Disturbing photos show what famous destinations looked like before and after tourists wrecked them

Worldwide Features/Barcroft Me/Getty ImagesSpoiler alert: Pigs probably shouldn’t drink beer.

Ask anyone why they travel and they will probably tell you it’s to see new things. Whether it’s somewhere they learned about in a class, somewhere they have a family history tie, or somewhere they saw tagged on Instagram, many people love to explore.

Tourism has also been known to positively impact the economy of destinations.

But if left unchecked, it can also put a great deal of strain on an environment – both natural and economic.

From coral reefs in Thailand to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, here are what 13 destinations around the world looked like before and after they were ruined by tourists.

In 2017, more than 2 million tourists visited the island of Boracay, Philippines, known for its the powdery white-sand shores and crystal clear waters.

Lars Ruecker/Getty Images

Source: Philippine Information Agency

But the island’s lack of infrastructure finally caught up to it. Thousands of island residents and hundreds of tourism-related businesses were not connected to underground sewer lines, and some had been dumping their dirty water right into the ocean.

pashapixel/Getty Images

Source: Time and Country Living

In early 2018, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called the island a “cesspool” and shut it down for six months so the government could clean up the sewage mess.

saiko3p/Getty Images

Source: BBC

The government installed drainage pipes and made other changes to the sewage system over the six-month clean-up period.

Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

The shutdown wasn’t a permanent fix. Government officials re-opened the island in October with new rules and regulations for both tourists and tourism-centered businesses.

Alejandro Ernesto/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

Even though the government was able to clean up the beaches during the shutdown …

Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post

… it’s still working on more inland projects like road reconstruction.

Kyodo News/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: CNN

As of early 2018, the beach of Maya Bay, Thailand, saw around 5,000 visitors every day.

Drone Thailand / Shutterstock

Source: The Nation

The bay became a hotbed for tourists after Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie “The Beach,” which was shot there in 1999.

Source: Country Living

The Thai government usually closes a number of marine national parks from May to October so the wildlife has a chance to recover. But since the movie came out in 2000, tourism demands kept Maya Bay open all year.

Source: The Guardian

Around 200 boats and 4,000 people were visiting the beach every day, which has killed nearly all the coral and driven away virtually all sea life.

Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian

If you look at the sea floor here, you can see all the reef life has lost its bright colours. This is a result of coral bleaching that makes the coral more susceptible to disease and death.

Getty Images

Source: The Guardian, NOAA

Healthy coral like this, found around the Phi Phi islands of Thailand, are much more colourful thanks to their symbiotic relationship with algae. When corals are stressed by increased ocean temperatures or pollution, the algae leaves the coral tissue, creating a coral bleaching event.

Placebo365/Getty Images

Source: USA Today, NOAA

The government closed the area from May through October to help facilitate regrowth of the coral reefs and all life under the sea.

Source: The Guardian

The four-month closure will be an annual practice — so if you’re planning a visit and want to see the bay, you may need to adjust your timeline.

Alexandra Schuler/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian

Around 6 million tourists descend upon the Bahamas every year, which is home to the popular Big Major Cay — also known as Pig Beach.

Nejron Photo/Shutterstock

Source: U.S. Department of State, Travel + Leisure

But the beach where travellers go to play with pigs has a problem: The pigs are dying.

shalamov/iStock/Getty Images Plus


It’s believed some tourists try to feed them beer, rum, or food, which leads them to ingest sand. Some tourists have even tried to ride on their backs.

Worldwide Features/Barcroft Me/Getty Images


Bali, Indonesia, saw around 5.5 million tourists in 2017, some of whom are travelling bloggers and vacationers looking to relax.

Source: The Jakarta Post

It’s relatively cheap to live there …

Source: Country Living

… and it’s filled with unbelievably beautiful temples and views …


Source: Country Living

… and white sand beaches and ocean views.

Unfortunately, it’s also facing a “garbage emergency.”

Source: The Telegraph

Bali officials declared the emergency in 2017 after the litter was so bad that high tides brought massive amounts of plastic onto the beaches.

Source: The Telegraph

Experts estimate up to 80% of the trash washing up on Bali’s beaches comes from garbage that’s collected from hotels and villages by informal workers and then is dumped in rivers and carried out to sea before finding its way back to the coastline.

Source: Reuters

Cleanup efforts are underway, but Susan Ruffo, a managing director at the non-profit Ocean Conservancy, told Reuters there’s no silver bullet.

Source: Reuters

One Island One Voice — a network linking different cleanup movements and organisations — coordinated a vast effort to clear the beaches, rivers, and jungles of Bali in early 2018. February marked “Bali’s biggest clean-up.”

