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The 10 Coolest Places You're Not Allowed to Visit

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Our spectacular planet has so many wonders to explore. However, there are some places that are just too dangerous, too protected, or maybe too special to visit—even for the most seasoned voyager. These places have been completely cut off from the outside world. 

1. Heard Island Volcano, Australia 

Top 10 Coolest Places You'll Never Visit

Satellite image of the southern tip of Heard Island. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

This barren volcanic Antarctic Island, an Australian external territory about two thirds of the way between Madagascar and Antarctica, is considered one of the most remote places on earth. The 368-square-mile landmass is mountainous, has 41 glaciers and is also home to an array of wildlife including penguins, seals, and marine birds. However in 2000, the University of Hawaii noticed a two-kilometer-long lava flow coming from the southwest side of Mawson’s Peak, a 2,745-foot-high complex volcano which has been active ever since. Aside from the volcano and its dangers, the weather on the island is notoriously poor. Plus, its a minimum two-week sail to any other major land mass — making it one of the most dangerous, and hardest places in the world to access.

2. Snake Island, Brazil 

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Aerial view of Ilha da Queimada Grande. (Photo: Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaém/Flickr)

Ilha da Queimada Grande, or Snake Island, as it is more affectionately known, is a 43-hectare island located of the Brazilian coastline, approximately 20 miles from the Sao Paulo shore. The island is home one of the globe’s most deadly species of snake, the Golden Lancehead Viper, who’s venom can eat through flesh. There are more than 4,000 of them on the island, but local lore suggests that there is one snake for every five square meters of the land. Whatever the case, the Brazilian government has prohibited any visitors from setting foot there with one exception: Every few years the government grants a handful of scientists a permit to study the snakes. 

3. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands 

This small, heavily forested island in the Bay of Bengal is completely encircled by coral reef, making it difficult to approach by boat. However, its inaccessibility is not the main obstacle to a visit: North Sentinel Island is inhabited by a small indigenous population known as the Sentinelese, who have rejected contact with all other peoples — they are among the world’s last communities to remain untouched by modern civilization. In 2008, two fisherman whose boat accidentally strayed too close were reportedly killed by the tribe. And in the wake of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami, research helicopters assessing the damage in the area were attacked by the Sentinelese, who shot arrows and threw stones as the aircraft flew over the coastline. 

4. Lascaux Caves, France 

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This complex series of caves, located in Northwestern France, is home to one of history’s most famous examples of Paleolithic cave paintings ever discovered. The ancient artwork is believed to be over 17,000 years old and depicts mostly images of large animals that have been proven through fossil excavations to have been living in the area at that time. The caves are even listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. However since 2008, the caves have been completely closed off to the public following a fungal outbreak, with only a small handful of scientists allowed to enter for just a few days a month in order to study the paintings.

5. Poveglia, Italy 

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The island of Poveglia, with its ruined hospital and plague burial grounds. (Photo: Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

This small island is located between Venice and Lido within the Venetian Lagoon in northern Italy. Throughout its history, it has been home to a fort, used as a shipping check point, been a quarantine station for the Bubonic Plague, and since the turn of the last century, there has been as an asylum. In 1968, the psychiatric hospital was closed down and the island was abandoned. It’s no wonder — Poveglia has long been considered one of the most haunted places on earth. Rumor has it that the ghosts of plague victims, war victims, and the ghost of a murderous asylum doctor roam the decaying grounds. The Italian government offered the island up for long term lease (99 years) in 2014 in the hope that someone would redevelop the land. 

6. Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City, Italy

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Buried deep within the walls of Vatican City, and mostly underground, are the Vatican Secret Archives, which house the immense history of the acts of the Holy See, along with historic documents, state papers, papal account books, and other official correspondence, some of which dates back to the eighth century. Items include letters from Michelangelo, a letter from Mary Queen of Scots written while she was awaiting her execution, and King Henry VIII’s request for a marriage annulment. The archives, which are the official property of the current pope, have been estimated to span over 52 miles of shelving with more that 35,000 items. Other than a very small staff who take care of the archives, access is strictly limited to qualified scholars from very select higher education and research institutions, all of whom have to undergo an rigorous access application process to be granted entry.

