The Deadliest Tourist Attractions in the World
Most people enjoy relaxing on their vacations, but others crave the adrenaline rush that goes with death-defying experiences. Sounds exciting — except these adventures can quickly go wrong, resulting in life-threatening injuries. Worst case scenario? Some tourists find themselves reaching their final destination.
Despite the scary and tragic stories, daring travelers can’t seem to stay away from these dangerous destinations. Here are the deadliest tourist attractions in the world.
Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome, California
In California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is known for its sequoia trees, granite cliffs and waterfalls. It’s also home to one of the deadliest tourist attractions in the world: Half Dome, a steep, treacherous, 5,000-foot hike.
Between 2005 and 2015, Half Dome was the site of 12 deaths, 290 accidents and 140 search-and-rescue missions. It takes an entire day to climb Half Dome, and the last 400 feet is almost vertical and requires the use of cables. The section is also known as "Death Slabs" — not scary at all.
When Half Dome gets wet, hikers can easily slip and fall, but the mountain is still dangerous when it's dry. As recently as September 2019, a hiker died after falling 500 feet.
The Poison Garden, England
Behind the black gates at Alnwick Garden is a park with plants that can kill you. The owner and Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy, wanted the attraction to stand out and thought more people would be interested in lethal plants.
She was right. Each year, the Poison Garden receives 800,000 visitors. There are 100 types of poisonous killers growing in the garden. No one is allowed to touch the plants, but that doesn't stop the toxic plant fumes from causing visitors to pass out on occasion.
Stairway to Heaven, Hawaii
On the island of Oʻahu, the Stairway to Heaven, also known as the Haʻikū Stairs, is a difficult hiking trail with a total of 3,922 steps. The site was originally a naval base in the 1940s but was decommissioned in the 1950s. The city closed the trail and the station to the public in 1987.
However, the "no trespassing" signs haven’t stopped people from climbing the broken and unmaintained stairway. Although it's illegal to climb the stairs, police issued 135 tickets to trespassers between June and December 2014. In some cases, climbers have been injured on the dangerous hike — some even plunging to their deaths.
Komodo Island, Indonesia
What's more terrifying than a giant lizard with a venomous bite? An entire island full of giant lizards with venomous bites. Below Indonesia, Komodo Island is home to 6,000 Komodo dragons, and the destination is popular for diving and checking out the largest lizard on Earth.
Travelers can visit Komodo National Park, which is maintained by park rangers, but from 1974 to 2012, the park logged 24 attacks on humans, with five resulting in death. Rangers warn guests to avoid eye contact with the lizards and to go to the bathroom with a partner. Women who are menstruating must be extra careful because Komodo dragons have a strong sense of smell and are attracted to blood.
Colorado River, Colorado
Extreme white water rafting is popular on the Colorado River. The powerful water offers excitement for thrill-seekers and hazards for everyone. When snow melts in the Colorado mountains, the water in the river becomes more fierce, causing fast currents and high water warnings.
Many accidents, injuries and fatalities have occurred in the Colorado River system. In 2007, the river claimed 12 lives and caused 176 major injuries. Officials advise visitors to stay out of the water unless they have advanced knowledge of water flows and SAR (search and rescue) training.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Tourists love the Cliffs of Moher for the picturesque green fields and gorgeous backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the southwestern region of Ireland, the cliffs are an incredible sight, but the area comes with plenty of dangers.
A deadly combination of powerful winds and no barrier rails can be menacing to visitors. In 2006, a woman died when the wind swept her off the cliff. Heavy rainfall and constant mist create a slippery surface, making it easy to slip and potentially fall off the cliffs, regardless of the wind.
El Caminito Del Rey, Spain
Built in 1905, El Caminito del Rey was initially a path for workers to transport goods. Of course, the pathway is only three feet wide and dangles 330 feet up along the face of a cliff. When Spain's King Alfonso XIII crossed the walkway in 1921, it earned the nickname "King’s Little Pathway."
