From hell-themed amusement parks to islands covered with snakes, these are some of the scariest places in the world—visit them if you dare.
The Door to Hell, Derweze, Ahal Province, Turkmenistan
While Joss Whedon led us to believe that the entrance to hell could be found in Sunnydale, California, he was actually some 7,500 miles off. Located in the middle of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan is the “Door to Hell,” a name locals gave to a 230-foot-wide crater that simply won’t stop burning . When Soviet scientists began searching for oil back in 1971, they accidentally hit a methane reserve and the drilling platform collapsed, forming the crater and releasing dangerous gas into the air. The scientists decided to light the crater on fire to burn off the methane, creating a Dante-esque anomaly that has remained lit…for the past 40-plus years.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
The path from La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia, is a treacherous one: The North Yungas Road weaves precariously through the Amazon rainforest at a height of more than 15,000 feet. When you consider that frightening elevation—not to mention the 12-foot-wide single lane, lack of guardrails, and limited visibility due to rain and fog—it’s easy to see why this 50-mile stretch of highway has earned the nickname “The Death Road.” While the North Yungas Road used to see some 200 to 300 annual deaths, it has now become more of a destination for adventurous mountain bikers than a vehicular thoroughfare.
Nagoro is a tiny Japanese village with one very notable feature: a life-sized doll population that outnumbers the human population nearly 100:1. The toy residents are the work of local Tsukimi Ayano, who began making doll replicas of her neighbors after they died or moved away. The eerie doppelgängers can be seen in various positions across the town—fishermen sitting on the riverbank, students filling entire classrooms, elderly couples resting on benches outside of buildings. There are now around 350 dolls and fewer than 40 breathing humans in Nagoro, making it a quirky and somewhat terrifying—albeit realistic—toyland.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
People have been placing crosses at this spot in northern Lithuania since the 14th century, and for various reasons: Throughout the medieval period, the crosses expressed a desire for Lithuanian independence. Then, after a peasant uprising in 1831, people began adding to the site in remembrance of dead rebels. The hill became a place of defiance once again during Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991. The hill and crosses were bulldozed by Soviets three times, but locals kept rebuilding it. There are now more than 100,000 crosses crowded there, clashing together in the breeze like eerie wind chimes.
Taylor Glacier, Antarctica
It may look like a geological crime scene, but the five-story, crimson waterfall is a completely natural wonder. The phenomenon can be traced back about five million years, when the glacier sealed off a microbe-rich lake beneath it. Isolated from light and oxygen, the water became more and more concentrated, both in terms of salt and iron content. The water’s salinity level (about three times saltier than the ocean) keeps it from freezing, while the iron provides the color. It then seeps out through a fissure in the glacier, and we get to witness the gory display.
Hanging Coffins of Sagada, Philippines
If you want to visit the dead in Sagada, you’ll have to look up—rather than six feet under. The people of this region are known for burying their dead in coffins attached to the sides of cliffs, like an aerial cross-section of your average cemetery. The tradition goes back thousands of years: carve out your own coffin, die, and get hoisted up next to your ancestors. Many of the cliffside coffins are hundreds of years old and all look completely different, as they were specially made by the person who now rests inside of them.
Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital, Beelitz, Germany
If this old German hospital looks disturbing, well, it is. Between 1898 and 1930, the Beelitz-Heilstätten complex served as a tuberculosis sanatorium. It also housed mustard gas and machine gun victims during World War I, including a young soldier named Adolf Hitler, who had been wounded in the leg. The hospital later went on to be a major treatment center for Nazi soldiers during World War II, and it was used as a Soviet military hospital from 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, a few hospital wards are used as a neurological rehabilitation center, although the majority of the complex is abandoned. The surgery and psychiatric wards have both been left to decay and give way to nature (and vandals), and the result looks like something straight out of American Horror Story —definitely not an enjoyable day trip for the easily spooked.
The Great Blue Hole, Belize
Located about 60 miles off the coast of Belize, the Lighthouse Reef boasts beautiful coral and shallow turquoise waters…oh, and a vertical drop that’s more than 400 feet deep. Meet the Great Blue Hole, a 1,000-foot-wide, perfectly circular sinkhole in the middle of the atoll. Divers flock to the site to witness the unique geology, which includes massive underwater stalactites and stalagmites that formed during the last glacial period. The limestone shelf surrounding the vertical cave sits about 40 feet below the surface, and then it’s a straight jump down into the unknown. The further down divers go, the clearer and more beautiful the rock formations supposedly become, but we can only imagine the surreal feeling of stepping back into the last Ice Age while surrounded by an inky darkness. To appreciate how fully bone-chilling this experience is, check out the viral video of world champion Guillaume Nery free-diving straight down into the Blue Hole.
