The world is full of incredible locations and places to visit. No matter how much you travel it would probably be impossible to see them all. Even for those travel addicts who make it their life goal to see everything our beautiful planet has to offer, there are still a few really interesting places that are completely off limits no matter how hard you try. Here are the twenty-five most forbidden places on Earth. If you are brave enough to try, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
40. Lascaux Caves
Human beings painted over 600 images in the Lascaux Caves in southwestern France. Although several generations of artists contributed to the caves, scientists estimate the images are approximately 17,000 years old.
Unfortunately, the public is no longer allowed to enter. Excessive numbers of guests changed temperatures, chemical compositions, an humidity levels in the caves, endangering the prehistoric art works. An infestation of fungus and mold has further menaced this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Mecca is the heart of Islam. Many outsiders would surely love to visit the city, to study its history and to get a better feel for the religion of its inhabitants. Unfortunately, non-muslims are forbidden to enter Mecca. Punishments range from paying a fine to facing deportation.
38. The Queen’s Bedroom
If you visit London, you can absolutely tour Buckingham Palace. However, the one area that’s permanently off-limits is the queen’s personal suite. Since this is where her majesty lives, we can perhaps forgive her desire to retain a few forbidden places.
In 1982, a mentally unstable man actually succeeded in breaking into the queen’s bedroom. Security has since been enhances, and trespassing at Buckingham Palace has become a crime. (Amazingly, it was only a ‘civil wrong’ back in 1982.)
37. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
The Chernobyl Nuclear disaster happened all the way back in 1986. It is, therefore, a testament to the danger of radioactive material that some parts of Ukraine remain affected to this day.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone covers 1,000 square miles in and around Chernobyl where the threat of nuclear contamination is still very real. In other words, they’re still radioactive, even after all these years.
Obviously, you won’t be allowed to visit. But then, why would you want to?
36. Disney Club 33
Club 33 is the most exclusive way to experience Disney parks. The original, at Disneyland, is located in New Orleans Square. However, there are Club 33 locations at every Disney park.
Membership offers unique experiences of the Disney universe, and members pay dearly for the privilege. Initiation costs $25,000, and the annual fee will set you back $12,000.
The result is a collection of forbidden places that most of us will never get to see.
35. The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is one of Jerusalem’s iconic religious centers. Originally completed in 692, it stands prominently on the Temple Mount in the old city.
However, much like Mecca, for non-muslims it remains one of Jerusalem’s forbidden places. The good news is that the Dome of the Rock is surely as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
34. The DMZ
The Demilitarized Zone is one of those places whose names suggest the exact opposite of what you’ll find there. It is, in fact, one of the most militarized places on earth.
Cutting across the 38th parallel, this no man’s land separates South Korea from North Korea. For reasons you can probably deduce, you won’t be allowed to wander in and explore on your own. But again… only a madman would want to try.
33. Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
Ethiopia’s Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion claims to be the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. However, if this is the case, we’ll never know, as it’s one of the world’s forbidden places. The only person allowed inside is the keeper of the church, hand-picked by their immediate predecessor.
The original church is said to have been built in the 4th century AD, but it has been rebuilt many times.
32. Mariana Trench
Mariana Trench is the deepest region on the surface of the earth. It is a 1,500-mile-long crescent-shaped ravine at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Its maximum depth is a staggering 36,037 feet.
As you would imagine, diving to such depths presents unique challenges. The pressure is so intense that only the most durable submarines can manage. The result is one of the world’s most forbidden places. You’ll probably never get to visit — unless your name is James Cameron.
31. Morgan Island
Morgan Island is off the coast of South Carolina and historically uninhabited. That is, by humans. But since the late 1970s, the island has been home to troops of rhesus monkeys. These were transferred here from Puerto Rico amid fears the monkeys were spreading disease there.
So you can visit, I guess. If you want to be attacked by infected monkeys.
30. Chinese Spy Museum
China’s spy museum takes the spirit of espionage a little too seriously. Non-Chinese visitors are not allowed to enter, as some of the contents are still deemed too sensitive for foreign eyes. Even Chinese nationals, who are allowed to visit, can’t take any photos inside.