When the path fell into disrepair, officials closed it to the public for a decade. In many sections, only metal rails were left, but thrill-seekers still tried to walk the pathway and climb the mountain. Consequently, many people fell and perished. Following four years of improvements, El Caminito del Rey reopened in 2015.
Beaches of Acapulco, Mexico
Acapulco was once a trendy spot for celebrities, including John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. However, the gorgeous beaches and surrounding area have gained a deadly reputation. Acapulco is now called Mexico’s murder capital, with gang warfare constantly plaguing the city.
The violence occasionally finds its way into tourist zones, and it’s always only a short distance away. Acapulco experiences a high number of shootings, kidnappings and murders. In 2018, the city recorded 874 murders; in 2019, it logged 207 more within the first three months.
Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea
Found in the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea, the Kokoda trail is a challenging 60-mile trek that takes six days to complete. During the day, the weather is hot and humid, but the temperature drops to freezing at night, so imagine how much clothing you need to carry.
The journey includes hiking, climbing and swimming. Mosquitos carrying malaria fill the air, while leeches infest the waters. If these factors don't scare you, what about succumbing to dehydration, illness or broken bones? Locals even attacked hikers with machetes and spears, killing two people and seriously injuring seven others in 2013.
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Who can resist a hot, sunny day at New Smyrna Beach in Florida? Actually, this beach is one of the places you should never swim because the waters are overwhelmed by sharks. In fact, everyone calls New Smyrna Beach the "shark-bite capital of the world."
New Smyrna has reported 250 shark attacks throughout its history, and it had the highest number of confirmed shark bites in the world in 2007 and 2008. In the past 30 years, 40 fatal attacks have occurred there. Of course, most of the shark attacks don't end in death, but would you actually risk swimming there?
Mont Blanc, France
At 16,404 feet high, Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Europe — and the deadliest peak in France. Each year, approximately 100 climbers die on Mont Blanc. Weather conditions frequently and unexpectedly change on the mountain, creating the perfect recipe for disaster.
Surprise storms and avalanches claim many lives, and tourists also have to be cautious about falling rocks, hidden crevices and powerful winds that can reach almost 60 miles per hour. Some climbers suffer from altitude sickness on Mont Blanc, which can quickly become life-threatening as well.
Death Road, Bolivia
One of the most dangerous roads in the world, North Yungas Road, is 43 miles long and reaches elevations of 2,000 feet in some sections. Driving on North Yungas Road is a heart-stopping experience, with its lack of guardrails adding to its menace.
Fatal vehicle and cycle accidents are as common on the road as going off the road's edge. Each year, 300 people lose their lives on North Yungas Road, earning it the dreadful nickname "Death Road." If you see wooden crosses along the route, they honor those who perished.
Mount Huashan Plank Walk, China
China has some wild attractions like its abandoned Paris-like city and the now-demolished Wonderland, but its deadliest destination is the Mount Huashan plank walk. Tourists find it hard to resist the challenge of balancing on the shaky wooden boards suspended 7,000 feet in the air.
Some hikers like to play around and cling to the chain on the cliff with only one hand or stand on the boards with one leg, but one slip up can lead to a long drop to the valley below. Nearly 100 people die every year on the Mount Huashan plank walk. Those who survive the journey reach the Taoist monasteries and enjoy a hot cup of tea.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the U.S. Sometimes, it's also the most dangerous. Many tourists find it difficult to hike the Grand Canyon due to its size and height. Stretching 227 miles, the canyon reaches a depth of 6,093 feet at some points.
Since the mid-1800s, 770 people have lost their lives in the Grand Canyon. The majority of the deaths are due to falling over the edges, dehydration and plane crashes. If you tackle the canyon yourself, make sure you pack enough water to stay hydrated in the desert heat — and watch your step.
Bash Bish Falls, Massachusetts
In the peaceful, quiet mountains of Massachusetts, you’ll find the highest waterfall in the state, Bash Bish Falls. The gorgeous waterfall consists of several sections with the last part separated by a rock, cascading 80 feet into a pool.
