Vacation season is almost over. Before it is, don't bother going to the same boring old beaches and resorts. Instead, thrill the whole family with an adventure to some of the world’s most poisonous and dangerous destinations?
Book a trip to one of these places and we guarantee that you’ll have a story worth telling afterwards, assuming you survive. (Guarantee not legally binding. Don’t actually go to any of these places because they might kill you.)
BERKELEY OPEN PIT MINE, BUTTE, MONTANA
For all of you who’ve traveled through the gorgeous plains and mountains of Big Sky Country and thought to themselves, “this is okay, but what I’d really like to see is a huge pool of acidic mine tailings,” you’re in luck. Admission to the Berkeley Pit’s viewing platform is only two dollars!
From there, you can gaze upon the metallic lake that once claimed the lives of 342 unsuspecting geese, who chose the Pit as a rest stop during their southern migration only to die of massive internal organ damage.
The town of Butte is perversely proud of their toxic tourist trap, since after the copper mining industry that first created the pit dried up, the Pit and its oddly scenic barrenness are one of the city’s few attractions.
LINFEN, SHANXI PROVINCE, CHINA
For years, the green and fertile city of Linfen was known as “The Modern Fruit and Flower Town,” a nickname which is presumably snappier in the original Chinese. In 1978, however, the discovery of rich veins of coal and other minerals led to a massive mining and industrial boom.
Combined with the famously lax environmental standards of the People’s Republic, this boom created a pollution crisis so severe that at its peak citizens of Linfen could look forward to only fifteen days of “acceptable” levels of air pollution per year.
With air pollution believed to be responsible for the deaths of 700,000 Chinese people each year, the government has grudgingly passed tougher industrial regulations and promoted cleaner sources of energy, but it may be too little too late for most of Linfen’s modern fruits and flowers.
KABWE, CENTRAL PROVINCE, ZAMBIA
The second largest and first deadliest city of Zambia, Kabwe-Ka Mukuba (meaning “ore” or “smelting” in the local language) was the country’s industrial center and for a brief period home of the largest mines in Africa.
Like many other cities around the world named for minerals or industrial processes, Kabwe is a poisonous mess, and after the mines closed the heavy metals in the tailings began to seek into the soil and groundwater.
As a result, the citizens are ill, the crops are barren, and even if anybody was healthy and well-fed enough to work there aren’t any jobs to be had. Recent efforts to rehabilitate the town have focused on its potential for tourism.
Visitors have much to see in and around the city such as the Mulungushi Rock of Authority, the Big Tree National Monument, the Lukanga Swamp, and thousands of people who are slowly dying of lead poisoning.
ALNWICK POISON GARDEN, ALNWICK, ENGLAND
The Alnwick Garden is one of England’s largest, a 250-year-old possession of the dukes and duchesses of Northumberland that in recent years has been revived with a unique twist: a whole section of plants that want to kill you.
While not every plant in the garden is deadly (the garden also contains narcotic plants like poppies, tobacco, and cannabis) certain examples are so dangerous that they’re grown in cages just in case curious/stupid tourists manage to ignore or misread the many signs and verbal warnings not to taste, touch, or even smell anything.
If you’ve somehow managed to get past the tour guides, cages, and armed guards to cram some random leaves into your mouth, magical medical aid can be sought next door at Alnwick Castle, which moviegoers may recognize as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft from the smash hit film Johnny Mysto: Boy Wizard.
DZERZHINSK, NIZHNY NOVGOROD OBLAST, RUSSIA
Having been named after ruthless secret police chief Felix Dzerzhinsky, it was appropriate that Dzerzhinsk became one of the USSR’s secret cities and capital of its chemical weapons industry.
When the Russian Federation grudgingly opened the city to foreigners, visitors discovered a city where the death rate exceeded the birth rate by 260%, the average life expectancy was 47 years old, and the water supply bore seventeen million times the safe limit of contaminants.
Today, Dzerzhinsk is alleged to be the safest and least poisonous as it has been in the past eighty years, but not due to any action from the local or national government.
Many of the chemical factories that used to dump their waste into the water supply have since gone out of business, leaving the town economically depressed but considerably healthier.
ILHA DE QUEIMADA GRANDE, SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
This island off the Brazilian coast was officially named “Island of the Big Fire” after a slash-and-burn operation to establish a banana plantation, but the more popular name is “Snake Island” for the primary reason the banana plantation failed: an unbelievably large population of lethally poisonous snakes.
