4 of the Most Deadly Places on the Planet That You Can Actually Visit
World travel is an exciting and rewarding activity that can broaden your horizons and give you a greater understanding of the world at large, as any rich person on Tinder will happily tell you. Of course, it’s not without its risks as well. Being a guest in an unfamiliar place naturally invites unexpected situations, some of which may end up as a great story, but others of which may end up with you in a foreign police station attempting to file a report in a language you barely speak. As Russian teens climbing around on cranes on Liveleak videos prove, danger itself is not only not always a deterrent, but sometimes a thrill for the human spirit. That can explain why places that are unfriendly, inhospitable or straight-up unsuitable for human contact still hold an attraction for particularly daring and/or stupid tourists.
So what are some of the most dangerous places that you can actually visit? For this list, we’ll avoid places that are dangerous because of crime rates, or being an active warzone, or something of that ilk. First, because the danger there has less to do with the location and more to do with the evils of man, who it turns out is the true monster, yada yada. Second, because it’s a whole lot more enjoyable to read and to write something that has information beyond “yes, war and crime exist.”
Instead, let’s take a look at four of the most dangerous places on Earth that you can visit, through their pure, dangerous nature.
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Okay, humans may have had a heavy hand in this one, but regardless, it’s the site itself that provides the ongoing danger. If you’re unfamiliar with Chernobyl, well, read a book. It’s the site of the most catastrophic nuclear power plant accident in history, one that resulted in turning the surrounding area into an irradiated wasteland. If you’re like me, you may have thought up until this moment that tourist travel into Chernobyl was prohibited, because, of course it would be. You would be wrong.
Not only is tourist travel not prohibited, but it’s fairly popular, to the tune of tens of thousands of people a year. A trip to Chernobyl describes not a trip to the plant itself, which is sealed in a protective sarcophagus like a giant, irradiated mummy, but to the Exclusion Zone, a 1,000-square-mile area around the reactor that is still considered too dangerous for human life. Day trips are allowed, though.
The reasoning being that short tours, especially by guides who are aware of areas of highest radiation, don’t expose the body to a dangerous level of radiation. Me personally, “not enough radiation to kill you” is still a little high for my taste. There’s also an extensive set of rules for visits that won’t make you feel any safer, including: as little exposed skin as possible (read: no shorts/short-sleeved shirts), no eating of any food while in the exclusion zone and no placing of personal items on the ground or on building surfaces. I dunno, sounds kinda irradiated to me.
When you read the word “lake,” you may have a mental picture of a delightful pocket of solitude. Maybe a place to sit on a dock, drink a cold beer and read a trashy airport novel. Throw all that out the window. Lake Natron is a lot less like any of the lakes you might find on a Minnesota postcard and a lot closer to something like the Lake of Rot from Elden Ring. It’s a lake that sometimes appears bright red, reaches temperatures of 140 degrees and spits out petrified corpses of the animals that die there.
This is because Lake Natron, which sits along the Tanzania/Kenya border, is one of the most alkaline, caustic lakes in the world. The water can reach a pH of 10.5. To put that in perspective, Drano has a pH of 11. The alkalinity is due to the water being fed through volcanic deposits, giving it a massive dose of sodium bicarbonate. Even if it wasn’t 140 degrees, that alone would be enough to burn the skin of any human touching it. Birds often confuse it for a normal lake, and then burn to death once they actually touch down. Weirdly, there is one animal that thrives around Lake Natron, though: It’s home to one of the largest populations of flamingoes in the world.
North Sentinel Island
Admittedly, it’s currently illegal to visit North Sentinel Island. Take to the comments if you must. But I’m including it regardless because 1) that is a fairly recent development, with travel only being fully banned in 1996; and 2) because it’s fascinating as hell. See, North Sentinel Island, by all accounts, is a beautiful island off the coast of Myanmar that’s more than capable of supporting happy human life.
The problem is, there’s a bunch of humans already living there, and they REALLY don’t want any more. North Sentinel Island is home to the Sentinelese, a group of a couple hundred people who might just be the last population on earth to have absolutely zero contact with the outside world. They still live as a primitive population, spearfishing for food and wearing no clothes whatsoever.
Because it is against human nature to leave someone the fuck alone, there have still been attempts to contact or meet the Sentinelese people. Some have gone better than others, but none have gone great. In 2006, a missionary named John Allen Chau traveled illegally to the island to spread the word of the Big Man himself. The Sentinelese killed him as soon as he got off his boat and buried him on the beach. Mission failed.
Madidi National Park
The Amazon forest is almost as inhospitable to human life as an Amazon warehouse. It’s chock-full of animals and plant life that have developed an unbelievable number of ways to kill and maim possible threats, whether it’s an unlucky animal or some professor in a pith helmet. Madidi National Park in Bolivia has the reputation of one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, to the tune of 120,000 unique species. Unfortunately, all of those different species haven’t stayed alive by being pushovers.
The danger doesn’t end when you escape the jungle itself, either. Going to Madidi National Park may have you taking North Yungas Road, which is nicknamed “Death Road.” Because of, as you might surmise, all the people who, along with their cars, take an unwise detour off the side. Not completely surprising for a road that is about 12-feet wide, next to a drop that’s 2,000 feet down. An estimated 300 people a year die on this road. I’ll leave the tourism and terror to be experienced vicariously through the cast of Top Gear.