Active + Adventure

World's Most Controversial Destinations

by Susan Hack

Picture this: You excitedly tell your friends you're heading to China for the Olympics, and they start lecturing you about Darfur, human rights, and the Dalai Lama. "But what about Shanghai, and the terra cotta warriors, and all those cool new stadiums?" Stony silence. There goes your summer vacation. To some people, boycotting the Games—and China as a whole—is a way of protesting its government's policies. But does that mean those who visit condone repression—and even help underwrite it? Must travelers body-swerve countries with flagrant human-rights abuses altogether? "The question isn't really whether to go, but what kind of tourism is responsible," says Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian who believes travel, particularly by citizens of democratic countries, is crucial to the development of civil societies. Other observers disagree, quite adamantly. Here's our list of some of the world's most scenic and fascinating countries—that also happen to be among the most repressive. We weigh the pros and cons, but only you can decide whether to buy the ticket.

Published April 2008

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