The World's Riskiest Tourist Attractions
There were dramatic scenes at the Willis Tower in Chicago recently when the glass floor of its famous SkyDeck Ledge appeared to crack as a family of tourists stood on it taking pictures. The whole place was evacuated after shattering sounds were heard and lines appeared in the glass. Yikes! Talk about nasty surprises. Although Tower representatives have said it was only a layer of protective coating that broke, not the glass itself, it did get us thinking about other tourist attractions we’d hesitate to visit. Here’s what we came up with.
The North Yungas Road
It’s estimated that between 200 and 300 people die on the 50km stretch between La Paz and Cocoico in Bolivia every year, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The road in question is a poorly maintained, mostly single-lane dirt and gravel track that runs along the edge of a 2000 foot drop. The entire thing is pock-marked by crosses and bunches of flowers, each marking the spot where another vehicle’s gone off the side. But travellers are decidedly not bothered, flocking there in their thousands to prove they’ve got the mettle to take on what has come to be ominously nicknamed "The Road of Fate." Or at to take a picture on it before retreating to the hotel so they can upload it to Facebook.
If you’re keen on risking falling to your death but prefer using your own two feet, there’s always Mount Huashan in China. This 6km trek has come to be generally acknowledged as the most dangerous hiking route in the world. It’s made up of a series of steep staircases, vertical cliff ascents and rickety old bridges (they’re just planks of wood attached to the rock) suspended over thousand foot drops. This isn’t a walk for anyone with a fear of heights or, indeed, a fear of dying because they fell off the side of a cliff. Again though, it’s incredibly popular—people literally queue to get to the top of this thing. And what’s there? A teahouse. That had better be some seriously tasty Earl Grey.
Running of the Bulls
Although the running of the bulls is something that pretty much everyone’s heard of, it’s worth just stopping, taking a step back once in a while, and appreciating just how totally insane the whole thing is. These are people volunteering to be stampeded by bulls! Are we really this bored?! Every year between 200 and 300 people get hurt. Although, admittedly, fatalities are relatively low, with only 15 people killed since records began in 1910. Still, when one of the best things you can say about a tourist attraction is "actually, you’d be surprised! You probably won’t die!" you have to wonder whether something’s gone wrong.
Everest, in its own way, is a similar deal. Although climbing the mountain has become a fairly commonplace pursuit amongst people who can afford to do this sort of thing, it’s worth remembering that this is still the tallest peak in the world and it’s still extremely dangerous to take on. The death rate, which has remained broadly the same since Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing first scaled Everest in 1953, is around one death for every ten successful summits. That’s not that low, is it?! And although you’re much more likely to make it back down if you’re younger than if you’re older, you’d still be wise to have a think before deciding to give it a go yourself. After all, there is quite literally a part of the most popular route that’s labelled the "death zone."
Although it’s been almost thirty years since the Chernobyl reactor exploded, spewing out 400 times more radiation than was left behind by the Hiroshima bomb, there are still parts of the 30 kilometer exclusion zone where levels are high enough to cause fatal poisoning. And although those are all off the official tours (and, let’s be honest, probably off any unofficial ones too), the idea of accidentally ingesting some radioactive food or breathing in a cluster of lethal airborne particles is enough to make us hold off from signing up just yet. And that’s to say nothing of the psychological damage. One look at one of those ghostly evacuated towns up close and it’d be in your nightmares for months.
What's the most dangerous thing you've done today?