With a height like that, Bash Bish Falls sounds like a great place for cliff jumping, right? In reality, many cliff jumpers get injured or perish at the falls. The pool is actually shallow, which many people don't find out until after they jump. In the last 100 years, more than 25 people have lost their lives at the falls due to rock jumping, drowning or rock climbing.
Mount Everest, Nepal
Reaching the peak of Mount Everest is every hiker’s dream, but most of them never make it to the top of the world's highest mountain. In fact, for every expedition that attempts it, there are 4.3 fatalities. More than 300 hikers have died in the past six decades trying to climb this mountain.
Hikers face many death threats on Mount Everest, including exhaustion, altitude sickness, unexpected weather changes, strong winds and roaring avalanches. Those who perished on Mount Everest remain there because it’s too dangerous and expensive to bring the bodies back down.
Adelaide River, Australia
In Northern Australia, the Adelaide River is a hot spot for bird spotting, boating expeditions and fishing. Unfortunately, it's also home to large bull sharks. Not scary enough? Well, most locals worry more about the high concentration of giant saltwater crocodiles in the river.
Crocodile attacks aren't common but do occur on the Adelaide River. In 2009, a nine-year-old boy was attacked while fishing, and some crocodiles have struck tour guide boats in the past. The notorious albino crocodile known as "Michael Jackson" has committed some serious offenses in his history. Locals think he killed a fisherman in 2014.
Boiling Lake, Dominica
Boiling Lake is another body of water that is too dangerous for swimming. Its bubbling, grayish-blue water and hovering vapor clouds attract tourists, but getting too close could be an irreversible mistake. Located in Dominica, Boiling Lake reaches temperatures of 197 degrees Fahrenheit at some edges.
How hot is the middle of the lake? Scientists have no idea because it's too dangerous to study it. The middle of the lake actively boils, so the temperature must be even higher. If you don't want to lose a foot or an ankle, stay far away from the scorching hot waters of Boiling Lake.
Death Valley National Park, California
The name Death Valley National Park already sounds terrifying, so who would want to go there? Almost 1 million visitors enjoy the park each year, mostly to gaze at the beautiful rock formations and the night skies filled with sparkling stars.
It’s called Death Valley for a reason: Numerous vanishings and deaths have occurred there over the years. The destination is mostly hot and dry with temperatures that can reach 134 degrees Fahrenheit. The isolated trails and challenging terrain make the national park even more dangerous. In the last 15 years, more than 12 people have died at the park due to heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Running of the Bulls, Spain
The running of the bulls has been a tradition in Spain since the 14th century. In Pamplona, the city unleashes about 10 bulls to run its packed streets each summer. At least 10,000 visitors and locals attend the adrenaline-packed event.
The goal is to outrun the bulls, but some people find it’s not as easy as they thought. Consequently, hundreds suffer injuries each year from getting hit and trampled by the animals — or the crowd. Since 1910, the city has logged 15 deaths, the majority due to goring. In one freak incident, a victim suffocated in a pile-up.
Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii
Drawing many beachgoers with its warm, sandy shores and refreshing waters, Hanakapiai Beach is actually one of the most dangerous places to swim in the world. Located along Kauai's Nā Pali Coast, this beach has powerful waves and strong rip currents.
If you get swept out to sea, it will be extremely hard to return to dry land, as the closest and safest shore is six miles away. Rip currents have drowned at least 15 swimmers, and none of the victims were recovered because the currents were too dangerous.
Angels Landing, Utah
Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is home to Angels Landing, a 1,488-foot rock formation. The trail carved into Angels Landing is quite old, but it has led hikers to the jaw-dropping view of Zion Canyon since 1926.
Those who are strong and brave enough to complete the trail go across steep, sandy terrain and a series of switchbacks. Hikers cling to chains for the last half-mile of the trail to reach the peak. Since 2004, the scary hike has led to eight fatalities due to falling.
