- From the editor
- BBC news world
In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine a place worth visiting that hasn’t been relentlessly photographed, shared and tagged on social media. But there are still a few places that remain untouched for tourists.
While most corners of the planet welcome visitors, there are some that are tightly closed to the public.
Often, for security, legal or scientific reasons, it is strictly forbidden to set foot there. Below we invite you to discover four of these isolated corners of the world (without risking stepping into prohibited areas).
Read also on BBC Africa:
1. Doomsday Vault.
On a remote island called Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, a sandstone mountain 120 meters from land harbors an apocalyptic place: the world’s largest seed vault.
About 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole and 130 meters above sea level, thick permafrost — a permanently frozen layer of ice that surrounds the vault — helps preserve the hundreds of thousands of seed samples stored there.
The site is also ideal for this task due to the lack of seismic activity.
This seed silo could be vital to maintaining a supply of crops in the event of a major global disaster, which ensures species recovery and no food shortages for us humans.
Every country stores its seeds for food production, but the World Seed Bank of Svalbard is something of a global backup.
However, while the seeds have been stored as safely as possible since the silo opened in 2008, there is no human way to verify this.
The vault is securely secured with seven keys, ensuring that the seeds inside can survive for thousands of years if needed.
However, in recent years, some scientists have raised concerns about rising temperatures that have caused the area to thaw. In 2020, local researchers recorded the hottest summer on record in Svalbard.
“We have witnessed an unprecedented melting of glaciers and melting of permafrost,” scientist Kim Holmen from the Norwegian Polar Institute told the BBC.
The situation began to be monitored several years ago.
2. Big Burning Island: Poisoned Island
This is the second highest concentration of snakes per unit area in the world – about 45 per hectare, which is equivalent to the size of a football field – second only to China’s Shedao Island.
On the island, a highly venomous snake species diverged from its terrestrial relatives and evolved into the ilhoa hararaka (Bothrops insularis), a viper species endemic to Queimada Grande.
It is so deadly that one bite is enough to prevent the birds it hunts from flying again.
“The viper’s venom is more toxic to birds than it is to mammals,” biologist Marcelo Ribeiro Duarte of the Butantan Institute’s Zoological Collections Laboratory told the BBC.
“This proves the great adaptability of the species.”
The size of Bothrops insularis is from half a meter to one meter, the females are slightly larger.
“Because the fauna of the island is very rare, with no rodents or other mammals (except bats), adults of this species feed on migratory birds (permanent birds are not predators),” explained researcher and venom expert Vidal Haddad. Junior from the Faculty of Medicine of Botucatu, State University of São Paulo (Unesp) for BBC News Brazil.
Toddlers eat small lizards, amphibians and arthropods such as tear gas.”
As a precaution, the Brazilian government has banned anyone from setting foot on the island.
The only exception to this rule are some investigators, who must be on site at all times, accompanied by a doctor, and follow strict protocols.
In any case, this secluded 43-hectare island off the coast of Sao Paulo does not seem like the most attractive place to stay.
3. Lasko: French cave with precious works of art.
Four teenagers searching for a dog that had disappeared into a hole in the ground discovered this wonderful cave in the south of France in 1940.
By incredible luck, the dog led them to a cave covered with drawings on the walls depicting animals such as horses and deer.
About 17,000 years old, it is one of the best-preserved examples of prehistoric art ever discovered, with a total of around 600 paintings and 1,000 engravings.
When the discovery was made, World War II was still in its infancy.
Eight years later, the Lascaux cave is open to the curious public who want to see the creations of their ancestors up close.
In 1963, public visits were suspended. Mold has formed on the walls of the cave, threatening the preservation of works of art that, before their discovery, survived in closed conditions.
Nearly 60 years later, the cave is still largely hidden from prying eyes, although a replica has been built nearby for tourists to visit.
4. Uluru: “the navel of the world.”and”
Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, has been a tourist attraction for many years but has recently been added to the list of places the public cannot visit.
Also called the “navel of the world” and located in Australia, it is one of the largest monoliths on the planet.
Previously, visitors could attempt to climb the 348 meters to the summit, but then faced extreme heat, with temperatures hovering around 47°C in summer.
The steep ascent to the top can also cause some difficulties. But for many, the beauty of this place made up for it.”
Uluru is a sacred place for the Anangu people who are the guardians of the rock. And they wanted the visitors to stop climbing out of respect for their traditions.
This wish was unanimously supported by a petition from the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board, which decided to prevent people from setting foot on Uluru in 2017.
October 25, 2019 was the last day people were allowed to climb the rock before the ban went into effect. There were long queues of tourists.
In Anangu culture, Uluru is proof that celestial beings came to Earth when it had neither form nor life. They traveled across it, creating species and life forms along the way, such as Uluru.
Visitors can still visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But the sacred rock can only be observed, it cannot be stepped on or climbed.
Many tourists do not miss the opportunity to take photos from the air.