10 fascinating places around the world that are totally forbidden to visitors
Room 39, North Korea
In the words of journalist Kelly Olsen, “Room 39 is one of the most secret organizations in arguably the world’s most secretive state.”
Created in the late 1970s, Room 39 is said to be located inside the Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, taking its name, according to some sources, from the office it occupied at the party headquarters in its early days.
Although there isn’t much official information on the room due to the secrecy of its activities, it’s believed that it raises funds through commercial enterprises — both legal and illegal — with activities ranging from counterfeiting to the sale of gold, drugs, or weapons.
This network of companies present in various parts of the world is estimated to have been able to contribute up to $2 billion a year to North Korea. It’s speculated that Room 39 could be behind the sophisticated counterfeiting of $100 “supernote” bills that were issued over decades.
The Coca-Cola vault in Atlanta, United States
The recipe for Coca-Cola is considered one of the best-kept secrets in the world — and they keep it secret by stowing it away in a large security vault.
Since it was created in 1886 by John Pemberton in Atlanta, this formula has been jealously guarded and few have been able to get their hands on it.
The soft drink and the company were acquired in 1919 by a group of investors led by Ernest Woodruff and from 1920, the recipe ended up under lock and key at a New York bank. In 1925 it was transferred to the Trust Company Bank in Atlanta.
In 2011 the company decided to move the famous Coca-Cola recipe to an Atlanta museum, but while many tourists visit the facilities each year, few and exclusive are the people who can get through the doors of the vault.
Snake Island or Queimada Grande, Brazil
Located about 100 kilometers off the coast of São Paulo, this island might seem the ideal exotic spot in which to lose yourself but the truth is that for decades the place has been uninhabited due to having been completely invaded by lethal snakes.
Between one and five snakes per square meter inhabit the island. And if that isn’t terrifying enough, it’s worth noting that the snakes that live here are one of the most venomous in the world.
The Golden Lancehead viper can reach up to half a meter in length and, with a strong, fast-acting venom, can dissolve the flesh around its bites.
It’s for this reason the Brazilian government expressly forbids visiting the island.
North Sentinel, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
While the rest of the islands in this archipelago are somewhat larger and better known, North Sentinel, full of mangroves and surrounded by coral, has remained virtually untouched by the outside world. It might sound like paradise but the island couldn’t be further from it.
While its geography makes it one of the most isolated places on Earth, it is inhabited by one of the world’s few remaining uncontacted tribes. The indigenous people of this island, referred to as the Sentinelese, have had practically no influence from the modern world.
Throughout history, encounters with the population have been met with violence. In 2006, they killed two fishermen whose boat had been dragged by the current to their shores.
According to The Guardian, a three-mile restriction zone prevents visitors from entering the territory.
According to Survival, an NGO for the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, the Indian government has abandoned any plans to contact the sentinels.
The entire tribe could be wiped out by diseases to which they have no immunity, which is why authorities respect their wish to remain uncontacted.
Bhangarh Fort, India
Between Jaipur and Alwar in Rajasthan lie the ruins of what was once a splendid kingdom.
The fort was built by the ruler of Amber Kachwaha for his youngest son in 1573 and gradually its population dwindled until 1783 when a strong famine forced the villagers still living there to flee. Local legends state that the reason for the kingdom falling into ruin was that the fort was cursed.
As the only “legally recognized” haunted place in India according to the Times of India, a government permit is required to be able to enter before dawn or after sundown.
Although it’s said that the reason is down to wild, nocturnal animals such as tigers and the lack of artificial lighting in the area, no one knows what else could be lurking in the ruins.
North Brother Island, United States
Every year New York welcomes millions of tourists, eager to visit every corner of the city — except one.
Access is forbidden to North Brother Island without prior authorization since all its buildings are in a dangerous state of deterioration. Inside, nature continues to devour the abandoned structures and ruins of what was once the city’s quarantine hospital.
First claimed in 1614, the history of North Brother Island’s past is intertwined with death and disease: in the 1880s and right into the 1940s, the site quarantined people with highly contagious illnesses. All those who died there were stored in the island’s morgue. From 1951, it served as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts.
In 1963, North Brother Island was abandoned, becoming the property of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which now manages the site as a bird sanctuary.
Insider was able to access the island for a tour, which you can read more about here.
Diego García, British Overseas Territories
Located between East Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, Diego García is an important strategic asset for the US Navy, which has a major military base there. It’s also said that some of the CIA’s most important floating black sites could be located in this area, according to The Guardian.
During the Cold War, the United Kingdom rented the atoll to the United States for 50 years but the island was not uninhabited so, before renting it out, the British government expelled some 2,000 Chagossians. Between 1968 and 1973, these inhabitants were forcibly sent to Mauritius, the Seychelles, and other British territories.
Since then, the islanders have unsuccessfully demanded the right to return to their homes. Diego Garcia’s tenancy expired in 2016, but the UK has extended the contract for another 20 years.
The White’s Club, UK
There are still, incredibly, certain places in the world where women are forbidden access — the best known probably being gentlemen’s clubs, which are very popular within British culture.
Founded in 1693 and located at 37 St. James’ Street in Picadilly, the members of The White’s Club include political leaders, senior bankers, and even heirs to the British throne.
The restriction on women is so strict, only Queen Elizabeth has ever managed to gain entry.
According to the Telegraph, in 2013 David Cameron voluntarily left the select club, saying: “I’m dismayed the club does not accept women as members. I find that inexplicable in this day and age, I really do.”
The membership of London’s oldest and most elitist gentlemen’s club has shrunk to 500, and its bar is said not to have closed for 200 years.
Surtsey Island, Iceland
The island of Surtsey in Iceland was formed just 55 years ago in a volcanic eruption, which meant scientists had the unique opportunity to observe the birth and evolution of an ecosystem from scratch. This fascinating event is precisely what makes its access restricted to the rest of the world.
It all began in 1963, when a violent volcanic eruption 32 kilometres south of Iceland resulted in the formation of Surtsey, one of the youngest islands on the planet. Due to water and wind erosion, the island has been decreasing in size since then.
Research by the Surtsey Research Society has estimated that according to the current rate of erosion, Surtsey could be at sea level by the year 2100.
Bacteria, fungi, and molds were the first to arrive on the island. Subsequently, the number of animal and plant species increased exponentially.
According to Unesco, at present, it’s estimated that around 89 species of birds and 335 invertebrates populate the area.
In order not to alter this development, only researchers are allowed to visit the island.