The world is vast, yet technology has made it possible to unearth cities and places buried underground for centuries. Faster and more efficient travel has made it possible to reach places that were quite inaccessible in the past. Yet, despite all this advancement, there are some places that remain a mystery and are still considered a forbidden place on earth and remain some of the world’s most forbidden areas. The reason is that many places in different parts of the world are off-limits to the public. This is either because of safety concerns or because the activities that go on at these places are top secret. The curious would perhaps want a peek into these forbidden spaces. But many of them have such heavy protection and security that are getting anywhere close is a distant dream.
Whether it’s a closed town in the middle of nowhere or islands off the coasts of well-populated countries, these 12 most forbidden places on earth cannot be visited. To that end, check out the world’s most forbidden areas.
The closed town of Mezhgorye is located in the Republic of Bashkortostan in southwestern Russia’s Ural mountains. What’s more, it’s a forbidden place on earth and supposedly home to a nuclear missile site. Mezhgorye was founded in 1979 and is surrounded by two battalions to keep trespassers at bay. It was earlier known as Ufa-105 and Beloretsk-16 and is Russia’s only closed town to sit inside a republic. There are just two micro districts in the town, which are located around 23 km (14.3 mi) apart. Rumors fly thick and fast about the purpose of the town, but there has never been any official confirmation of its real purpose.
North Brother Island, United States
It’s hard to imagine a forbidden place on earth in New York City, but it’s true. North Brother Island, which is located on the East River between the Bronx and Riker’s Island, is one of the most forbidden areas in the world. It was also a place where people suffering from contagious diseases were sent. The Riverside Hospital was built on the uninhabited island when the city purchased it in 1885. One of the most famous patients on the island was the infamous “Typhoid Mary” Mallon. She’s the first documented asymptomatic carrier of typhoid bacteria in the United States. Mallon was forcibly quarantined on the island for 23 years until her death from pneumonia.
The hospital closed in 1963 and has been left for nature to take over. Today, the island is off-limits to the public and is a bird sanctuary for black-crowned night herons. It’s certainly not one of the top things to see in New York City, but this place has great intrigue.
Svalbard Seed Vault, Norway
Many international institutions have set up green gene banks. Here, samples of the genetic material of various strains of different species of plants have been stored. However, the Svalbard Seed Bank is the backup plan of the world. Basically, it’s the last resort in case something dire happens in the future. This 11,000-square-foot facility is located just south of Svalbard airport and within five minutes of Longyearbyen, one of the world’s most colorful places.
What’s more, it has a highly advanced security system and is only accessible by a handful of employees. This seed bank also stores duplicate specimens from genebanks around the world, just like a bank’s safety deposit box. Plus, the seeds are stored under controlled temperature conditions and can begin to sprout even 2000 years from now. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most forbidden areas in the world.
While you can’t actually visit this facility, this Historic Coal Mine Tour at Gruve 3 passes through the seed vault so that you can catch glimpses of it.
Terra Indigena Xinane Isolados, Brazil
Brazil has many areas that are earmarked for indigenous tribes and off-limits to the general public. But in recent years, there has been vast encroachment on the Amazon, putting these tribes in grave danger. However, the Terra Indigena Xinane Isoladas in the Acre State of Brazil is a protected area for the uncontacted Indians. Isolated Mashko Envira River, Ashaninka, and the Xinane people live by the Envira River’s Xinane Stream and speak a Panoan language, live here. Located on the border of Bolivia/Peru and covering an area of 1,750 sq. km (675 sq. mi), other reservations help keep the buffer in place. In the past few years, no one from the outside world has set foot on this island, making it the most forbidden place on earth.
Surtsey Island, Iceland
Surtsey Island is one of the youngest islands in the world and was formed by a volcanic eruption lasting four years between 1963 and 1967. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located 32 km (20 mi) off the southern coast of Iceland, has been protected since its inception. It’s to allow a natural ecosystem to flourish without human interference. What’s more, the place provides scientists with a natural laboratory to understand how life forms naturally inhabit areas over time. Thus, the government strictly prohibits visits to the island, making it one of the most forbidden areas in the world.
This Movie on Icelandic Volcanic Eruptions, shown at the Lava Center in the small town of Hvolsvöllur, details the 1963 explosion. So, while you can’t see the island, you can certainly see how it came about existence.
North Sentinel Island, India
North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal and part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India, is totally out of bounds for visitors. The coral reef surrounding the island makes the approach difficult, but the main reason for the island being off-limits is that it is home to one of the oldest uncontacted indigenous tribes in the world, the Sentinelese. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Act of 1956, which forbids travel to the island, protects the tribe.
What’s more, the Indian Navy patrols the area and forbids approaching closer than 9.3 km (5 nautical mi) to protect the remaining tribal community from “mainland” infectious diseases that they (likely) have no immunity against. In 2018, members of the tribe killed an American missionary who deliberately trespassed into the area. So, when we say it’s a forbidden place on earth, it’s best it remains that way.
