Forget perfect beaches and postcard tourist sites; we're taking a look at places around the world that are forbidden to visitors. From snake-infested islands to secret archives, travelers can leave these off their to-do list.
Morgan Island, South Carolina, USA
Welcome to Morgan Island or, as some would say, Monkey Island. If this sounds like something out of a dream for animal lovers, then think again. The piece of land is part of South Carolina - and forbidden to visitors.
Morgan Island is home to around 4,000 wild rhesus monkeys. 1,3000 of the animals initially arrived from Puerto Rico for biomedical research, and their population has grown ever since. Only boat rides around the island are allowed in order to avoid the monkeys catching human diseases or curious tourists getting hurt by the wild animals.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is prohibited to visitors and is located far away from civilization. "It is away from the places on earth where you have war and terror," explained property manager Bente Naeverdal. "It is situated in a safe place." And that's no coincidence.
Nicknamed the Doomsday Vault, this closed-off site holds more than 930,000 varieties of food crops in the form of seeds and is crucial for the future of humankind. "Inside this building is 13,000 years of agricultural history," said Crop Trust's Brian Lainoff.
North Sentinel Island, India
The photo below shows a nearly picture-perfect island located in the Bay of Bengal, a part of the Indian Ocean. And while it might be tempting to pay a visit, it's actually against the law to do so. The area's Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Act prohibits anyone from getting closer than five nautical miles from the land.
This law protects the Sentinelese, an indigenous group living largely in isolation from the rest of the world. Even if visitors manage to get past the Indian Navy that's patrolling the waters, the residents of the island have been known to defend their land against any intruders.
North Brother Island, New York, USA
Situated between the South Bronx coast and Rikers Island is North Brother Island - a sight of historical tragedies and failed institutions. Initially used to quarantine people with contagious diseases, including "Typhoid Mary" Mallon, it was later used as a rehab for teens.
But North Brother was totally abandoned by 1963. Today, no one is allowed on the island without a special permit from New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. And those who manage to get permission will be accompanied by an escort from Parks and Rec.
Lascaux Caves, France
In 1940, a group of teens were walking their dog in southern France when their pet suddenly fell down a hole. As they rescued the pup, the adolescents discovered the Lascaux Caves - a natural site filled with prehistoric drawings dating from nearly 20,000 years ago.
Sadly, the caves closed to visitors in 1963 as human presence was dangerous to its maintenance. But those wanting to see the ancient site can visit a detailed replica. According to NPR, the French government spent about $64 million building near-identical caves so that visitors could experience this piece of history.
Snake Island, Brazil
"People are afraid. They will not set foot there," shared a Brazilian citizen of the scenic place scene in the shot below. And even for those who aren't afraid, Ilha da Queimada Grande is closed off to the public for one very good reason: it's filled with snakes.
When rising sea levels covered the strips connecting the island to the mainland, the snakes became trapped there - and their population grew exponentially. Among them is one of the world's most deadly snakes: the golden lancehead pit viper, whose venom can be mortal within an hour.
Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican
The Vatican Secret Archive or, as it's recently been renamed, the Vatican Apostolic Archive in Vatican City is closed off to the general public. "[People] clamor for the opening of the Vatican archives almost as though to enter into a secret fortress," shared Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Archives.
And there's a good reason why some are so desperate to have the endless shelves of books made public: the large repository contains documentation of the Vatican's history, in addition to state papers, correspondence, and account books. Some believe there are deep, dark secrets buried there.
Pluto's Gate, Turkey
Up next on our list of forbidden places is Pluto's Gate, also known as the "gate to hell." Rediscovered in 1965 by Italian archeologists, it was once a religious site honoring the Greek god Pluto. Because the gate emitted toxic gases, it was seen as a passage to the underworld, and animal sacrifices were common.
And today, those toxic gases are still present. "We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed b the carbon dioxide fumes," detailed archeologist Francesco D'Andria.
Apparently, there are quite a few abandoned islands around the world. But none are like Povelgia, which has been dubbed the world's most haunted island. Now technically closed to visitors, Poveglia was once a quarantine station for plague victims and later a mental hospital.
"The island is so full of dark, dark history," said Finders Beepers History Seekers' Matt Nadin. "You really get a sense of the horrors that took place there while you're walking around... The island has never really been cleared properly or anything, so everything has just been left."
Ise Grand Shrine, Japan
The Ise Grand Shrine is considered one of the most sacred places in Japan and the home of its national religion, Shinto. Demolished only to be rebuilt every twenty years, the famous site symbolizes Shinto's idea of death and rebirth. But as special as it is, most of us will never go inside.
