The world is full of dangerous places, and it turns out that some people are crazy enough to go to them voluntarily. You should probably use this article as a list of places you should avoid at all costs. But if you’re one of those crazy people, you could use this article as a vacation inspiration. It’s up to you, but I think even the more die-hard thrill-seekers among you will think twice after learning about these dangerous tourist destinations.
10. Hawaii Volcano Tours
In Hawaii, a state so unique and far away that sometimes I forget it’s even a state, you can bike or hike up volcanoes.
© NPS GOV
It’s a great way to sight-see and get some exercise, but unfortunately volcanoes can also kill you. You’d think the biggest danger from volcanoes comes from the lava, but that’s not the case.
In 2007, the National Park Service had to temporarily shut down the bicycle tour due to three deaths and various injuries that occurred within the span of a year. The three deaths were due to people losing control of their bikes on the challenging downhill trail. But people standing on solid ground without bikes have died as well. Various deaths and injuries have been caused as a result of what’s known as ‘lava haze’ – or laze – which are volcanic gasses that can swamp areas quickly during periods of high wind.
This laze is made up of a combination of hydrochloric acid, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide, none of which are things you want to breathe in a lot of, especially for people with respiratory conditions. If that’s not enough of a reason to stay away, volcanoes also lead to scalding hot ocean water and can send rocks flying through the air. So, if you’re visiting a volcano, make sure to heed the warnings and be prepared.
9. Devil’s Pool
If the very name ‘Devil’s Pool’ wasn’t enough to keep tourists away, there is also a plaque nearby that reads “He came for a visit and stayed forever.” It was made to honor one of the now more than 20 people who have died at Devil’s Pool in Zambia.
It has been described as the ultimate infinity pool, and it allows tourists to swim right on the edge and look out over one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls. It’s twice the height of Niagara Falls.
You can only swim in Devil’s Pool usually between September and December when the dry season reduces water levels and current enough for the pool to be accessible. The pool is separated from the falls by a natural rock barrier, which creates an eddy with minimal current, stopping swimmers from being carried away and allowing them to fool around a few feet from the edge.
The most famous death at Devil’s Pool was that of a heroic tour guide who managed to save a tourist who had started to fall, but then fell over himself. If you ever go to Victoria Falls, consider looking at the water from a nice safe distance, possibly even while standing on dry ground.
8. Valley of Death
If ‘Devil’s Pool’ doesn’t have an intimidating enough name for you, perhaps you would instead like to visit the Valley of Death in Russia. Thanks to a nearby volcano, Kikhpinych, the Valley of Death has a high concentration of toxic gas that accumulates in the valley’s lowlands without wind to blow it away.
This toxic lake of gas kills local plants and animals. If you ever went there, you would first experience dizziness, a fever, and chills, then you would probably die. According to legends, two hunters first discovered it in the 1930s. They saw bodies of dead animals and devoid of plant life. They fled after getting a headache, but since their story had been told, adventure seekers have journeyed into the valley, many of whom never returned.
Locals estimate around 80 people have been lost to the valley. It’s closed off to tourists for obvious reasons, but, because we humans just don’t know how to leave things alone, there are in fact ways for tourists to visit. You can view the valley and the beautiful landscape from an observation deck which was built at a safe distance away.
© Air Pano
If that doesn’t cut it for you, you can take helicopter tours over the area and just hope you don’t crash and end up in some bizarre STALKER-esque scenario.
7. Yosemite Half Dome
Half Dome is a huge granite dome in Yosemite National Park, California. It’s a famous rock formation in the park, and it’s pretty easy to see how it got its name. One side of Half Dome is a sheer rock face, and the other three sides are round and smooth. The crest is 4,737 feet above the valley floor.
It would be totally harmless if people would just leave it alone, but everyone knows that is not how people operate. The Yosemite search and rescue team responds to about 100 incidents each year, from dehydration to much more serious issues. Though it might look deceptively easy, It’s not for the out of shape, or faint of heart. Eight people have died hiking up the trail on Half Dome.
As you can imagine by looking at Half Dome, it’s a very challenging trail. It takes a whole day to do, so you start at dawn end around 12 hours later after walking around 15 miles. You ascend the entire thing, and the last four hundred feet is almost vertical. You must use cables to complete the trail.
Most fatalities and injuries are caused by slipping from rain or wearing inadequate footwear. Rain can make the cables and rocks slippery, and there’s even a section of Half Dome that’s just called “the death slabs”.
What often happens is people are greeted with clear mornings in the summer when they start the hike, but if it rains in the afternoon, even a little bit, climbing the dome can be extremely dangerous, as stubborn individuals carry on when they should turn back. Here’s a park ranger attesting to how dangerous the cables can be during bad weather.
6. Running of the bulls
When people say ‘the running of the bulls’ what they usually mean is the one held in Pamplona during the festival of Sanfermines held every year in honor of Saint Fermin.
It began as a small local festival but has since, of course, become a big tourism event attended by people from all over the world. Other towns in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and southern France have bull runs as well, but this is the one that you see in the news.
As you can imagine, a bunch of people running down the street while bulls chasing after them is in fact quite dangerous. The event causes injury to somewhere between fifty and one-hundred people each year. Since they started keeping track in 1910, fifteen people have died during the run.
Bulls killed fourteen people, and one person was the victim of a big human pile-up. So, sure, fifteen people in just over a hundred years isn’t so bad, but do you really want to risk it? Or even end up half-dead? The non-lethal stabs of bull’s horn sound pretty bad as well.
