There are uncommon places on Earth that have not been felt by hands, and no place that hasn’t felt the effects of human inhabitance. But there are places that for one reason or another are off-limits to most people.
A special select few may be allowed, but you will certainly not be welcomed on your next vacation.
Whether to protect indigenous nature, keep humans safe, or hide facts the government doesn’t want you to know, these forbidden destinations can only be viewed from a distance. Of course, there is nothing more alluring than the taboo, so you’re really going to go.
Take our word for it, though, you’re better off reading this article than risking life, limb, and prosecution. Luckily, you can get near enough to some of these places to experience a taste, like #2 and #7. Others are straight-up banned, like #1 and #3, which might be the most famous forbidden place on the planet.
1. Snake Island, Brazil
Researchers are well aware of Snake Island, but no regular person is permitted to visit this little island some 93 miles from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Officially called Ilha da Queimada Granda, the place is home to an estimated 2,000-4,000 snakes. Not just any snakes, but golden lanceheads populate Snake Island.
Golden lancehead snakes are known for their shockingly potent poison, which disintegrates the flesh around their bites. Yikes! Best let the researchers take and share some pictures.
2. Lascaux Caves, France
The Lascaux caves in southwestern France provide stunning examples of prehistoric cave paintings. The caves hold a series of prehistoric paintings and engravings thought to be about 20,000 years old. The paintings depict bison, ibex, stags, and cattle, among other things, and plaster the walls everywhere you look. The most amazing example is found in the Hall of the Bulls, known for four bull murals. One of them is 17 feet long.
Unfortunately, the presence of people has been destructive to the irreplaceable works of art. And not only that but the caves have been plagued by fungi and black mould. Therefore, the caves themselves have been off-limits to humans since the 1960s. Luckily, a museum and cave replica recently opened right next to the caves, so you can at least brush by the experience.
3. Area 51, United States
There may be no spot on Earth that has generated as many conspiracy theories as Area 51 in the Nevada desert, USA. The spot is a heavily guarded and hidden military base, and no regular person really knows what goes on there.
The most common urban myth is that Area 51 is used for alien testing, but of course, no one has proof of that. All of the world’s governments maintain that there has never been any evidence of alien visitation on our planet. Whatever happens at Area 51, we don’t recommend attempting to breach its security – the spot is heavily protected with landmines and other high tech security.
4. North Sentinel Island, India
The natives on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal near India have aggressively protected their isolation on this island for 60,000 years. The Sentinelese people refuse communication with outsiders and quickly kill anyone who attempts it. The Indian Coast Guard makes occasional flyovers to estimate the population (which has fallen in recent years) or to determine if the community needs help, as after the 2004 tsunami.
The Indian government prohibits interference with the Sentinelese but the island was recently thrust into the media when a young missionary snuck onto the island in an attempt to bring Jesus to the residents. At last sighting, the tribe was dragging his arrow-riddled body across the sand.
5. Poveglia, Italy
Today this small Italian island is abandoned, but it has a sinister history that has led the government to ban visitation. Located between Venice and Lido in Northern Italy, Poveglia was once used as a quarantine area in the 14th century to abandon people with the Bubonic Plague. Then in the 19th century, Poveglia was an asylum for mentally ill people. Rumour has it that a cruel doctor performed agonizing experiments on his patients.
The island is abandoned today, but it is rumoured to be haunted by the ghosts of the tortured souls who died there. It is considered the most haunted place in all of Italy, and both tourists and locals are banned from visiting. However, if you really want to brave it, you can complete a lengthy paperwork process for a permit.
6. Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City
In years past religion and government were intricately tied. In some locations it still is. In a place that straddles this line, the Vatican Secret Archives in Vatican City guards the secrets of ancient Catholicism. Containing centuries’ worth of hidden truths, from financial accounting to state papers, the archives are off-limits to most people.
Only the most highly qualified and vetted scholars in the world are permitted. Because the spot is so secretive, it has garnered rampant speculation about what it contains, such as proof of the existence of aliens and demons and evidence of the Church’s alleged participation in fascist governance of the mid-20th century.
7. Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China
China’s first emperor was Qin Shi Huang. His burial complex is one of the most elaborate and expansive sites ever discovered. If you have ever heard of China’s Terracotta Warriors, this is where there are. But while the site of this tomb is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations, the tomb itself is sealed.
Visitors can view about 2,000 Terracotta warriors, but there are an estimated 6,000 more throughout the underground caverns of the burial complex. Rumour has it that there are strategically placed booby traps that prevent invaders from reaching the burial site. But what we know for sure is that the caverns have a very high concentration of mercury that would kill anyone without proper protective gear. For the foreseeable future, Qin Shi Huang’s myriad treasures will remain safely ensconced with his body.
Have we whetted your appetite to hunt some ghosts, battle the forces of nature, or prove a conspiracy theory? Perhaps you simply want to immerse yourself in a fascinating and mysterious past. Because humans have (or have had) their hands in each of these places, you can experience the thrill of the forbidden in books and pictures.
But unless you want to flirt with a dangerous and potentially deadly fate, it’s best to leave it there. You’ve been warned.