7. Ise Grand Shrine, Japan

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Visitors are allowed as far as the gate, where they can offer their prayers, but never beyond. (Photo:JTB/UIG via Getty Images)

This Isa Shrine, located in the town of Uji-tachi in the Mie Prefecture of Japan, is a Shinto shrine complex dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-omikami, which consists of two main shrines and about 125 secondary shrines. While the location of the shrine is said to date back to the third century, the standing structures have been dismantled and replaced every 20 years — most recently in 2013 — consistent with Shinto beliefs regarding death and renewal. One of the main shrines is believed to house the ‘Sacred Mirror,’ called Yata no Kagami, part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan. From outside, little can be seen except a fence and the buildings’ thatched roofs. Access is restricted to just the high priestess or priest, who has to be a member of the Japanese Imperial Family. 

8. Area 51, Nevada 

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Satellite image of Area 51, Southern Nevada, United States, a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. (Photo: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)

No list of prohibited places would be complete without a mention of Area 51 — the nickname for a remote detachment of United States Air Force facility Edwards Air Force Base, located in Southern Nevada. The facility is shrouded in secrecy and while it has long believed to be a testing facility for experimental aircraft and weaponry, conspiracy theorists favorite theory that the base is where the U.S. government examines and stores a crashed alien space craft and the alien occupants, including evidence from a supposed alien crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. While the area surrounding Area 51 is a popular tourist destination for alien enthusiasts, access to Area 51 itself is completely prohibited, except to intelligence and military personnel with special clearance. The airspace above the base is also a no-go area and is rumored to be protected with anti aircraft weaponry and fighter jets.

9. Tomb of the Qin Shi Huang, China 

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The tomb of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210 BC, is buried deep beneath a hill in Central China. The burial complex consists of a complicated network of underground caverns that were filled with all the things the emperor would need in the afterlife, including clay reproductions of his armies, family, servants, horses, and staff, widely known as the Terracotta Army. Since its initial discovery in 1974, over 2,000 statues have been excavated, each of them completely unique, and experts believe that there may be more that 8,000 in total surrounding the central tomb, still yet to be uncovered. However, the Chinese government might never allow the excavation of the emperor’s tomb, choosing to respect the ancient burial rites. So while tourists can catch a glimpse of the emperor’s clay army during a site tour, the ancient warrior’s main tomb may remain undiscovered indefinitely. 

10. Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway

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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a vast subterranean seed bank and storage facility on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, around 800 miles from the North Pole, built 400 feet into a mountainside. Officially opened in February 2008, the facility now stores around 840,000 samples of 4000 different species of seeds, from all over the world. The idea behind the seed bank is to provide a safety net against accidental loss diversity in the case of a major global or regional event. It functions much like a safety deposit box at the bank, allowing organizations or governments to ‘deposit’ seed variations in the vault for safe keeping, and only they have access to their deposits. The 11,000-square-foot facility is protected by highly advanced security systems and access is strictly limited to a handful of employees. 

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13 Tricks and Tips to Get the Most Out of Google Maps
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It’s hard to imagine life without Google Maps. Memorizing routes and printing out driving directions seems like a distant memory in a world where a detailed map of any location is available at a moment's notice. Still, you could be using it more. Google’s popular software is packed with secrets, tricks, and Easter eggs beyond what you might expect. Ahead of the popular tool's update later this year, here are 13 ways to get the most out of Google Maps, from one-handed use to offline location tracking.

1. CHECK WAIT TIMES AT YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT

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Before you head out for dinner, use Google Maps to see if you’re about to waste an hour standing in line. Just search for the name of the restaurant on your desktop browser or in Google Maps for iOS and Android. Then, scroll down to the Popular Times chart and select a specific time. There, you'll see how long the wait usually is at that time and make your plans accordingly.

2. SEE HOW STEEP YOUR BIKE RIDE WILL BE


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There’s nothing worse than unexpectedly hitting a big hill while riding your bike. Next time, plug your route into Google Maps and ask for biking directions. You’ll see a graph that shows the steepness of each part of your trip and be able to avoid those big inclines in the future.

3. ADD MULTIPLE DESTINATIONS TO YOUR TRIP

Google Maps typically defaults to simple point-A-to-point-B for directions, but it’s easy to add an extra stop to your trip. In a browser, press the “+” icon under your destination. On Android or iOS, tap on the three horizontal dots in the top right corner to pull up a menu and then select “Add stop.”

4. TRAVEL THROUGH TIME WITH STREET VIEW

Street View is a fun way to explore neighborhoods all over the world, but it’s also a treasure trove of old photos. Just launch Street View in your browser and click on the clock-shaped icon in the top left corner. From there, you can browse through all the pictures Google’s taken over the years for any specific spot.

