With breakthroughs in technology every year, from improvements in transportation to new trip planning applications, wanderlusts can travel to more secluded places. However, there are some places that will remain off limits — and for good reason. The sites below are among the most fascinating on earth — from the vault containing the highly coveted, secret formula for Coca-Cola to an island inhabited by thousands of snakes. Some are temporarily closed off from the public while others will remain so permanently, meaning exploration will have to be conducted via imagination.Located nine miles west of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, this Royal Air Force Station (RAF) covers about one square mile of moorland, or open area typically covered with grass. Run by the US National Security Agency (NSA), it is thought to be the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. Its distinctive golf ball structures, formally known as radomes, are believed to secretly monitor and possibly even intercept communications. Controversy remains, especially among activists who are unsure whether the secret activities conducted within the base are acceptable, or accountable, to the British public.
About 75 miles north of San Francisco you will find a 2,700-acre redwood region called the Bohemian Grove. Every year during the last few weeks of July, some of the richest, most powerful men meet at Monte Rio to drink and exchange secret conversations. You must be a member of the Bohemian Club to gain entry into the camp, but there have been a few infiltrators that have managed to sneak in. Among them were Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones, who entered with a group and a hidden camera, and Vanity Fair editor Alex Shoumatoff, who was arrested for trespassing in 2008.
Pharmacist John S. Pemberton’s Coca-Cola formula, created in 1886, is regarded as one of the world’s most highly regarded trade secrets. In 2011, the Coca-Cola company moved its then 125-year-old recipe from its original vault at SunTrust Bank in downtown Atlanta to the World of Coca-Cola. Guests can visit the World of Coca-Cola after passing through a strict security checkpoint and can even see the Vault of the Secret Formula, but it’s just a teaser. The vault remains closely guarded. A quick Internet search will lead you to many similar recipes, though none have been officially confirmed.
The Vatican Secret Archives, more accurately the private archives, stores the pope’s personal documents which date back to the 8th century. Among these documents is a copy of Pope Leo X’s papal bull that excommunicated Luther, which he later burned in protest. Though the archives have been closed off to the public in the past, Pope Leo XIII granted access to expert researchers in the late nineteenth century.
You’ve learned about these Palaeolithic cave paintings, most prominently the Great Hall of the Bulls, in art history. Lascaux was discovered in southwestern France in September 1940, enriching the world with prehistoric art telling of human origins. In 1979, together with other caves in the Vézère Valley, Lascaux was honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though visitors were allowed access to the cave in previous years, a fungus was discovered. It was believed to be caused by the newly installed air conditioning system, high powered lights, and frequent visitors. The situation has become even more serious in recent years, with authorities closing the cave for three months in 2008, even for qualified researchers.
Pine Gap is a satellite tracking system station located near Alice Springs in Central Australia. The secretive station, dubbed a joint defense facility run by both Australia and the United States, is often associated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Edward Snowden named it as one of the key facilities in US surveillance.
Not to be confused with the Moscow Metro, Metro-2 is a special subway system rumored to have been built for the paranoid leader Joseph Stalin. Some believe that it was meant to provide high-ranking officers, including Stalin, for easy access to a sabbatical home or escape, especially in the case of nuclear war. Adventurous diggers claimed to find the entrance to the system in the mid-90s. Although its existence has neither been confirmed or denied, it has been mentioned in a few documents including one by the US Department of Defense.
A visit to North Korea is something many of us will never think about much less do in our lifetimes. According to an article by Business Insider, there’s a secretive building within this distant country that even locals will never gain access to. Room 39 is committed to securing foreign currency for the nation’s leaders. The office was created by Kim Jong Il in the 1970s, and is thought to be a center characterized by illicit economic activities such as slush fund scandals and counterfeiting.
In the Republic of Bashkortosan in Russia, near Mount Yamantau, is the closed military town of Mezhgorye. Its status means that it is administratively subordinated to the federal government, who has the power to grant and deny access to visitors. Previously called Ufa-105 and Beloretsk-16, Mezhgorye and its surrounding areas are speculated to be bunkers against nuclear attack. Some suspect graver purposes for the site as a growing nuclear base.
This members-only club and executive lounge is located above the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park, Anaheim. Walt Disney originally created the club for dignitaries, investors, and other VIPs at a membership price of $11,000 per year. The waiting list for potential members is assumed to be several years long, but special exceptions have been made for people to dine at the club as a one-day visitor. Celebrity-spotting is one perk for visitors to the club.
Area 51 has risen in popularity for its association with government secrecy and supposed holdings of alien spacecrafts. A few years ago, the CIA released documents officially acknowledging the Nevada-based area – about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas – and its purpose as a testing site for government’s U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. Pop culture enthusiasts may be disappointed, but the reports are said to be only the beginning of public access to the top secret work behind this legendary site.
