World’s most beautiful destinations where tourists fear to tread

World's most beautiful destinations where tourists fear to tread

Dangerous destinations

Unpredictable weather, war, violent crime, geological events and strict laws have made some of the world’s most beautiful destinations too dangerous to visit. Although most of these countries and regions can still be accessed, there’s a reason why tourists avoid exploring certain corners of the world. Take a look at these 25 stunning places and find out why they’re so feared.

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Lebanon

Although safety isn’t an issue in Lebanon, there are several parts of the country where visitors should exercise caution. It’s advised not to travel near the Syrian border and Palestinian refugee camps, and avoid the southern suburbs of Beirut and Tripoli as terrorist attacks are very likely. Travelers should be particularly vigilant of Hezbollah activities – the Islamist political party and militant group is considered a terrorist organization by the US and the UK.

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Lebanon

The beautiful coastal city of Beirut is one of the most dynamic and liberal metropolises in the Middle East. It’s long lured visitors with its laid-back vibe, beautiful Ottoman and French-influenced buildings, beaches, and fabulous food scene. Byblos is another jewel on Lebanon’s coastline and safe to visit. Make sure you check out the well-preserved ruins of a crusader castle.

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Ecuador

Ecuador is a popular destination for backpackers but some areas aren’t safe for visitors. El Angel Ecological Reserve (pictured) is inside a 12-mile exclusion zone imposed by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as a result of active guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and criminal gangs in the area. If you visit, it’s likely that your travel insurance will be invalid. It’s also situated in an area of intense seismic activity.

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Ecuador

Cotopaxi, one of South America’s most active volcanoes, is only 31 miles from capital Quito and its presence looms large. Hikes up the side of the volcano are popular with the few travelers brave enough to attempt it while others head straight to the Pañacocha protected forest in search of the rare pink Amazon river dolphin.

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Kashmir, India

India is high on many travelers’ must-visit list but it’s not all gorgeous architecture and spectacular palaces. The disputed region of Kashmir is bordered by the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south, by Pakistan to the west and by Afghanistan to the northwest. Violent clashes between protesters and soldiers are common in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Kashmir, India

Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, and tourists come here to stay in houseboats on picturesque Dal Lake. The old town is a vibrant mix of markets, Sufi shrines and historic wooden mosques, while the less urbanized eastern shore of the lake is home to several Mughal gardens. Kashmiri cuisine is also a big draw and many come here to try the famous local apples.

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Armenia

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia has been involved in several conflicts within the Caucasus region. The country’s Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan ended with a cease-fire in 1994 but the area’s owner is still heavily disputed. The border between the two countries is closed and hostilities continue.

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Armenia

Although the country’s capital Yerevan is well worth a visit, travelers shouldn’t limit themselves to the city. Armenia’s countryside is exceptionally beautiful with winding roads, small villages and lots of cultural sights like the Tatev Monastery and the Zvartnots Temple.

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Rakhine State, Myanmar

Myanmar is going through political turmoil and although many people still visit, the situation in ethnic states where armed groups operate is volatile. The violence and civil unrest that has caused more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees to flee Myanmar, has led many travelers to question the ethics of visiting for a holiday. Both the UK and US advise against all but essential travel to several areas in the country due to civil unrest.

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Rakhine State, Myanmar

It, of course, means that one of Myanmar’s most important archaeological sites Mrauk-U is off limits as well. Very different from Bagan, these temples are smaller and newer, and are dispersed throughout a still-inhabited area. Small villages, rice paddies, rounded hillocks and grazing cows surround these temples and the area offers a true insight into the culture. Only about 5,000 foreigners visit annually.

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Democratic Republic of Congo

Armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and three Kasai provinces makes these areas too dangerous to visit. Even more worrying for tourists is the relatively recent murder of a ranger and kidnapping of two British nationals by an armed group in popular tourist destination Virunga National Park. Crime and civil unrest could put visitors in danger anywhere in the country and, although travel to DRC is allowed, be aware that assailants may pose as police or security agents.

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Democratic Republic of Congo

It’s no wonder this part of the world is a big draw for travelers. The region is characterized by lush, tropical, forest-clad mountains and mountain gorilla encounters are much sought-after here.

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Tunisia

A state of emergency in Tunisia is still in effect and has been continuously extended after a spate of terror attacks, including the terrorist attack at the Bardo National Museum in March 2015 and an attack in Sousse in June 2015. Tourists are now returning to the North African country, but travel advisories are still in place as there’s an increased risk of attacks around religious sites and the threat that foreigners will be targeted in Tunisia’s tourist resorts.