5. MEASURE DISTANCE

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If you’re using Google Maps in your browser you can easily measure the distance between any two locations. Right click somewhere on the map and select “Measure Distance.” Then, click anywhere else to see how far away it is.

6. USE GOOGLE MAPS WITHOUT AN INTERNET CONNECTION

If you’re traveling and you know you won’t have any internet, you can download a map of the area ahead of time. Pull up that location in Google Maps on your phone. Then, open the settings menu and select “Offline maps” to save it. When you arrive, you’ll be able to view the map without any service and even track your location thanks to GPS.

7. SEE YOUR ENTIRE GOOGLE MAPS HISTORY

Google Maps tracks you everywhere you go, and you can pull that information up whenever you want. Head to this website to see a detailed map of all the places you’ve ever been. If that creeps you out, you can also click on “Manage Location History” to switch this feature off.

8. ZOOM IN AND OUT WITH JUST ONE FINGER

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Pinch-to-zoom works fine most of the time, but if you only have one free hand it’s not that easy to do. Thankfully, there’s another option that only requires one free finger: Tap twice on your smartphone screen and then hold your finger down on the spot you want to get a closer look at. Google Maps will zoom in, and from there you can adjust the scale by sliding your finger up and down.

9. REMEMBER WHERE YOU PARKED YOUR CAR

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The next time you park your car, boot up Google Maps and tap on the blue dot that shows your location. When a menu pops up, select “Set as parking location” to leave a marker on your map for later so you can easily find your car when you’re ready to leave.

10. TURN THE STREET VIEW ICON INTO A UFO

If you want to have a little fun with Pegman, the yellow Street View figure, just search for Area 51 in Google Maps. Then, grab the man-shaped icon and hover it over the map to make him transform into a flying saucer.

11. SHARE YOUR LOCATION WITH FRIENDS

two women in a car looking at a phone
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If you’re meeting a friend, this feature makes it easy for them to track you down. Open Google Maps on iOS or Android and pull up the options menu (located in the top left corner) and select “Location sharing.” From here you can decide how long to reveal your location and who to share it with.

12. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS.

Google Maps makes it easy to store all your favorite restaurants (or parks or book stores) in one spot. Tap on a location and hit “Save.” Then, select “New list” and give it a name. Now, you can add new locations to your existing lists. You can also share lists with friends, and they’re even accessible when you’re offline.

13. CHECK OUT SKI ROUTES.

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Google Maps has information on almost 100 ski routes from across the United States and Canada. Head to this webpage to start planning your next ski trip.

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Chefs Launch World's Highest Pop-Up Restaurant at Mt. Everest Base Camp
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A touch of altitude sickness shouldn't stand in the way of a good meal. At least that seems to be the idea behind a plan to serve a seven-course dinner to trekkers at Everest Base Camp, the gateway for those planning to climb Mt. Everest in Nepal.

The four chefs leading this trip hope it will land them a new Guinness World Record for the highest pop-up restaurant on the planet, according to Architectural Digest. At the end of May, the chefs will take 10 people on an eight-day trek from the town of Lukla (at an altitude of about 10,000 feet) to Everest Base Camp (at 11,600 feet), all while foraging along the way for ingredients that can be incorporated into the meal. (For a true luxury experience, guests also have the option of traveling by helicopter.) The full package of flights, accommodations, and meals costs about $5600 per person.

After reaching their destination, trekkers will get to sit back and enjoy a feast, which will be served inside a tent to protect diners against the harsh Himalayan winds. Indian chef Sanjay Thakur and others on his team say they want to highlight the importance of sustainability, and the money they raise will be donated to local charities. Thakur said most of the food will be cooked sous vide, which allows vacuum-packed food to be cooked in water over a long period of time.

"The biggest challenge, of course, will be the altitude, which will affect everything," Thakur tells Fine Dining Lovers. "Flavor [perception] will be decreased, so we will be designing a menu of extraordinary dishes accordingly, where spices will have the upper hand."

This isn't the first time an elaborate meal will be served at Everest Base Camp, though. According to Fine Dining Lovers, another chef launched a pop-up at the same spot in 2016, but it presumably wasn't registered with the Guinness Book of World Records. Other extreme restaurants include one carved into a limestone cliff in China, one dangling 16 feet above the ground in a rainforest in Thailand, and one submerged 16 feet below sea level in the Maldives.

[h/t Architectural Digest]

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