With only a few remaining weeks of summer left, some of us are still searching for a last minute holiday. And what could be more exciting than a trip to a place we’ve been told we’re not allowed to visit? Yes, it seems as soon as someplace becomes off limits, we all want to go. It’s human nature, after all.
So we’ve compiled a list of the world’s most mysterious and unusual locations, many of which are forbidden to enter – which just makes them all the more interesting, doesn’t it? Perhaps you won’t find your next vacation destination on this list, but you’ll definitely find a few spots that will stir your wanderlust.
1. Ploutonion at Hierapolis or Pluto’s Gate, Turkey
The mysterious Pluto’s Gate is located in the ancient city of Hierapolis and was once dedicated to the Roman god of death. After the ancient historian, Strabo, paid a visit to Pluto’s Gate, he declared: “Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
However, in 1965, the deadly myth proved to have some real truth to it when scientists measured the CO2 concentrations inside. During the day, the heat from the sun dissipates the gas, but at night, the cooler temperatures cause the CO2, which is heavier than air, to settle to the bottom and from a deadly pool of poisonous gas.
Check out the video below to see five places that people are forbidden from entering!
This pool would be able to kill animals and people within minutes. However, because the concentration of the CO2 drops the further one gets from the bottom of the shaft, simply standing at the entrance of the gate would only be a problem for smaller animals.
2. Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway
The Global Seed Vault is also referred to as “The Doomsday Vault” because should the worst happen and humans have to start civilization over from scratch, it will be the only way we can preserve the world’s food crop diversity. It holds seeds from across the globe, even from North Korea, so that biodiversity and plant life can be restored in the event of a disaster.
The vault was built to withstand earthquakes and explosions and is hidden in the Arctic circle on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It was even spaced on the side of a mountain so that even if the icecaps melt, it would still be above sea level.
The vault reportedly has 100 million seeds and is considered a complete “backup” of planet Earth’s crops. The first withdrawal was actually made recently by Syria in order to recreate a research center that had been destroyed in Aleppo.
3. North Sentinel Island, India
This island is home to the Sentinelese people, who make up one of the few remaining tribes that have had absolutely no contact with modern civilization. While the tribe does hunt, fish, and gather, it shows no signs of farming or fire.
The tribe doesn’t seem to want any interaction with outsiders, either, as it has driven away anyone who tries to enter their territory. After two fishermen were murdered for accidentally entering the Sentinelese territory, India declared the area as forbidden and it is strictly off-limits to visitors.
4. The Catacombs, Paris
A small portion of the Parisian catacombs actually is open to the public for visits, but 99% of the tunnel network that became a storage area for six million dead bodies is off limits. That’s due to the fact that anyone who attempts to navigate the maze of skulls and bones is sure to get lost.
There’s even a special Catacomb Police Force called the Catafics that work in the underground tunnel network to prevent people from trying to explore off the beaten path.
5. Poveglia Island, Italy
This island may be one of the most haunted places in the world because it was first used during the Roman Empire to house plague victims then, years later, when the plague returned, it once again became the final stop for many terminally sick citizens.
Many, many people were buried or burnt on the premises and legend has it that the land became so affected by the plague-ridden corpses left here that the Earth is now 50% composed of human ash. To make things even more creepy, a mental institution was then built on the premises in 1922.
Today, human bones still wash up on the shores of the island and locals claim the place is haunted. It’s now been made illegal to visit the area – not that anyone should really want to.
6. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
Although the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred 32 years ago, there is still a 19-mile area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, that is completely off-limits to the public due to radioactive contamination.
At the time of the disaster in 1986, residents were immediately told to evacuate and the area was subsequently abandoned. Today, there are still forgotten toys, bits of clothing, and other personal items left behind by those who fled.
7. Area 51, United States
There are lots of rumors about the mysterious Area 51 and it was certainly been mentioned in plenty of science fiction movies. In fact, the United States government actually denied its existence until 2013! The location is allegedly used by the CIA and US Air Force for military testing because of its remote location.
However, many people still believe that a spaceship once crashed in the area and that the scientists who work there are actually researching alien life and extraterrestrial contact with Earth.
8. Ilha Da Queimada Grande (Snake Island), Atlantic Ocean
This island is the stuff nightmares are made of. Located off the coast of Brazil, it is the only place the endangered venomous golden lancehead pit viper exists. The island is off limits to visitors, not that you’d want to have a run-in with that snake anyway, in order to protect the snake population. It is estimated that there is one snake for every square meter of land there!
9. Mausoleum Of The First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, China
This tomb is forbidden to the public. Even though it was discovered at the same time as the famed Terracotta Warriors, the tomb has yet to be excavated. Some believe that current technology would not be able to preserve what’s inside the tomb so access is off-limits for the time being.