While tourists can feel free to visit the grounds, only members of Japan's Imperial family and senior shrine priests can actually enter the sacred building. The Ise Grand Shrine tradition dates back almost 2,000 years and remains as culturally relevant as ever to some.
Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India
The photo below is certainly a sight for sore eyes. The luscious greenery, the ancient building... it looks like something out of a movie. And the stories behind it just might've inspired a Hollywood script - or a few. India's Bhangarh Fort was built in the 16th century and has since changed plenty.
While tourists are free to explore the area during the day, come nightfall, it's a different story. Locals and visitors alike are forbidden from visiting the fort between sundown and sunrise due to various people's ghostly and paranormal experiences. It's no surprise the fort has been named the "most haunted place in India."
Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center, USA
There was a time when few people knew about Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia, established in 1959. But that changed in 1983 when 20/20 did a segment on the property titled Nuclear Preparation: Can We Survive. And that's when people learned the rumors were true.
The government did indeed have a facility with everything needed for the highest level civilian and military officials to survive in case of any sort of national disaster. And while the average Joe isn't allowed on the scene, Mount Weather has been the setting for apocalyptic films, including The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, China
Welcome to the stunning Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. Located in China, the mausoleum was built over 38 years ago and is home to the First Qin Emperor's tomb. And while some parts have been excavated and are open to the public, others are forbidden to practically everybody.
Qin Shi Huang's actual tomb, surrounded by the Terracotta Army seen below, has yet to be excavated. Some scholars and archeologists advocate for its opening in order to protect the artifacts inside, promote tourism, and prevent grave robbery. But others argue that China still doesn't have the technology needed to do it properly.
Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean
Next up is Diego Garcia, "the only U.S. Navy base that launched offensive air operations during Operation Desert Storm," according to the U.S. Navy website. The island's original inhabitants were all expelled by 1973 to make room for a joint U.S./U.K. military base.
"It was like getting a knife in the heart," said former resident Rita Isou. Today, the island continues to house military bases and is only open to special visitors and military personnel. "It's all to do with operational security," said defense analyst Paul Beaver.
The United States isn't the only country to have certain sites closed off to the public. The Republic of Bashkortostan in Russia is home to a "top secret town" called Mezhgorye. Reportedly founded around 1979, it's still not completely clear who or what lives in Mezhgorye.
The Russian government has given different explanations throughout the years: food storage, a bunker for Russian leaders, and a mining operation. Whatever it is, we doubt we'll know for sure anytime in the near future. And we certainly don't plan on breaking in.
Niihau Island, Hawaii, USA
Roughly eighteen miles northwest of Hawaii's Kauai County is the island of Niihau. And while we've heard it's gorgeous, we'll probably never be able to witness it firsthand. And that's because Niihau has been closed to anyone who isn't a local since about 1915.
Since then, Niihau has chosen to remain exclusive for one reason or another. In 1952, the island closed itself off to protect its residents from the polio epidemic. Today, it's still difficult to visit because of an effort to protect the land's Hawaiian heritage.
We commonly hear about ancient sites that hold a rich history, but it's not so often that we hear about a brand new island. Such is the case with Surtsey, a volcanic island around 32 kilometers from Iceland's southern coast that formed in 1963. But only a select few have had the honor of visiting it.
Deemed a World Heritage Site, Surtsey has been closed off to the general public since it first came into existence. Instead, the island is open to scientists who have been researching the natural colonization process of land by plants and animal life.
Area 51, Nevada, USA
While some places on this list aren't too popular, Area 51 certainly is. The forbidden land in Nevada is the source of many conspiracy theories, including suspicions of alien activity. But according to Annie Jacobsen, author of Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, that's far from the truth.
Rather, the forbidden property is the "birthplace of overhead espionage for the CIA," she said. According to this theory, Area 51 remains closed off because it's still a hub for the Air Force and US spy organizations to develop new aircraft, weapons, and spycraft.
Pravcicka Brana, Czech Republic
Does the photo below look familiar? You might've seen it on Pinterest travel boards or 2005's film The Chronicles of Narnia. Fans of the movie franchise might remember the characters running over the arch pictured below, but trust us - those scenes were full of special effects.
The famous arch located in the Czech Republic has been closed off to the public since 1982. While visitors can still enjoy other parts of the scenic area, the archway is completely off-limits because human visits were causing heavy erosion of the natural beauty.
Fort Knox, Kentucky, USA
It's no secret the United States Bullion Depository, often referred to as Fort Knox, is completely off-limits to anyone without approved entry. It's arguably one of the most secured places known to the general public. And there's quite a good reason why.
Beyond the motion sensor wire fencing, Fort Knox holds most of the United States' gold reserves. And even those who do have access can't get in by themselves: several security combinations are needed to access the vault, and staff members usually only know one.
