Traveling is increasingly easy in our ever more globalized world, with many locations easily accessible in a day or less. From scorching deserts to refreshing beaches and evergreen forests, the most beautiful places on Earth are generally only a flight, train trip, or car ride away. Yet, there are certain places where people are not allowed or where access is limited to only a certain few. Whether it’s a cave with sensitive art or an island covered in deadly snakes, some places are best left alone. In short, the world may be our oyster, but some parts just aren’t worth the trouble.
1. The Lascaux Caves
These caves date back about 17,000 years and include paintings of humans, animals, handprints, and geometric shapes that are breathtaking in their style and strangeness. However, due to a series of strange fungal invasions and other degradation issues, the Lascaux Caves have not been open to the public since 1963. You can see them in a recent documentary, but, otherwise, they are off limits.
2. Surtsey Island
Some of the more difficult-to-reach places in the world are on islands, but Surtsey Island is an intentionally off-limits area. The untainted island is only a few decades old, having formed after volcano eruptions in the 1960s, and the only humans allowed are scientists who stay in a tiny hut. Already, scientists are witnessing and studying how birds, seals, and slugs colonize new places.
3. Snake Island
This small island off the coast of Brazil is off-limits for peoples’ safety, in part. Snake Island, or Ilha da Queimada Grande, is home to around 4,000 of the world’s deadliest snake, the golden lancehead pit viper. The fact that there is one snake per square meter is already scary, but this endangered snake’s venom can melt human flesh, so only scientists are allowed to step foot on the island.
4. North Sentinel Island
Much like Snake Island, North Sentinel is off-limits for peoples’ safety, specifically to protect them from each other. This small island in the Bay of Bengal is home to an undocumented tribe of 50 to 400 people who drive away visitors with weapons and rocks. So, the Indian government’s declaration that it is illegal to go there keeps tourists and natives alike safe from each other.
5. Area 51
This top secret military base and airfield is part of the Nellis Air Force Range and lies in the Nevada Desert just beyond Las Vegas. Despite past conspiracy theories, its current purpose is supporting development of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The government didn’t even acknowledge its official existence until 2013, so it’s hardly surprising that Area 51 does not allow visitors.
6. Moscow Metro-2
This secondary set of underground metro tunnels parallels the public one but lies beneath Moscow’s existing subway system. Codenamed K-6 by the KGB, It was built to connect major buildings during Stalin’s Russia and supposedly has 4 lines connecting nationally important locations. Rumors abound, from genetic testing to giant rats, from subterranean families to Stalin’s cryogenically frozen body.
7. Mount Weather
In 1959, the United States government established Mount Weather between Loudoun and Clarke Counties in Virginia as a high-tech, long-term bunker for government officials in emergencies. This extremely secure facility provides 564 acres of offices, dorms, dining rooms, and otherwise beneath the surface level FEMA headquarters. The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is closed to the public for obvious reasons.
8. The Vatican Secret Archives
The Archivum Secretum Apostoplicum Vaticanum is a private, 52-mile archive of some of the oldest pieces of paper that was closed to outsiders for centuries. Only people presenting the appropriate accreditations can gain access, and, even then, only to 2 to 3 things per day are available to some 1000 researchers per year. Some sources are not sorted right or even cataloged, but you can view any document younger than 75 years old by submitting a request to have it supplied to you.
9. The Mormon Church Vault
The Mormon Church began collecting genealogical information on microfilm in the 1930s, but they soon needed a better place to store their documents on every family in the USA. While carving out a mountain in Utah, they struck water and created a self-sustaining bunker. Since then, the vault has grown to contain 3 billion pages of information and 100,000 rolls of microfilm, but it is off-limits.
10. Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant
An unimposing building stands in Ethiopia as protection for the Art of the Covenant and its contents, the Ten Commandments. At the same time it possesses mystical power, such that only one monk is allowed in the building to protect the Ark. No one is allowed inside the Chapel to further protect them, though, on one occasion in 2011, a few handy men were able inside to fix the roof.
You cannot enter the places on the above list, and you will most likely never see them firsthand. However, you can both imagine them and visit the landscapes, communities, and towns and cities within which they are situated. As with any form of travel, keep your wits about you, and don’t break any laws unnecessarily. Instead, savor the places that you can go, especially when so much of our planet Earth is so easily traversed.