The Island of the Dolls, Xochimilco, Mexico City, Mexico
Despite its history and status as a World Heritage Site, Xochimilco is primarily known by more morbid tourists for its Isla de las Munecas, or the Island of the Dolls. Hidden among the area’s many canals, the site is famous for the hundreds of dolls—and doll parts—hanging from trees and scattered among the grass. Although it looks more like a horror movie set than anything else, the chinampa (akin to an artificial island) used to be the actual residence of a now-deceased man named Julian Santa Barrera. After finding a dead girl’s body in a nearby canal, Barrera collected and displayed the toys in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. Daring souls can hire their own boat, try to convince the driver to pay it a visit, and view it safely from the water.
Kawah Ijen Volcano, Java, Indonesia
The Kawah Injen volcano in Indonesia is equal parts terrifying and spectacular, and here’s why: The Java peak has abnormal amounts of sulfuric gases that reach temperatures of more than 1,000°F and combust as they seep through the cracks and come in contact with the air (terrifying). The gases sometimes condense into liquid sulfur, which then takes on an otherworldly shade of blue and flows down the volcano like lava (spectacular). While the beautiful lights can only be seen in the dark, Kawah Ijen’s sulfur burns at all hours. As a result, the surrounding air is filled with sulfur dioxide, and the adjacent crater lake has turned green from hydrochloric acid saturation. Maybe plan your beach vacation elsewhere this year.
Capuchin Catacombs, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Of all the catacombs in the world, from Salzburg to Paris, none are quite as creepy as Sicily’s Catacombe dei Cappucini (Capuchin Catacombs). The macabre space was created back in the late 16th century when the cemetery at the Capuchin monastery became overrun. Religious men were originally intended to be the exclusive residents, but once word got out about the natural mummification processes occurring in the space, it soon became a status symbol for local citizens to earn a final resting spot there (in their best clothing, of course). As a result, the underground tombs now contain around 8,000 bodies divided into separate corridors, including one for religious figures, one for professional men, one for children, and even one for virgins. The corpses are displayed like a museum exhibit, dressed to the nines and arranged in grotesquely lifelike posts. Sound like fun?
Snake Island, São Paolo, Brazil
Located about 90 miles off the coast of São Paolo, Ilha de Queimada Grande (“Snake Island”) is one of the most dangerous islands in the entire world. The site earned its moniker due to its insanely high density of golden lancehead vipers; some studies report an average of 1–5 snakes per square meter. When sea levels rose some 11,000 years ago and separated Snake Island from mainland Brazil, the newly isolated snakes became hyper evolved—and hyper terrifying—to adapt to their changing environment. Without any ground-level prey on the island, the snakes learned to hunt in the treetops and strike at birds from the air. And because they couldn’t track down the birds and wait for the poison to kick in, their venom adapted to become five times stronger than that of their mainland counterparts—capable of killing their prey instantly, as well as melting human flesh. Because of their potency, the Brazilian government bans the public from ever setting foot on the island (as if you would want to).
Christ of the Abyss, San Fruttuoso, Italy
Although there are several versions of the same Jesus statue scattered around the ocean floor (including Key Largo, pictured), the original version is located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of San Fruttuoso. The eight-foot-tall likeness was commissioned by Italian diver Duilio Marcante in 1954. Marcante wanted to place some sort of memorial at the exact spot where his friend Dario Gonzatti died while diving a few years prior. And thus, Christ of the Abyss was born. The result is vaguely spooky, especially with the deity’s outreached arms and upward gaze. The algae and corrosion only add to the effect, although the statue was removed from its watery home in 2003 for some much-needed restoration (including replacing a hand that a rogue anchor had broken off). Regardless of whether you find the monument eerie or beautiful (or both), it’s certainly worth taking a 55-foot-dive down to snap an underwater selfie with Jesus.
Aokigahara Forest (aka Suicide Forest), Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
This seemingly serene forest at the bottom of Mount Fuji has an extremely tormented history. Colloquially known as “Suicide Forest,” Aokigahara is the world’s second-most popular site for suicides (after the Golden Gate Bridge)— in 2010 alone , 247 people attempted to take their own lives here, and 54 of them were successful. Some blame this phenomena on the forest’s association with demons in Japanese mythology. Others point towards the density of the trees, which muffles sound and makes it extremely easy to get lost. Many hikers even mark their path with tape or string to make it easier to find their way back out again. This, combined with the sprinkling of clothing and letters throughout the labyrinthine woods, gives Aokigahara a terrifying Blair-Witch–meets–Palace-of-Knossos vibe that will chill you to your bones.
Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
The incredible Sedlec Ossuary (aka The Bone Church) is a small chapel located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, known worldwide for its macabre decor. Back in the early 1300s, an abbot of the Sedlec Monastery brought back holy soil from Jerusalem and scattered it across the church’s cemetery, and suddenly everyone wanted to be buried in that sacred ground. But overpopulation kicked in and the old bodies had to be dug up to make room for fresh corpses. In true “waste not, want not” fashion, the abbots decided to put the exhumed bones to good use. A local Czech woodcarver named František Rint was given the daunting task of arranging the collection of more than 40,000 human remains in a visually impressive way—and he clearly delivered. The bony structures include four candelabras, a family crest, and several streamers of bones cascading down from the ceiling. The most stunning display is probably the church’s massive chandelier, which contains almost every bone found in the human body (plus some scary cherubs for good measure).
Haw Par Villa, Singapore
Haw Par Villa is a 77-year-old theme park located in Singapore—but it’s pretty much the polar opposite of Disneyland. Its colorful entrance of Chinese arches seems innocuous enough, but then you actually step inside and see that Haw Par Villa is covered with more than 1,000 statues, each stranger than the last (yes, it gets stranger than a human head on a giant crab). The underworld-themed Ten Courts of Hell is the main feature of Haw Par Villa. Intended as a way to teach young children about morality, the dioramas portray severe modes of punishment, accompanied by a placard explaining the sin that warranted such lashings. You’ll find people getting cut in half by a giant saw (crime: “misuse of books”), dismembered (crime: cheating on examinations), or thrown onto a hill of knives (crime: lending money with exorbitant interest rates).
If there was ever a poster child for eerily abandoned places around the world, then it would have to be Pripyat. Established in 1970, the city had reached a population of nearly 50,000 by the time it was entirely evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Pripyat has remained an uninhabited city since the evacuation, although the buildings, furniture, and all other signs of life are exactly where its former citizens left them. Weathered books can be found in classrooms, decaying dolls lie abandoned in cribs, and photographs are still in their original frames. Today, the most famous landmark is the Pripyat amusement park’s ferris wheel—a skeletal reminder of what used to be.
Gomantong Caves, Borneo, Malaysia
The Gomantong Caves in Malaysia are geographical wonders, with limestone walls reaching up to 300 feet in some spots, but visitors often leave the site describing it as one of the most disgusting wildlife experiences they’ve ever had. First things first, Gomantong is home to more than two million bats, which leads to impossibly thick layers of guano (otherwise known as bat poop) covering the ground. And don’t even think about slipping, because the handrails are just as filthy as the floor. If you can make it through the river of bat droppings, you’ll then encounter several million Malaysian cockroaches scurrying around. Wherever the guano is, that’s where the cockroaches will be (read: everywhere). Finally, if you get past the bat smells and cockroaches crawling up your legs, there are several other wonderful creatures you just might happen upon, including snakes, scorpions, freshwater crabs, and the infamous giant scutigera centipedes—poisonous critters that are at least three inches long. Have you started packing your bags yet?
Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden, Parikkala, Finland
Veijo Rönkkönen was one of the most famous contemporary folk artists in Finland during his lifetime, but he was also a recluse, refusing to showcase his pieces in public spaces. He built his collection of nearly 500 concrete figures in his backyard, forming his own personal sculpture garden in the process. The biggest display on the grounds is a group of around 200 statues arranged in a variety of yoga poses. While there’s something obviously unsettling about the sculptures (supposedly all self-portraits), they are nowhere close to being the most sinister items in the garden: Rönkkönen’s collection features an array of creepy individual statues, from a nun lurking behind bushes to a cloaked man with long, outstretched arms. The malevolent grins (accessorized with real human teeth ) and black, sunken eyes of these figures are exactly what the doctor ordered… provided you have a desire to never sleep peacefully again.
From the late 1800s to the 1960s, Centralia was a quaint but bustling town in Pennsylvania, thanks to its prosperous coal mines. However, when a mine mysteriously caught fire in 1962, the flames began to spread underground via the interconnecting tunnels. Although the citizens were aware of the situation, they weren’t truly troubled until two isolated incidents some years later: a gas station owner reporting abnormally high gasoline temperatures in his underground tanks in 1979, and a young boy nearly falling into a 150-foot-deep sinkhole in his backyard in 1981. Since those disturbing occurrences, the town’s population decreased sharply. As of 2014, only eight residents remain, although Centralia seems like a complete ghost town upon visiting. If you ever find yourself in the deserted city, you’ll find many torn down buildings, crumbled sidewalks, and the cracked, graffiti-filled Route 61. And just in case you forgot why the town is deserted, you can occasionally see smoke billowing out from the subterranean fires, which scientists estimate will continue to burn for the next 250-plus years.