Many articles have been written documenting the world’s greatest travel destinations. However, this list will be examining some locations that you don’t want to visit or would be better off avoiding. In planning a family vacation or cross-country trip, I would recommend staying away from these places. Many of the areas have a serious pollution problem or are extremely dangerous. It is unfortunate that so many people are raised under such poor sanitary conditions.
10. Bubbly Creek
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Bubbly Creek is the nickname of a section of the Chicago River located in the South Branch. The area surrounding Bubbly Creek was originally a wetland, but during the 19th century channels were dredged and the South Fork became an open sewer line for the local stockyards, especially the Union Stock Yards. During this time, slaughter houses dumped large amounts of waste, such as blood and entrails into Bubbly Creek. The creek received so much blood and animal remains that the water began to bubble with methane and hydrogen sulfide gas. The process of decomposition created the chemical reaction, which led to the nickname Bubbly Creek. In 1906, the area and its history were included in the Upton Sinclair novel titled The Jungle, which criticized the American meat packing industry.
By the 1990s, the only living animal in the creek was a large number of bloodworms. The worms are feeding on a thick mass of rotting blood which is located on the river bed. Bubbly Creek has become hypoxic due to the oxygen depletion. The creek remains highly toxic and the surrounding area is full of a rancid smell. A small amount of vegetation has returned in recent decades and the area has become occupied by residential development. A program to oxygenate the creek by continuously injecting compressed air into the water has been met with limited success. Swimming through the slimy surface of Bubbly Creek is not recommended and many Chicago locals stay away from the creek entirely.
9. Centralia, Pennsylvania
Location: Columbia County, Pennsylvania
The town of Centralia, Pennsylvania is a location that was built around the coal mining industry. In the past, the area was served by two separate railroads. However, all rail services ended in 1966 when the coal mining industry went out of business. Centralia once held seven churches, five hotels, twenty-seven saloons, two theatres, a bank, a post office, and fourteen general stores. In 1962 a fire was ignited in one of the large mines below Centralia. The fire quickly spread throughout the vast mining system, ultimately making the town practically uninhabitable.
It is not fully understood how the fire was started, but one theory suggests that the event occurred in May of 1962 when the Centralia Borough Council hired five people to clean up the town landfill, which was located in an abandoned strip-mine pit. The men did not extinguish the fire correctly and it spread through a hole in the rock pit and then into the abandoned coal mines beneath Centralia. In the late 1960s and 1970s dozens of town residents were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning. Sink holes began to appear in the city limits and steam ports were often reported.
The town’s population has dwindled from over 1,000 residents in 1981 to 12 in 2005, and 9 in 2007. Centralia is now the least-populous municipality in Pennsylvania. In 1984, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts and most people accepted a buyout and moved. In 1992, all property in the borough was claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This means the government took ownership of all land in the town.
In 2002 the U.S. Post Office revoked Centralia’s zip code. Few homes remain standing in Centralia and most of the abandoned buildings have been demolished by humans or nature. The borough is littered with signs warning of unstable ground and carbon monoxide poisoning. Smoke and steam can be seen rising from various locations in the town. The underground fire is still burning and will continue to do so for a predicted 250 more years. Interestingly, Centralia was the inspiration for the 1991 cult film Nothing But Trouble, which was written by Dan Aykroyd.
Location: Afar Region, Ethiopia
Dallol is a ghost town in northern Ethiopia. It is located in Administrative Zone 2 of the Afar Region in the Afar Depression. The Afar Depression is a geological depression near the Horn of Africa. In 1918, a railway was constructed from the port of Mersa Fatma in Eritrea and then to a point 28 km from Dallol. However, after World War II it was removed by the British administration, as international trade routes had expanded.
The area is home to the Dallol volcano, which is encompassed by the Dallol Mountain. The village is populated by impressive salt canyons. The Dallol Co. of Asmara sold salt from the site to India from 1951-1953. In the 1960s, the Parsons Company from the United States conducted a series of geological surveys at Dallol. By 1965, about 10,000 holes had been drilled at 65 separate locations. In 1926, the Dallal volcano experienced an eruption leaving a 30m wide crater and forming geological hot springs.
Dallol has been described as a ghost town with only a couple standing buildings. The structures are made of salt blocks. The town currently holds the record for the highest average temperature for an inhabited location on Earth. The average annual temperature between the years 1960-1966 was 34°C (94°F). It regularly reaches over 115°F. Dallol is also one of the most remote places on the planet. There are no roads and the only regular transportation service provided is by camel caravans, which travel to the area to collect salt.
