When political tensions rise at home, we tend to focus on what’s happening domestically. But there are international consequences as well: Consider all the special places that become off-limits to travelers, historians and helpers.
These stunning places aren’t entirely forbidden, but dangerous conflict ― both within and between nations ― makes them unadvisable and unsafe to visit.
Of course, voters can’t control every move officials make, and many world leaders aren’t elected. But we can rally behind those who promise to do their utmost to preserve peace. Here’s hoping these seven stunning places soon safely return to our bucket lists.
1. Persepolis, Iran
Beautiful Persepolis is a gem in the desert that remained hidden until the 1930s, the UNESCO World Heritage ruins of a thriving empire that fell centuries ago. You can indeed visit, but the U.S. State Department advises against it since Americans risk being arrested and detained in the country without reason.
This African country’s friendly towns, verdant mountains and rugged shores would make it the perfect place to enjoy a slower pace of life. But what was once a popular tourist spot is now flooded with local political strife, and the threat of armed violence makes it unsafe to visit, according to the State Department’s travel warning. For now, we’ll just have to look from a digital distance.
3. Socotra, Yemen
The U.S. government recently issued a new travel warning for Yemen, advising against visits because of ongoing conflict and terrorist threats. It’s a sorry situation, because the otherworldly island of Socotra, famous for its alien-looking landscapes, would be a must-see for many travelers.
4. North Korea
The Hermit Kingdom’s incredibly strict laws make it unadvisable for U.S. travelers to visit, as they could be detained for petty infractions that aren’t obviously illegal but still considered “crimes” by North Korean standards. Since the U.S. doesn’t keep political relations with North Korea, it’s difficult for the government to rescue travelers who are detained there, and therefore most of us miss out on some intriguing rural landscapes.
5. Mardin, Turkey
The U.S. State Department warns of travel to southeast Turkey, where extremist groups reportedly go out of their way to target U.S. citizens. That means the maze-like city of Mardin ― a hillside labyrinth with an “old city” area as charming as it is historic ― is off-limits for the time being.
6. Palmyra, Syria
These stunning ruins are a UNESCO world heritage site known for their mixture of ancient architectural styles. Tragically, ISIS insurgents obliterated parts the site last year. This means that even if it were safe to visit, much of it is now ruins of ruins, though a large Roman amphitheater has so far survived.
7. Beirut, Lebanon
This stunner of a city has won the hearts of travelers with its historic architecture, Paris-like shopping scene and electric nightlife. But visiting is highly discouraged these days, as threats of terrorism and violence make Beirut especially unsafe.