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Tunisia

The largest colosseum in North Africa, the Amphitheatre of El Jem is an impressive 3rd-century monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was constructed in much the same way as the grand Colosseum in Rome – there are no foundations and the theater has been built entirely out of freestanding blocks. Other highlights include the town of Sidi Bou Said, one of the most beautiful small towns in the world, and the clay marvel Ksar Ouled Soltane.

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Madagascar

Although Madagascar has experienced political instability since the 2009 coup d’état, the situation in the government has stabilized and the country has been deemed safe to visit. However, because of events over the last decade, many still feel apprehensive about traveling to the country and remote sites are best visited as a group with a reputable tour operator.

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Madagascar

Lemurs, baobabs, deserts and rainforests – there’s no shortage of things to see in Madagascar. From the incredible Avenue of the Baobabs to the Andasibe-Mantadia, Ranomafana and Isalo national parks, there’s incredible wildlife almost everywhere you look.

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Georgia

This vineyard-dotted Caucasian country has been through a lot since the collapse of the Soviet Union – revolution, political chaos and, most recently, conflict with Russia. The devastating events of 2008 have left certain areas of Georgia, like Abkhazia and South Ossetia, under Russian rule. There’s particular risk of crime and landmines that have remained since the war.

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Georgia

There’s magnificent medieval architecture to be found in Georgia’s fascinating capital Tbilisi. Explore the old town’s narrow cobbled alleyways, check out modern art galleries and try the country’s famed food and wines. Head out to the countryside to see traditional villages and rolling vineyards. Follow trails into the striking Caucasus mountains to ancient hilltop monasteries and discover the lure of the Black Sea beaches.

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Pakistan

The risk of terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan is considered high, including in major cities such as Islamabad and Lahore. Westerners should carry some form of photo ID at all times. Many districts, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, are out of bounds to foreigners. Natural disasters are also a worry as there’s risk of landslides and flooding during monsoon season from late June to early October.

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Pakistan

Known for its stunning natural landscapes, Pakistan’s cities are also worth attention. Lahore and Islamabad are both vibrant, modern cities with a wealth of history and culture on offer. The Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque shouldn’t be missed in the Punjab capital while Islamabad impresses with its modern Faisal Mosque and Pakistan Monument. The scenic peaks of Margalla Hills are right on the city’s doorstep.

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Nicaragua

Both the US Department of State and the UK Foreign Office advise to reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to civil unrest, crime and limited healthcare availability. In the last year, there’s been an increase in street violence and visitors should remain cautious throughout their trip. The para-police (violent uniformed police or civilians in plain clothes acting as police) have been known to target anyone they consider to be in opposition of President Ortega – travelers should avoid all gatherings and demonstrations.

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua benefits from two coastlines, making it a dream destination for beach-loving travelers. New, inland eco-tourism hotels and attractions are slowly appearing and Indio Maíz Biological Reserve shouldn’t be missed for a chance to see toucans, macaws and wild boars.

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Crimean peninsula

In 2014, Russian forces annexed the peninsula of Crimea in southern Ukraine. The UK government doesn’t recognize Crimea as being part of Russia and the official travel advice from both US and UK sources is not to visit. The situation is volatile and liable to sudden change. Clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists are possible and political unrest is part of day-to-day life.

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Crimean peninsula

Once popular Crimean tourist resorts like Sevastopol, Feodosia and Yalta are mostly visited by Russian tourists, meaning that many hotels are only half-filled and tourist attractions almost empty. Once a top attraction in the Black Sea, The Swallow’s Nest is a decorative castle located between Yalta and Alupka while the Vorontsov Palace is a unique and historic palace that incorporates several architectural styles like Mughal, Gothic Revival and Scottish Baronial.

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Albania

Luckily for this tiny southeastern European country, it’s generally deemed safe, however, travelers are still rather apprehensive about visiting Albania. While almost all visits to the country’s capital Tirana are trouble-free, the Kosovo border regions can occasionally be troublesome and terrorist attacks can’t be ruled out.

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Albania

Albania has it all: stunning landscapes, lovely beaches, castles, ancient splendors, and terrific food and wine. The Adriatic country might not have the tourist infrastructure of neighboring Greece, but it does have 265 miles of glorious and relatively resort-free coastline. Visit Sarandë on its southern coast and the golden sands near Durrës further north. Don’t miss the ancient city ruins of Butrint and Apollonia. Inland there are wonderful hikes around Albania’s lakes and mountains in the northwest.