Many impressive hot springs do exist at Dallol, giving a stunning view of yellow and red hydrothermal deposits. However, Dallol lies in northeastern Ethiopia close to the disputed Eritrean border. This fact, along with some hostile Afar tribesmen, make the area dangerous and several armed attacks on tourist convoys have occurred in recent years. If you really want to visit Dallol, it would be a good idea to join a convoy of 4-wheel drive vehicles, which are accompanied by armed guards, and occasionally bring visitors to the Dallol springs.
7. Hanford Site
Location: Hanford, Washington State
Hanford was a small agricultural community in Benton County, Washington, United States. In 1943, the town was evacuated, along with the town of White Bluffs, in order to make room for the nuclear production facility known as the Hanford Site. The Hanford Site was one of the first and biggest nuclear production centers during World War II. It was home to the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. During the Cold War, the Hanford Site was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five massive plutonium processing complexes.
These devices produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Waste disposal practices were inadequate during early nuclear testing and production in the United States. In the 1980s, the U.S. government released documents confirming that Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River. This contamination has threatened the health of residents and the ecosystem.
The weapons production reactors at the Hanford Site were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the manufacturing process has left behind 53 million gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste. The waste remains at the site and it represents two-thirds of all high-level radioactive waste in the U.S. The Hanford Site is the most contaminated nuclear storage facility in the nation. It is also the focus of the United States largest environmental cleanup. The Hanford Site occupies 586 square miles (1,518 km2) and the Columbia River flows along the site for approximately 50 miles.
The site is bordered on the southeast by the Tri-Cities, a metropolitan area composed of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco, which is home to over 230,000 residents. This area of Washington becomes warm in the summer and extra firefighters are stationed in the surrounding communities in case of toxic brush fires.
More than 70,000 containers of this waste (sometimes referred to as suspect TRU waste) were stored under a layer of dirt in the in the 1970’s and 1980’s, in the 200 Area Low-Level Burial Grounds of the Hanford Site.
Location: Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia
Dzerzhinsk is a Russian city situated on the river Oka, approximately 400 km east of Moscow. The city was founded in 1920 and named Rastiapino until 1929. In 1930, the settlement was renamed after Felix Dzerzhinsky, who was a Bolshevik leader that became the first head of the Cheka secret police. He was active from 1917-1926. Many people have been surprised that the city was not renamed after the Soviet Union’s collapse of communism in 1991. The Cheka secret police were a precursor for the more well known KGB.
Starting in 1941 and lasting through the Cold War, Dzerzhinsk housed the Soviet Union’s major chemical weapon development facilities. Many different types of highly toxic and dangerous chemicals were produced in Dzerzhinsk, including lewisite and mustard. However, some of the most devastating products were the large amount of prussic acid, phosgene, and arsenic based weapons that were manufactured. In 1965, the production of major chemical weapons was stopped in the area. During that time, some of the toxic materials were transported to various places for storage, but most of the material had to be buried due to the large concentrations of arsenic. In recent decades the Russian government has been attempting to eliminate the dangerous chemical facilities.
The population of Dzerzhinsk is around 250,000 people. The area is one of the main centers for chemical processing in the Russian Federation, producing synthetic ammoniac, fertilizers, and herbicides. In 2008, Dzerzhinsk had 38 large industrial corporations, which export goods all over the world. The area produces around 1,000 different varieties of chemical products. According to the 2007 ranking of the NGO Blacksmith Institute, Dzerzhinsk is one of the most polluted cities in the world, ranking as more deadly than Chernobyl. The areas water supply is contaminated with many toxins and the phenol levels are reportedly seventeen million times the safe limit.
Some estimates have the life expediency numbers in Dzerzhinsk very low for Russia. The 2007 NGO Blacksmith study actually suggested that the life expediency of Dzerzhinsk in 2006 was only 42 years for men and 47 for women. However, the Dzerzhinsk City Administration asserts that the Blacksmith Institute report is false and according to the city Health Department 2006 report, the average life expectancy in the city was 64 years. The Dzerzhinsk’s environmental agency has estimated that almost 300,000 tons of chemical waste was dumped in the city between 1930 and 1998. The area was until recently closed to tourists.
