Human curiosity knows no bounds, even for places off-limits to all wanderers and adventurers. The insatiable desire to conquer new grounds drives us, but there are destinations best left unexplored. These 10 forbidden places on Earth hold untold mysteries, intrigues, and dangers that are best left to the imagination.
Here are Earth’s most dreaded and off-limits locations.
1. Area 51, Nevada, United States
The first on our list of forbidden places no one will ever be allowed to visit is shrouded in mystery. Stretched far and wide in the Nevada desert, Area 51 is pegged as one of the planet’s most secretive, militarized places. Guessers have attributed the base to UFOs through the years, but people have yet to learn what happens within those heavily guarded walls.
Area 51 has transcended its status as a mere military installation, embedding itself into popular culture. It has been featured in films, television shows, and books, often depicted as the epicenter of government conspiracies and alien encounters. This portrayal has sparked a global fascination, leading to a surge in tourism to the surrounding areas and the annual celebration of World UFO Day, where enthusiasts gather to share stories and hope for a glimpse of the unexplained.
For those intrigued by the mysteries of Area 51, further information can be found through reputable sources dedicated to the history of aviation and military technology. One such resource is the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which offers a collection of declassified documents related to Area 51 and its operations. These documents provide a glimpse into the site’s Cold War history, offering context to the rumors and legends that have captivated the public imagination.
2. Snake Island, Brazil
Ilha da Queimada Grande, commonly known as Snake Island, is located off the coast of São Paulo, Brazil, and is one of the most forbidden places on earth. This island, shrouded in legend and fear, is home to one of the world’s most dangerous and unique ecosystems. The island’s infamy comes from its dense population of one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the Golden Lancehead Viper.
Breaching the perimeter of Snake Island in Brazil can land you in jail. The off-coastal jungle is home to some of the most dangerous snakes in the world, making it an incredibly difficult destination that could kill you.
The Brazilian government strictly prohibits public visits to Snake Island, a measure put in place to protect both people and the viper’s fragile habitat. The ban ensures the preservation of the island’s unique ecosystem and the survival of the Golden Lancehead, which faces threats from poaching and habitat destruction.
The island’s mystique is enhanced by tales of treasure buried by pirates, adding a layer of legend to its already captivating story.
3. Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway
If the world should be on the edge of an apocalyptic famine, the Svalbard Vault, buried deep within the permafrost of the arctic circles, is humanity’s safest library of every known seedling of food crop there is. Only a few top-tier scientists have access to this place of profound mystery.
Often referred to as the “Doomsday Vault,” this facility is designed to protect the world’s agricultural diversity against catastrophic events, ranging from nuclear war to global pandemics and climate change.
The choice of location is strategic; the cold climate naturally preserves the seeds, and the remote location offers additional security. The vault currently holds over a million seed samples, encompassing a vast array of plant species crucial for food production and sustainable agriculture.
4. North Sentinel Island, India
Nested in the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island is the home of one of Earth’s remaining uncontacted people. The Sentinelese tribe, as they are known, are brutally violent and unwelcoming to strangers.
This small, forested island is a part of the Andaman Islands, under the jurisdiction of India, and one of the most forbidden places no one will ever be allowed to visit. The Sentinelese have lived in complete isolation for thousands of years, resisting contact with the outside world and maintaining a way of life that has remained unchanged since the Stone Age.
Their exact population is unknown, with estimates ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred. The Sentinelese have consistently expressed a clear desire for isolation, often greeting outsiders with hostility. This reaction is a natural defense mechanism, protecting their community from external threats, including diseases to which they have no immunity.
The Indian government has declared North Sentinel Island a protected area, and it is illegal to approach closer than five nautical miles. This policy aims to preserve the Sentinelese’s way of life and protect them from the potentially devastating impacts of outside contact.
5. Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City
The Pope’s country is accessible to adventurers, but not the vaults holding sacred church secrets for hundreds of years. The secret archive is off-limit to the public and only available to a handful of researchers under the strict supervision of the church.