Biologists estimate that Snake Island features about one venomous serpent per square meter, so on average every step you take will land you on top of a different deadly, angry reptile.
The island is also the home of the golden lancehead pit-viper, whose venom is so profoundly powerful it can rot the flesh off its victims bones. All in all, the island seems to have little to recommend it except for one thing: no scientist or theory can explain why such a small and isolated place should have such a bewildering number of deadly snakes. A
s is the case in any situation that modern science can’t explain, we can only conclude that this strange phenomena is the work of ancient aliens.
LA OROYOA, YAULI PROVINCE, PERU
Breathing is already tough enough on the high plateau of the Altiplano, so when you add in the atmospheric effects of an aging smelting plant you get an environment where every labored breath of high mountain air you draw is likely to do your body as much harm as good.
Lead is the principal product of the town’s mines and industrial plant and appears in the soil, groundwater, and even the air. It’s estimated that some 99% of the community’s children have lead toxicity levels three times the safe limit.
While in recent years the plant has been able to implement a few modern safety improvements, the smelting operation’s economic importance is such that deadlines for meeting ecological guidelines are often missed with little consequence.
ZONE OF ALIENATION, PRIPYAT, THE UKRAINE
A restricted security area/national park of some thirty square kilometers, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation is remarkably tourist-friendly considering that it was established to contain the aftereffects of the world’s worst nuclear accident.
After the release of the game STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and Pripyat’s cameo appearance in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, public interest grew to the point where the Ukrainian government had to establish mounted patrols along the perimeter of the Zone to prevent fans of radioactivity from getting themselves into trouble.
Unauthorized tourism isn’t the only problem the Zone faces, however, as many impoverished citizens from the surrounding towns in Belarus and the Ukraine trespass to steal wiring, cut lumber, and even poach the occasional glowing deer.
There are even permanent residents of the Zone to look out for, mostly elderly former citizens who couldn’t find employment or housing anywhere else, but in a few cases illegal immigrants squatting in abandoned homes who are as hostile to visitors as they are to common sense.
MIYAKEJIMA, IZU ARCHIPELAGO, JAPAN
The lush and lovely islands of the Izu Island group are an ideal tourist destination for anyone who wishes to suffocate under a noxious pile of scalding ash. While many of the Japanese islands were formed volcanically, Miyakejima’s Mount Oyama is still very much active and dangerous, and a series of eruptions in 2000 forced the evacuation of the island’s two small communities as they were covered in lava and blanketed with poisonous gas.
The citizens of Miyakemura were permitted back in 2005, but the fact that Mount Oyama continues to leak sulfuric gas means that citizens must keep gas masks with them at all times in case the level of toxins should suddenly spike.
As a side note, virtually every website to report on Miyakejima or the Izu islands have done so using an iconic sepia photograph of a town full of people all wearing gas masks.
This is almost certainly a photo of a French community during WWI. We here at Mandatory are proud to lead the field in knowing the difference between Japanese things and French things ever since we got thrown out of a sushi bar for drunkenly demanding an order of crepes.
Next: The 20 Worst Aspects of Air Travel
VOZROZHDENIYA, ARAL SEA, KAZAKHSTAN
Formerly known as “Rebirth Island,” Vozrozhdeniya is today no longer an island or likely to feature the rebirth of anything other than a smallpox pandemic. From 1948 until 1992, the island was home to the Soviet Union’s primary Microbiological Warfare Group, a center for the production, testing, and weaponization of anthrax, tularemia, the bubonic plague, and lots of other things that you would prefer to have on an island in the Aral Sea as far away from population centers as possible.
Unfortunately, the waters of the Aral receded so far as to leave Vozrozhdeniya a peninsula, and even more unfortunately, Soviet defectors revealed that the abandoned lab complex still contained some 200 tons of weapons-grade anthrax.
The icing on the cake came when former general Pyotr Burgasov revealed that the Vozrozhdeniya installation had not only participated in smallpox development but had actually released it in 1971, killing several scientists and prompting one of the Soviet Union’s largest public health responses.
The threat that something nasty might still crawl out of a test tube prompted a five-million-dollar multinational cleanup effort between the governments of Russia, Kazakhstan, and the United States, but it’s still not advisable to go out there and lick the petri dishes.