You’ll be used to travel websites telling you all about the latest and greatest places to visit, but not necessarily the places you’ll never get to see!
From Daniel Smith’s book 100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Places we’ve picked eight of our favourite off-limits destinations.
Coca-Cola’s Recipe Vault, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Behind a protective barrier and a 2m high steel vault you’ll find one of the most closely guarded pieces of information in the world – the recipe for Coca-Cola’s secret ingredient.
Known as the elusive ‘Merchandise 7X’, the ingredient gives the famous bubbly beverage its unique taste.
The recipe has been jealously guarded since first being committed to paper in the early 20th century. It is now kept under lock and key at Coke’s headquarters in Coca-Cola World Atlanta in an extraordinary vault that doubles as a tourist attraction.Cheap Flights To Georgia
Federal Reserve Bank Vaults, New York City
Some 24m below the streets of New York, you’ll find an impressive stash of 5.6 million kg of gold.
One of a dozen regional banks in the US Federal Reserve System, the New York ‘Fed’ is housed in a 22-storey concrete and limestone building in lower Manhattan and holds over a fifth of the world’s official monetary gold reserves.
In 2011, the gold was valued at an estimated US$411 billion. The majority of the Bank’s holdings belong to foreign central banks, though the identity of each deposit’s owner is kept on a strictly confidential.
Uniformed guards patrol the Bank and its vaults, CCTV and electronic surveillance systems record all goings-on within the walls, and a central control room receives alerts every time the vault is opened or closed. Should an alarm be triggered, security staff can seal off the entire building in less than half a minute.
Access to the vaults is by a short passageway cut through an upright steel cylinder. A variety of time and combination locks govern when the vaults can be opened, and no single employee is given access to all the codes.
Snake Island, Atlantic Ocean
It really is the stuff of nightmares – an island infested with so many venomous snakes that the Brazilian Navy forbids civilians from landing on its shores.
Located off the coast of Brazil, the appropriately nicknamed Snake Island (Ilha da Queimada Grande) is populated by a unique and highly venomous species of golden lancehead pit vipers.
There are at least 5000 of the slithering nasties on the 45 hectare island (around one snake for every square metre) and the creatures have even overrun the old lighthouse.
Only accredited (and fearless) scientists are occasionally given permission to visit.
The island of Surtsey emerged from the North Atlantic Sea during an underwater volcanic eruption that lasted from 1963 until 1967.
One of the youngest places on Earth, scientists realised that Surtsey offered a unique opportunity to study geological and biological evolution so the island was quickly declared a nature reserve.
Only a small number of accredited scientists have ever been given access by the Surtsey Research Society, which supervises all activity on the island on behalf of the Icelandic Environment and Food Agency.
The only sign of human life is a basic prefabricated hut that contains bunks beds, solar panel, radio and a dartboard.
Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City
A place so off-limits it even has the world secret in its name!
The Vatican Secret Archives is home to some of the most important documents related to the history of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church (main image by dslr travel).
Although open to approved researchers, much of the archive remains off-limits and critics believe it holds evidence of the Church’s dark past.
In reality, the Archive’s Latin name Archivum Secretum Vaticanum has more to do with privacy than secrecy.
Constructed by Pope Paul V in 1611, today the archives contain about 85km of shelving, holding information that dates back to the eighth century.
Within the archive are documents relating to the Inquisition, Henry VIII of England’s petitions for divorce, information on the trial of Galileo, and a letter from Michelangelo complaining about late payment for his painting and decorating work.
In its 1970s heyday, the sun-soaked beaches of Varosha made it one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations.
Filled with luxurious high-rise hotels, it was loved by everyone from families to the rich and famous, with visitors including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot.
But sadly the 1974 Turkish invasion put the vacation on permanent hold and today the town stands frozen in time.
The Varosha area of Famagusta lies just north of the Atilla Line that divides Cyprus between the Greek south and the Turkish north and is still a hotly contested area.
So while you’re tanning yourself on a beach Turkish-Cypriot Famagusta, the resort of Varosha slowly crumbles next to you.
The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China
China’s Terracotta Army have been a favourite with travellers for nearly 40 years, but what many visitors don’t realise is that a much larger archaeological treasure lies undiscovered below the ground.
The legendary tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, is roughly the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza, but it was considerably larger in Qin Shi Huang’s time.
In 1974, a party of well diggers uncovered the first evidence of the Terracotta Warriors and since then further pits have been found containing figures of actors, dancers, musicians, acrobats and civil servants.
Subsequent investigations have revealed around 180 different sites within the tomb complex, from towers and gardens to offices.
To deter intruders, the Emperor had the mausoleum extensively booby-trapped and it is said a network of crossbows is rigged to fire at anyone who manages to break in.
All requests to excavate the tomb have been turned down by the Chinese authorities so it seems, for now at least, the Emperor can rest in peace.
The Queen’s bedroom Buckingham Palace, England
It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the world, yet one small corner of Buckingham Palace remains a mystery to the outside world.
Queen Elizabeth II’s official London residence attracts millions of tourists every year, but it is also one of the world’s most secure locations.
The Palace has some 775 rooms, of which 52 are royal and guest bedrooms. When in residence (signified by the raising of the Royal Standard), the Queen and Prince Philip occupy a suite of rooms in the Palace’s North Wing.
As well as armed guards throughout the Palace there are regular police dog patrols and a permanent detachment from the Queen’s Guard. In 2004, Scotland Yard took over security and an electric fence was erected around the Palace, administering a shock strong enough to disable any intruder until they are apprehended.
- 100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Places by Daniel Smith is published by Quercus Books and is available for purchase on its website.