With globalization making the entire world more accessible for everyone, and the Internet proliferating that accessibility in real time, there is not too much we humans do not know about. There are not as many buried secrets spun and conspiracies as governments would like us to think, there are not as many places in the world that do not show up on a map anymore, and there are just not as many places we can’t discover, research, and travel to. Yet, as this list shows, as much as we may be able to learn of certain places, there are still some places on earth the average human being is not allowed to go. Whether to protect an endangered ecosystem or religious artefacts, or to preserve real or perceived military secrets, these are ten places in the world you are not allowed to go.
10. Lascaux Caves, France
A setting of cave complexes located near the French town of Montiac, the Lascaux Caves became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Known for their wealth of Paleolithic art, the caves contain nearly 900 ancient cave paintings largely consisting of animals that lived in the area in the Upper Paleolithic Period. These cave paintings are estimated to be at least 17,300 years old. After the caves were opened to the public following World War Two, the climate within the caves changed dramatically, leading scientists to question their ability to preserve the art, and generating debate about how much, if any, human interaction with the caves should be permitted, a debate that is still ongoing today.
9. Poveglia, Italy
Poveglia is a small island located in the Venetian Lagoon that has been mentioned in historical chronicles for nearly 2,000 years. In 1348 Venice exiled many of its ill citizens from the plague to the island for the first time, a move that would be repeated in 1793, and again by the Italian government in the early 20th century. By 1922, the buildings on the island that once housed the physically infirm were converted into a mental hospital that operated until its closure in 1968. Since, the island has been completely abandoned. Due to its notorious past as keeper of both the physically and mentally ill, the island has been featured on many paranormal television shows which claim it to be one of the scariest places on earth.
8. The Vatican Secret Archives, Italy
Long the subject of many conspiracy theories and numerous plot developments in Dan Brown novels, the Vatican Secret Archives are where all of the acts of the Holy See are documented and archived. Kept separate from the Vatican Library, the Secret Archives are officially owned by the Pope and contain 52 miles of shelving, with documents covering every ecclesiastical law and statute the Holy See has ever decreed. The archives further contain state papers of Vatican City, as well as papal correspondence. Up until 1881 the Pope was the only one allowed inside the archives. Today, you must be a qualified and distinguished researcher akin to “The Davinci Code’s” Robert Langdon to apply for a permit to examine the archives.
7. Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, Ethiopia
The most important church in Ethiopia, the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion was first built sometime in the 4th century during the reign of the first Christian Emperor of the African nation. According to legend, the chapel within this church houses the sacred Ark of the Covenant. As such, only the monk appointed guardian of the Ark is allowed to enter the chapel, where he alone stands watch over the Ark offering it prayers and incense for his entire life. Before the guardian monk dies, he is to name a successor who will assume his role and watch over the Ark as all previous guardian monks have since the time of King Solomon. Since there is absolutely no way to enter the chapel, nor any way for the guardian to leave, researchers cast doubt upon the validity of the claims of the presence of the Ark of the Covenant at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, but regardless, this is one place that you definitely are not allowed to go.
6. Jiangsu National Security Museum, China
Located in Nanjing, this spy museum houses the most comprehensive collection on the history of Chinese espionage in the world. There are exhibits that display guns disguised as benign objects like pens, or lipstick, decks of cards hollowed out to contain detailed maps and four rooms that detail the state’s security practices since the time Mao and his communists began their civil war. As fascinating as it sounds, the museum is reserved for Chinese citizens only. The Chinese government does not want such sensitive spy information exposed to foreigners according to museum spokespeople. Further still, even if you are a Chinese national there are strict guidelines as to what you can and cannot do in the museum; taking pictures of any kind is strictly forbidden.
5. Niihau, Hawaii
To preserve the wildlife on the Hawaiian island of Niihau, much of it endangered, nearly every human being is banned from accessing it, earning it the nickname “The Forbidden Isle.” In fact, the population of the island sits around 130 inhabitants, nearly all of which are Native Hawaiians. The only people actually allowed to go to Niihau are relatives of those who live on the island, the U.S. Navy, or U.S. government officials, making Niihau truly a place the vast majority of us are not allowed to go.
4. Pine Gap, Australia
Pine Gap is a satellite tracking station in the Northern Territory of Australia that is run by the Australian and United States Government. Pine Gap is primarily used by the U.S. however, as the CIA, NSA and NRO all jointly undertake operations at the facility, either for espionage, or to locate targets via radio signals to be destroyed via the U.S. deployed drones. The area controls all of the U.S. spy satellites, and has been implicated as being not only an important center for the global surveillance network ECHELON, but also, as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, the highly controversial mass electronic surveillance network PRISM. Needless to say, no ordinary citizen can enter Pine Gap, and those who have tried have been arrested, detained and criminally prosecuted.
3. Negev Nuclear Research Center, Israel
All that is known about this nuclear facility is that it is located in the Negev desert near the city of Dimona, Israel. Its purpose is thought to be the building of nuclear weapons, but beyond acknowledging that the facility exists, the Israeli government has offered no other details on its purpose or operations, making it a highly classified installation. Even still, over the course of the center’s existence, planes that have flown over the area have been shot down, and enemies of Israel, most recently Hamas, have launched rockets at the site, clearly demonstrating an awareness of its high level of importance. There has also been testimony by a former worker at the center of a top-secret underground facility there as well. After his revelation of such sensitive information he was promptly arrested and tried with treason, making the Negev Nuclear Research Center both highly secretive and highly inaccessible.
2. Ise Grand Shrine, Japan
One of the holiest Shinto shrines in Japan, the Ise Grand Shrine is in fact a collection of Shinto shrines that form a complex. Access to the complex is extremely limited to the general public. In fact, the only thing the public is able to see of the complex is a glimpse of the roofs of some of the huts within the complex, which are surrounded by tall wooden fences. The Ise Grand Shrine is said to house the Sacred Mirror, one of the most important artefacts in Japan, thus necessitating that the chief priest or priestess, tasked to watch over the shrine, must be a member of the Japanese imperial family.
1. Metro-2, Russia
Metro-2 is the name of a rumoured secret metro system in Russia that runs parallel, but actually may even exceed, the Moscow Metro in the country’s capital. The metro, apparently commissioned by Stalin and used by the KGB, is purportedly still used by the Russian Ministry of Defense today. There are even rumors of a secret town that is connected to the metro system beyond the city limits as well. Confirmation of the metro’s existence and its uses are nearly impossible to come by; some have labelled it nothing more than sheer fiction propagated by the Cold War, while others claim to have ridden on it themselves. Regardless, whether Metro-2 exists or not, rest assured, it is absolutely one of those places in the world you are not allowed to go.