Last month, a report claimed that a fifth of the 720 UNESCO World Heritage Sites could be at risk of drowning due to climate change and rising sea levels. In the spirit of not taking these sites for granted, we’ve rounded up a few of the landmarks on the list that may not be as well known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Statue of Liberty – but are just as stunning and worthy of any traveler’s bucket list. See them while they still exist…
Kinderdijk-Elshout Mill Network, Netherlands
Kinderdijk, a low-lying town in the Netherlands, had been kept dry since the 1940s by a network of 19 windmills together with more modern pumping stations, storage basins, and sluices. The risk of flooding for the still-operational mills is obvious. While you can, we highly encourage driving along the neighboring trail – it feels like stepping onto the set of a perfectly scenic Dutch movie.
Itsukushima Shrine, Japan
A 12th century revamp of a holy structure from the 6th century, the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine is already partially submerged in water. This was intentional, to make it appear as though it was floating. This shrine and its surrounding complex was built on Itsukushima Island in the Hiroshima prefecture. Depending on the tide, it’s possible to walk or boat up to the shrine.
Historic City of Ayutthaya, Thailand
Surrounded on all four sides by water, this former Siamese capital rises just a few steps above three rivers in Thailand. Though the 1350s, the city was ravaged by war and floods alike. For now, it remains an impressive monument of ancient Thai and Buddhist art.
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
This tropical atoll in the South Pacific isn’t known for expanses of white-sand beach or beautiful resorts. Rather, it’s an incredible spot for crazy wreck diving, considering a total of 23 nuclear weapons were detonated here between 1946 and 1958. While few of the island’s original communities live here due to political stances and residual radiation concerns, the islands have been deemed safe for visiting and residential returns since the late 1990s. Fishing and boating have also been popular in the past decade.