The US State Department and other government equivalents regularly put out warnings on global hotspots they advise their citizens to steer clear of. Most of these are war torn areas or regions where consular support is non-existent. Largely this is sensible advice (for example, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Kenya, Venezuela, Haiti, North Korea, Syria and the Sudan are not the wisest holiday bets at the moment). Then again, sometimes these travel alerts and warnings are a tad alarmist, geopolitically motivated or tarnish a whole country when only a small area is potentially risky. This list is a little different, where the threat to your well-being is due to factors like animals, altitude, disease or disaster. Here are 9 non-war-related danger zones around the world with particular hazards that should ward off even the most intrepid traveler.
1. Ilha de Queimada Grande, Brazil
Rio is getting a bad rap at the moment for its World Cup furor and uptick in crime. However, it’s another area of Brazil that screams “keep out” as no amount of street smarts could prevent its deathly peril. Ilha de Queimada Grande is an island less than 100 miles off the coast from São Paulo that is frighteningly noteworthy because it is literally crawling with snakes (or should that be slithering?). Not just any snake, but the endangered, endemic and deadly golden lancehead pit viper. It grows to half a meter long and transmits a quick-acting venom that melts the flesh around the bite and leads to an almost certain death. Estimates say there is one to five snakes per square meter on this nightmarish island, so you’re chances of encountering one while here are pretty much guaranteed. That’s why the Brazilian Navy sensibly discourages curious tourists or wayward fishermen from visiting, and only brave herpetologists on a scientific mission are granted permits to explore “snake island.”
2. Hua Shan, China
China’s Hua Shan mountain pilgrim walk near Xian is referred to as “the most dangerous hike in the world”, but that doesn’t stop countless people from taking the precarious trek (some wearing flip flops!). They traverse the vertical mountain walls over a series of rickety ladders, crumbling stone steps, disintegrating wooden planks and rusty chains bolted into the cliff face. At 2000m above sea level, one misstep and you’re done. The reward, for those who make it, are a series of sacred mountain temples and a delightful tea house. It’s a big risk to take for a cup of tea, however. About a hundred people are rumored to die on this walk every year, although official stats are hard to verify.