5. Mount Hua Shan
To call the Mount Hua Shan trail a trail is a bit misleading, since it’s actually just planks bolted to the side of the mountain.
You hook yourself to an iron chain that runs along the side of the mountain during the trip. Part of the way there aren’t even any planks, and you just have to step on divots that have been carved into the rocks.
While there are no official death statistics because the Chinese government is really shady, rumor has it that a lot of people die there every year.
If you want to visit a terrifying plank walkway that does keep official death statistics, consider El Caminito del Rey in Spain. This one is along the walls of a gorge in El Chorro, and the name, which was originally Camino del Rey, means King’s Pathway.
For about a decade the walkway fell into disrepair and the authority closed some parts of it. But apparently people didn’t take the hint and they opened it up again. Five people died there between 1999 and 2000, causing many to view it as the world’s most dangerous path.
4. Papua New Guinean Trails
Papua New Guinea is an incredible, almost unspoiled country, with spectacular scenery. So, it’s no wonder why lots of people flock there for hiking expeditions. Two trails there in particular – the Kokoda track, and Black Cat Track – are famously challenging.
Both trails feature spectacular jungles and mountains, and hikers can see historic signs from World War 2 along the routes as they were both areas of conflict between Japanese and Australian forces.
The Kokoda track is a more popular track, running for 60 miles, or 96 kilometers, along a single-file track from Port Moresby to the village of Kokoda. Thousands of tourists make the trek every year, though I really couldn’t tell you why. It takes anywhere from 4-12 days to hike the entire trail, including sections that you have to swim and climb.
The nights are cold, the days are hot and humid, with highly likely torrential rain, and tropical diseases such as malaria make this one challenging trail.
In fact, 6 Australian trekkers have died from natural causes while attempting to walk the track over the years, leading some people to call for mandatory fitness tests for all walkers before starting.
The Black Cat trail, on the other hand, runs from the coastal village of Salamaua to the township of Wau. Its an extremely tough 6-day trek –and recommended only for “very fit and experienced trekkers”.
So the whole thing would be challenging enough – without the possibility of people with machetes coming out of the jungle and killing you. In 2013, a hiking party had both of their porters killed by bandits known as Rascals, and seven members of their party wounded. The authority believed that grudge related to money and hiring of porters from different villages caused the attack, but it still gives me second thoughts about signing up.
3. Death Road
The North Yungas Road, also known as Death Road or Road of Fate, is a road that leads from La Paz to Coroica in the Yungas region of Bolivia. The Inter-American Development Bank awarded it the title of the “world’s most dangerous road” in 1995. In 2006, it was estimated that between 200 and 300 travelers died on it each year.
It is mostly single-lane, and it follows cliffs that drop down two thousand feet. Take into account, most of the road is only ten feet wide, which can leave little to no room for cars to pass each other on either side.
From November to March, rain and fog can lead to terrible visibility on the road. The overhanging waterfalls drench some sections. Everything makes the route extremely slippery and muddy. As per local rules, whoever is driving downhill never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge.
Of course, because of all this craziness, it has become a destination for thrill-seeking tourists, and there are tours where you can bike Death Road. Before you sign up, note that eighteen cyclists have died since 1998.
2. Death Valley
Not to be confused with the aforementioned Valley of Death, Death Valley is of course America’s very own hellscape located in California. The area is best known for holding the record for highest reliably recorded air temperature on earth at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as the highest reliably recorded ground surface temperature at 201 degrees Fahrenheit.
Along with the heat, the valley is home to numerous dangerous animals, from rattlesnakes to scorpions, black widow spiders, and even… mice. Seriously, even the mice are dangerous there.
The deer mice and cactus mice found in the valley have been found to carry Hantavirus – a potentially fatal respiratory disease. People planning to travel within the valley should travel with plenty of water and stick to paved roads in the summer, because if your car breaks down, you may otherwise struggle to get help.
While most people would admit that this is a bit too hot for them, Death Valley attracts many tourists due to its unique and beautiful landscape.
As the name implies, many hikers and campers have died in Death Valley, with park management estimating it to be about one or two people per year that perish to heat exposure. But the most notable and strangest case is probably the so-called ‘Death Valley Germans’. In 1996, a Germany family of four visiting Death Valley simply disappeared into thin air. Their remains weren’t located until 2009.
You may be aware of the Elephant Kingdom from the brief moment of Internet outrage. It drew attention when pictures of this particular attraction surfaced in 2016. It shows several Chinese tourists teasing a pack of crocodiles.
This incredibly suspect Thai zoo had an exhibit where you could just hop on this rusty makeshift raft supported by plastic barrels and dangle meat over the side for the crocodiles. A passing taxi driver, apparently the only sane person in the area, took the pictures that ended up circulated all over the internet.
When the police showed up to the zoo to address the flagrant safety violations, the owners apparently assured them that they only let fifteen people on the raft at a time. Unsurprisingly, the attraction was soon closed, but I have no doubt deaths would have been reported had it remained open.
But if you want to get close to crocodiles, and flirt with death, you should head over to Australia and enter the ‘Cage of Death’. Unlike Australia’s other famous cage, the Thunderdome, nobody has died in this aquarium… yet. You just get in, and they lower you into the crocodile-infested water. Provided nothing goes wrong, you won’t get eaten.
Things have gone wrong before though – in 2015 a tourist was stuck in there for an extra half hour due to a malfunction. So it may be safer than the Elephant Kingdom, but nothing is truly foolproof.
So, do any of these dangerous tourist destinations interest you? And what’s the most dangerous place you’ve ever been to? Let me know what you think in the comments down below.