Darwin’s Arch, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Landscapes shape our sense of place, yet Earth is constantly changing. The forces of volcanism, wind, water, sun, and, yes, people, relentlessly conspire to transform what we consider familiar terrain—pummeling cliffs into beaches, eroding vast canyons, forming new land with bubbling lava, and shifting the course of mighty rivers.
As we return to travel, we shouldn’t be surprised to find some things have changed. After all, change is the only constant—an idea seeded by Greek philosopher Heraclitus back in the fifth century B.C. and echoed by philosophers since. But people often forget that Heraclitus believed fear of change is also a constant. Perhaps it’s this sense of looming impermanence that compels travelers to see natural wonders before they’re forever changed.
In the last 50 years alone, hundreds of natural landmarks around the world have drastically shape-shifted—or worse, disappeared. Most recently, Darwin’s Arch in the Galápagos Islands collapsed into the sea, joining other structures, such as Arches National Park’s “Wall Arch” and Malta’s “Azure Window,” lost to history. Sites like these serve as reminders that our planet is a dynamic place. Here are landmarks the world has lost—and some fragile sites you can still visit.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
This story has been updated since it first published on Sept. 14, 2017.