What would be your ideal trip? That’s quite a question, and one that travel enthusiasts face a lot. It’s such a personal thing, I find.
Are you one of those who find a particular favourite country or region and return there year after year? By contrast, maybe you never visit the same place twice. You might even have one of those corkboard maps of the world in your living room, sticking pins into various exotic places as you tick them off. Our travel bucket lists are all entirely different, which is the whole beauty of travelling for me.
Whatever your budget, heat/cold tolerance levels and amount of desire to get off your saggy cheeks and do things, there’s a destination and vacation that’s perfect for you. In a lot of people’s cases, though, the sun’s going to play a big part in the whole thing.
Take me, for instance. As a super-pale Brit, I’m not the most ardent of sun-worshippers. The rainy season around here began about the year 1452, and hasn’t showed a single sign of letting up since. This means that I’ve got to be careful with sunbathing (my skin isn’t used to it, I’ll burst into flame like Dracula), but I do like the novelty of a little heat.
If you do too, there are various luxury island destinations just waiting for you. The Balearic Islands of Spain are beautiful, as are the Canary Islands, the Seychelles and the islands of Greece to name just a few.
On the other hand, the likes of Brazil’s Snake Island, Japan’s Gas Mask Island and the dreaded Island of Dolls are places you’ll want to steer way the heckola clear of. Why? I’m glad you asked.
25 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Snake Island, Brazil- Snakes-Amundo
The Ilha da Queimada Grande is situated off the Brazilian coast. It’s better known all around the world as Snake Island, on account of its numerous reptilian residents.
The population of golden lancehead pit vipers was trapped here when the sea levels rose way back when, cutting off access to and from the mainland. In their unique environment, the snakes developed differently to their closest relatives in the region (golden lanceheads are critically endangered and only found here), granting them a particularly potent venom and arboreal nature to aid in their hunting birds, their only real source of prey.
The fearsome nature of these creatures, and the sheer amount of them (there’s estimated to be one snake per square on the island, according to All That’s Interesting) means that there are no human residents and visitors are banned.
Other than strictly-vetted researchers, who visit on occasion to confirm that, yes, there are still a whole darn lot of snakes right here. Oh, and the Brazilian Navy.
24 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Gas Mask Island, Japan- No Gask Mask? No Entry.
If snakes aren’t enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, how about an island with a severe sulphur-spewing-volcano problem?
That’s right, friends. South of Tokyo, you’ll find Japan’s Izu Islands. Miyake-Jima is the most notorious of these, on account of the active volcano and huge quantities of sulphur it continues to emit between frequent eruptions.
In the year 2000, according to Atlas Obscura, a series of eruptions caused the island to be evacuated. Five years later, the levels of gas had abated enough for residents to be allowed back, but with a strict stipulation: they had to carry gas masks at all time, ready to be worn at a moment’s notice. They still do, as does everybody that dares to visit.
23 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Gruinard Island, Scotland- What Happened To Those Sheep?
Now, at first glance, Gruinard Island really doesn’t look like much at all. It’s a tiny, uninhabited island in the Scottish Highlands, the last place you’d expect anything sinister to have taken place. You’d be surprised, though, because it was the setting for government experimentations with anthrax bombs during WWII.
Decades later, the 13th Floor details, the island was thoroughly decontaminated with formaldehyde, finally declared ‘safe’ in 1990. Many remain thoroughly unconvinced of that, though, and would prefer that the island remains in its forgotten, abandoned state forever. You’re not likely to catch anybody moving in, that’s for darn certain.
22 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: The Island of the Dolls, Mexico- Are You Home, Chucky?
Now, as a huge horror buff, I’ve watched and read more than my share of spooky dolls-come-to-life stories. It’s one of the most popular tropes in the genre, after all, and there’s always somebody trying to put a creative spin on the whole Child’s Play idea.
Here in the real world, though, you can cross over to Mexico’s Isla de las Muñecas and experience that same feeling for real. The Island of Dolls was once the property of Don Julián Santana Barrera, who, so the story goes, discovered an unfortunate drowned girl and hung a doll (which he presumed was hers) from a tree as a sign of respect.
After Barrera’s demise (which happened in a spookily-similar manner to the girl’s, according to legend), visitors from around the world have continued to hang dolls here themselves, making for quite a grim setting indeed.