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Saudi Arabia

Although both the US Department of State and the UK Foreign Office permit travel to Saudi Arabia and only advise to exercise caution, terrorism in Saudi Arabia is a threat, especially during religiously significant periods when social media posts have encouraged attacks against Western visitors. The country’s strict rules should also be kept in mind when visiting as there are extremely harsh penalties for a number of crimes.

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Saudi Arabia

From the modern glitz of Riyadh and world-class Red Sea diving sites, to the ancient mud-brick ruins of Dir’aiyah and the desert-scattered rock-tombs of Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly one of the world’s most fascinating countries to visit. The world’s largest oasis, which is set in eastern Saudi Arabia, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list last year.

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Haiti

The US State Department as well as the UK Foreign Office advise travelers to reconsider plans to visit Haiti due to crime and civil unrest. Martissant, Carrefour, Bel Air and Cité Soleil in the Port au Prince area are no-go spots (violent crime is common in the capital). It’s also still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Throughout history, Haiti has suffered from many a cyclone, hurricane and tropical storm due to its location.

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Haiti

Called the eighth wonder of the world by locals, the Citadelle Laferrière is a battleship-like fortress offering views of the island in every direction. Finished in 1820, it really is unlike anywhere else in the world and due to the lack of tourists, feels even more imposing. Although the island’s natural beauty is spectacular, the breathtaking Bassin Bleu – a series of three cobalt-blue pools linked by waterfalls – are especially stunning.

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Honduras

With one of the highest homicide rates in the world, crime and violence is a very real problem in Honduras. While most serious crime does not affect foreigners, there are sometimes attacks on tourists, including armed robbery and sexual assault. If you do decide to visit, take care when traveling and avoid walking anywhere after dark. While US citizens can get help and support at the US Embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa, there’s no British Embassy in Honduras.

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Honduras

With Caribbean coastline to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, Honduras is home to beautiful beaches that are also blissfully empty because of the lack of tourists. The Copán Archaeological Site features incredible Maya ruins and these days very few tourists visit, making it even more hauntingly stunning. It’s safer to visit Honduras’ islands in the Caribbean – Roatán and the small cluster of islands in Cayos Cochinos.

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Nepal

Although the mountain country Nepal and its capital Kathmandu have long attracted adventurous travelers, the April 2015 earthquake was devastating for the region. As the country is located in a major earthquake zone, the risk remains high. Flooding and landslides are common during the monsoon season, from June to September.

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Nepal

Although the small country is dominated by mountains and their hiking trails, its culture shouldn’t be overlooked. Colorful and chaotic capital Kathmandu is a captivating place and home to some of Asia’s holiest Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas. Kathmandu Valley has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, renowned for its incredible temples.

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Egypt

Egypt has seen a spate of terrorist attacks in recent years, including the 2015 plane crash caused by an explosive device and the 2018 attack on a tourist bus near Giza. Today much of the Sinai Peninsula is a no-go area. The resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh technically falls inside an area that’s considered safe, however, direct flights into Sharm-El-Sheikh from the US and the UK are still suspended.

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Egypt

There are many reasons to visit this extraordinary country: the remains of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, stunning natural landscapes and modern Middle Eastern culture. The pyramids of Giza, the labyrinth-like Khan el Khalili bazaar in Cairo, Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and the temples of Abu Simbel are just a handful of the must-visit wonders.

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Timor-Leste

A Portuguese colony until the 1970s, Timor-Leste sought independence but was instead annexed by neighboring Indonesia. A referendum in 1999 saw the population vote for independence but instead a bloody civil war broke out. Although UN troops withdrew in 2012, crime continues to be a problem, with a risk of gang violence, robbery and assault. These attacks are usually not directed at foreigners, however, visitors should stay vigilant.

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Timor-Leste

The marine life here is second to none with numerous exceptional dive sites where you’re likely to spy endangered dugong, hammerhead sharks, turtles, manta rays, frogfish and ghost pipefish. Dolphins are commonly sighted along with humpbacks and sperm whales in October and November. Away from the largely empty white-sand beaches, much of the country is mountainous with some mind-blowing hikes and exhilarating bike rides to be had among its steep green hills.