The Vatican Secret Archives, officially renamed the Vatican Apostolic Archives in 2019, are among the most enigmatic and fascinating repositories of historical documents in the world.
The archives contain a treasure trove of documents, including papal correspondence, state papers, Vatican City records, and other historical materials that chronicle the Catholic Church’s influence on global events. Among its most famous documents are the trial records of the Knights Templar, the excommunication of Martin Luther, and correspondence related to the Galileo Galilei trial.
The Vatican Secret Archives have captured the public’s imagination, inspiring countless stories, novels, and conspiracy theories. The allure of hidden knowledge and the mysteries of the Church’s past continue to fascinate people around the world.
6. Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China
Qin Shi Huang was China’s first emperor, clamped down in an underground mausoleum tomb guarded by the famous Terracotta Army.
Despite the potential for revenue generation through tourism if visitors were allowed near his tomb, this place remains sealed and out of bounds due to the government’s fear of tourists damaging the tomb’s delicate artifacts.
The site reflects the organizational power and technological prowess of the Qin Dynasty, showcasing an advanced understanding of art, engineering, and governance. The Terracotta Army alone represents one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century.
Ancient texts, including the work of historian Sima Qian, describe the tomb as containing rivers of mercury, a map of the heavens and the earth, and booby traps to deter tomb robbers. Modern scientific tests have detected high levels of mercury around the mound, lending some credence to these historical accounts. Yet, without direct exploration, the truth about these wonders remains speculative, fueling both scholarly intrigue and popular imagination.
7. The Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean
Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, this place is the deepest point of all five world oceans, pegged at a depth of 36000 feet, swelling with extreme pressure and inhospitable conditions that will get you killed.
The Trench is exclusive of only a few pioneering scientific expeditions, with most parts of this Earth’s underbelly still uncharted to this day.
This extraordinary depth creates an environment in which few organisms can survive, yet it is home to a variety of life forms uniquely adapted to these conditions.
The trench is of immense scientific interest because it offers a living laboratory for studying life in extreme environments, geological processes, and the limits of the biosphere. Research conducted in the Mariana Trench helps scientists understand more about the Earth’s composition, tectonic movements, and deep-sea ecosystems.
Over the years, a handful of manned and unmanned missions have reached the trench’s deepest points. Notably, the Trieste, a manned submersible, reached the Challenger Deep in 1960, and more recently, filmmaker James Cameron made a solo dive in 2012.
NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research provides updates on missions, research findings, and multimedia showcasing the trench’s alien landscapes and inhabitants.
8. MeZhgorye, Russia
Mezhgorye is a closed town located in the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, nestled in the southern Ural Mountains.
A secret military base with a rumored shoot-on-sight policy, you need a top-tier pass to access this formidable fortress. Mezhgorye attracts tens of conspiratorial standpoints, just like Area 51. The Russian government strictly controls the perimeter, and it is one of the most forbidden locations in the world.
The precise nature of Mezhgorye’s strategic importance remains a topic of speculation. It is widely believed to be connected to Mount Yamantau, which has been the subject of numerous reports suggesting that it houses a vast underground complex, possibly designed for use in the event of a nuclear war.
Mezhgorye is part of a broader network of closed towns in Russia known as “ZATO” (Closed Administrative-Territorial Formations). These towns are highly restricted areas that do not appear on maps and require special permission for entry. The existence of such towns dates back to the Soviet era, serving as hubs for military, nuclear, and scientific research that the Soviet and Russian governments wished to keep away from public scrutiny and foreign intelligence.
9. Mount Weather Emergency Operations Centre, Virginia, United States
Located within the picture-perfect mountains of Blue Ridge in Virginia, many theorists believe this place is the first respondent point of operation in the case of a military crisis that threatens the existence of the United States. You cannot go to this place. It is one of the most forbidden places in the world.
