The stories of 12 countries most vulnerable to climate change

The US is one of the countries that will be least vulnerable to climate change, even though in 2015 we were the country with the second highest carbon emissions. I mean, it will still be terrible here, but relative to how other countries will do.

Around the world, our actions are having drastic effects on other countries that do not have as many resources and may not be able to adapt as well to the changes that are coming and happening right now.

Countries with vivid cultures, amazing cuisine, and history that goes back thousands of years. Countries who depend on current sea levels, rely heavily on agriculture, have inefficient governments with less revenue, and also produce much less greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, these countries are not as likely to survive changes in climate- even though they’re not at fault.

Here are the stories of these countries, what makes them unique, memorable, and lively, as told by travelers from all around the world.

I hope these stories inspire you to take action to help support these countries and slow down climate change!*

Note: Data on vulnerability and readiness of a country comes from the ND-GAIN Index by the University of Notre Dame. Each country is also given a stack rank score based on these factors, with less vulnerable, more prepared countries at the top of the rank. For the full list of countries and their scores, see here.

Madagascar

13th most vulnerable country
23rd least ready country

madagascar picture from reading the book travel

“If there’s one poster country for the impact of climate change, it has to be Madagascar. This vast island off the southeast coast of Africa was once almost entirely forest, but local slash-and-burn agriculture has proved disastrous for the local ecology.

Madagascar separated from the African continent very early in its evolution, with the result that most of the flora and fauna native to the island exists nowhere else on earth. Everything from tiny insects, through chameleons to the famous baobab trees and lemurs, all is under threat from a population which is mostly incredibly poor and struggling to survive.

Luckily, education programmes are making a difference, as is Madagascar’s increasing popularity as a tourist destination. Development on the island has been sensitive, and most visitors prefer to appreciate the natural wonders rather than destroy them. At the same time, the Malagasy people are learning that there is an income to be made from protecting the forest and all that lives in it.

Madagascar is a truly unique destination, with otherworldly landscapes and some of the most fascinating wildlife you will ever see. A visit here can be challenging, but is more than worth the effort!” – Jill from Reading the Book Travel

Kenya

31st most vulnerable country
37th least ready country

“The richness of the wildlife, the nature, the varied landscape – from white sand beaches to jagged volcanoes. The culture and the people. Kenya is truly a wonderful country to explore.

During our visit to East Africa, a safari trip to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya really made an impact on me. I’ve read about it before, I knew what to pack for the safari and what I could expect, but the reality exceeded my expectations. The number and diversity of animals that we’ve seen during 3 days in the park was astonishing. As well as how close we were able to get to them. From the hunting cheetahs to mating lions to Masai giraffes to endangered rhinos – the list goes on and on. The visit to the park made me feel even more amazed by the beauty of this world and made me realize even stronger, that we should protect the wonderful animal kingdom in Africa and everywhere else.”- Aga from Woldering Around

Bolivia

70th most vulnerable country
36th least ready country

“There’s more to Bolivia than meets the eye. Most travellers are wooed by the pristine white plains of the Salar de Uyuni, salt flats that transform from a photographer’s perspective playground to the world’s largest mirror when they flood in wet season. Beyond Uyuni, Bolivia has an abundance of indigenous cultures, pre-historic history and pristine tracts of Amazon rainforest.

In high-altitude La Paz, learn about indigenous customs at the El Alto market or take a minibus to breathe in Aymara history at the ancient archaeological site of Tiwanaku. In the far north, howler monkeys roar into the depths of Madidi National Park, considered one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Further south, the bone-white Bolivian capital Sucre is steeped in colonial relics, as well as those from a long-forgotten age: don’t miss the thousands of dinosaur prints that trudge up the walls of Parque Cretácico or those passed on the hike around the serrated edges of the Maragua Crater.

Bolivia is not the easiest South American country to visit; a trip here requires some Spanish, some planning and an acceptance that things most likely won’t go quite to plan. But the rewards? They couldn’t be bigger.” – Steph from Worldly Adventurer.

Nicaragua

74th most vulnerable country
56th least ready country

granada picture from my adventures across the world

“Nicaragua is quite possibly the nicest country in Central America, and the one that has fully retained its culture and character without being overly affected by tourism. A series of events in 2018 brought it to almost completely shut down to tourists, as local workers protested against the government for yet another increase in taxation and changes in policies that would impoverish them even more. After a few months of turmoil the country is finally returning to normality and visitors are reporting it’s as beautiful as ever.