Have you ever wondered how Google manages to provide free e-mail storage to hundreds of millions of Gmail users, over 3 billion daily search queries, millions of ad auctions and YouTube videos, among other incredible things? We sometimes rely on Google more than we rely on our own memories, and the billions of pages that the company indexes each day – in real time – exist in data centers around the world. As a global giant, employees must learn how to keep the secrets behind its organizational prowess. In 2012, however, Google published photos of its data centers for the public. This photo is of a central cooling plant in Google’s Douglas County, Georgia, data center.
In the town of Axum in the province of Tigray is the most significant church in Ethiopia: the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. The Church claims to have had in their possession the Ark of the Covenant, or a wooden chest housing the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were scribed, for the past 3,000 years. According to a traditional story found in the Glory of the Kings (Kebra Negast), Menelik I was born unto the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Menelik later went to visit his father and returned to Ethiopia with the firstborn sons of Israelite nobles, one of which secretly stole the ark. The royal son accepted that since no harm had come their way, it must have been God’s will. Virgin monks commit to living exclusively on chapel grounds for the remainder of their lives once anointed, and are assigned as guardians of the Ark. No one else has ever laid eyes on it, contributing to difficulties in confirming or disproving the claim.
White’s is a highly exclusive and historic gentleman’s club located in St. James’s Street in London. Despite its men-only rule, the refined club (although some believe it to be outdated) opened its doors to Queen Elizabeth II for a rare visit in 1991. Inside the club is an extensive menu, bar, gaming tables, and more. Prince Charles held his stag night, or bachelor’s party, at the club before marrying Lady Diana Spencer.
This Chinese spy museum opened in Nanjing in 2009, exhibiting guns disguised as lipsticks and maps hidden within a deck of cards. An official spokeswoman for the museum told the Associated Press that the collection is still too sensitive for foreign eyes, in her attempts to reason why they are not allowed to enter, which of course piques our interest even more.
Ilha da Queimada Grande, or Snake Island, is an uninhabitable island about 90 miles off the coast of Santos, Brazil. Here you will find more than 2,000 golden lancehead vipers, one of the most venomous snakes in the world. The poison is said to melt the flesh around the bites. According to VICE, these snakes are so rare that snake smugglers sell them for up to $30,000 on the black market.
Located in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,700 km from Antarctica and 4,100 km from Perth, Heard Island and McDonald Islands are the only volcanically active subantarctic landmasses and are valued for their rare ecosystems, made possible by the complete absence of alien plants and animals, human impact included. The area is well known for Big Ben, an active volcano that rises up to 2,745 meters.
This photograph depicts one of the many clay warriors guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in central China. Qin Shi Huang was known for creating the first unified nation of China before his death in 210 B.C. According to Live Science, the opening of the mausoleum depends not only on the Chinese government but also on science; how to properly excavate the area has remained a mystery for years, and a wrong move can result in the staggering loss of irreplaceable information. In addition, reports reveal considerable amounts of mercury in the area.
Amongst sapphire waters, North Sentinel Island is considered to be one of the most dangerous islands in the world because locals refuse contact from outsiders, and have even killed trespassers. Conversely, the locals face threats of outside diseases which they have no way of combatting. The Manhattan-sized island belongs to a group of Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, and the government of India declared the island and its surrounding area an exclusion zone.
There is another side to Italy’s Venetian charm – the supposedly haunted island of Poveglia. The island is famously known as the site of for plague victims in the 18th century and also as an asylum for the mentally ill in 1922. New experiments, including lobotomies, were said to be conducted here at the time. Following the hospital’s closing in 1968, the island was abandoned and government authorities banned the public from visiting the island. Not too long ago, the Italian state put the land up for auction.
Ise Jingu, which ranks among Shinto’s most sacred structures, actually consists of 125 shrines (jinja) and two main ones dedicated to different gods. The Outer Shrine (Geku) and the Inner Shrine (Naiku). Geku is said honor Toyouke, the deity for clothing, food, and housing while Naiku was made for the sun goddess Amaterasu. These two main structures are rebuilt every twenty years. Though you can visit the shrine, you cannot enter or photograph the innermost parts.
The Norwegian government opened the largest secure seed storage in February 2008 about 1,300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. This is an especially important hallmark for developing countries who can experience devastating losses of important crops. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is home to the seeds of tens of thousands of varieties of food crops and over 4,000 plant species. The structure is designed to last against external hazards and climate change effects. It cost Norway approximately 9 million USD to build. Depositors retain ownership of the seeds.