Dangerous Tourist Attractions Around the Globe
From the Statue of Liberty to the Eiffel Tower, there are plenty of safe and charming vacation destinations to choose from. Some people, however, aren’t content to have such a secure adventure.
If you’re a daredevil who needs a little danger to spice up your next trip, these locations certainly won’t disappoint.
Tanzania: Lake Natron
Don’t let the birds fool you: Lake Natron in Tanzania is not a body of water in which you want to take a dip. The lake is named after natron, a chemical found in the lake that is a mix of baking soda and sodium carbonate. At times, the lake has had a pH level as high as 10.5, almost as high as ammonia. These conditions contribute to the temperature of the water, which can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Not much can live in Lake Natron.
Even so, the distinct wildlife and beautiful colors caused by extreme evaporation do draw visitors each year. There are even campsites nearby if you’d like to set up a tent. To be fair, as long as you stay out of the water, you should be fine.
North Atlantic: Saltstraumen
The Saltstraumen Maelstrom is the world’s strongest tidal current. The Dutch word maelstrom means ‘crushing current’, and that is a spot-on description for the Saltstraumen Maelstrom. As much as 400 million tons of seawater pass through the strait, which is only 150 meters wide — about one percent of a mile — every six hours.
The danger of the current depends on the tides. Sometimes, the tides allow the strait to be navigable. When conditions are not right, the whirlpool becomes a serious hazard for any vessels that try to cross it. Still, you could take one heck of a selfie in front of it.
Africa: Danakil Desert
The Danakil Desert sits in parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, and it takes intense heat and unlivable conditions to a whole new level. Temperatures regularly reach over 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and the area is peppered with volcanoes.
Believe it or not, people do live in the Danakil Desert. The Afar people engage in salt mining in the desert, showing an almost unbelievable ability to endure extreme heat. Their life consists of mining salt, loading it on camels and traveling days to the nearest city for sale. You can also take a tour in the area if you don’t mind possibly dying by heatstroke.
California: Death Valley
Speaking of heatstroke, you can also get yourself a case of it right here in the United States. Located in the Mojave Desert, the Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the lowest point in North America. In 1913, Death Valley registered a temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest ambient air temperature recorded on the earth’s surface.
Despite these intense conditions, Death Valley is home to a fair amount of biodiversity. Bighorn sheep, red-tailed hawks and small donkeys called burros have all been sighted in Death Valley. And of course, tourists pass through the area every year.
Brazil: Snake Island
You are booking your honeymoon. While Tahiti, Cancun or Thailand are exotic, appealing destinations in their own right, they’re all missing something … slithery. Something venomous. Something that Snake Island has in spades.
Located off the coast of Brazil, the island’s official name is Ilha da Queimada Grande. It’s a home to a unique species of highly lethal pit viper, the golden lancehead. Marcelo Duarte, a biologist who visited Snake Island over 20 times, estimates that there’s about one snake per meter on the island. Unsurprisingly, this is one location you can’t actually visit, both because of the risk and the endangered status of the snakes. Even so, there’s probably someone, somewhere who’d like to try.
Few people live in harsh winter conditions by choice. There is a reason why people retire to Florida more often than Wisconsin or Siberia. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, warmer is better. So imagine the misery of the people who live in Oymyakon, Russia.
Oymyakon is among the coldest places on the planet. In January 1924, the temperature dipped below -96 degrees Fahrenheit. In February 1933, it reached nearly -90 degrees Fahrenheit. Hope the heater works!
Africa: The Sahel
The Sahel, meaning “border” in Arabic, is the region in Africa that lies below the Sahara Desert and above the Sudanian Savanna. Its dry climate means humans and animals alike struggle to survive in the area, while local political conflicts make it risky for travelers.
This arid strip runs through Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and other countries. While it’s not always easy to live here, tourists nonetheless come to witness the wildlife and ancient, culturally rich cities like Timbuktu.
Indonesia: Mt. Sinabung
Many people across the world live in close proximity to volcanoes. Most of the time, those volcanoes have been dormant for long periods, or they are completely extinct. But the thing about volcanoes is that they give little warning before eruption threatens countless lives.
Until recently, Mt. Sinabung in Indonesia was considered harmless. Its last eruption before 2010 was approximately 1,200 years ago. But in the wee hours of August 29, 2010, Mt. Sinabung erupted. It did so twice more in 2013 and again twice in 2014. It has continued to erupt or threaten eruption ever since, posing a serious threat to the locals. If you’re into volcanology, however, it’s quite the hotspot.
Antarctica: Cape Denison
There’s an obvious reason why virtually nobody lives in Antarctica. It’s cold, and if you’re not prepared, extremely dangerous. But beyond the sheer frigidness of Antarctica, several other factors make Antarctica extremely threatening to life. Cape Denison typifies the danger that Antarctica poses to those who underestimate it.
Australian geologist and explorer Douglas Mawson discovered Cape Denison in the early 1900s, dubbing it “the windiest place on earth”. The site regularly experiences katabatic winds that can reach a force of over 140 mph. That’s not exactly a recipe for a good time. Nonetheless, while mainland tourist travel is basically nonexistent, you can take a cruise to Antarctica if you want to see the end of the world.