There are many things to do in Nicaragua. Most youngsters go there to enjoy the incredible beaches on the Pacific coast, which offer plenty of opportunities for surfing. As this is the land of lakes and volcanoes, hiking is incredible. Isla de Ometepe is a top destination: located in Lake Nicaragua, this 8 shaped island has two volcanoes, lagoons and a handful of lovely villages where the atmosphere is relaxed. Cities are picture perfect: Granada is a real gem, while Leon is crumbling but full of character. Last but not least, the Caribbean enclave of Corn Islands is a fantastic place to enjoy a few days in paradise.” – Claudia from My Adventures Across The World

Maldives

27th most vulnerable country
81st least ready country

“The Maldives is one of the most exotic and highly visited destinations in Asia. From hundreds of coral islands grouped in a double chain of twenty-six atolls, Maldives is truly a paradise for the beach lover. Being an exotic island nation, there is no hidden fact that the water activities in the Maldives satisfy everyone’s water adventure. Maldives water activities are for everyone; from the deep sea diver to a non-swimmer. The professional swimmers can enjoy hardcore diving, whereas the non-swimmers can get a true Maldivian experience by jet-skiing or kayaking in the beautiful turquoise water.

However, the outer beauty of Maldives hides a bitter truth. The marine life of Maldives is declining at a great pace due to climatic changes. Most of the corals near resort islands have already been washed out because of the alarmingly increasing water levels. So, whenever you plan to visit the Maldives, indulge yourself in any environmental protection activity offered by most of the resorts and return a favor to the beauty which the Maldives has to offer.” – Rahma from The Sane Adventurer

India

52nd most vulnerable country
71st least ready country

himalyas picture from beyond my border

“India is a land rich in culture and vibrant in color. It is a land of intersecting identities and delicious cuisine. Having lived in Delhi, India’s dynamic capital for four months, I often found weekend retreats that took me around the country. Unsurprisingly, India offered much more than urban streets. A few hours from Delhi, the Himalayas and its mountain ranges became one of my regular getaway destinations.

Having visited 20+ countries, the Himalayas remains one of my favorite regions. Vast greenery is spread across these hills. Trees, wildlife, and flowers dotted the roads. The water in the lakes and rivers that lay in the Himalayas are clear, undisrupted. The air clean and fresh. My friend and I often biked into the mountains, visiting villages untouched by the modernization that constantly changes the rest of the world.” – Daisy from Beyond my Border

Bangladesh

33rd most vulnerable country
25th least ready country

“A visit to Bangladesh will leave you overwhelmed. Despite the small size, it has overflowing life, from the back of painted rickshaw, a slow public commute system which does not cause pollution, to the plate of Morog Pulau, a lightly flavored hearty meal of chicken and rice! The capital Dhaka has a few stunning architectural wonders commemorating Bhasha Shahids (martyrs for language, those who gave lives to fight the Urdu imposition battle against Pakistan), Nawabi tradition (the royals of old Dhaka), a few fine universities and more!

Sated with Dhaka, make sure to set sail on the river Padma in a reserved cabin! The launch service of Dhaka is coveted and very old school. Once you land in a nearby harbor, ideally a village, taste a slow travel experience in an idyllic Bengal village. Lush greenery, sprawling field of paddy, interconnected canals of an ancient water borne economy will marvel you! Sundarban, a world UNESCO site and a mangrove forest, the home of Bengal tiger, awaits you down south! In case you wanted to visit the Tea Gardens set up during British era, visit Srimangal in the north!” – Madhurima from Orange Wayfarer

Vanuatu

17th most vulnerable country
72nd least ready country
Tanna Volcano Vanuatu (c)MyFavouriteEscapes

“Vanuatu is one of the most interesting places I visited. They are happy to receive tourists and create incredible opportunities for visitors to exchange with the locals.

Vanuatu’s history is fascinating. The archipelago was a jointly-run British and French colony. It got overrun by American troops during WWII. In 1980, it finally became independent. There are 83 islands in Vanuatu and cultures, and languages vary from one island to another, and even within the same island. Most people live in small villages headed by a chief. They have kept what they call the “kastom culture”. Their lifestyle is traditional and simple compared to the stress brought by modernity and cities.

The inhabitants have an incredible knowledge of how to exploit the surrounding nature. Their strong links to their land to feed, build their villages or heal is an extraordinary life lesson for anyone who grew up in the city.

There are many things to do in Vanuatu that will please nature lovers. From the top of an active volcano to a fantastic underwater world, these adventures are accessible to anyone. Or you can relax at the beautiful blue holes and beaches. Vanuatu’s charm is unbelievable.” – Eloise from My Favorite Escapes

Samoa

60th most vulnerable country
96th least ready country

“Independent Samoa (not American Samoa) is a place of tradition. Even though European influence has been around for 200 years, Samoans still maintain a way of life from the old days. It’s evident by the customs they practice, which still include naming family chiefs and receiving traditional tattoos, to the fales many families still live in, which are essentially communal homes with no interior or exterior walls.

We have Samoan relatives, so were especially fortunate to be able to experience the “real” Samoa during our visit. We stayed in my family’s traditional fale, and even had the opportunity to observe some ceremonial rituals. Add to that the beauty of the island, and our time there was nothing short of magical.

We were able to experience every corner of Upolu… a drive around the island revealed waterfalls to see, swimming holes to enjoy, and fresh fruit we picked straight from the trees. I was even bitten by a trigger fish when I snorkeled too close! It made for a painful – but memorable! – experience. Samoa holds a special place in my heart and I hope the islands, and Samoan traditions, are preserved for all generations to come.” – Mary Beth from a Reluctant Mom.

