Six secret places that tourists can never visit; Diego Garcia makes the cut
In this latest list, we take a look at places that have banned visitors from entering on their territory.
1. Surtsey Island, Iceland
After sprouting from the ocean in 1967, the volcanic island of Surtsey was swiftly declared off limits to the hoi polloi. Rather than letting tourists traipse around the virgin isle, scientists wanted to keep Surtsey free from human interference, so they could monitor the colonisation process of new land by plants and animals.
The rocky outcrop, located 20 miles south of Iceland, has since revealed many natural secrets, prompting Unesco to declare it a World Heritage Site.
2. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
Ignore the exclusion zone surrounding North Sentinel Island and you may wind up dead. Home to an indigenous tribe known as the Sentinelese, this indigenous group has spent 60,000 odd years in isolation from the rest of humanity - and it has a hard-earned reputation for keeping it that way.
In 2006, for example, the tribe, thought to number between 50 and 200, murdered two men who had been illegally fishing off the island. When the Indian coast guard tried to recover their bodies, islanders, who had somehow survived the ferocious 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, greeted the helicopter with a shower of arrows.
3. The Lascaux Caves, France
When the labyrinthine caves of Lascaux were discovered in 1940, they were found, much to the delight of archaeologists, to contain some of the world’s best-preserved Stone Age art, some of which was thought to be 17,300 years old.
The subterranean art gallery swiftly became one of the Dordogne’s top attractions, but in 1955 experts warned that carbon dioxide, heat and humidity brought into the caves by tourists was ruining the rock paintings. The caves were closed in 1963 and have remained that way since.
4. Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean
With its talcum powder beaches and colourful coral gardens, Diego Garcia might look like an idyllic tropical retreat, but there’s long been trouble in this particular paradise.
Having forcibly evicted residents from the island in 1973, the UK government then built a large military base on Diego Garcia and declared it off-limits to all but official personnel. Secrecy - and controversy - has surrounded the island since, with some human rights groups claiming it was used by the CIA to torture prisoners.
5. Ilha da Queimada Grande, Brazil
More problems in paradise, this time on Brazil’s Ilha da Queimada Grande, which would probably be a bolthole for sun-seeking tourists if, of course, it wasn’t infested with some of the world’s most venomous snakes.
A painful, albeit rapid, death is on the cards if you get bitten by one of the 4,000 serpents that reside on this restricted isla, which, appropriately enough, is also called “Snake Island”.
6. Ise Jingu, Japan
Revered across the country, Ise Jingu is the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, but you can only visit if you’re a high-ranking priest or a member of the imperial family.
The shrine is demolished and rebuilt every two decades, in accordance with Shinto notions of death and renewal, as part of an elaborate ceremony that few people ever get to witness.