areas." Nesebur's well-preserved Old Town is worth a visit.
California: Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Small towns with an early 20th-century ambience dot central California's spindly network of rivers and canals. More than a century's worth of water drainage projects have left much of the region below sea level. The fragile, worn-out levee system threatens to give way and cause catastrophic flooding if it is not upgraded soon.
Monaco: As a Whole
With a skyline crowned by glimmering high-rise hotels, streets clogged with expensive cars, and a harbor guarded by a world-famous casino, Monaco lives up to its reputation for unrestrained extravagance and conspicuous consumption. "There is no social or cultural integrity to speak of because the only culture is the love of money." Yet, the Old Town "is lovely and well cared for."
Australia: Gold Coast
This "big coastal resort city" and its environs certainly display symptoms of aggressive development—including air and water pollution, traffic congestion, and "ugly sprawl." But that's only half the story. Parts of the hinterland remain unspoiled, and "a lot of resources are being put into beach management and policy research."
Domestic and international tourists flock to this arc of palm-blanketed islands in the south to enjoy its sun-soaked beaches and the genuine friendliness of residents. Unfortunately, some places are "very crowded and hectic."
Read Panelist Comments »
Descriptions written by Jonathan King. Comments edited by Jonathan King, Marilyn Terrell, and Jonathan B. Tourtellot.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
See Captivating Photos of Our Days' End—Submitted by Members of the Your Shot Community
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.