Australia: Fraser Island
Fraser Island lies off of the eastern coast of Queensland and is renowned for its wildlife. While the locals number only around a couple hundred people, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the island each year.
However, that doesn’t mean the island is safe. In addition to venomous snakes and a seasonal population of saltwater crocodiles, the dingos on the island have been known to attack people, including one child who was killed in 2001 and another who was almost dragged out of a campervan in 2019.
Various Major Cities: Earthquakes
Earthquakes can cause massive destruction and loss of life. But despite the threat of earthquakes in some regions, people still live in those areas, whether by choice or necessity. Many of these cities are even popular with tourists.
According to the National Earthquake Information Center, the cities most at risk for earthquakes are Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, Philippines; Los Angeles, California; Quito, Ecuador; Osaka, Japan; San Francisco, California; Lima, Peru; Tehran, Iran; and Istanbul, Turkey.
While the Soviet Union was the first country to launch a person into space, its environmental track record was less impressive, especially when it came to nuclear power. Soviet citizens and people around the world were put at serious risk of nuclear exposure. The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown famously resulted in a nuclear cloud floating over Europe, and the city still has not been completely decontaminated.
Nonetheless, many tourists try to visit Chernobyl every year. While parts of the former city are still restricted, since 2019, the Ukrainian government has worked to regulate and open up access to the city. Even so, long-sleeved clothes, a dosimeter and a surgical mask to protect against dust are required, and visiting still isn’t exactly great for your health.
Namibia: The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast in Namibia, Africa is aptly named. This region of the country is virtually without human inhabitants. However, lions and other predators stalk along the shore, looking for a live meal, while the treacherous currents have created many shipwrecks that can still be seen today.
Even so, many tourists visit the stretch of coastline every year. From kayaking and surfing to wildlife tours and photography, there’s a lot that appeals to brave world travelers. Just be sure to keep your wits about you.
Turkmenistan: The Gates of Hell
Sometimes, a name is enough to tell you to stay away. When a real-life location is known commonly as the Gates of Hell or the Door to Hell, then you should probably stay away. The Darvaza gas crater in Derweze, Turkmenistan, came into existence when part of a gas field collapsed into a cavern below.
The hole in the ground was leaking methane gas, a pollutant, so geologists set it on fire, expecting it to burn off in a few weeks. That fire has not stopped burning since it was lit in 1971, creating an eerie sight that looks like, well, the Gates of Hell.
India: North Sentinel Island
When you’re not welcome, you know it. The residents of North Sentinel Island, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, are technically part of India. However, they’re not exactly willing to join the larger nation or fraternize with visitors, Indian or otherwise.
The Sentinelese people are notoriously unwelcoming of anybody who attempts to step foot on the island. It is illegal to visit the island, both because those that do put themselves in extreme danger and because the locals may not have been exposed to many modern diseases. A missionary who traveled there illegally in 2018 was murdered, a reminder of how dangerous this island can be.
South Atlantic: The Bermuda Triangle
Back in the day when sailing was an essential means of travel, few regions were more feared than the Bermuda Triangle. Draw a triangle between San Juan, Puerto Rico, Miami, Florida and Bermuda, take all of the water within that triangle, and you have the Bermuda Triangle.
Many of the strange boat and airplane disappearances that have occurred within the Bermuda Triangle have fact-based explanations, but the region remains shrouded in mystery and myth. Because storms are common in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s actually more dangerous than your typical stretch of ocean.
South Pacific: Vanuatu
The Vanuatu Archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean is a chain of islands that, while beautiful, are not without danger. Over 80 islands make up the Vanuatu chain, and they were created as the result of volcanic activity. That activity continues today, and the threat of eruption is a real danger to residents.
According to the United Nations, Vanuatu is at the greatest risk of any nation in the world for natural hazards. In addition to erupting volcanoes, Vanuatu is a likely target for major storms and earthquakes.
Lake Nyos: Exploding Lake
Limnic eruptions are rare natural disasters that occur when dissolved carbon dioxide erupts from deep in the waters of a lake. The result can be a suffocating gas cloud that’s potentially lethal to living beings in its proximity. One such eruption occurred in Cameroon’s Lake Nyos in August of 1986.
That explosion was massive, releasing somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The results were tragic, as the explosion took the lives of 1,746 people and 3,500 cattle. The carbon dioxide also displaced the air in surrounding villages, causing victims to suffocate.
Haiti: Earthquakes and Storms
If it seems as if Haiti is in the news because of natural disasters more often than the average country, that’s because it is. While Haiti does boast beautiful beaches and rich Caribbean culture, it’s also one of the most at-risk nations when it comes to natural disasters.
Not only is Haiti susceptible to earthquakes and hurricanes, but the constant state of recovery and rebuilding means that infrastructure on Haiti is not equipped to endure these sorts of disasters, either. It’s a dangerous cycle.
Some people just can’t get enough sun. They spend their lives on the beach or in backyards working on their tans. If they really love the sun, however, they should test their limits by spending some time in Dallol, Ethiopia.