21 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: North Sentinel Island, India- The Locals Aren’t Big On Telemarketers
Now, there’s an important caveat to this one. North Sentinel Island is found in the Bay of Bengal, one of the Andaman Islands. It’s home to a tribe known as the Sentinelese, true enough, but no other humans are allowed there. The tribespeople make darn certain of that.
This curious island is believed to be one of the last known homes of peoples completely distant to modern civilisation. Trespassers have lost their lives at the islanders’ hands in the past, and they reject all attempts at communication. As such, the Indian government who technically administer the island respect the Sentinelese desire to be left alone, and do not interfere or approach.
20 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Saba Island, Caribbean- Nice Weather We’re Having…
Now, there are lots of reasons why you might want to give certain islands the widest of births. Maybe the residents are less-than-welcoming, as with North Sentinel Island. Sometimes, though, Mother Nature herself conspires to keep you away.
Saba Island is a picturesque little hideaway in the Caribbean Sea. It’s home to a small population of around 2,000 people, and is anything but a tourist hotspot. Why? Partly due to Mount Scenery, the volcano that scientists believe is set to blow again, and partly due to the ferocious hurricanes.
“In the last 100 years, the tiny island has been hit by more hurricanes than any other island, as well as 15 category 3 storms and 7 category 5s,” Life Death Prizes reports.
19 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Réunion Island, France- Not A Great Place For A Reunion
This sounds like a nice, wholesome place, doesn’t it? The sort of island you might come across people you haven’t seen since high school, and reminisce about the stupid things you used to do (and bemoan the taxes, careers and relationship issues that make up adult life).
Don’t be fooled, though. This is not the place you want to hold your school reunion. It’s more like a frightening location to film a Jaws reboot. Life Death Prizes explains that, since around 2011, shark populations have been climbing, and there have been many attacks around Réunion. So much so, 2013 saw a ban of all open-water swimming and surfing. The island has a population of around 865,000, so this one may be cheating a little, but swimming has been banned.
18 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Heard Island, Australia- Just A little Imposing
There are a couple of very good reasons why people might not be flocking to Australia’s Heard Island. Here’s one of them: it’s in Antarctica, one of the coldest, remotest regions on the planet. Here’s another: it’s home to a big ol’ volcano.
Let’s back up a minute, though. Didn’t you say Australia? Yep, I sure did. As CSIROscope explains, Heard Island and McDonald Island were claimed by Britain in 1910, then transferred to Australian ownership in 1947. Today, Heard is under the control of the Australian Antarctic Division.
Heard’s active volcano is named Big Ben, and is a mighty 2475 metres high.
17 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands- The Most Dangerous Dome Since The Simpsons Movie
As is common knowledge right now, we humans don’t always take the greatest care of our planet. Sometimes (read: all the darn time), profit gets in the way of doing the right thing, and we find ourselves in one heckola of a mess.
Over in Enewetak Atoll, between Australia and Hawaii, lies Runit Island. There are lots of islands in this chain, but Runit is home to ‘The Dome,’ which telesurHD describes as “a concrete vault the size of an Australian football stadium.”
Inside is around 85,000 cubic metres of toxic waste, the result of atomic testing in the area. Last December, it was reported that the Dome was leaking, having devastating effects on the locals.
What has this done for tourism to Runit? Well, you can probably imagine.
16 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Palmyra Atoll- What Happened Here?
Now this is a remote place, right here. I’d say it’s one of the most remote spots on earth, but we’ve got some real doozies coming up that have it beaten on that score. Nevertheless, though, few can compete with Palmyra Atoll in terms of pure creepy.
It’s the site of an old U.S airstrip, long since deserted and forgotten. It was also the site of a terrible crime back in 1974.
So notorious was the crime, it later became the inspiration for both a novel and a TV miniseries, as Mental Floss reports.
15 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Antipodes Islands, New Zealand- Home Not-So-Sweet Home
Some places, I’m entirely convinced, were never supposed to be inhabited by people. The weather, the terrain, the location itself, the wildlife… all of these factors can combine to tell us quite clearly, you might want to set up that McDonald’s somewhere else, buddy, this place just isn’t for you.
New Zealand’s Antipodes Islands are one great example of this. It’s not the wildlife, but rather the wild weather. These islands are volcanic, for one thing, and the chilling climate and vicious winds would prevent just about anybody from trying to set up shop here.
According to Mental Floss, the area is known for shipwrecks and other disasters, and the loss of lives of those who have tried to live here.