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Indonesia

Piracy is a big problem in Indonesian waters where thousands of islands are the perfect hideaway. The Strait of Malacca is widely considered among the most dangerous waters in the world. There are also many active volcanoes in Indonesia which can erupt with little or no warning. There are exclusion zones around Mount Agung in Bali and Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra where in the past, eruptions have caused destruction and fatalities.

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Indonesia

Of course, there are still many parts of Indonesia that are safe to visit and travelers shouldn’t be put off this beguiling nation of more than 17,000 islands. Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is particularly exciting for foodies, the dragons of Komodo will excite wildlife enthusiasts while Sumatra is a hiker’s paradise. There’s also world-class diving and luxury holiday resorts in Bali, while Java is home to many temples, including the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, Borobudur.

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Colombia

It’s no secret that crime rates in Colombia are high, with some of the problems including illegal armed groups, a thriving drugs trade, the threat of kidnapping both for financial and political reasons, money laundering, and running extortion and prostitution rackets. Street crime in the big cities like capital Bogotá can also be a problem for visitors. Both the US and the UK advise against visiting Buenaventura in Valle de Cauca and Tumaco in Nariño specifically.

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Colombia

Bogotá, the capital city, has a fantastic mix of street art while Cartagena on the northwestern coast offers a pretty colonial old town with UNESCO World Heritage status. In both cities you can find local tours and street food such papas rellenas (potato balls stuffed with cheese) and arepas de huevo (fried corn masa) as well as the country’s world-famous coffee. Thanks to the Andean mountains and the world’s largest palm tree forest, Colombia has a big appeal for nature lovers.

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Iran

Iran is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced and due to political tension, there is a very high risk of arrest and detention of British citizens, particularly British-Iranian dual nationals. US nationals are strongly advised against traveling to Iran. Be aware that bureau de change is no longer licensed to trade currency, non-Iranian debit and credit cards will not work and it is illegal to trade money on the street.

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Iran

The birthplace of Persian civilization, there’s an abundance of historic attractions peppered throughout the country. The ruins of the ancient capital of Persia, Persepolis, are unmissable and while the capital city Tehran is an explosion of sights and smells, Esfahan is the country’s top tourist destination thanks to its UNESCO-listed central square and picturesque bazaar. South of Esfahan, Shiraz is home to the kaleidoscopic Nasir al-Mulk mosque that’s also on many a traveler’s bucket list.

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Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

The threat of terrorism is prominent throughout Bangladesh, however, southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts in particular, has increased risk due to crime, terrorism and kidnapping, according to both Foreign Office and Department of State. Half of Bangladesh lies in a high-risk earthquake zone as well, so if you’re visiting, make sure you’re prepared in case of a natural disaster. The country can also often be affected by tsunamis and tropical cyclones.

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Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

Those who do make it here find that it’s an incredibly rich and rewarding destination, despite the limitations of the tourism infrastructure. As well as a fascinating history and deep-rooted cultural traditions, it has plenty of natural assets: incredible beaches, vast wetlands, lush jungles, pretty tea plantations and phenomenal wildlife.

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Kosovo

A site of both violent conflict and political tension between ethnic Serbs and Albanian Kosovars that resulted in the Kosovo War, the country is finally ready to welcome visitors after spending almost a decade as a UN protectorate. While most of the country is safe to visit, it’s advised that the northern municipalities along the Serbian border are avoided due to civil unrest and terror attacks.

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Kosovo

Capital of Europe’s newest country, Pristina is definitely off-the-beaten-track territory. There’s a small old town, where some Ottoman-era architecture remains, but the city’s most striking landmarks are modern. Make time for the brutalist National Library building and the Museum of Kosovo to learn more about the country’s history and culture. In the evening, head to the main street of Rexhep Ruci to see the youthful city come alive.

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North Korea

Unlike many other countries on the list, it’s not necessarily the citizens but the government itself that could pose a threat to travelers here. Visitors to North Korea are at risk of arrest and long-term detention for infringements like possessing any media that criticizes the government or taking unauthorized photos. Although it is possible for British nationals to visit as part of a group tour, US passports have been invalidated for travel to North Korea.

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North Korea

While many travelers who visit North Korea on group tours don’t get to see much of real day-to-day life, a few do get the chance to take in beauty spots like Heaven Lake (pictured) on the North Korea/China border and the rest of the country’s gorgeous countryside. Home to some of the world’s quietest beaches along the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, it’s unlikely many of us will ever get to visit.

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51/51 SLIDES

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