10 Most Precious Places on Earth—And How to Save Them

In 2007 the Galapagos were considered endangered—today they're not. If only all of our planet's treasures could be so lucky. In honor of Earth Day, we present 10 places our world depends on most—and how you can help preserve them.

Donate: Australia's Great Barrier Reef Foundation funds environmental research and conservation efforts.

Go green: Australian eco-tour company Quicksilver runs day-trips from Queensland to the Great Barrier Reef on high-speed catamarans. Once there, you can dive, snorkel, and watch marine life from an underwater observatory. 011-61/7-4087-2100, From $228 per person.

Any moment now, we could lose...

Machu Picchu, Peru

UNESCO called Machu Picchu's problems "urgent," and rampant tourism is the biggest threat to Peru's main attraction. Last year marked the centennial of Machu Picchu's "discovery" by Yale history lecturer Hiram Bingham; 1 million visitors descended on the site, up 30 percent from 2010. With more visitors comes more construction in nearby towns like Aguas Calientes (already packed with hotels and restaurants), straining the fragile land: riverbanks are erosion-prone, and landslides and fires also threaten the site. Ironically, Peru's economy depends on visitors. About 90 percent of the country's tourist revenue this region, and 175,000 local people make their living directly from Machu Picchu tourism. When heavy rains and landslides forced the site to close for two months in 2010, a $200 million loss ensued. Losing Machu Picchu is more than economic. Built as an Andes Mountain retreat for Incan ruler Pachacuti in 1450, the stone city is packed with clues that shed light on ancient Incan civilization. Archeological efforts are still ongoing, and new discoveries include cemeteries, roads, and a series of agricultural terraces.

Donate: The World Monuments Fund, which advocates for endangered sites across the globe, added Machu Picchu to its 2010 watch-list.

Go green: On Conservation VIP's 10-day volun-tourism trip, participants help local park rangers with archeological restoration and maintenance of the Inca Trail. 952/228-5946, From $2,850 per person.


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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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