Located in the northern part of the country, Dallol is the hottest inhabited place on the planet. The average high temperature is 105 degrees, and temperatures can reach 116 degrees or more in the summer. Maybe you can have too much of a good thing.
Italy: The Phlegraean Fields
Naples, Italy has much of the Old World beauty and culture that visitors to Europe hunger for. Though it has a fair amount of poverty as well, there is much to like about Naples. That said, Naples is also nestled near a supervolcano that adds a surprising amount of danger to this otherwise idyllic part of the world..
Referred to as the Phlegraean Fields in English, warning signs in 2018 led to speculation that the supervolcano could be headed towards a large volume eruption. In other words, don’t rush to purchase a timeshare in Naples any time soon.
Madagascar: Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Madagascar is an island twice the size of Great Britain with an astonishingly diverse range of landscapes and biomes. One of the most beautiful — but also dangerous — parts of the country is the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve.
There you can find wild lemurs, a vast selection of birds and unique geology that caused the area to be labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. However, the same rocks that make it so majestic are also why it’s such a risk to travel there. One wrong step through the reserve’s stone forest can leave you impaled on a rocky spire.
Guatemala: Mudslides, Hurricanes and More
What Guatemala lacks in size, it makes up for it natural disasters. While tourists flock to the country to see its rainforests and Mayan ruins, the locals have to deal with an astounding number of natural threats on a regular basis.
Mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, volcanic eruptions, floods, forest fires and sinkholes are all problems in the country. Where larger and wealthier countries may only have to contend with a few of these hazards, Guatemala gets all of them, and sometimes more than one at a time.
After Chernobyl, no name brings to mind nuclear disaster like “Fukushima.” The Japanese government did their best to mitigate the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, but the effects of the disaster linger, and tourists now avoid the area.
That’s a real shame, since only 2.8 percent of Fukushima prefecture was still evacuated as a result of nuclear radiation as of 2018. The area also includes stunning swathes of Japanese wilderness, so visitors to Japan are missing out. And of course, if nuclear disasters are your game, you always could try and see how close you can get to the old power plant — if you dare.
Arizona: Antelope Canyon
Arizona’s Antelope Canyon is a majestic sight to behold. With rocks that take on beautiful, wave-like forms, it’s worth a visit if you ever make it out to that part of Arizona. However, when the rain begin to fall, Antelope Canyon is not the place to be.
During flood season, the canyon rapidly fills with water, and often with little warning. If you are trapped in the canyon when the flooding begins, the chance of drowning is high. For this reason, all tours of Antelope Canyon are led by experienced guides.
South America: The Amazon
The Amazon is one of the greatest marvels of the natural world, but it is not without danger for visitors. Far from it. If you choose to visit the Amazon and its surrounding rainforests, know what you’re getting into.
The forests are home to a plethora of poisonous spiders, snakes, frogs, and other creatures. And the waters? You can find anacondas, piranhas, electric eels, and even some sharks in the river. Moreover, even navigating short distances in the Amazon can be treacherous. If you travel there, find a guide.
United States: Metropolises
Maybe you’ve decided after looking at this list that international travel isn’t for you. Why travel halfway across the world for danger when you can visit one of any number of amazing American cities full of fun opportunities and local culture in perfect safety? However, danger is never as far away as people imagine.
For instance, while the vast majority of people in Chicago have safe and comfortable lives, 561 people were killed in the city in 2018. Similarly, the biggest cities often have the most car crashes, with Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Boston leading the pack. That shouldn’t deter you from visiting any of those places, but it should make you reconsider just how close danger is, even at home.
Egypt: The Blue Hole of Dahab
The Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt is a submarine sinkhole in the Red Sea with a maximum depth of about 328 feet. While thousands of divers from around the world visit the site each year to take advantage of its deep and mysterious waters, some never return.
It has an abnormally high rate of diver deaths, ranging between 130 and 200 in recent years. While the exact causes for the Blue Hole’s unusually high death rate are unclear, it may be the result of an underwater tunnel known as the Arch that tricks divers into thinking they’re approaching the surface when they’re actually diving deeper.
While Dzerzhinsk, Russia is home to Shukhov Tower, a unique steel lattice tower that was once used as part of a transmission line, it doesn’t see many tourists. It’s probably safe to guess that many of the locals would rather not be there as well.
That’s because the average age of death for men in the town is 42 and 47 for women. The city once developed chemical weapons for the Soviet Union, and it continues to play an important role in the Russian chemical industry. However, decades of unsafe disposal have left their mark on the area. Still, if you’re interested in Soviet architecture or human-made disasters, it could be worth a brief visit.
Argentina: The Matanza River
As the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires attracts tourists from all over the world. In 2012, it was the most-visited city in South America. While the city’s diverse culture and the presence of the world’s widest river, the Río de la Plata, certainly justify its popularity, it’s not without its problems.
A smaller river, the Matanza, was once a source of water and food for the city, and for some, it still is. However, it’s since become polluted from countless industries releasing waste into the river. 60 percent of people living near the river inhabit areas deemed unfit for human life. Sometimes a place is dangerous because of lions or earthquakes, and sometimes it’s because of a glass of water.