Arguably, you could get hurt anywhere, but many places on Earth are specifically known for being dangerous. Islands, roads, waterways, and all kinds of terrain come with risks and threats. You might be brave enough to take these on but, then again, staying home sounds much safer.
We explored a lot of dangerous places across the planet in 2021 - albeit from safely behind our desks. We have to admit some of the locations don't actually sound that bad - but we still don't want to visit. Vote up the dangerous destinations that you're going to take a hard pass on, too.
- 11,041 VOTES
Ilha De Queimada Grande Is So Overrun With Lethal Snakes, It's Usually Just Called 'Snake Island'
Located off the coast of Brazil, Ilha de Queimada Grande is home to as many as 4,000 golden lancehead pit vipers - one of the most lethal snakes on the planet. Also called Snake Island, the landform is roughly 110 square acres of predator-free rainforest, rocks, and grassy areas for the lethal snakes to roam.
Golden lancehead vipers (Bothrops insularis) are among the deadliest snakes on Earth; their bite carries a 7% mortality rate and many possible complications. A golden lancehead pit viper bite can be lethal within hours without treatment, and because the island is so dangerous, Brazil has forbidden humans from visiting. Exceptions can be made, but a medical professional is required to accompany anyone setting foot there.
When Tara Brown from 60 Minutes received permission to visit Snake Island in 2019, she explained what it entailed:
A full medical team, an ambulance on the mainland on standby, a defibrillator, anti-venom, respirators. Everyone took it quite seriously... I discovered I’m pretty spineless. The setting is very remote, it’s very hot, highly vegetated, and you’re pulling yourself up to get to the top. To my mind, there could be a snake anywhere and you’re always on high alert, and a big part of me was saying, "Oh no, please don’t let there be a snake there."
During the 1910s, the island's lighthouse required human maintenance. According to local legend, the last lighthouse keeper and his family were killed when snakes chased them out of their home, fell out of the trees, and bit them. The lighthouse has been automated since the early- to mid-20th century, but occasional visits by the Brazilian navy are still necessary.
The reptiles have few predators, but declining resources have caused the vipers' population to decline. They're now listed as a critically endangered species.
- Photo: Google Earth2977 VOTES
New York's Love Canal Has Been Emitting Toxic Vapors For Decades
In the 1890s, entrepreneur William T. Love purchased land in Niagara Falls, NY. He wanted to build a large, modern city powered by hydroelectric technology. He managed to finish one pit of the envisioned canal before his project collapsed. In 1920, the city purchased the pit to use as a chemical waste dumping ground.
Twenty years later, a chemical manufacturing company bought the land for their disposal, dropping more than 20,000 tons of dangerous materials inside. The company lined the almost-full pit with clay, covered it with dirt, and declared it safe for construction.
Developers built houses and an elementary school on the original Love land, but residents soon fell ill; babies died or suffered severe birth defects. Although the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found more than 400 dangerous substances in the area, the school didn't close until 1978; the residents evacuated then, too.
- 3784 VOTES
According To Stories, As Many As 80 People Have Never Returned From Russia's 'Valley Of Death'
During the 1930s, two hunters came across a plantless area filled with animal remains while walking through the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia. Reportedly, they ran away after beginning to feel sick, and though other people entered the area attempting to discover the reason for the animals' deaths, no one found an answer. Worse yet, legends claim as many as 80 people never returned.
In 1975, volcanologist Vladimir Leonov began studying the area because, although the region suffers from cold, harsh winters, it is also filled with active volcanoes. Both Leonov and ranger Vladimir Kalyaev encountered numerous animal remains, including a single ravine that held five bear carcasses.
Testing revealed the animals suffocated, and researchers have since reasoned that gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide leaking from the volcanoes is what ended them. They named the remote location the "Valley of Death."
After large numbers of octopuses, seals, sea urchins, and other sea creatures washed up on the shore of the Kamchatka Peninsula in 2020, researchers determined the cause of their deaths was algae toxicity. It's not clear if this has any influence upon or connection to the Valley of Death.
- 4681 VOTES
Bikini Atoll Is Deceptively Beautiful Due To Its Active Radiation
During the 1940s and '50s, Bikini Atoll, an island within the Marshall Islands chain in the Pacific Ocean, was a US military nuclear testing site. At the time, residents were relocated to nearby Rongerik and Kwajalein atolls before arriving at Kili Island in 1948.
Indigenous Bikinians returned to their atoll during the late 1960s and the population rose through the 1970s. Radiation levels left much of the food and water too dangerous for human consumption, with residents also experiencing health effects from radiation.
Continued clean-up, relocation efforts, and monetary aid left most native Bikinians living off the island, with scientists and caretakers as the lone inhabitants. Diving and sportfishing are common, although they must be done carefully.
When Outside magazine writer S.C. Gwynne visited the atoll in 2012, he saw firsthand how the deceptive beauty of the island could be:
Despite the natural beauty, it is impossible to walk anywhere, or look anywhere, and escape Bikini’s nightmare history. Every man-made object on the island is an artifact either of the bomb tests or of some failed attempt to help the Bikinians return to their home... There is a sense, while on Bikini Atoll, of being at the end of the world.
- Photo: Google Earth5711 VOTES
The US-Mexico Border Region Is Fraught With Peril
Assertions about Mexican border cities, that "all of them are quite violent," is supported by a 2020 report of the most dangerous cities in the world. Taking second place on the list is Tijuana, with a rate of 105.15 homicides per 100,000 people. Ciudad Juarez, the site of 103.61 homicides per 100,000 people, was number three.
The dangers in Mexican border cities revolve around cartel activity. Violent attacks, kidnapping, and murders associated with the drug trade impact the lives of residents, migrants, and tourists alike.
As of July 2021, the danger had not declined, with Tijuana recording more than 1,160 deaths. Jaime Bonilla, governor of the Mexican state of Baja California, confirmed that "99% of the murders are related to drug cartels and the drug trade."
Roads within the area are similarly dangerous, most notably US Route 101. It's not the terrain of the interstate highway in Mexico that makes it treacherous - it's the criminal activity. With bandits, gun and drug transporters, and members of crime syndicates traversing the "Highway of Death," 101 has a spooky, foreboding feel that puts drivers on edge.
After being kidnapped in 2016, a truck driver named "El Flaco" ("The Skinny One") explained, "Roads are getting more and more dangerous, you try not to stop... I’ve gotten into the habit of looking in the mirror, checking car number plates, looking at who’s gone past me. I look at everything."
- 6564 VOTES
Coiba Island Was Home To One Of The World's Most 'Malicious' Penal Colonies
In 1919, criminal and political prisoners first arrived at the "most severe prison" in Panama, housed on Coiba Island. The remote location housed more than 3,000 individuals from 1919 to 2004 and was the site of torture, brutality, and horrific conditions for decades.
Over time, Coiba had roughly 30 camps built by the prisoners themselves, with no furniture, windows, or bathrooms. The extreme conditions tested their mental sanity, as did torture techniques used by their captors. According to US Army Ranger Chuck Holton:
They had this ritual for new prisoners; the guards would take them into the jungle, blindfold them, line them up and have a mock execution. They would put guns to them, count down "three, two, one, fire," intimidating them.
Holton called it an "absolutely malicious" place, in large part because "everything on that island wants to bite you; everything is poisonous." He also talked about what he saw on his first visit:
There were some political prisoners... being held there on the island, but what we didn’t know was there were a few cells that were packed with people... The guards that were left there told us not to go in as they all had AIDS. We realized that several of the men in the cell had perished in the days before we got there. The dead had been left with the living; you can imagine the smell of several corpses that had been rotting.