29. Dulce Base
The purported ‘Dulce Base’, in or near the town of the same name in New Mexico, has been the subject of conspiracy theories for a long time. Conspiracists claim there’s an underground base in the area where the U.S. military conducts secret experiments with alien technology.
More plausibly, there may be underground military facilities in the area that date to the Cold War. Whatever the truth of the matter, we’ll likely never know.
Varosha is an eery, abandoned area on the island of Cyprus. It’s part of the larger city of Famagusta. Once a popular tourist destination, teeming with resorts it was abandoned when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. It has since remained utterly empty.
27. Pine Gap
Pine Gap is a secretive American installation almost smack dab in the middle of Australia. It is run by the CIA and NSA, and is apparently a hub of the United States’ global surveillance activities. Needless to say, they won’t be laying out the welcome mat for you.
26. U.N. Buffer Zone In Cyprus
After the aforementioned Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the island was effectively split in two. The United Nations has since maintained a ‘buffer zone’ between both camps in order to maintain the peace. You really, really don’t want to meddle there. Stick to the cliffs and beaches!
25. The Bank of England’s Gold Vault
The Bank of England’s Gold Vaults hold over 400,000 bars of pure gold, making the total value of the room about £140,000,000,000. The key to get into the vault is over 35 inches long, and the names of people with access to vaults is a national secret. Your best bet to get in? Become the Queen of England.
24. Fort Knox
If you thought the Bank of England was hard to get into, just try to get into the Fort Knox Bullion Depository. Behind closed doors, Fort Knox holds 5,000 tons of gold bullion, almost half of all the gold in the United States treasury. No one person knows all the procedures to open the vault & No visitors are permitted into the facility and only one president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, has ever been inside the Vault.
23. The Dalles Data Center
Opened in 2006, The Dalles Data Center in Oregon is Google’s first and primary data center. Basically, if the internet was a physical location, this is where it is. Obviously that means only a select few people are allowed into the facility, though you can take a virtual tour with Google Street view!
22. Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Like a Noah’s Ark for plants, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is humanity’s last hope for survival if all the plants in the world are ever wiped out. Although you can walk right up to the vault at any time, private visits inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are not allowed.
21. Area 51
Area 51 in Nevada is a Top-Secret United States Air Force base which is rumored to be the final resting place of the UFO that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. The area surrounding the base is permanently off-limits to both civilian and normal military air traffic, and the perimeter of the base is marked out by orange posts and patrolled by guards in white pickup trucks and camouflage fatigues. The best way to get access to Area 51? Become a high ranking member of the USAF and then just maybe you can get in.
20. Coca Cola Recipe Vault
While it is true you can visit the Coke vault in Atlanta, don’t expect to get to venture inside. The vault, which holds the secret formula for Coca‑Cola is a secure location where only the select few get to enter. While it’s not entirely true that only two people know the formula, it is true that you won’t be one of those people.
19. Woomera Prohibited Area
This is one of those places that is forbidden for your own good. The largest land-based test firing range on the planet, the Woomera Test Range is used by Australia and its allies for testing weapons and war games. At any given time they could be dropping bombs, firing missiles, or generally blowing things up. So, maybe just don’t go there.
18. Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center
Located just outside of Washington, DC, is Mount Weather. If the Vaults from the Fallout Franchise were a real place, this is it. Allegedly you could survive an apocalypse indefinitely here, which is probably why this is where the President and the highest-ranking U.S. government officials will go in the event of just such a disaster.
17. Ise Grand Shrine
Considered the most important shrine in Japan, Ise Grand Shrine is dedicated to the worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu. The only people allowed access to this holy site are the priest or priestess of the royal family, so good luck getting in.
16. Poveglia Island
Known as one of the most haunted places in the world, Poveglia Island is what you get when you fill an island with people dying of the bubonic plague, then build an insane asylum on their bones. Then torture people inside that asylum. The Italian government forbids anyone from visiting the island, but if you find the right people, you might be able to bribe someone to take you to the island. (Though, why would you?)
15. Tomb Of Qin Shi Huang
You will instantly recognize the tomb thanks to the Terracotta army that made it famous, but the Chinese Government has been intensely protective of the tomb of their first Emperor, and not just because of the lake of mercury allegedly inside the tomb. Only very specialized Chinese archeologists are allowed to enter the tomb.