Location: Mumbai, India
Dharavi is a slum and administrative ward. It is sandwiched between Mahim and Sion, which are suburbs of Mumbai, India. By population, Dharavi is one of the largest shanty towns in Asia. A settlement named Orangi Town, which is located in the northwestern part of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, is the largest official slum of Asia. However, Orangi Town is 57 km2 (22 sq mi), while Dharavi is only 175 hectares (0.67 square miles). The city of Mumbai can be expensive for local residents and Dharavi provides a cheap, but illegal alternative, where some rent is as low as 185 rupees (4 US dollars) per month. Dharavi is located next to the Mithi River, which empties into the Arabian Sea through the Mahim Creek. The area has a very poor drainage system, which often causes flooding.
The population of Dharavi is thought to exceed 1 million people. Dharavi is home to many traditional pottery and textile industries. The area also supports a large recycling company, processing recyclable waste from parts of Mumbai. However, wages are very low and living conditions are bad. Public health is horrible in the slum. Toilets are scarce and a 2006 study found that there was only one toilet per 1,440 Dharavi residents.
Mahim Creek is widely used by locals for urination and defecation, leading to the spread of many contagious diseases. The area also suffers from problems with inadequate water supply. The stench of Dharavi is horrible and many open sewers exist in the area. Dharavi was featured in the 2008 award winning film Slumdog Millionaire. The Indian government has released plans for a redevelopment project, which aims to transform the giant slum into a self-sustaining urban community.
Location: Shanxi Province, China
Linfen is a city situated along the banks of the Fen River in southern Shanxi province, People’s Republic of China. The city currently has a population around 4.2 million. Linfen is routinely cited as one of the most polluted cities in the world. This pollution in the area is caused by the large amount of coal-burning power plants. The coal has caused the city to become smoggy and dust-covered. The Chinese government has received pressure from the local media and environmental agencies to help clean up the city. Reports of respiratory illness in children are also high in Linfen.
Thousands of iron, steel, and coal plants populate the city of Linfen. The Chinese citizens who live in the city are forced to wear face protection throughout the day. It has been reported that at times you can’t even see your own hand in front of your face because of the thick pollution and headlights are constantly needed. The people of Linfen have become accustomed to being covered in coal soot and airborne pollution every time they leave their homes. British experts have even compared the effects of the pollution to that of a nuclear power plant disaster. However, four million people live in the immediate vicinity of Linfen.
In the past couple years Beijing officials have ordered strict policy changes, but as one plant is targeted and shut down, another one opens up illegally. A child with a repertory illness has a life expediency 10 years shorter than average. The Fen River near Linfen, the source of drinking water for millions, is an open sewer. International studies have also suggested that the rate of arsenic poisoning is very high in the Shanxi province and life expediency is lower than the Chinese average.
3. Room 39
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea?
Room 39 is a secret government organization located in North Korea. It is a bit of an unusual place because nobody knows for sure where it is. Many people feel that the operation takes place out of the Labor Party building in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Room 39 was established in the late 1970s and has been described as the head of North Korea’s “court economy” centered on the Kim family. Many people have reported that it is the slush fund of Kim Jong-il. A slush fund is typically a monetary account or a reserve fund. However, within a government it can also refer to corrupt political dealings. Room 39 holds as much as $5 billion in funds and may be involved in many illegal activities. It appears that North Korea is looking for ways to get Kim Jong-il large amounts of foreign currency.
It has been widely speculated that the organization uses ten to twenty bank accounts in China and Switzerland for the purposes of money laundering and other illegal activities. People have also alleged that Room 39 is involved in drug smuggling, weapons sales, and even the sale of nuclear weapons secrets. The seclusion of the North Korean state makes it difficult to evaluate this kind of information, but it is thought that Room 39 is critical to Kim Jong-il’s continued power, enabling him to bribe people and fund North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The United States accused Room 39 of selling military technology to obtain foreign currency, which North Korea denied. Room 39 could also be operating overseas through the North Korean restaurant chain Pyongyang. The main operating center is one of North Korea’s most protected areas. It is also one of the most dangerous locations in the world, unless you are a high ranking North Korean military official. I don’t think many people are planning a vacation to North Korea.
Location: Benadir Region of Somalia
Mogadishu is the largest city in Somalia and the nation’s capital. The city is located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean and has served as an important port for centuries. In 1990, rebel forces captured the city, causing then President of Somalia Mohamed Siad Barre to flee to Kenya. Mogadishu was run by competing warlords until 2006, when Islamists and businessmen formed a successful coalition government, which came to be known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU seized control of the entire country, except for the town of Baidoa. In response, the Ethiopian military, who had long been in exile in Kenya, invaded the ICU and attempted to restore their government. Mogadishu has been the scene of bitter warfare and devastation caused by fighting between the Ethiopian and Somali governments, and Islamist guerrillas.
