Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

With Instagram and other social platforms contributing to a new, selfie-fueled explosion of travelers visiting the world’s most photogenic nooks, Brooke Nolan asks: Are we ‘liking’ our natural spaces to death? 

In March this year, a super bloom of California’s bright orange poppies encouraged some 66,000 smartphone-wielding visitors to descend on the tiny town of Lake Elsinore, some 100 kilometers southeast of Los Angeles.

The town ground to a halt, and visitors refused to heed the directions of officials to stay on the designated paths. It got so bad that the town had to shut down certain streets on weekends to control the flow of traffic, and a ‘public safety crisis’ was declared.

Earlier, in February, Tibetan authorities announced that the Chinese side of Everest Base Camp would be closed to visitors without climbing permits for the foreseeable future. The reason? They need time to tackle the mountains of rubbish left behind by travelers.