If you’re like me, you have a long bucket list of places you’d like to visit. From Australia to Alaska, there’s so many landscapes and cultures to see that it’s hard to pick where I would go first, if time and money were no object. But did you know that there are some places that no one is allowed to visit?
We’ve collected 22 of the most intriguing locations on earth that are shut off to the public. After you see them, you might be rearranging your bucket list to catch a glimpse of these curious locales.
1. Royal Air Force Station Menwith Hill
Nine miles west of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, U.K. is a Royal Air Force Station run by the U.S. National Security Agency. The large golf ball-like structures are thought to monitor and intercept communications. Some claim that the organization operates with a lack of ethical accountability.
2. Bohemian Grove
Every July, a group of rich and powerful men known as the “Bohemian Club” meet at Bohemian Grove, located 75 miles north of San Francisco. Some say they simply have drinks and exchange conversation, but no one knows for sure. In 2008, Vanity Fair editor Alex Shoumatoff attempted to infiltrate the group, only to be arrested for trespassing.
3. The Vault of the Secret Formula
Guests are welcome to visit a variety of exhibits at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, but the vault of the secret formula? That’s another story. Coke’s recipe was invented in 1868 by pharmacist John S. Pemberton, and since that time, has remained one of the world’s most sought after trade secrets. In 2011, Coke moved the recipe from a SunTrust Bank in downtown Atlanta to the vault. From the looks of things, that’s where it will stay!
4. Vatican Secret Archives
The Vatican Secret Archives house the personal documents of the pope dating back to the 8th century. Although it was closed to everyone in the past, Pope Leo XIII granted access to a limited number of expert researchers in the late 19th century.
If you’ve ever taken an art history class, you are probably familiar with Lascaux, specifically the Great Hall of Bulls. The prehistoric cave paintings were discovered in France in 1940, and while the cave used to be open to the public, it closed after a fungus was discovered. Whether it came from the frequent guests or the newly installed lights and air conditioner is uncertain, but the situation became so serious in 2008 that even researchers were denied access.
6. Pine Gap
Pine Gap is a satellite tracking system located in Australia, but run as a joint project with the United States. It is often associated with the CIA, and whistleblower Edward Snowden claims it’s a key U.S. surveillance facility.
7. Moscow Metro-2
Metro-2 is a subway system believed to have been built for Joseph Stalin. Presumably, it was meant to provide easy access to a safe locale in the case of nuclear war.
8. Room 39 (Office 39)
North Korea is infamous for being blocked to outsiders, but even locals aren’t invited inside Room 39, which is committed to securing foreign currency for its nation’s leaders. It was created by Kim Jong II in the 1970s, and is thought to be a center for illegal activities such as a counterfeiting.
Mezhgorye is a closed military town in Russia’s Republic of Bashkortosan near Mount Yamantau. While most believe it to be a bunker site, conspiracy theorists have claimed it to be a growing nuclear base.
10. Club 33
For a membership fee of $11,000 a year, you could belong to Club 33, an exclusive club created by Walt Disney himself. Located above the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park, Anaheim, it’s a spot frequented by dignitaries, celebrities and other VIPs.
11. Area 51
Most everyone has heard of Area 51 in Nevada, where U.S. officials are supposedly holding alien spacecrafts and other proof of extraterrestrial life. Although some documents on the area have been released by CIA officials, the truth of what’s going on there still remains a mystery.
12. Google Data Centers
From email to web searches, maps to self-driving cars of the future, we rely on Google for a lot – it’s only natural that they would want to keep everything top secret. Although visitors are strictly forbidden in their data centers, Google published photos in 2012.
13. Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
In Axum, Ethiopia is a church that claims to have the Ark of the Covenant, a wooden chest that houses the Ten Commandments. Through the generations, only virgin monks that live on site and guard the relic have seen the ark, making it difficult for skeptics and believers alike to prove their assertions.
14. Whites Gentlemen’s Club
White’s is an exclusive gentlemen’s club on St. James Street in London. The only woman ever allowed inside? Queen Elizabeth, who visited in 1991.
15. The Jiangsu National Security Education Museum
This Chinese spy museum opened in 2009, and while they are said to have unique items like guns disguised as lipsticks and maps hidden in a deck of cards, few outsiders have been allowed inside. As a spokeswoman told the Associated Press, the collection is “too sensitive for foreign eyes.”
16. Ilha da Queimada (Snake Island)
This uninhabited island is located about 90 miles of the coast of Santos, Brazil, and it’s one place we definitely don’t want to visit. Over 2,000 golden lancehead vipers, one of the most venomous snakes in the world, call the island home. One bite is said to melt the flesh around the wound – yuck.
17. Heard and McDonald Islands
In the southern Indian Ocean are Heard and McDonald Islands, the only two volcanically active subarctic landmasses. Each have rare ecosystems, completely devoid of plant, animal or human life.
18. Tomb of Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Haung created the first unified China before his death in 210 BC, when he was sealed in a mausoleum guarded by clay warriors. Although researchers have long wanted to open the tomb, no one is sure how to properly excavate the site without losing invaluable information – not to mention, there are odd levels of mercury in the area that have yet to be accounted for.
19. North Sentinel Island, Indian Ocean
Natives of this island refuse contact from outsiders and have even killed those who have attempted to trespass. With respect to their way of life, the government of India declared the Manhattan-sized island an “exclusion zone.”
The Italian island of Poveglia is said to be haunted, and with its sad history, it’s a claim that’s not too hard to believe. The site was used to house plague victims in the 18th century, and was later turned into an asylum for the mentally ill in 1922. In 1968, authorities discovered that lobotomies and other malpractices were taking place. The hospital was closed, and visitors banned.
21. Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine)
Shinto, a religion of Japan, ranks Ise Jingu as one of their most sacred structures. It is rebuilt every 20 years, and although visitors are welcome to view the outside, they are not invited in.
22. Svalbard Global Seed Vault
In 2008, the Norwegian government opened the world’s largest seed storage about 1,300 miles from the Arctic Circle. The structure cost $9 million to build, and now houses over 4,000 plant species and tens of thousands of varieties of food crops.