14 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Pacific Ocean- Cleanup On Aisle *EVERYWHERE*
Ah, yes. It’s always nice when something wears its unpleasant nature on its sleeve, isn’t it? It takes all the guesswork and grim true-colours surprises out of things.
If you’re a terrible person, go ahead and let us know right off the bat, so we don’t get attached to your nice persona and then bitterly disappointed later on. By the same token, if you’re a great garbage patch in the Pacific, just call yourself The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Just so we all know where we stand.
It’s in the centre of the north Pacific, and is the worst vortex of plastics and other trash in the world’s oceans.
13 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: North Brother Island, New York- Home Of Typhoid Mary
That’s right, friends. Our next stop isn’t an obscure and remote island at all, but one situated right there in the East River, New York City. The place has a super-sketchy history, as Mental Floss reports: it was originally a quarantine zone for smallpox patients, back in 1885. It continued fulfilling a similar function for decades, housing Typhoid Mary for some time.
Today, North Brother Island is a bird sanctuary, completely off-limits to people. It’s still perfectly visible, though, as are the ruins of the buildings that have housed their share of horrors.
12 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Poveglia Island, Italy- A Vacation For Plague Victims
Back in the fourteenth century, medical knowledge was advancing in leaps and bounds, but it was definitely still in its infancy. When presented with something as dangerous and contagious as the bubonic plague, there was precious little that doctors could do.
Over in Venice in 1348, the plague started to ravage the city. The answer? Try to get those infected away from everybody else. To that end, they were shipped off to Poveglia, a teeny island in the lagoon of Venice. The little community there suffered horribly, as you can imagine, and continued to do so for centuries. According to LDP, a primitive mental institution was running there in the 1920s.
With a sad history like this, it’s no surprise that Poveglia is believed to be the site of all kinds of spooky happenings today. The government has forbidden anyone to travel there.
11 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Bikini Atoll- Marshall Islands- Testing, Testing, 1,2,3
Now, see, this is why we can’t have nice things. The name Bikini Atoll puts me in mind of lush, beautiful beaches, people happily enjoying them in their swimwear, all of that good stuff. Perhaps this was the case at one time, but sadly Bikini Atoll is not about that life at all anymore.
Part of the Marshall Islands, it was subjected to heavy nuclear weapons testing between 1942 and 1958. As a result of this, Bikini Atoll is in a super-sorry state, and remains very dangerous. The plants and fruits that grow here are still contaminated, and cannot be eaten.
10 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Bouvet Island, Norway- That’s A Definite Nope
Some of us fancy ourselves as a little more than mere travellers. Casual selfies holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa are not enough for these people. They’re explorers, and their journeys take them to some of the most remote places on the planet.
Norway’s Bouvet Island is one that will defeat all but the most prepared, though. As Atlas Obscura explains, it’s referred to as the “loneliest place on Earth;” not only uninhabited but situated over 1,400 miles away from the nearest people. It’s located between Antarctica and South Africa, and is covered by sheer, almost insurmountable glaciers of ice.
9 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Ramree Island, Myanmar- Never Smile At A Crocodile
They say that places that once played host to tragic or unfortunate incidents are forever marked by them. You can redecorate a house, repurpose a building entirely or even tear it all down, but to some, that won’t do the trick. This will always be where such-and-such happened.
Now, I’m not really one for ghost stories, myself. One thing I can tell you is that Burma’s Ramree Island is still known for a tragic event that took place there in 1945. Japanese soldiers retreated from the fighting into some marshes, where they were said to be set upon by the resident saltwater crocodiles. According to Student Flights, the Guinness Book of Records still records this incident as The Greatest Disaster Suffered [by humans] from Animals.
8 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Farallon Islands, United States- Elephant Seals, Orcas and Radioactive Waste, Oh My!
There’s a definite pattern starting to form here. You know, people secrete all kinds of dangerous items on distant islands, said islands are left uninhabitable, it’s generally a crapola situation? We’ve been seeing a lot of that over the course of this rundown, and now here comes another example.
The Farallon Islands, near the San Francisco coast, have been a handy-dandy place to dump radioactive waste. Between 1946 and 1970, Student Flights reports, around 47,500 55-gallon drums were disposed of in this way. What with that, and the large native population of elephant seals (a creature that always means business) and orcas (a creature that always means enough dang business to eat creatures that always mean business), this is a place for humanity to stay the heckles away from.