Somalia is one of the least stable areas in the world. Since the government of Somalia collapsed, foreign nations have seized the opportunity and began looting the countries food supply. The countries unguarded waters, especially off the coast of Mogadishu, have become extremely unsafe. With groups of local pirates, poachers, and even nuclear waste dump sites. Unidentified vessels poach an estimated $450 million in seafood from Somali waters annually. In so doing, they steal a valuable protein source from some of the world’s poorest people. In 2008, the BCC reported that the city had been “abandoned by at least half of its residents.” The article also stated that there was “street after ruined street of bombed-out buildings in the center of Mogadishu.”
In 2009 there was an outbreak of suicide bombing attacks in the area, which in the past have been rare in Somalia. The violence has claimed thousands of innocent lives. Mayor Abdurisaq Mohamed Nor has suggested that all civilians and tourists keep at least a 2 km distance between themselves and the capital city. Many separate battles have been waged in the last couple years, most recently the Battle of Mogadishu (2010). This battle began on March 10, 2010, when al-Shabaab insurgents began attacking government and AMISOM positions. The attacks came ahead of a planned government-led offensive to retake parts of Mogadishu from the insurgents.
1. Cité Soleil
Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Cité Soleil is a densely populated shanty town located in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area of Haiti. It has been estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 people live in Cité Soleil. The commune is one of the biggest slums in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also one of the most dangerous places in the world. Cité Soleil has no sewers, no stores, and little to no police presence or electricity. After the 1991 coup d’état removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the commune was thrust into extreme poverty and persistent unemployment, with high rates of illiteracy. In recent decades, Cité Soleil has been terrorized by armed gangs. In 1999, a fire greatly damaged the town. In 2004, UN peacekeepers stormed Cité Soleil in an attempt to gain control of the area. However, it made only a small impact on the violence. The UN has described the human rights situation in the commune as “catastrophic.”
On January 12, 2010 a giant earthquake struck 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake has affected an estimated 3 million people, 230,000 people have died, and over 1 million Haitian residents were left homeless. After the earthquake, it took nearly two weeks for relief aid to arrive in Cité-Soleil. The commune was totally devastated and crime rates exploded. Today, armed gangs roam the town’s streets. Murders, rape, kidnapping, looting, and shootings are common. The city blocks are controlled by armed factions and the area is full of rampant crime and armed violence.
Most of the people living in Cité Soleil are children and young adults. Few residents survive past the age of 50 and most die from disease, including AIDS, or violence. A large majority of people who live in Cité Soleil remain loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas movement. The area has a large kidnapping problem and foreign travelers are common targets. Haitian police are unable to enter the commune and discover the hidden networks of human trafficking. During the 2010 earthquake, many gang members escaped from Haiti’s damaged prison. The criminals turned to Cité Soleil for protection and hiding. Crime in the commune is rising, and police have urged citizens to take matters into their own hands.
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Orangi Town is a settlement located in the northwestern part of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It is among the largest of all Asian shanty towns. Unlike many other inner city slums, Orangi Town is spread over a large area of land. Over 99% of the town’s population is Muslim, with many different ethnic groups. In the late 1990s, the Orangi Town community was forced to design and implement their own low-cost sewerage system.
The town experienced a violent ethnic conflict in the 90s and murder, kidnapping, and rape was common between the Pathans and Mohajirs. In 1980, Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan organized the Orangi Pilot Project. The goal of the project was to educate and develop the Orangi Town community. It has been a successful endeavor and helped the local people build water pipelines, roads, and clinics. However, the recent war in Afghanistan has made Orangi Town one of the most dangerous places in the world.
Orangi Town has a population of approximately 2.5 million people, although government records insist that it has only 700,000 inhabitants. In the last 15 years, Orangi Town’s demographic has substantially changed as a large number of Pakhtun refugees have fled from the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban conflict in northern Pakistan has also caused many people to resettle in Orangi Town. In early February of 2010 violence between the two political parties erupted.
Gunshots were heard for days, creating panic and fear among the citizens. Many businesses were closed down and the streets were deserted as the residents were confined to their homes. Political activists reportedly made pickets on the roofs of their houses and were seen firing down. The law enforcement agencies have specific regulations to not enter many war-torn areas. Suicide bombings, kidnapping, and murder have become a regular occurrence in the heart Orangi Town.