While there are lots of exotic vacation destinations, there are places on earth you just can't go. For military, religious, logistical, or cultural reasons, the places are off-limits to everyone or at least a lot of people. These areas are off-limits, forbidden and foreboding. They are not just rooms or buildings, but significantly large geographical areas that have severally restricted access. Unlike some lists of restricted areas that list rumored places that may or may not exist, this list deals only in easily verified real places.
North Sentinel Island: A Stone Age Society
North Sentinel Island exists in a stone age time warp. During the Age of Discovery as Europeans were exploring the world they regularly encountered indigenous islanders. All these populations were either befriended or defeated. In many cases the superior weapons of the European sailors lead to quick capitulation, but sometimes the islanders got the upper hand and killed the newcomers. However, in every case the new culture has been imposed on the traditional culture - except for just one island - North Sentinel in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The Sentinelese people have resisted all contact with outsiders and finally the Government of India has decided to leave them be.
The rest of the world knows next to nothing about the Sentinelese and they know even less about us. There is no population count. No one recognizes the language they speak. No one knows what they call themselves or how the society is structured. They are presumed not to have fire and they don't seem to farm, subsisting on fishing and forging. We do know they DO NOT want contact with outsiders. In 2006, Sentinelese archers killed two fishermen who were fishing illegally within range of the island and buried the bodies on the beach. The warriors (pictured) later drove off a Coast Guard helicopter with a hail of arrows.
While under nominal Indian control, the Indian government does not tax, count, or otherwise service the population and the islanders obviously do not recognize the Indian government. Effectively, the islander have never ceded sovereignty to anyone and are therefore independent.
No, you can't get permission to visit North Sentinel Island, period, and why should we even try to disturb this reclusive society?
Bouvet Island: Most Remote Island in the World
Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons
Bouvet Island (Norwegian: Bouvetøya) is an uninhabited Antarctic volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,525 km south-southwest of South Africa. It is a dependent territory of Norway and, lying north of 60°S latitude, is not subject to the Antarctic Treaty. It is the most remote island in the world from any population center.
Not a lot happens on this frozen inaccessible extinct volcano. No one has lived on the island for more then a month or so and tourism arrivals are almost non-existent. It's not likely that you will be granted permission to visit, as the whole island is a nature reserve and there are no facilities. Exceptions to the no visit policy might be made for legitimate research expeditions, but these are exceedingly rare.
It might be possible to land with a small boat on the small flater area (there is no harbor) but taking a helicopter off a ship is the safest way on to Bouvet Island. The small (58.5 km2) volcanic island rises sharply from the ocean, with cliffs up to 500 metres high. Almost all of the island is covered by a thick glacier, is considered inaccessible and has never been explored.
Sounds like the perfect place for a super secret evil lair, but chances are you are not going to be visiting Bouvet Island in your lifetime.
DMZ between North and South Korea
Well technically you can vacation for an hour or so in small parts of the DMZ as part of escorted tours from both the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, but the "Demilitarized Zone" divides more firepower than any other place on earth. At 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, and approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide, the DMZ divides the two Koreas near the 38th parallel. To the West, the Northern Limit Line serves a similar function dividing islands controlled by the South from land controlled by the North.
The only upshot of the highly restricted area is that the DMZ has become a natural haven for wildlife, the most carefully guarded nature preserve in the world.
If you decide to go, remember that wandering off the tour, or exploring any other area of the DMZ is going to get you shot.
Mount Athos, Greece
You can visit Mount Athos, home to about 2000 Orthodox monks, if you are male and jump through the application process for a permit. If you are a woman though, entry is strictly forbidden, a situation that dates back over 1000 years. Limited entry permits are issued to non-Orthodox men, and children are also forbidden to stay over night.
Mount Athos is an amazing place with priceless treasures and amazing historic buildings and gardens. It exists within the Greek state but is effectively autonomous. They run on Byzantine time and fly the Byzantine flag.
60 Minutes Video on Mount Athos Part 1
60 Minutes Video on Mount Athos Part 2
Area 51, Nevada, USA
The Groom Lake Airbase is the most restricted large scale area in the United States. The government goes to great lengths to prevent all unauthorized access and barely acknowledges the existence of Groom Lake. What is known is that experimental aircraft are tested in Area 51 and various government programs have been shown to originate at the secret base. Are there UFOs at Groom Lake? Absolutely, but they are not from outer space - they are likely new stealth technology, captured enemy aircraft, or unmanned drones being tested out.
Mount Kailash, Tibet
Mount Kailash or Mount Kailas is considered to be a sacred mountain in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Every year, thousands make a pilgrimage to Kailash, following a tradition going back thousands of years. Pilgrims of several religions believe that circumambulating Mount Kailash on foot is a holy ritual that will bring good fortune. The peregrination is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists. Followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions circumambulate the mountain in a counterclockwise direction. The path around Mount Kailash is 52 km (32 mi) long.
Some pilgrims believe that the entire walk around Kailash should be made in a single day, but a person in good shape walking fast would take perhaps 15 hours to complete the 52 km trek. Some of the devout do accomplish this feat, little daunted by the uneven terrain, altitude sickness and harsh conditions faced in the process.
A few pilgrims try a much more demanding regimen, performing body-length prostrations over the entire length of the circumambulation: The pilgrim bends down, kneels, prostrates full-length, makes a mark with his fingers, rises to his knees, prays, and then crawls forward on hands and knees to the mark made by his/her fingers before repeating the process. It requires at least four weeks of physical endurance to perform the circumambulation while following this regimen.
The mountain is located in a particularly remote and inhospitable area of the Tibetan Himalayas. A few modern amenities, such as benches, resting places and refreshment kiosks, exist to aid the pilgrims in their devotions.
You can walk around Kailash, but you definitely can't climb it. According to all religions that revere the mountain, setting foot on its slopes is a dire sin. Many people who ventured to defy the taboo on climbing the slopes have died in the process. If fear of the gods does not stop you, the Chinese government will.
When mountaineer Herbert Tichy was in the area in 1936, attempting to climb Gurla Mandhata, he asked one of the Garpons of Ngari whether Kailash was climbable. The Garpon replied, "Only a man entirely free of sin could climb Kailas. And he wouldn't have to actually scale the sheer walls of ice to do it – he'd just turn himself into a bird and fly to the summit."
Reinhold Messner was given the opportunity by the Chinese government to climb the mountain in the 1980s but he declined. In 2001 the Chinese gave permission for a Spanish team led by Jesus Martinez Novas to climb the peak, but in the face of international disapproval the Chinese decided to ban all attempts to climb the mountain. Messner, referring to the Spanish plans, said, "If we conquer this mountain, then we conquer something in people's souls ... I would suggest they go and climb something a little harder. Kailas is not so high and not so hard."
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