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10 Places You Should Stop Taking Photos

Think twice about that photo op—the culture you're visiting and the surrounding environment will thank you.

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Woman taking selfie in a mountain landscape with river. View of the Salime reservoir from the village of Paisega in Pesoz, Asturias - Spain.Maria Castellanos/Shutterstock

If you didn’t Instagram it, did it even happen? This “me, me, me” mindset has led to massive influxes of tourism in certain Instagram-worthy locations that has, over time, helped to ruin landscapes and disrupt culture. For your next trip to these ten swoon-worthy locales, pack your walking shoes and considering turning your phone off to unplug and enjoy the scenery in real life. 

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Wild, swimming pig on Big Majors Cay in The Bahamas.Nejron Photo/Shutterstock

Big Major Cay Island, Bahamas

After rolling in the mud, who wouldn’t want to take a dip in crystal clear water? The swimming pigs of the Bahamas have got it figured out. But, in 2017, seven pigs died from over-ingestion of sand that was mixed with food thrown on the beach. Increasingly, the famed pigs are relying on humans for food, a result of an influx of tourists likely throwing food on the beach for the good-natured pigs. Another factor that potentially contributed to the deaths of the swimming pigs is climate change; their natural water source had dried up after a particularly dry January that year. But, because the swimming pigs have become so popular on social media, “copycat attractions” have sprung up all around the Bahamas, raising the concerns of animal rights activists, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Bottom line: Trying to snap photos of these cute piggies, and attracting even more attention to them, is potentially causing more trouble for them than it’s worth. Try one of these so-called “tourist traps” that are actually worth visiting around the world instead. 

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Open orange poppies bloom in Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore California during the 2019 superbloommelissamn/Shutterstock

Lake Elsinore, California

A mountain near this small California town experienced a wildflower superbloom this year. After a wet winter, the superbloom brought an explosion of poppies to the area—tourists and selfie-sticks in tow. City officials protested that their town was not suited for the mass influx of people, about 150,000, and ordered a #PoppyShutdown. Main roads turned into parking lots, and one city employee was eve hit by a car while helping to direct traffic in the small town of just 60,000 people. 

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Maya beach with original long tail boat near phuket, Thailandanek.soowannaphoom/Shutterstock

Maya Bay, Thailand

Ecologists must have jumped with delight at the fact that this bay is closed until 2021. Daily visitors skyrocketed from 170 people to 3,500 from 2008 to 2017 after the movie The Beach popularized this beautiful beach, but all of these visitors did serious damage to the surrounding environment. During the next two years, the beach will be allowed to fully recover. Unfortunately, it might be too late for these 17 places that have been ruined by tourism.

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view of the wild beaches of the Pedra do Telegrafo, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilRegiane_Ferraz/shutterstock

Pedra do Telégrafo, Brazil

This jaw-dropping spot is home to a feature that, when cropped a certain way, looks like people are dangling off a rock formation. If you visit the Pedra do Telégrafo, it will be tempting to fool people into thinking you have daredevil strength. You’ll need to resist the urge to get your shot at these 18 cliche travel photo locations, too. The only thing foolish about this is that there’s solid ground just 5 feet below the formation.

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Aerial view of Rio's Rocinha favela, on a sunny afternoon.J_UK/Shutterstock

Rio de Janeiro’s Rocina favela, Brazil

Brazil’s favelas, shantytowns found in Rio de Janeiro, are packed, tenement-like communities that are the home to thousands of people. They have been made infamous by video games like Modern Warfare, showing illicit scenes of drugs and violence. But they are also home to creative and resourceful individuals. This juxtaposition attracts tourists who want a more rustic experience, giving rise to favela tourism. Although it sometimes benefits the village with additional cash, is it really ethical? 

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Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest religious monument in the world and a World heritage listed complexSean Heatley/Shutterstock

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

As one of the largest religious buildings in the world, Angkor Wat has immense importance and attracts immense tourism—it tops our list of UNESCO World Heritage sites you should definitely visit. It’s understandable to want to photograph the gorgeous structure, but don’t forget where you are—a temple with huge symbolic significance. 

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Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River. Grand Canyon, Page, Arizona. Sunrise,usa.lakkana savaksuriyawong/shutterstock

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Before it was the glorious structure it is now, this natural feature was glazed over by sand dunes. Over time, the dunes formed into sandstone rock and a river ran through it. Some portions of the site are protected by railings, but most are not, as an average of 12 deaths occur at the Grand Canyon each year. There have been multiple cases of people tragically falling 800 feet to their death—like this 14-year-old girl and 33-year-old-man. So before you try to push to the front of the crowd for the best photo, be mindful of where the ground ends and think twice before you take these photos in a National Park.

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Santorini islandMarinaD_37/shutterstock

Santorini, Greece

The expansive views of the whitewashed square and dome-shaped buildings overlooking the sea come with a price. And, now, it’s a price that locals can’t afford to pay, with rising rents and cost of living, as well as increasing pressure on local infrastructure.

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque Left Wing Corridor with Pool, The Great Marble Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi, UAE Artit Wongpradu/Shutterstock

Grand Mosque, United Arab Emirates

Like Angkor Wat, you should try to understand the cultural and religious significance of the location instead of snapping photos of it. It’s a mosque, so when you visit, be sure to cover up with long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your ankles and head. Know the rude things you should never do in other countries

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Holocaust Memorial in BerlinLplusD/Shutterstock

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

The Holocaust Memorial, intended to be a place of somber remembrance, instead sees tourists taking smiling selfies. To combat this, artist Shahak Shapira created the project Yolocaust in 2017 to illuminate the absurdity of people taking smiling photos at the memorial. During the project, Shapira photoshopped black-and-white photos of Holocaust scenes into the background of modern tourist photos to highlight the disrespectful nature of the selfies. The project was taken down after just a week, with the artist explaining that the project had served its purpose.

Isabelle Tavares
Isabelle Tavares is a journalism graduate student at the Newhouse School of Syracuse University and former ASME intern for, where she wrote for the knowledge, travel, culture and health sections. Her work has been published in MSN, The Family Handyman, INSIDER, among others. Follow her on Twitter @isabelletava.