Built by Stalin, Metro-2 extended from the Kremlin to KGB bases and Stalin’s homes outside of the city. In the event of nuclear war it was intended to allow hidden evacuation of Soviet leadership. What makes this place so forbidden? To this day, Russia denies the very existence of Metro-2.
13. White’s Gentlemen’s Club
The most exclusive gentlemen’s club in England, in order to be invited to enter the club, you must be male and a member of the highest level elite class. The only woman ever to enter was Queen Elizabeth for Prince Charles’ Bachelor party. So pretty much Kings and Princes only, mostly. Good luck.
12. Heard Island
Owned by the Australian Government, Heard Island is among the most remote places on Earth, and completely uninhabited. Without a special permit to the area entrance to the island is forbidden, so that no one will disturb the fragile ecosystem.
11. Diego Garcia Island
Quick, name a U.S. military base that no one is allowed to visit. No, we aren’t talking about Guantanamo, we are talking about Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Home to 654 buildings and about 4,000 military personnel, no one knows for sure exactly what goes on at the base on Diego Garcia. Rumors range from a secret military prison to a Ground Station for the Global Positioning System.
10. North Brother Island
Once the site of a hospital, North Brother Island is now uninhabited and designated as a bird sanctuary. The island is currently abandoned and off-limits to the public, and most of the buildings that are still standing are heavily deteriorated and in danger of collapse.
9. Bohemian Grove
If the Illuminati were real, this is where they would hang out. It’s an exclusive club that has included every Republican President since Coolidge, titans of industry, several politicians, and occasionally an artist. The Bohemian Club has been around for over 150 years and holds power over things such as commerce, industry, and politics in the United States that no other group has ever had.
8. Cheyenne Mountain Complex
A military installation and defensive bunker built inside a mountain in Colorado, Cheyenne Mountain is the former home of USSPACECOM and NORAD. These days only 30% of the complex is used for any official activity.
7. Ilha da Queimada Grande
Home to the Golden Lancehead Viper whose venom literally melts human flesh, access to this island is banned. Not that you would really want to visit anyway, what with snakes with acid venom roaming around.
Known as the “Forbidden” Hawaiian island, Niihau has been privately owned by the same family since 1864. In 1952 outsiders were banned as a means of protecting natives from a polio epidemic, and the islanders just never saw a reason to lift that ban. You can only visit if you are close friends or family of the island owners.
5. Central Committee Bureau 39 of the Workers’ Party of Korea
North Korea is obviously full of forbidden places. But very little is known about what goes on in Bureau 39. What we do know is Bureau 39 is an organization that seeks ways to gather the foreign currency in order to support the supreme leaders of North Korea, allegedly via money laundering, counterfeiting and other unlawful dealings.
4. Vatican Secret Archives
Home to all the documents which the Roman Catholic Church has accumulated over the centuries, the Vatican Secret Archives have been estimated to span 50 miles of shelving and over 35,000 books. Pity it’s on the list of forbidden places!
Items such as a handwritten transcript of the trial against Galileo to etters from Michelangelo complaining he had not been paid for work on the Sistine Chapel and a letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, written while awaiting her execution all live in these archives. Only qualified scholars from institutions of higher education may apply for entry and even then there are strict limitations to what archive users are able to view and access.
3. Surtsey Island
Located off the southern coast of Iceland, Surtsey was formed by a volcanic eruption in the 60’s. It is in near pristine conditions, and as such only a few very specialized scientists are allowed to visit this nearly untouched wilderness.
The Russian government claims this town is just a mining town, but it is rumored to be the home of a Russian nuclear base. Either way, unless you live there, it’s one of Russia’s strictly forbidden places, which honestly is a bit suspicious for a mining town.
1. North Sentinel Island
We have talked about North Sentinel Island before here on Rough Maps, but you can’t make a list about forbidden places without talking about it. The government of India technically owns the island, but they have an “agreement” with the Sentinelese, that’s basically “We don’t bother you, you don’t murder us with spears and arrows.” The Sentinelese don’t care if you come in peace or not, they will kill you if you step foot on their island.
We hope you enjoyed our list of forbidden places. Keep exploring!