7 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Tristan da Cunha, South Africa- You Call That Remote? This Is Remote
As we’ve also seen several times, you don’t need to have a huge resident population of sharks, orcas or toxic leaky barrels to be dangerous. Mother Nature can get you in more ways than one. Tristan da Cunha may not have a huge angry volcano brooding away in the background, either (not just now, anyway), but it’s super dangerous nonetheless.
This British-owned group of islands is regarded as the most remote inhabited island chain anywhere on the planet. This is where the people closest to (but still darn far away from) Norway’s Bouvet Island live.
6 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Macquarie Island, Tasmania- P-P-P-Pick Up A Penguin (Note: Don’t Really)
So, yes. Large populations of sharks, crocodiles and super-venomous vipers would tend to scupper the average traveller’s vacation plans. Some islands are inhabited by huge numbers of much friendlier animals, though. If Snake Island and Reunion Island weren’t for you, how about Tasmania’s Macquarie Island? I mean, this is all hypothetical, as you can’t really go there either, but still.
As reported by Buzzfeed, this island is also very distant, off the coast of New Zealand and halfway to Antarctica. It’s inhabited by many, many adorable penguins, and is protected by the Tasmanian government. So well protected, in fact, that it’s a World Heritage Site, and no more than 40 people tend to be allowed to live there at any one time.
5 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Hashima Island, Japan- A Forgotten World
Here we are again, demonstrating what humanity does best when something becomes unprofitable: we drop it like Snoop Dogg does when it’s hot.
Hashima Island in Japan is completely deserted now, but it was once one of the most densely-populated regions on the planet. A hub for undersea coal mining, it was used in that capacity for almost a century, from 1887 until 1974. Around that time, as All That’s Interesting explains, petroleum started to take over, and the coal capital of Japan was abandoned.
The locals now know it as Gunkajima (Battleship Island, for its resemblance to such), and its spooky ruins are a trip for only the bravest to take.
4 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Bear Island, Europe- Nobody Can Bear It
That’s right, I went there. Even that most classic of bear/bare puns is not beneath me. I have absolutely zero shame.
Hurrying right along, our next stop is Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic. It’s home to another super-inhospitable island, which is technically known as Bjornoya. Much of the word refers to it as Bear Island, though, so that’s what we’re going to roll with here.
As True Activist reports, the place is completely barren, surrounded by steep cliffs and, just for fun, the wreckage of a suspect submarine threatens the risks of radiation exposure.
3 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: St. Kilda, United Kingdom- How Would You Ever Find It?
Throughout this rundown, we’ve taken a look at some of the most obscure, inhospitable and remote islands on the globe. Needless to say, at some point or another, people have tried to access a lot of them anyway, just to be able to say that they have. That’s just how people are.
Our next case study is St Kilda, probably the most inaccessible spot in the British Isles (160km away from the coast of Scotland, Buzzfeed reports). People did live there, though (they’re a hardy people, the Scottish), until they were forced to leave after troubles with the food supply and disease. It’s been uninhabited since its mighty population of 36 people left in 1930.
2 NO HUMANS ALLOWED: Bishop Rock, Isles Of Scilly- No, Wait, How Would You Find *This* One?
St. Kilda is, by all accounts, every darn kind of remote. Even so, there’s always an island out there wanting to go one better. Elsewhere in the British Isles, as CNN Travel reports, you’ll find the official world record holder for the smallest island (with a building on it).
That island, as you can see, is Bishop Rock. An unceremonious title (‘Rock’) for an islet, it’s located just off the Cornish peninsula, part of the Isles of Scilly. It consists almost solely of the lighthouse itself, and takes a frequent battering from stormy weather (as you’d expect; being part of Britain).
1 TOO SCARED TO VISIT: Rockall, Ireland- The Tip Of A Volcano? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
For our final entry, we’re staying right there around Britain. Or, technically, crossing over to Ireland, for a look at Rockall ‘island.’ Not exactly an island in the technical sense, this is definitely still a little landmass in the ocean that you would not want to visit.
What you’re looking at is the tip of a volcano. It’s extinct, as True Activist reports, and protrudes about 20 metres above sea level. The most frightening part about that? The ocean in this area is reportedly vicious, with waves that reach 29 metres at times. You can see the problem.
References: All That’s Interesting, Atlas Obscura, 13th Floor, The Daily Mail, Life Death Prizes, Mental Floss, CSIROscope, CNN Travel.