Lascaux Caves, France
The spectacular artwork in the Lascaux caves in Northwestern France is supposedly over 17,000 years old. In fact, the caves used to be a must-see destination for many people traveling to France. However, the constant stream of visitors seems to have had a negative impact on these Paleolithic paintings. Firstly, humidity, heat, and carbon dioxide had visibly damaged the paintings by 1955. Then, there was also a fungal outbreak in the caves, causing the authorities to close it off to the public completely. Today, only a small handful of scientists have access to the caves for a few days a month to carry out research.
While the original caves are now one of the forbidden areas in the world, they have sprouted many replicas so people can admire their beauty. These include the Lascaux II in Grand Palais in Paris, the traveling exhibition of Lascaux III, and the Lascaux IV. The Lascaux IV, which sits in the International Centre for Parietal Art in Lascaux, is the most prominent of them all. This Full-Day Lascaux IV Tour from Sarlat-la-Canéda takes you on a full-day tour of the magnificent replica of the Lascaux Caves.
The tiny island of Poveglia, which lies between Venice and Lido in northern Italy, is the most dangerous forbidden place on earth. It’s probably been a witness to more deaths from the Bubonic Plague, a.k.a. the Black Death, than any other island ever. The island’s first-ever residents took refuge from barbaric invaders back in 421. Everything was smooth until the Black Death came here in the 1300s. Consequently, the place became a quarantine colony where thousands of infected, dead, and dying people were dumped.
If you think that was bad, the island became a mental asylum for a better part of the 1800s. What’s more, one of the doctors supposedly murdered many of the patients for his experiments. Over the years, the island has gained notoriety as one of the most haunted places on earth. In 2014, the Italian government offered the island for a long-term lease for the purpose of development, but there were no takers. Currently, the island is off-limits to visitors and remains one of the world’s most haunted places.
Ilha da Queimada Grande, Brazil
It’s probably a good thing that Ilha da Queimada Grande in Brazil is off-limits, as the inhabitants of this island are the stuff of nightmares. This piece of land, which lies off the coast of Brazil, is also called Snake Island, and for a good reason. It’s home to thousands of venomous snakes, including the endangered golden lancehead pit viper. Estimates state that there is one snake per sq. meter and as many as 43,000 snakes in total. The island was once a part of the mainland. However, rising water levels isolated it into an island, resulting in snakes trapped there. The only people with access to the island are research teams. In 1909, the government even built a fully automated lighthouse that guides ships even today. But, the island remains one of the most dangerous forbidden areas in the world.
Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City
Another place that holds many secrets is the Vatican Secret Archives, ownership of which lies with the Holy See. Ownership of these archives passes to the Pope’s successor after his death or resignation. While researchers sometimes get access to a part of these archives, they need to undergo a rigorous application process. Even then, parts of the archives are ‘classified’ and, thus, off-limits. The archives have historical documents, papal account books, and official correspondence that date back to the eighth century. What’s more, you’ll find stuff such as Henry VIII’s request for a marriage annulment. There’s even a letter written by Mary Queen of Scots before her execution. The archives span an estimated 52 mi (83 km) of shelves and are one of the most intriguing forbidden place on earth.
Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China
The 1974 discovery of the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang is one of the most important Chinese archaeological discoveries to date. It’s home to the famed terracotta warriors guarding the tomb of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The discovery of these figures deep beneath a hill in Central China astounded the world as the team discovered and excavated over 2,000 unique statues. According to experts, there are probably more than 8,000 of these statues surrounding the central tomb. It’s just that they haven’t been discovered yet. However, the tomb will probably never see the light of day and will remain one of the world’s forbidden areas. That’s because the Chinese government has chosen to respect the ancient burial sites rather than convert them into tourist attractions. It’s no surprise that this place is one of the top things to see in Xi’an, China, but from afar.
Area 51, United States
It’s hard not to include Area 51 on a list of the most forbidden places on earth! This highly classified United States Air Force facility has been the center of many conspiracy theories, especially ones involving aliens. Located in the Southern Nevada desert and fringed by mountains, Area 51 is believed to be a testing facility for experimental weaponry. However, alien enthusiasts beg to differ and claim that this is where a crashed spaceship is hidden. Although the base has never been declared a secret base, it’s out of bounds except for people with special clearance. The airspace above it is also off-limits, and all activities that are conducted here are top secret. It was only in June 2013 that the CIA publicly acknowledged the existence of this base.
Just So You Know:
- 30 years ago, Chernobyl catapulted into the world’s conscience when disaster struck nuclear reactor number 4, causing a tremendous loss of life. An “Exclusion Zone” within a 30 km (18 mi) radius of the plant is still in place and off-limits to the general public.
- Fort Knox in Kentucky, United States, is where America keeps its gold and was only opened to the media and Congress in 1974. To be able to get a peek into this treasure, trespassers would have to overcome minefields, barbed wire, electric fences, and armed guards.