We’ve told you before about some of Earth’s strange corners that you can’t set a foot on. However, it turns out there’s no shortage of such locations, so here are 10 more forbidden places you’ll never be able to visit.
10. Only memories of tragedies live on North Brother Island
The desolate North Brother Island lies near one of the biggest cities in the world: It’s in the East River, between New York City’s Riker’s Island and the Bronx. It’s also the location of two famous historical tragedies and an untold amount of human suffering. It’s arguably most famous as the home of Mary “Typhoid Mary” Mallon, the symptomless Patient Zero of many a typhoid fever outbreak. Mallon spent the last 23 years of his life detained and quarantined on the island, believing all the while that she was a victim of great injustice.
However, the island claimed its greatest death toll as the nearest landmass to the General Slocum disaster of 1905, where the massive steamship went ablaze near North Brother Island. Over 1,000 people died, and only 321 survived. After these tragedies, the hospital located on the island was put to use after World War II, first for veterans of the war and then for heroin addicts.
The hospital was closed and left to rot in 1963, and it is now officially forbidden to visit the North Brother Island. However, this isn’t because the island is haunted by the ghosts of the people who met their horrifying fates there (as far as we know). It’s simply because the North Brother Island is home to one of the largest Black-Crowned Night Heron colonies, and as a result, the place is a bird sanctuary. Pretty anticlimactic, huh?
9. Bhangarh Fort is officially haunted at night
To be fair, you can visit the Bhangarh Fort in India’s Rajasthan pretty much whenever you like… as long as you do it in the daytime. After dark, the place is strictly off limits, but it’s not because the officials fear that tourists steal trinkets or start bonfires. It’s because they fear the tourists will be eaten by vengeful ghosts.
Yes, the Bhangarh Fort is considered to be so haunted that the area’s officials have strictly forbidden all visits to the area at nighttime, making it possibly the only historical building (or at the very least one of the precious few) in the world that is legally haunted. There are many stories surrounding the place, but the most common is that a wizard once cursed the fort for all eternity because they had disobeyed his order to avoid building taller buildings than his dwelling. That seems a bit petty, but hey, that’s wizards for you. Still, whether you believe in ghosts or not, the locals certainly have plenty of chilling stories about people going missing and strange voices in the night — and whenever the sun starts setting, tourists are promptly packed in their buses and vans.
8. The mysterious closed town of Mezhgorye
The town of Mezhgorye has been around since 1979. It was initially less-than-invitingly called Ufa-105 or Beloretsk-16, but was granted a proper name when it received a town status in 1995. Located near the Ural mountains in the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, the town is closed and evidently highly classified despite the warm welcome sign at its border.
Mezhgorye is thought to house a little under 20,000 people who work for the nearby top secret base called Mount Yamantau. This is thought to be a massively deep and unfathomably large underground construct, which Russian officials have described as “a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for Russia’s leaders” depending on who you’re asking, but everyone else seems to be convinced the base has a whole lot to do with nuclear weapons.
7. Setting foot on Pravcicka Brana is strictly forbidden
You’d be forgiven to think that the Pravcicka Brana arch in the Czech Bohemian Switzerland National Park seems somewhat familiar. After all, the giant natural stone arc is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the country, and has been prominently featured in movies such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
You’d also be forgiven to want to walk the arch and admire the stunning scenery of the national park all around you, and maybe even take the most Instagram-worthy photo in history by standing on the arch and having a friend photograph you from a lookout point. However, this is something you absolutely can’t do. In fact, even official, otherwise affable visitor guides straight up tell you to not even think about it. The combined forces of erosion and thousands and thousands of tourist feet would play merry hell on the fragile arc, and the risk of collapse is a very real one. You’re welcome to enjoy the Pravcicka Brana from afar (at a price, of course), but actually setting foot on it is strictly, strictly forbidden.
6. Svalbard Global Seed Vault: No doomsday tourists allowed
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a hyper-secure doomsday vault that stores the seeds of various crops and plants for that tragic day in the future when nature may need a backup. As an iconic place and an imposing Bond villain lair design, the vault is a source of fascination for a certain type of tourists, and operators NordGen often receive requests for visitation. Understandably, they’re not too keen on having tourists wandering the halls of what may one day become humanity’s last hope for survival and looking for souvenirs, so all private visits to the vault are strictly forbidden.
It’s not all bad, though: NordGen is fully aware of the photogenic nature of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and they are completely cool with private visitors who want to pop by and take a selfie in front of the famous entrance… as long as they don’t expect to be let in.