The exact details of Mount Weather’s capabilities and operations are classified, leading to speculation and intrigue about the extent of its preparedness and the scenarios for which it is intended. Its existence became known to the public after a plane crash brought it to media attention in 1974.
While the primary focus of Mount Weather is national security, its existence raises important questions about transparency, civil liberties, and the balance between preparedness and public oversight.
10. Poveglia Island, Italy
How can an entire island be out of bounds? The haunting reputation of this place precedes it, as it was used as a quarantine station during the Great Plague, and it’s rumored to be haunted by those who died during the pandemic. Public access is prohibited, and this only adds to the intrigues of Poveglia.
Poveglia Island is nestled between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon, Italy. The mass burial pits and the subsequent burning of bodies have led to the belief that the island is cursed and haunted by the restless spirits of those who were abandoned there, fueling its reputation as one of the most haunted places on Earth.
In the 1920s, the island became the site of a mental hospital, further contributing to its eerie lore. Stories of mistreatment and experimental procedures have emerged, though many are unsubstantiated. The hospital closed in the 1960s, and the island has been largely abandoned since, with nature reclaiming the structures left to decay.
The legends surrounding Poveglia are numerous, including tales of ghosts and malevolent spirits and reports of strange occurrences and eerie noises heard by visitors. These stories, while often lacking in verifiable evidence, have made the island a subject of fascination for paranormal investigators from around the world.
11. Bohemian Grove
Bohemian Grove is one of the most bizarre places in San Francisco and one of the strangest in America! This cult gathering place is the gathering place of some of the richest and most elite men in America, but if you think you can enter the club, think again.
To join the gathering, you’ll need to pay twenty-five thousand dollars after being on a fifteen-year waiting list, but known for its strange rituals, you’ll most likely want to leave this one up to the conspiracy theorists to have fun with.
12. Bank of England Vaults
This is an obvious one that’s off-limit, but the Bank of England vaults are home to actual gold bars traded between countries and the elite. Each gold bar contains a serial number and its weight on the bottom, and when gold bars are traded, an additional serial number is added to the bar of gold and the owner’s account.
Once added, the previous owner is then removed from the gold bar.
13. Valle del Javari
Nestled in the far western part of Brazil, near the border with Peru, the Valle del Javari is one of the most remote and preserved regions in the Amazon rainforest. This vast territory, spanning approximately 85,000 square kilometers (about 32,800 square miles), is named after the Javari River that meanders through it. The area is renowned for its incredible biodiversity and as a home to one of the highest concentrations of uncontacted indigenous peoples in the world.
Valle del Javari is an untouched area in Brazil and is one of the most heavily protected areas. For many years, people have wondered if this area is home to certain tribes, but images have shown that tribes still live in the Valle del Javari with huts and large families that inhabit this land. If tribes still live here, this area is heavily protected for good reason!
Surtsey is a volcanic island located off the southern coast of Iceland. It was formed in a dramatic volcanic eruption that began in 1963 and lasted until 1967. This event provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the birth of an island and the subsequent colonization of life in a pristine environment.
Named after Surtr, a fire giant from Norse mythology, Surtsey has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008, recognized for its value in providing insights into geological processes and ecological succession.
The island’s emergence was a global sensation, offering the scientific community a real-time laboratory to observe volcanic island formation and evolution.
The eruption that created Surtsey was closely monitored from its onset, providing valuable data on volcanic activity, island formation, and the changes in landmass over time due to erosion and geological processes. Surtsey’s relatively young geological age makes it an invaluable site for research in geology and geomorphology.
Today, the island is strictly protected, with access limited to scientific research to prevent human impact on its natural development. While staying on the island, scientists sleep in tiny cabins with bunk beds to ensure minimal impact on its land.
15. Chapel of the Ark of the Covenant
You may have already heard of this one, but the Chapel of the Ark Covenant contains the two stone tablets given to Moses by God. The two stone tablets contain the Ten Commandments and are said to have Aaron’s Rod and a Pot of Manna! Manna is an edible substance given to the Israelites to help them survive during their travels; with that said, the Arc is only allowed to be visited by one priest.
16. Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is the largest island within the Chagos Archipelago, situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean. It plays a pivotal role in global geopolitics and military strategy, serving as a key U.S. military base under an agreement with the United Kingdom. The atoll’s strategic location enables it to act as a crucial point for military operations in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, offering capabilities for surveillance, logistics, and a range of military activities.
The history of Diego Garcia is marked by controversy, particularly regarding the displacement of the Chagossian people in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To establish the military base, the UK government relocated the island’s inhabitants to Mauritius and the Seychelles, a move that has since been the subject of legal battles and international criticism. The Chagossians have fought for the right to return to their homeland, highlighting issues of human rights and colonial legacies.
The U.S. Naval Support Facility on Diego Garcia is one of the most important American military bases outside the continental United States. It supports a variety of military operations, including aerial refueling, maritime pre-positioning of military supplies, and intelligence gathering. The base’s isolation and the atoll’s geographic features make it an ideal location for strategic military purposes without the complications of being near populated areas.
The island is used by the United States Army but is off-limits to travelers.
17. Metro 2
Metro 2, also known by its alleged codename, D-6, is rumored to be a secret underground metro system that runs parallel to the public Moscow Metro. According to various sources, including defectors and urban explorers, Metro 2 was constructed during the Soviet era, supposedly under the orders of Joseph Stalin.
It is said to connect key government and military institutions, including the Kremlin, the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters, and other strategic locations, serving as a secure evacuation route in case of war or disaster.
The origins of Metro 2 are steeped in Cold War secrecy, with its primary purpose believed to be ensuring the continuity of government operations during a nuclear attack. The existence of such a system would reflect the Soviet Union’s extensive preparations for potential conflict, mirroring the construction of other bunkers and secure facilities across the country. Despite numerous claims and some evidence suggesting its reality, the Russian government has neither confirmed nor denied Metro 2’s existence definitively.
Metro 2 has captured the imagination of conspiracy theorists, historians, and the general public alike, becoming a subject of fascination and speculation.
18. Room 39
Room 39, also known as Bureau 39, is one of North Korea’s most secretive organizations, believed to be at the heart of the regime’s clandestine economic activities.
Established in the late 1970s, it is reported to be located within the Workers’ Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang. The primary purpose of Room 39 is said to be generating foreign currency for the country’s leadership, employing a range of methods that are often cited as illicit by international observers.
Due to the opaque nature of North Korea’s government and its stringent control over information, verifying the details of Room 39’s operations is challenging. Most of what is known comes from defectors, intelligence agencies, and investigative journalism, with North Korea denying any illegal activities.
But don’t worry; only the corrupt have access to this location!
19. Jiangsu National Security Education Museum
The Jiangsu National Security Education Museum opened in 2009. This museum is one of the few of its kind in the world, offering visitors an insight into the shadowy world of spies, intelligence operations, and counter-espionage efforts throughout Chinese history, with a particular focus on the modern era.
Displays include a wide array of espionage equipment, documents, and narratives of famous spies and operations that have shaped China’s security landscape. Notably, the museum showcases gadgets used in espionage, such as concealed weapons, communication devices, and surveillance equipment, providing a tangible connection to the abstract and clandestine world of intelligence.
Interestingly, the museum is not open to foreign visitors, a policy that underscores the sensitive nature of the exhibits and the museum’s primary educational mission toward Chinese citizens. This restriction has added an aura of mystery to the museum, making it a subject of curiosity and speculation among international audiences.
For those interested in the history of espionage, intelligence operations, and their impact on global affairs, the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., offers a wealth of information and exhibits from around the world. While it does not specifically focus on the Jiangsu National Security Education Museum or Chinese espionage, it provides a comprehensive overview of international espionage history, tactics, and technologies.