The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
The Dome of the Rock is possibly one of the most famous sites in the world. While it stands on land that is important to various religions, its main association today is with Islam. The beautiful shrine was built in the 7th century CE and holds a rich history.
According to Muslim belief, the Dome was built on the land from where the Prophet Muhammad went to heaven. Naturally, the shrine is open for members of the Islamic community to visit, pray, and honor. However, its interior is closed off to anyone else.
Disney Club 33, USA
Disneyland - the most magical place on earth, right? Well, what if we told you there's a piece of magic that most of us will likely never gain access to? We're talking about Disney's Club 33, of course. The private dining club is located in various of their theme parks.
The first one opened in 1967 inside California's Disneyland Park. Today, Club 33 has locations in Tokyo Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Walt Disney World. Once open only to by-invite members, now anyone can join - if you can afford the $33,000 initiation fee plus $15,000 a year.
Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, Ethiopia
The beautiful structure pictured below is the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Ethiopia, which some people believe is home to the Ark of the Covenant. If true, then inside the church lies a chest that holds the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
However, most of us will never know whether or not the Ark of the Covenant is there. The vault that allegedly holds it can only be accessed by the church's guardian monk, which has led some to be suspicious about whether Our Lady Mary of Zion actually has the biblical treasures in its possession.
Bohemian Grove, USA
Bohemian Grove has been the subject of many headlines and conspiracy theories throughout the years, and its exclusivity is certainly part of the reason why. The private campground located in Monte Rio, California, can only be accessed by members of the all-men Bohemian Club.
Each summer, the members gather in Bohemian Grove for over two weeks of camping, meetings, rituals, and more. And while many have tried to sneak in and get a peek at the mysterious events, we've yet to have any clear answers on what exactly goes on in this forbidden land.
Pine Gap, Australia
Welcome to Pine Gap, a prohibited area where visitors are quite unwelcome. The satellite surveillance base is a joint operation between Australia and the United States that has been active since 1970, a result of Cold War tensions. And while the war might be long over, the base is still very much at work.
But most of us will never know what's truly going on down there because the entrance is, as clearly shown above, prohibited to anyone without approved access. Yet that hasn't stopped various groups, from Aboriginal women to the National Union of Students, from protesting Pine Gap's existence.
Coca-Cola Recipe Vault, USA
The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, is open to visitors, but there's one section that's strictly off-limits: the recipe vault. According to the soft drink company, only two employees know the entire formula at any given moment, and they are not allowed to travel together.
But some people have their doubts that the classified recipe is the same one still being used for Coca-Cola today. "It's almost this mythological thing, the secret formula," said the Institute of Food Technologist's president. "I would be amazed if formulas [for big brands] haven't changed."
Heard Island Volcano, Australia
"Being in such a remote and wild place is pretty humbling," said glaciologist Doug Thost after visiting Heard Island. "You have to be very aware of the potential danger you could be in and how unlikely it is that you could be rescued if something does go wrong, but it's invigorating."
But that danger and difficulty of being saved are exactly why Heard Island is off-limits to most of us. Located in the southern Indian Ocean, the site is home to countless glaciers and Big Ben, an active volcano. Those wishing to visit must have special permission from the Australian Antarctic Division.
Korean Demilitarized Zone, Korea
Right between North and South Korea is a no-mans-land about 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. Its official name is the Korean Demilitarized Zone or DMZ, and it was established in 1953 as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between the North and the South.
While most of the DMZ is closed off to anyone except for authorized officials, those visiting or living in South Korea can still access parts of it. Tourists can see the Joint Security Area - where the North and South occasionally meet - and some other sites without stepping onto the forbidden lands.
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the site of the nuclear reactor disaster of 1986, is possibly one of the most famous forbidden places in the world. But with radiation levels declining, some parts of the area are now open to visitors - as long as they're with a tour guide, of course.
"You just don't know how much radiation is still there and whether you are in danger. I physically felt the radioactivity," detailed German photographer Rüdiger Lubricht after visiting the site. "There was this peculiar iron taste in my mouth, and my tongue felt numb. I would never have thought tasting radioactivity were possible."
Chichen Itza Pyramid, Mexico
Visitors can look at the Chichen Itza Pyramid in Yucatán, Mexico, all they want - but there is absolutely no touching or climbing allowed. Built by the Maya people, the pyramid sits in what used to be one of the biggest Maya cities and is now preserved by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.
The archeological beauty is one of the most popular sites in the country, with millions visiting each year. But while people are free to observe the historic structure from the outskirts, climbing or entering it is entirely off-limits to pretty much everyone.