5. Only monkeys may walk on Morgan Island
South Carolina’s Morgan Island is home to a breeding colony of 3,500 Rhesus monkeys, which were moved there by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources after they started causing outbreaks among the locals in the Puerto Rico research center that was their original home. The monkeys have been there since the 1970s, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases uses them for life-saving research while also maintaining, feeding and generally taking care of the colony.
For obvious reasons (and also because the Institute wants to keep the island clean of human interaction), visiting the island is strictly prohibited. However, it is completely cool for boats to sail near the shores to laugh at the Rhesus monkeys’ many amusing beach antics.
4. Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang is so deadly it can’t be explored
You might be familiar with the Chinese terracotta warriors uncovered from a vast imperial tomb. Those, you totally can visit — the terracotta army is housed in a museum built on the site they were discovered, and some of them even tour the globe as art museum exhibitions.
The thing is, they’re not the entirety of the imperial tomb. They’re just the figures guarding the tomb. The actual tomb, a.k.a. The Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, is a giant, 22-square-mile complex that has multiple buildings, courtyards and even a secret palace — and we may never get to visit it. While the construct is buried by soil and kept dry and intact by a surprisingly advanced ventilation system, even archeologists think it may be too dangerous to fully explore and excavate. Emperor Qin was a paranoid and superstitious sort of fellow, and he constructed his palace to be a full-on Indiana Jones maze full of deadly traps that may or may not still work. While some scientists point out the Hollywood-style traps may just be the product of historians’ imagination, the Chinese government still seems content just sitting on the discovery until they develop sufficient technology to venture in the tomb without destroying anything (and, presumably, to avoid getting a faceful of mercury-laced arrows).
3. Good luck reaching Heard Island
To be fair, it’s not entirely forbidden to witness the unique, lush ecosystem of Heard Island with your own two eyes. You can totally visit the island if you’re willing to jump the hurdles and obtain the correct documents and permits. Good luck getting there, though: Though Heard Island technically belongs to Australia, it’s actually nearly 250 miles to the south of Western Australia and just 62 miles from Antarctica. Flying is a no-go, as the vast majority of the island is occupied by a tall, steep volcano called Big Ben.
There are no commercial tour services to take you there. The only way to get there is by boat, which according to Australia’s Antarctic Division means that you have to endure some two weeks of sailing “through some of the roughest seas on the planet” — and then do that again to get back to Australia. Also, the island has no permanent residents, so you have absolutely zero backup during your stay there.
2. Niihau is Hawaii’s “forbidden island”
Hawaii enjoys a reputation as a famously welcoming and chill place, but it also has its secrets. Niihau, Hawaii’s “forbidden island,” was bought by Elizabeth Sinclair from King Kamehameha V in 1864, and the King had only one resquest for her: To keep the place in good condition for its people.
The island is now owned by Sinclair’s descendants Bruce and Keith Robinson, and the family has kept their promise with a vengeance: The island is a lush, pristine habitat for many endangered species and a peaceful home to the people who live there. Its peacefulness is largely thanks to the family’s policy of keeping tourists as far away as humanly possible. The island gained its “forbidden” nickname in 1952, when a polio epidemic was ravaging Hawaii and the family decided to protect Niihau by forbidding entrance without a doctor’s certificate and a two-week quarantine period. The tactic worked, the nickname remained, and for decades, only members of the family and the roughly 130 natives living on the island were allowed there. People who want to visit the island as their dying wish? Mick Jagger? Billionaires and members of royalty? All have requested; all requests have been denied.
In recent years, however, the Robinsons have gotten a little fed up with the constant barrage of requests and started allowing a small number of carefully controlled tours to the north end of the island. So, it remains to be seen just how “forbidden” the island will be in years to come.
1. The Chernobyl sarcophagus will irradiate you
When the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster happened, its aftermath left the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a large, technically forbidden zone that nevertheless is visited pretty much all the time. While the radiation levels in large parts of the area, including the town of Pripyat, are more or less survivable, there are still some zones that are strictly forbidden to visit on pain of (very painful) death.
The most obvious of these forbidden locations, both physically and by common sense, is Reactor 4, the reactor whose meltdown caused the whole disaster. The reactor is now covered by a hulking concrete sarcophagus designed to keep both radiation in and people out. The sarcophagus itself is a crumbling old thing that will be dismantled by 2023, but its successor is already in place: The massive 354-foot-tall steel structure called New Safe Containment, which covers both Reactor 4 and the sarcophagus, was finished in 2016.