One of the gardens within the grounds of the Kyōto Imperial Palace (Kyōto Gosho 京都御所) Japan ©
The Heritage Trust

The garden above is just one of many in Japan where access is restricted in order to both protect the site and preserve an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Other heritage sites around the world are not so well protected and, until they are, the World Monuments Fund Sustainable Tourism Pledge suggests the following –

Unmanaged tourism can damage cultural sites. Visitors can make a difference. Travel responsibly with these ten simple guidelines.

1. Know the History

Before you travel, read up on the history and culture of your destination. Use the internet to get leads on local specialties and off-the-beaten-path sites from locals and other travelers. Learn a few basic phrases in your destination’s local language.

2. Reduce Your (Carbon) Footprint

Walking, biking, and trekking or exploring one place in-depth is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. At urban destinations, walk or take public transit whenever possible. You’ll see more and avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic!

3. Be Eco-Friendly

Conservation should always be on a traveler’s mind: whatever helps the environment, such as recycling or staying in an eco-friendly hotel, also protects heritage.

4. Respect the Local Culture

Show respect for and interest in the local culture. At sacred sites, dress modestly, speak softly, and be mindful of people who are there to worship. Seek out local celebrations and festivals – they can provide a unique glimpse into local culture and are a fun way to meet locals, sample traditional foods, and learn about your destination’s heritage.

5. Go Off the Beaten Path

Visit lesser-known places—they may be far more rewarding (not to mention less crowded) than tourist hotspots. The Taj Mahal may be a must-see, but India has more than 25 other spectacular World Heritage Sites.

6. Be Gentle in Your Travel

Be mindful of visitor wear and tear. Visiting crowded sites at off-peak hours or popular destinations in the off-season will reduce your impact. Stick to marked paths. Wear comfortable footwear such as sneakers; heels can damage fragile sites. Don’t climb on monuments or touch rock carvings, as it can damage them.

7. Don’t Be Flashy with Photos

Take only photographs, and make sure that a flash is permitted because a flash can damage centuries-old artwork. Be aware of local traditions when photographing people and when in doubt, ask permission before snapping a picture. Never remove anything from a site: you may think one stone won’t be missed, but if every one of Pompeii’s two million annual visitors took something home, soon there’d be nothing left.

8. Buy Local

Support the local economy by buying crafts from local artisans as souvenirs. Be wary of “antiquities” as these could be looted or forgeries. Patronize smaller hotels and local restaurants—that way the money you spend boosts the local economy and helps preserve heritage.

9. Join the Cause

Help threatened sites, either through donations to organizations like the World Monuments Fund or by volunteering—either in your community or on a “voluntourism” trip. There are many opportunities to combine travel and volunteerism, and ways to help range from building houses to participating in archeological digs.

10. Educate

Tell friends and family about responsible heritage tourism. Raise awareness by sharing your experiences on social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, or your own travel blog. Start a global conservation conversation!