5 Of The Most Dangerous Tourist Destinations In The World

These dangerous tourist destinations—including the recently-closed Stairway to Heaven in Oahu, Hawaii—have offered thrills to curious visitors, but at the expense of their safety. 

For certain travelers, there’s no adventure without a little bit of thrill. After all, what’s more memorable than the adrenaline rush one gets from exciting recreational activities? Yet everyone has a threshold for the amount of daring experiences they can endure. In many cases, some destinations lean on the dangerous side, promising conditions that are more extreme than the average tourist attraction.

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Though visiting and exploring these spots is incredibly risky, this hasn’t stopped intrepid travelers from wanting to check them out for themselves—often at the expense of their own health or lives. For those who want to learn more about these kinds of destinations from a safer distance, below are five particular attractions around the world that have become infamous for many people: 

Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaii

People can figure out the dangerous nature of the Haiku Stairs in Oahu by just its common nickname: the Stairway to Heaven. Hawaii’s government has long forbidden the public from using the 3,922-step winding path in a 2,800-foot mountain trail, reports Lilit Marcus for CNN Travel. However, many visitors and content creators chose not to heed the warnings, still passing through its dangerous surroundings and pushing the government to begin removing the stairs entirely. 

The Haiku Stairs in Oahu
The Haiku Stairs in Oahu/Photo by Kirinwizard via Wikimedia Commons

The structure came about during World War II, but closed in 1987. That said, thousands still insisted on climbing it in the years after, as Neil Vigdor of The New York Times writes. Though no one has died trespassing the stairs (and there have been many), local authorities still deem it highly dangerous due to its “steep cliffs and unpredictable weather conditions,” as Kathleen Wong reports for USA Today. Still, between 2010 and 2022, over 188 people called for rescue as they used the stairs, Wong adds. 

Mount Everest, Himalayas

One should expect Mount Everest to make an appearance on this list, as predictable as it may be. There’s a reason why people compare near-impossible or challenging endeavors to scaling the treacherous mountain in the Himalayas. It’s the world’s tallest, with a towering summit of 8,850 meters, according to National Geographic. This record-breaking aspect of the landform makes it a bucket-list destination for thrill-seekers—but it’s not a trip to take lightly. 

An avalanche in Mount Everest
An avalanche in Mount Everest/Photo by Chagai via Wikimedia Commons

As journalist and climber Alan Arnette writes for Outside, the number of climbers dying or disappearing on the slopes of Everest are increasing at an alarming rate. In 2023 alone, 10 climbers died while making the journey up—one of the higher numbers in recent years, though the average is still bone-chilling. The Himalayan Database estimates that from 1922 to 2022, around five climbers on average die on the mountain per year. 

On top of physical accidents like missteps or avalanches, symptoms from climbing the steep mountain—like hypothermia and a lack of oxygen—can also lead to death. Climate change may be the main culprit of the worsening situation, as Hannah Ellis-Petersen writes in The Guardian, as it brings unpredictable weather conditions. 

Mont Blanc, France and Italy 

Though the numbers might not add up, Mont Blanc—which lies in the snowy Alps of between the French-Italian border—may actually beat Mount Everest when it comes to average annual casualties, despite being a much shorter mountain. With its peak at around 4,792 meters tall, it still manages to cause around 100 deaths each year, according to data from Holiday rental company Holidu, as Liv Kelly reports for Time Out

Mont Blanc in the Alps
Mont Blanc in the Alps/Photo by Vassil via Wikimedia Commons

Much like Everest, common reasons behind such deaths include fatal accidents and symptoms borne from the extreme climb. The mountain’s high accessibility (at least compared to Everest) may be partly to blame for its higher annual death toll, Melvin adds. As such, it’s best for visitors to have a more reputable guide show them around the area. 

Yungas Road, Bolivia

“Death Road” —the ominous nickname for Bolivia’s Yungas Road—should speak for itself. The incredibly narrow dirt path that winds around the Andes hills used to claim 200 to 300 lives per year more than 40 years ago, according to Bolivia Hop. The number eventually decreased to an annual average of five deaths since 1998, yet that still adds up to around hundreds of casualties between 1999 to 2003 alone, reports Reuters

Yungas Road
Yungas Road/Photo by Alicia Nijdam via Wikimedia Commons

Still, despite the potential dangers, it’s been a go-to daredevil spot for cyclists in particular, who get a thrill from mountain biking across the serpentine passage. One can expect quite the fall, as the road is around 4,650 meters above sea level, according to Atlas Obscura. Weather conditions will also make the ride up quite difficult and risky, yet people still search for a chance to stare at death straight in the face and (hopefully) live to tell the tale. 

Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, South Africa 

There’s a pattern among the destinations in this list: they usually sport names that serve as clear warning signs for those daring to reconsider their bucket lists. Devil’s Pool—situated at the edge of Victoria Falls Gorge in Zimbabwe—is no exception to this. 

Visitors at the Devil's Pool in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Visitors at the Devil’s Pool in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Photo by Ian Restall via Wikimedia Commons

There isn’t a lot of hard data on how many casualties the rough waters and slippery rocks of the pool have caused, but there are a number of deaths that caused a stir in recent years. First was the tragic 2009 accident of a tour guide who died trying to save a tourist from plunging over the edge of the pools. Then in 2019, another tourist drowned in the waters of Victoria Falls, near the Devil’s Pool. In 2021, a 40-year-old man had missed a step and slipped at the edge of the gorge, falling to his death, as Eoin McSweeney reports for CNN

For the most part, visitors can avoid these watery deaths by sticking with a guide group and being careful enough not to go over the slippery, stony edges of the pool. These stones generally prevent people from falling over by acting as borders, Stanley Zulu, a tour guide with the Victoria Falls Five Club, tells Nyasha Bhobo of Fodor’s Travel

Banner photo by Kalen Emsley via Wikimedia Commons.

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