With new transportation links and travel apps that improve planning and booking, the most secluded corners on earth have become closer than ever. However, there are some places around the world that will never make it into the tourism brochures, and for good reason. Whether it’s an island infested with venomous snakes or the Pope’s secret archives, the destinations on our list are closed off from the public. Here are 10 fascinating places you are NOT allowed to visit.–Wibke Carter
Area 51 is arguably one of the most secretive places on earth. Also known as Groom Lake, the United States Air Force base’s purpose remains unknown to the public, leading to wild speculations and conspiracy theories. It is commonly thought that top-secret aircraft and weapons technologies have been developed and tested in Area 51 since the facility was established by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1955. Others believe the area houses UFOs and that aliens are being held captive there. Although Area 51 was never declared a secret base, it took until 2005 for the U.S. government to publicly acknowledge its existence. Access to the area around Groom Lake, controlled by surveillance and motion sensors, is off-limits to civilians and the airspace above is a no-fly zone for commercial aircraft.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s Nevada Travel Guide
WHERE: Anaheim, California
Who saysDisneyland is for children only? The secret feature of the theme park, Club 33, is an invitation-only private club that was first opened in 1967. Located at the intersection of Royal Street and Orleans Street in New Orleans Square, Club 33 was intended as a place to host dignitaries, investors, and celebrities. The waiting list for membership is several years long and after an initiation fee (rumored to be between $25,000 and $100,000), members pay an annual fee of $12,000. In exchange, members have access to two dining halls, VIP cards, valet parking, jazz lounge Le Salon Nouveau, and the 1901 Lounge in Disney California Adventure, the only place that serves alcohol in Disneyland.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s California Travel Guide
The Lascaux Caves
WHERE: Lascaux, France
The world famous cave of Lascaux are found in every history book thanks to their more than 17,000-year-old paintings of humans and animals. Clearly visible in the over 600 works of art that adorn the complex of caves in southwesternFrance are aurochs, horses, deer, and plants corresponding to fossil records from the Upper Paleolithic period. Although named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the caves have not been accessible since 1963. After opening them to the public after WWII, the presence of visitors and influx of light created a number of problems like the growth of lichen, crystals, microbes, and fungi, forcing a permanent closure to preserve the site.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dordogne Travel Guide
North Sentinel Island
WHERE: Andaman Islands, India
A friendly smile goes a long way when traveling but the people of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean want nothing to do with outside society. In fact, if you were to set foot on the island, the Sentinelese would try to kill you. Almost nothing is known about this indigenous tribe which has inhabited the island for more than 60,000 years. The Sentinelese are completely cut-off from modern civilization by their own choice. After failing to make a connection (even after rescuers from the 2004 tsunami were met with hostility), the Indian government has stopped all attempts and prohibited travel within three miles of the island. In 2006, two illegally operating fishermen were killed when they broke the rules and visited the island.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s India Travel Guide
WHERE: Veneto, Italy
The small island of Poveglia nearVenice is described by locals as the most haunted place on earth. A mass burial ground for plague victims and people with infectious diseases, the island also became home to a mental hospital where a doctor was rumored to have conducted experiments on patients (before he committed suicide). Very few people have set foot on the island since the 1960s, and locals are only willing to take visitors for a very high price. However, that might change soon. Poveglia, also nicknamed the real Shutter Island, was put up for auction in 2014 and there are several plans to redevelop the 18-acre plot of land. Restoring the derelict buildings including the church, hospital, asylum, bell tower, and staff housing is estimated to cost at least $20 million.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Travel Guide
Qin Shi Huang
WHERE: Xian, China
Buried under a 250ft high hill, the tomb ofChina’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 B.C., remains a mystery. The 1974 discovery of the life-size terracotta warrior army is one of the greatest archaeological finds of all times and lead to more than four decades of excavations. The grave of the emperor they are guarding and an estimated 6,000-8,000 additional warriors have remained undisturbed for more than two millennia. It is not likely that the tomb will be opened anytime soon, neither for scientists nor tourists. From booby traps mentioned in ancient literature to the large scale of the underground palace itself, it appears that no technology worldwide is ready to deal safely with the excavation.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s The Silk Road Travel Guide
Ilha da Queimada Grande (Snake Island)
WHERE: São Paulo state, Brazil
What could be a lovely tropical island is actually one of the deadliest places on earth. Ilha da Queimada Grande, also nicknamed Snake Island, is the only home to thousands of highly venomous golden lancehead pit vipers. The island is located about 90 miles offshore and access is strictly controlled by the Brazilian government. Estimates claim that there is one snake for every three square feet in some spots. Annual visits by the navy to look after the lighthouse are always conducted with a doctor present as bites can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure, and death. Although the snakes are dangerous, the real reason the island is closed to the public is to protect the critically endangered snakes from poaching.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: VisitFodor’s Side Trips from São Paulo Travel Guide
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
WHERE: Spitsbergen, Norway
Granted, it’s not very likely that you’ll ever make it to the small Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, about 810 miles from the North Pole. But if you do, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is definitely off limits. Deep inside a mountain and earthquake proof, this is where the world’s most prized crops are stored. Since 2008, almost every country in the world has entrusted the seed vault with specimens totaling more than 865,000 different samples, out of which 150,000 are rice alone. The facility on Spitsbergen serves as a backup to the more than 1,700 genebanks worldwide, ensuring against man-made or natural disasters. As the seed vault inNorway acts as a copy, no access is granted to researchers, scientists or breeders.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Longyearbyen, Svalbard Travel Guide
Vatican Secret Archives
WHERE: Rome, Italy
A visit to the secret archives of the Vatican surely tops the bucket list for any history buffs, but if you’re a tourist, journalist, student, or even amateur historian, you’re out of luck. Only carefully accredited scholars can get their hands on unique documents like the 1493 papal bull that split the New World betweenSpain and Portugal or a 1530 petition asking for the annulment of King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The archives, which contain documents dating back to the 8th century, were founded in 1612 and completely closed to outsiders until 1881. Today, scholars can request up to three folders a day from the 50 miles of shelves.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Rome Travel Guide
WHERE: London, UK
Gentlemen’s clubs have been an institution of British culture for centuries and none is older, or more exclusive, than White’s in London. Established in 1693, it remains an establishment for gentlemen only, though notable exceptions were made for Queen Elizabeth II on two occasions. Membership is restricted to 500 (men only) and the waiting list is several years long.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Travel Guide