The clear water and scenic views make Santorini, Greece a sought-after vacation destination. The clear water and scenic views make Santorini, Greece a sought-after vacation destination. The clear water and scenic views make Santorini, Greece a sought-after vacation destination. (Photo: Allard One / Shutterstock)

Why scientists are saying you should visit these Mediterranean cities

Dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites could disappear, so start working on your bucket list now.

World Heritage Sites located around the Mediterranean Sea – everywhere from the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy to the Bahai Gardens in Israel – offer some of the most majestic man-made vistas a traveler can ever hope to see. But you may not want to push off your next Mediterranean vacation for too long.

According to a new report published this week, 49 of those sites that line the Mediterranean may be in danger of rising waters in the area. "Sea level rise may become a larger threat to World Heritage Sites than a present-day once-a-century storm surge," said the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications. "Present day 100-year events in the Mediterranean may occur much more frequently, up to several times per year, by 2100."

Bahai Gardens in Israel The Bahai Gardens are a prime tourist spot in Haifa, Israel and one of the UNESCO sites on the list. (Hitman Sharon/Shutterstock)

Potentially endangered sites that you might want to add to your wanderlust bucket list include: the Venice lagoons, the Medieval city of Rhodes and the Israeli port city of Acco.

“That’s just classic Mediterranean history,” Joseph Manning, a professor of ancient Greek history at Yale University, told the Washington Post. “Everything is within two miles of the coast.”

UNESCO cultural World Heritage sites located in the Mediterranean Low Elevation Coastal Zone. UNESCO cultural World Heritage sites located in the Mediterranean Low Elevation Coastal Zone. (Photo: Courtesy)

For the past 40 years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been selecting locales for its World Heritage Site designation. Italy has the most of any country in the world, with 50 such areas. The list of more than 1,000 sites around the world includes a mix of buildings, cities, monuments, forests, mountains and other natural wonders.

"Heritage sites face many challenges to adapt to the effects of sea level rise, as it changes the value and 'spirit of place' for each site," said study co-author Sally Brown, a senior researcher at the University of Southampton.

Even before the warning, Mediterranean countries have experienced an uptick in visitors. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the country has seen a record 3.1 million tourists visit in the first nine months of 2018. That's 15% up from the same time period the previous year. Indeed, 2017 itself was a record-breaking year for tourism to Israel, with a 25% increase above 2016's numbers.

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Why scientists are saying you should visit these Mediterranean cities
Dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites could disappear, so start working on your bucket list now.