Praia De Boa Viagem, Brazil
Praia De Boa Viagem is a hot destination for beachgoers — and (gulp) sharks. Between 1992 and 2012, officials reported 56 shark attacks, and one-third of them ended in death. Yikes! The majority of the attacks involve bull sharks and tiger sharks.
Boa Viagem is so dangerous that lifeguards don't train on the beach anymore. They used to swim 131 feet out into the ocean, but they now do drills in a pool. Some of the attacks occur in shallow waters, where bull sharks breed and hunt.
The Yucatan Cenotes, Mexico
Caves are pretty scary at the best of times, but the deep underwater caves in Mexico take horror to a new extreme. The Yucatan Cenotes, a system of shadowy caves, are among the most dangerous underwater caves on the planet.
Divers swim through miles of super dark caverns that twist and wind. In some passages, they have to squeeze through tight spaces. The passages can be so deep and confusing that divers get lost and can’t find their way out. A chilling sign near the entrance warns divers of deaths in the caves.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park was the first national park to open in the U.S. The wild park is known for its Old Faithful geyser and boiling hot springs, but sometimes the natural wonders make the landscape terrifying.
There are warning signs on designated paths, but some visitors ignore them and wander too close to the geysers and geothermal waters. With waters that are around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, slipping into a hot spring can be deadly. In fact, 20 park visitors have died in various hot springs in the park.
Volcano Tours, Hawaii
Plenty can go wrong on a volcano tour in Hawaii. From 1992 to 2002, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park logged 40 deaths and 35 major injuries. Unprepared hikers easily get lost and fall victim to the dangers, and the volcanoes put plenty of others in harm’s way by spewing flying rocks and boiling nearby ocean water.
Tourists also have to worry about lava laze, a toxic combination of hydrochloric acid, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide that can cause breathing, eye and skin problems. Helicopter tours are dangerous too, considering choppers have been hit by flying lava and crashed. In fact, in the past 30 years, 60 helicopters have crashed, causing 17 fatalities.
Mount Washington, New Hampshire
The highest peak in the Northeastern U.S., Mount Washington, stands 6,288.2 feet tall. Hikers, cyclists and skiers often visit the mountain, but it's a risky journey. The mountain has claimed more than 150 lives since 1849, with the most common reasons for death including falls, hypothermia and heart attacks.
Visitors must watch out for dangerous wind speeds. The highest wind speed ever recorded was 231 miles per hour — about 75 miles per hour faster than a category five hurricane. They also have to watch out for avalanches and frequent changes in weather. Each year, almost 100 avalanches are logged on Mount Washington. Yikes!
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Each year a tourist falls and dies at Victoria Falls. Located between the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls drops 355 feet onto sharp rocks. Most fatalities are caused by loss of footing near the falls; however, some deaths are due to swimming.
Tourists stare death in the face every time they swim in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls. The pool allows visitors to swim dangerously close to the waterfall’s edge. In 2009, a tour guide plunged to his death after rescuing a tourist who was struggling in the pool.
Chernobyl Tours, Ukraine
The 1986 Chernobyl disaster is considered one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. Consequently, the city of Pripyat was evacuated, abandoned and closed off to the public. The immediate blast caused at least 54 fatalities, but the United Nations believes 4,000 people later died from radiation exposure.
A growing interest in tourism led officials to maintain the city to ensure radiation levels weren’t high enough to endanger visitors. The tours are heavily regulated, and no one is allowed to eat outside, touch any plants or put any items on the ground. How safe does this sound to you?
Standing 3,600 feet above sea level, Trolltunga is a rock formation in Hordaland County, Norway that sticks out horizontally from the mountain. One of the most popular cliffs in the country, Trolltunga comes with a breathtaking backdrop of Ringedalsvatnet Lake and surrounding glaciers.
Each year, 80,000 hikers make the 12-hour trek to reach Trolltunga, even though the trip can quickly turn deadly. The cliff lacks safety rails, but many visitors sit at the edge of the cliff to snap photos anyway. As a result, there are nearly 40 rescue missions at the site each year, and one woman fell to her death in 2015.