6 incredible tourist destinations that were endangered by war in 2017

Numerous destinations around the world that rely on tourism for their survival happen to located in places where war and socio-political tensions are a part of everyday life.

Some of the world's most biodiverse and historical spots are in places most at risk of violent conflict.

The State Department has a full list of places on their website they discourage Americans from traveling to. While that list includes any destination where they say American tourists should use caution, there are only a couple attractions in the world that remain directly in the path of violent conflict.

Here are six incredible tourist destinations around the world that were threatened or destroyed by war in 2017:

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Tourist destinations that were endangered by war in 2017
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Tourist destinations that were endangered by war in 2017

Palmyra, Syria

Palmyra, once an important city of the Roman Empire, now stands in ruins in central Syria.

Before the Syrian civil war broke out, it was one of the most popular historical sites in the country, but ISIS seized the stunning ancient ruins in 2015. In an act that stunned the world, ISIS began systematically destroying the ancient site because of its "polytheistic" nature in 2015, detonating several important parts of the city's ruins.

Although ISIS briefly lost control of Palmyra, the group regained it in 2016, and destroyed part of the city's amphitheater in January 2017. By March, the Syrian Army had successfully reclaimed the ruins from the Islamist group, and managed to preserve what remained of Palmyra for future generations.

SANA/Handout via REUTERS 

The al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq

Mosul's al-Nuri Mosque was built in 1172, and has remained an important cultural and religious symbol for the people of the city ever since. In more recent decades, it became one of city's key tourist sites.

The mosque, along with the rest of Mosul, also fell under ISIS control when the group swept in from Syria in 2014. It was there that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a new caliphate.

But after Iraqi Security Forces began fighting their way through the city to oust ISIS, the group blew up the mosque and its famous minaret in one of their final acts of defiance in Mosul. ISIS lost the battle for the city, but deprived it of one of its foremost landmarks.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Old City and Castle of Ta'izz, Yemen

While the Old City of Ta'izz is not a tourist destination most Westerners are familiar with, it is one of several historic sites in Yemen that has been ruined or destroyed during the course of its civil war, which began in 2015.

The city and its castle have taken heavy shelling from Saudi forces that have been targeting Shiite Houthi forces nearby. Some of the structures even predate Islam in the area. Today, the city today remains on the frontlines of the brutal and ongoing conflict.

(Photo by Abdulnasser Al Seddik /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, one of the largest resort destinations in Mexico, has managed to largely isolate itself from the country's ongoing drug war between the Mexican army, police, and the powerful drug cartels.

But its seclusion seemed to draw to a close in 2017, when 95 homicides occurred in the coastal region around Cancun in the first half of the year alone.

In January 2017, gunmen killed five poeople in a nightclub, and then attacked state government buildings the following day. The second event took place five miles from the city's main hotel district. Another cartel-related shooting took place in Cancun's city center in June, alarming tourists and city officials alike.

Although Cancun's tourist infrastructure remains secure and these have so far been isolated incidents, it is clear the tourist hotspot is not immune from the rest of Mexico's drug conflict.

Photo Credit: Getty

Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Africa's oldest national park, Virunga National Park, has become synonymous with mountain gorillas, volcanoes, and in recent years, violence.

In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, refugees, poachers, and various armed rebel groups have been present in the park for years. It sits just over the border from Virunga, and militants have killed rangers and members of the critically endangered mountain gorilla population.

In August 2017, Mai Mai rebels killed three rangers in the park, refocusing attention on the need to protect rangers and the wildlife they safeguard.

 REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly 

Tourist sites in Mindanao, Philippines

Mindanao, the southernmost major island of the Philippines, offers a host of tourist attractions including wildlife areas, waterfalls, and scenic islets. The Philippine government tried to make the island a global tourist hotspot in 2017 due to its myriad destinations.

But these plans were foiled when Maute rebels, a militant group that pledges loyalty to ISIS, took over and established control of the city of Marawi on the island in May 2017. This prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on the island, and the country's army besieged the city for five months afterward.

Despite the danger to tourists posed by these developments, the Philippine government has remained committed its pledge to develop tourism on the island despite martial law and the aftermath of the Marawi siege.

Photo Credit: Getty

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