The idea that some of the most popular tourist destinations right now would cease to exist in a few decades seems outlandish to most, though we forget that it has already happened to many iconic destinations in the past. Thanks to factors like climate change, bad policies, general neglect, or just changing times, some of the most popular destinations of the past are now lost to history.
10. The New York Hippodrome
The New York Hippodrome existed from 1905 to 1939, standing on what is now an office building called The Hippodrome Center in Midtown Manhattan. While it was rather short-lived compared to some of the other places on this list, for most of the years that it did exist, the Hippodrome was easily one of the most frequently-visited theaters in the world.
The New York Hippodrome was known for its architecture and state-of-the-art installations, including an 8,000-gallon water tank under the stage that could be raised for diving shows and other water-based events. It was a New York icon, seeing its golden years during the Broadway renaissance of the roaring ’20s. The New York Hippodrome was known for its circus shows, movie screenings, music performances and a slew of other attractions. Its most popular performance, though, has to be the Disappearing Elephant by Harry Houdini in 1918.
While it had a good run, the Hippodrome soon faced stiff competition from newer theaters, along with the ever-rising costs of operations and the economic crunch of the ’30s. It was shut down and demolished in 1939, though the New York Hippodrome still remains one of the most popular cultural centers in America’s history.
9. The Wawona Tree, California
Giant sequoia trees are easily the largest living creatures on Earth by volume. They’re also one of the tallest – older members of the species can reach over 270 feet in height. Also known as redwoods, the species is only found on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, making for an ideal getaway destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts from across the country.
Perhaps the most famous giant sequoia was the 2,100-year-old Wawona Tree, thanks to the giant tunnel dug underneath it to attract tourists in 1881. While it looked amazing and still features in a lot of famous travel photographs of the era, trees generally don’t do well with a gaping hole in their trunk. That, combined with other factors like heavy snow and weak soil, made it even weaker over time before it finally fell in the winter of 1968-69. At close to 2,100 years at the time, it was one of the oldest living beings ever recorded.
8. Guaíra Falls, Paraguay And Brazil
Guaira Falls was a set of massive natural waterfalls formed by the Panama River, falling along the border of Paraguay and Brazil. According to the people lucky enough to see them while they existed, the waterfalls were unlike any other found around the world, at least in terms of scale if not anything else. In sheer volume, Guaira Falls probably had the highest volume of falling water compared to any other water body we know of – the sound alone was so loud that it could be heard as far as 20 miles away.
While it was easily one of the most-visited travel destinations in both Paraguay and Brazil, Guaira Falls are now a relic of the past. They were submerged and replaced by the Itaipu Dam in 1982 as a part of an agreement between Paraguay and Brazil.
7. Chacaltaya Glacier Ski Resort, Bolivia
The Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia used to be one of the largest glaciers in the region. Bolivian scientists started studying it in the ’90s, estimating that it could survive until at least 2015. However, it melted faster than anyone expected, affecting many people that relied on it for their freshwater supply in the otherwise-arid plains of La Paz.
It was also the site of the Chacaltaya Glacier Ski Resort – perhaps the highest ski resort in the world back in its heyday. It was a popular tourist destination, attracting ski-lovers and other alpine adventurers from around the world.
By 2009, the Chacaltaya glacier had completely melted, having survived over 18,000 years of continuous existence, according to scientific estimates. The resort – once a bustling center of tourist activity in the region, especially in the winter – now lies largely abandoned, too.
6. Porcelain Tower, Nanjing
The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing wasn’t just a prominent monument in China, it was also considered a wonder of the known medieval world by many travelers at the time. Built by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the tower – more accurately a pagoda – was completed in the early 15th century. As per some European accounts from that time, it was one of the most spectacular monuments in the East.
Unfortunately, the tower was destroyed in the 19th century during the Taiping Rebellion – one of the largest civil wars in history. The site now houses a modern version of the original Porcelain Tower, allegedly funded by a sizable donation from a Chinese billionaire.
5. The ‘Love Locks’ Bridge, Paris
The Pont Des Arts in Paris wasn’t a particularly exceptional footbridge, though over the years, it had managed to become one of the most visited spots in the city. Starting in 2008, travelers from around the world had been attaching padlocks with messages to their loved ones all over the bridge. It used to be so popular that at its peak, the Pont Des Arts was laden with more than 700,000 locks.
As you’d expect, that didn’t turn out that well for the bridge. By 2014, close to 7,500 kilos of locks were being added to the bridge every day, causing one of its fences to bend and start to fall off. Moreover, the site had turned into a heavily-crowded tourist spot, disturbing the otherwise calm and serene backdrop of the place.
After years of complaints from the locals and the deteriorating condition of the bridge, the city council decided to cut the locks down in 2015.
4. River Country, Florida
The River Country water park started out as one of the first major attractions built at the Walt Disney World in Florida in 1976. It was also one of the earliest fully-themed water parks ever, making it an attraction for water park enthusiasts around the world, not just the United States. It housed numerous rides that were only found at the River Park for many years of its existence, as the whole concept of a themed park was still in its early days at the time.
By the end of the century, though, River Country faced stiff competition from other newer, flashier themed parks, including other Disney properties like Typhoon Lagoon. While it was a great idea at the time it opened, by 2001, the property had already started running into losses.
Disney announced the closure of River Country in 2005, after staying shut for almost three years for maintenance. The park still regularly features in magazines and online outlets, though mostly for its creepy, ‘abandoned theme park’ vibe than anything else.
3. Maya Bay, Thailand
Maya Bay lies in Ko Phi Phi Le, the second largest of all the islands in the picturesque Phi Phi archipelago in Thailand. It features heavily in the 2000 movie starring Leonardo di Caprio – The Beach – and is still one of the most beautiful tropical beaches you can visit around the world. The catch? You can’t go there anymore.
Beginning in 2018, the Thai government posed a ban on all tourists heading to Maya Bay, as its growing popularity had taken a heavy toll on the local ecology, including almost all of its corals. At its peak, Maya Bay saw a footfall of more than 5,000 people, prompting the government to step in and shut it down for all tourists in 2018.
2. Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are classified as a UNESCO heritage site due to their vast natural wealth. Home to numerous species not found anywhere else on the planet – like the marine iguana – the islands regularly attract tourists from all around the world.
The most famous natural attraction on the islands, though, doesn’t exist anymore. It was a natural, arch-like rock formation called the Darwin’s Arch – named after Darwin’s famous visit to the islands in 1835, which later inspired his theory of evolution. It was a popular diving destination, and still features in postcards and other travel memorabilia from the region. According to photographs issued by Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, the top part of the arch collapsed in May, 2017, probably due to natural erosion.
1. Jonah’s Tomb, Iraq
If we were to list out all the heritage sites destroyed by wars and violence throughout history, we’d probably be here all day. The destruction of Jonah’s Tomb in Mosul, Iraq, by ISIS forces, though, was unique for taking place in the modern, fully digitized era. While it was by no means the only historical site destroyed by ISIS, it was a prominent one. Jonah was an important figure in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, prompting sharp responses from countries around the world.
The video of the tomb’s bombing was posted on YouTube in 2014, though its authenticity could only be verified once Mosul was retaken by counter-revolutionary forces in 2017. It was a part of a larger campaign by ISIS to destroy historical sites across the region, bringing an unfortunate end to some of the oldest excavated archaeological sites in the world, such as Palmyra.