As per a recent (and terrifying) study.
In Hindi, we have a saying: “phook phook ke kadam rakhna.” Loosely, it means to take every step cautiously. This is the advice travelers need to follow if they are planning a trip to breathtaking natural wonders that are also crazily dangerous.
Vacation rental search engine Holidu has investigated the most dangerous natural wonders in the world, and the list includes some of the usual suspects. But the study also revealed a few that may surprise you, like Kaaterskill Falls, in the Catskills. It’s not the widest or the longest waterfall, but it is so pretty that admirers have died while taking pictures.
The company analyzed the average number of deaths per year compared to the annual visitors and reported accidents or injuries in a year. This is a cautionary list, not a cancel list. Holidu’s Anja Benson said, “Many of the natural wonders on the list offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we’re definitely not telling people not to visit them–quite the opposite in fact! With this research, we wanted to ensure that travelers know which destinations require handling with a little more care, particularly when the results are so surprising!”
Top Picks for You
WHERE: France & Italy
At 15,777 feet above sea level, the tallest mountain in the Alps is also the most dangerous. This peak straddling France and Italy is a popular destination for skiers and climbers, and it witnesses 100 deaths each year on average. It’s no easy feat to reach the summit of this “White Mountain,” which is covered with snow throughout the year. Overcrowding, risky routes, and avalanches are the top reasons why the mountain is so deadly, especially to inexperienced mountaineers.
Scotland’s Ben Nevis has the second spot on this list because it’s another treacherous climb to the summit at 4,412 feet. According to Holidu’s study, the peak gets significantly fewer visitors compared to Mont Blanc, so its annual deaths on average are three, and the average notable accidents are 20. But fatalities do happen. This March, a man fell 1,000 feet down the highest mountain in Britain, while 23 others were rescued in a long operation.
Japan’s highest peak (12,300 feet), Mount Fuji, is an active volcano and a sacred mountain. The official climbing season is from early July to mid-September, when it is mostly free of snow, and it is advised that only highly experienced climbers take on this challenge during the off-season. Around 300,000 climbers attempt it every year, according to the U.S. Embassy in Japan. This study found the average number of deaths on Mount Fuji to be seven per year, and reported accidents are 11.
A tragic accident in 2019 made headlines around the world when a man livestreamed himself as he fell down the summit. He died from the injuries.
WHERE: Nepal & China
Surprisingly, the highest mountain in the world has the number four spot on this list. Mount Everest in the Himalayan region peaks at 29,000 feet, and reaching the top is the gold star of mountaineering. However, the climb is brutal and expensive. Around 800 adventurers and mountaineers attempt to conquer this deadly mountain each year, and as per this study, on average, eight lose their life.
There is a raging debate about overtourism on Everest, much of which centers around the lack of experience in the climbers who view it as a tourist attraction. It’s thought that more than 200 bodies remain on the mountain and can’t be recovered.
Part of the Kilimanjaro National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest point at 19,340 feet. It is also one of the highest volcanoes in the world. The snow-capped peaks bring travelers to its slopes with the promise of a range of activities, including climbing, cycling, and paragliding. But according to Holidu, it’s the fifth-most dangerous natural wonder, with 10 deaths on average every year.
Yosemite National Park
You can experience the great outdoors at California’s Yosemite by hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, and camping. Everywhere you look, there are brilliant scenes outlined by waterfalls, granite formations, valleys, and cliffs. It features on this list because there are more accidents here than at any other attraction on this list. There were 41 incidents reported in the news in 2019, and many were related to climbing.
WHERE: South Africa
One of the most famous (and photographed) tourist attractions in South Africa has a flattened table top—hence the name—that runs for two miles and overlooks Cape Town. It has hiking trails and a cable car. You should also know that according to the South Africa Mountain Accidents Database, there have been 161 deaths here since 1980.
This study states that the average death per year is 15.
The ruggedly handsome 14,691-foot Matterhorn is the pride and joy of Switzerland. This mountain in Zermatt is another favorite amongst serious hikers, but the peak that has been immortalized by a chocolate (Toblerone) and a Disneyland ride is also risky enough to be on this list—it witnesses 12 deaths on average in a year. In fact, the first successful climb in 1865 resulted in a huge controversy when four out of seven climbers fell to their deaths during the descent. Although the tragedy shocked the world and prompted calls for a mountaineering ban, the activity gained momentum and brought more adventurers to the Alps.
The indomitable landscape of the Grand Canyon attracts millions of admirers every year to see its magnificence. The Colorado River has carved this world of oranges and reds, and there are many ways to experience it, such as hiking, camping, river rafting, helicopter tours, and driving. Adventurers need to be prepared, though—it is one of the deadliest natural wonders, with 12 annual deaths on average and 21 reported accidents.
The Cliffs of Moher
Travelers are awestruck by the grand vistas of the coast from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, but the staggering beauty has proven fatal for many. This is the most dangerous rock formation as per Holidu’s study, with an average of nine deaths every year.
In 2019, an Indian student fell to his death on these cliffs while taking selfies near the edge. The tourism website advises people to follow safe paved pathways, so tread carefully if you visit.