10. Surtsey Island, Iceland
This island has only been in existence since 1963, thanks to a volcano blast. It is also completely off-limits except to a few scientists who are researching how land develops without any human interaction.
However, once a tomato plant, which is not native to Iceland, was found growing on the island. It was quickly removed when it was discovered that it had sprouted from the excrement of a not-so-nice scientist who felt he needed to relieve himself outside.
11. Niihau Island, Hawaii
Niihau Island is also called “The Forbidden Island” because it’s privately owned and only a select few have travel privileges here. However, the name first stuck back in 1952 when, during the Polio epidemic, it was not permitted to enter or leave the island, thereby preventing the spread of the disease its residents.
It’s now one of the most coveted travel locations in the world because not even the rich and famous are guaranteed entry. Even Mick Jagger was denied clearance to land his helicopters on the island. Now Niihau’s 170 inhabitants can say they can do something Mick Jagger can’t! I suppose you can’t always get what you want, right?
12. Metro-2, Line D6, Russia
Back when Stalin was leading the country, a secret underground transport line was built called Metro-2 and it was used to link the Kremlin with the airport, General Staff Academy, various apartments, and other locations.
It is believed to have also been thought of as a secret escape tunnel for high-ranking officials during the war. The Russian government denied these tunnels existed, but in 1994, an urban exploration group claims to have discovered them. Now, only the D6 line, which is forbidden to access, has been confirmed to exist, but it’s believed to be only one-fourth of the entire secret system.
13. The Lascaux Caves, France
These caves, located near the village of Montignac, contain paintings of large animals that are believed to date back to some 17,000 years ago! They were discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat and their origins remain a mystery.
The caves were once accessible to the public but had to be closed in 1963 after extensive damage was reported due to increased light and air circulation changes.
14. Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City
If you’re a fan of The Da Vinci Code, then chances are you’re well aware of the mystery surrounding the Vatican and the Catholic Church. But did you know there is actually a secret archive located in Vatican City?
It has 53 miles of shelves and access is forbidden without a special letter of permission to access the area for research purposes. Apparently, some of the items in the archive date as far back as the eighth century!
15. North Brother Island, United States
While this island is currently abandoned and off-limits to the public, it’s located only a few miles from New York City in the middle of the East River. It has a rather tragic past and over 1000 people died there after a passenger ship sank nearby.
Later, a hospital was built on the land to treat contagious diseases. It is where the infamous Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, was treated. It is believed that she infected many people with the disease because she was one of the first documented asymptomatic carriers.
She worked making desserts and rarely washed her hands, which spread Typhoid fever to anyone who ate her food, despite Mary always denying that she was a carrier.
16. Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Japan
Like in Chernobyl, the Fukushima nuclear disaster required that residents within 18 miles of the power plant evacuate the area immediately. As a result, the area was abandoned and the surroundings were left untouched.
However, Keow Wee Loong, a Malaysian photographer stuck into the forbidden area without any proper equipment to shield himself from the radiation. While his trip was quite dangerous, it produced some truly creepy photographs.
17. Grand Shrine of Ise, Japan
This temple is a sacred place dedicated to Amaterasu – a goddess of the sun and the universe in the Shinto religion. Incredibly, it was built without using nails and is actually dismantled and rebuilt every 20 years in order to honor the Shinto concept of death and rebirth.
However, only priests and representatives from the imperial family are allowed inside. No photos are allowed to be taken either, so the only way to view this sacred space is through a gap in one of the wooden fences that line the property.
18. Morgan Island (Monkey Island), United States
Monkey Island, located in South Carolina, got its name because it is home to over 4,000 rhesus monkeys. As you might have guessed, the monkeys are not native to the area and were originally from in La Parguera, Puerto Rico.
However, the monkeys were infected with the herpes B virus and were escaping their overpopulated habitat in La Paraguera, so Morgan Island was offered as an isolated place to move the infected monkeys.
The island is obviously off-limits for the safety of both humans and the monkeys and only those who work with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are allowed to enter.
19. Bohemian Grove, United States
The ‘camp’ located in Monte Rio, California operates as a secret society of sorts. Since it started in 1872, various members of the elite such as world leaders, the presidents of ivy league universities, and other VIPs are invited to the event to participate in a series of traditional rituals.
To this day, the event is strictly for males only and holds the motto “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”, which supposedly refers to the rule that outside concerns are not to be discussed. However, despite the exclusivity and secrets surrounding the event, it turns out Bohemian Grove may not be all it’s cracked up to be
Journalist Jon Ronson described the club as follows: “My lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity: the Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking. These people might have reached the apex of their professions, but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years.”