Source: One Island One Voice

Out of all the waste that was collected during the giant sweep, 20% was plastic wrappings and 13% was plastic straws.

Source: One Island One Voice

Venice, Italy, sees an estimated 20 million tourists every year, who come to get a glimpse at life on the lagoon.

Source: Country Living, World Population Review

And what’s a trip to Venice without visiting Piazza San Marco or riding in a gondola?

Source: Expedia

But it turns out that the number of tourists actually coming to do those things may actually be harming the city.

Jaroslav Moravcik/Shutterstock

Source: Country Living, UNESCO, The Local IT

Cruise ships visiting the already-sinking city of Venice aren’t helping the historic location stay above sea level. Increased flooding is a result of rising sea levels brought on by global warming, and enhanced by pollution — which some experts believe is the fault of tourists and cruise ships in and around the city.

Source: INSIDER,Business Insider, The Guardian

In 2017, around 1.2 million tourists visited Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Source: The Dubrovnik Times

“Game of Thrones” fans have been flocking to Dubrovnik for a real-life glimpse into fictional King’s Landing.




But the influx of tourists has caused significant overcrowding of the old city, which puts strain on the infrastructure and violates emergency evacuation policies. This is putting the city at risk for losing its status as a world heritage site.

Source:Money, UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared the Old Town a World Heritage Site in 1979, and may strip the title if cruise ship tourism and overcrowding persist.

Siegfried Schnepf/iStock


More than 2 million tourists visited Iceland in 2017, and an estimated 1.3 million visited the Instagram-famous Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik.


Source: BBC, The Reykjavik Grapevine, INSIDER

Tourists come to the city for a variety of reasons, but a visit to the Blue Lagoon — a 50-minute drive away — is a common one.

Source: Business Insider

Sorry to burst your icy blue bubble, but the lagoon itself is actually man-made and part of a resort right off the highway.

Roberto La Rosa/Shutterstock

Source: Business Insider

Regardless, with more and more people travelling to the lagoon-adjacent, Instagram-famous city, the destination has had to adapt to fit them.


The increase in tourism has pushed for more hotels in the area, which means there’s construction everywhere you turn.



In 2015, Cozumel, Mexico, — known for its Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, and water sports — broke its own tourism record with nearly 4 million visitors.

Source: This is Cozumel, USA Today

Snorkelling and scuba diving are great ways to see the coral reefs and sea life that surrounds Cozumel, but excursions like those are contributing to the destruction of it all.


Cruise ships are warming up the water, which could be damaging the coral reefs, the BBC reports. There’s still hope, though. Researchers have actually found that reefs are beginning to adapt to differing temperatures, so that alone won’t completely wipe them out.

Source: Business Insider, BBC

But warming waters aren’t the only challenge sea life faces: Scuba divers and general ship pollution can do damage to the wildlife that makes the island so beautiful. The once colourful reefs have become dull and dark as more and more of their life dies.


Nearly one million people visit Machu Picchu, in Cusco, Peru, every year to get a peek at what’s left of the Inca Empire.

Source: Frommer’s, Peru for Less

All the excess foot traffic from tourists has started to wear away the historic site.

Source: Country Living, UNESCO

The government has been trying to find and designate special paths for tourists to take, rather than having everyone trek along the same route. Dubbed an “Historic Sanctuary” by UNESCO, it’s clear no one wants these ancient ruins to be ruined for good.

Source: UNESCO

Amsterdam, Netherlands, sees more than 5 million tourists every year. The city is known for cultural nuances like its museums, architecture, and biking culture — just to name a few.

Source: Amsterdam.org,Culture Trip

Museum Square — an area of Amsterdam with three major cultural museums in the city — became so flooded with tourists taking selfies on the “I amsterdam” letters that the city council removed them.

Source: Curbed, Amsterdam.info

Following the sculpture’s removal, Dutch designer Pauline Wiersema constructed “HUH” letters to temporarily fill the void.

Source: Associated Press

Known for its connection to scientist Charles Darwin, The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador saw more than 200,000 tourists in 2015 — which was a 4% increase from the year before.

Source: Galapagos Conservancy

The collection of islands is on so many people’s bucket lists because of its beauty and scientific significance. UNESCO has called them “a unique living museum and showcase of evolution.”

Source: The Conversation

But as more people make the trip, more and more species are dying.

Source: The Conversation

Some of them have been hit by cars or landed on by planes.

Source: The Guardian

Others find themselves doused in petroleum oil from boats that transport tourists …

Source: The Guardian, Planeterra

… or waking up next to piles of plastic from tourists.

Source: Reuters, Galapagos Conservation Trust

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.