The Solomon Islands

5th most vulnerable country
90th most ready country

“I was born in the Solomon Islands and lived there until the age of 10. I spent half that time in a dense jungle on the remote island of Rennell. Half of that island is UNESCO World Heritage. Listed because it has the largest inland lake in the Pacific and with that, a fantastic range of rare flora and fauna. The island is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. I fondly remember swimming in the crystal clear water of the various caves that could be found in the rainforest. The Solomons consists of both volcanic islands atolls, mostly very low lying and prone to threats from rising sea levels.

The main draw card for tourists to the Solomons are the amazing diving opportunities – the Solomons were the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in WWII and there are many wreck diving opportunities as a result in addition to fantastic coral reefs. Some of the wrecks are very easy to access. We often snorkelled around one of the wrecks that was just off shore near the capital.” – Peter from Travellers Point.

Myanmar

37th most vulnerable country
20th least ready country

“Although tourism is not very developed in Myanmar yet, this country is one of the most beautiful and authentic places in Asia. Myanmar has so much to offer in terms of culture and history that exploring it all seems impossible.

However, there are a few places that should be on everyone’s bucketlist. A visit to Bagan will leave you speechless. There are more than 2,200 temples waiting to be explored and the views are just incredible. If you want a more authentic experience, a place where you can taste the local culture, then you should visit the Inle Lake. Here, you can discover the local communities of fishermen and their incredible floating houses.

If you want to find out more about the local peoples’ lives, you should definitely visit Hpa-An. Even though it is a bit remote, here you’ll really feel like a part of the local community.

All in all, Myanmar is one of those places still unspoiled by mass tourism. Apart from the beautiful views and incredible culture, here you will also find some of the most friendly, warm and welcoming people in Asia.” – Aurelia from Daily Travel Pill

Laos

43rd most vulnerable country
66th least ready country

“Laos is described by many as ‘forgotten’, but I think it is the hidden gem of South East Asia. Laos is a landlocked country that shares a border with Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China. Many visitors are drawn to Laos for the laid-back lifestyle and quickly understand the meaning of Lao “PDR” which stands for “Please Don’t Rush.” With roaring waterfalls, lush green mountains, and plenty of outdoor activities you won’t run out of places to see and things to do as you explore this untouched country.

Laos has a little something for everyone. If you’re an adrenalin junkie you can experience rock climbing, zip lining through the jungle or river tubing. Travelers looking to experience culture will not be disappointed with the UNESCO city of Luang Prabang where they can still give alms to the monks every morning. If you’re looking for a party Vang Vieng will give you a thrill. Nature lovers can spot wild animals such as gibbons or elephants and explore hidden waterfalls that you will have all to yourself. Lastly, foodies will find the Lao cuisine tasty and spicy, a pure delight.” – Jess from I’m Jess Traveling

Cambodia

47th most vulnerable country
51st least ready country


“We visited Cambodia in 2017 and almost immediately fell in love! Like most backpackers our age, we actually knew very little about the country before we arrived. Our parents told us stories of the mass murderer Paul Potts and were shocked to hear we were thinking of visiting. However, the Khmer Regime (which ended up killing around 2 million people) ended in 1979.
Since then the country has slowly grown in popularity and is still relatively untouched. It is easy enough to get around and you will soon discover many incredible attractions. Most notably Angkor Wat, which has to be one of the most famous religious sites in the world. You might also be familiar with Cambodian temples from the Angelina Jolie series, Tomb Raider.
Above all else, one place I strongly recommend you to visit is Kampot. For less than $10 a night you get to sleep in a modern water bungalow on the edge of a beautiful river. You can take late night boat cruises and go kayaking in the daytime. It’s a gem of a spot and by far my favourite area in the country.” – Cazzy from Dream Big, Travel Far

*What can you do? I’m not saying everyone should book their tickets to these places ASAP. That would be terrible. Overtourism in vulnerable places is bad (see what’s happening in Venice). Traveling is also bad for the environment. Instead, you should do your part to make sure the companies and countries that you’re close to are held accountable for their role in climate change. Vote for politicians who will commit to enacting policies that decrease our impact. Support organizations that have a sustainable focus in mind. Stay active in your local city or school communities so that they choose to decrease their impact as well. Educate your friends and family on these issues. Then explore the world.

Angelica

Traveler. Foodie. Student debt haver. I love finding the best things to do and eat when traveling, and sharing them with everyone else who likes experiencing local culture or exploring the outdoors too! You can read more about me in my about page.

2 Comments

  1. Bazoooooot24
    December 8, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    Thanks for this post! A lot of peole are unaware how serious this issue truly is.

    I got to get to MALDIVES before it’s to late!

    Keep up the amazing work!

    • Angelica
      Author
      December 8, 2018 / 9:30 pm

      I agree – it’s hard if you aren’t reading up about it or experiencing it firsthand! I want to go to the Maldives too before it’s too late, really everywhere in the world!

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