It's a difficult question to answer because it depends on your definition of a holiday.
For example, spending your summer holidays on a farm could be dangerous! Farms are some of the most hazardous environments in the UK, according to the BBC.
The thing is, ‘leisure’ to humans ranges from skydiving to go-karting, knitting to reading, deep-sea diving to white water rafting. As for a holiday, pretty much anything goes, including the most dangerous places on the planet, which someone, somewhere, will still want to visit.
Here are some of the world’s most dangerous holiday destinations!
1. Sinaloa, Mexico
Sinaloa is one of Mexico’s “narco” states.
Armed shootouts between the military and cartel members are frequent and unpredictable, and the risk of kidnapping is also high. In 2018, a US school teacher was murdered in Sinaloa. In 2019, 9 US citizens, including children, were killed by a cartel ambush in Sinaloa, despite travelling in a convoy.
Similar media reports seem pretty much endless, and the Mexican government themselves states clearly, "Do not travel due to crime and kidnapping. Violent crime is widespread. Criminal organizations are based in and operating in Sinaloa. US citizens and LPRs (lawful permitted residents) have been victims of kidnapping.”
In 2020, travel bloggers 'Bald and Bankrupt' (who are notorious for visiting dangerous areas, including remote parts of Chechnya, Pripyat, and the Bolivian foothills), Harold Baldr and Simon Wilson, travelled through Sinaloa, even hitchhiking, and made it through.
The city of Sinaloa itself looked remarkably safe, with the trio remarking that they were 'lost for words’. The media reports do speak for themselves, though - it seems that these travel bloggers' gambles paid off, and they got the footage they were hoping for!
2. Death Valley, USA
Death Valley claims victims of heatstroke and dehydration in most years. In 2014, Harry Potter actor Dave Legeno went missing and died in Death Valley
The average daily temperature in Death Valley sits around 47C during the summer. Meanwhile, the average nightly temperature of 33C is about as hot as it gets here during the day at the height of summer. A temperature of 56.7C, the highest air temperature ever recorded on Earth, was recorded in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, in 1913. Though the accuracy of this extreme reading is disputed, temperatures exceeding 50C are typical.
Death Valley National Park Rangers strongly dissuade hiking during summer after the early morning hours. Hikers are told to bring as much water as possible and encouraged to monitor their health at all times. A foolproof backup plan for contacting help in the event of an emergency is also essential.
Macca Sherifi from An Adventurous World had a different take on danger in the United States. Macca told Age Times: "I think one of the most dangerous places for travellers at the moment is the US. It is one of those places where you can easily let your guard down, and if you find yourself in the wrong neighbourhood then things can go south very quickly.
"Obviously the number of people with guns is much higher than anywhere else in the world - all it takes is a few wrong words after a few drinks for things to escalate. Travelling to the US is actually one of the places that I am always wary of these days."
3. Death Road, Bolivia
North Yungas Road is known as the “Death Road” and extends from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia. It’s only around 43-miles long, but there are numerous sheer drops of some 610 metres.
The weather is consistently bad - wet and misty at virtually any time in the day. In the 1990s, until additional safety measures were implemented, around 300 people died on the road each year, mostly by plummeting helplessly into the Amazon rainforest below.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the danger of Death Road has put it on the tourist map. It’s not exactly a holiday destination per se, but you’d be surprised at how many backpackers and adventurers visit the road as part of their bucket list. Mountain biking is particularly popular, but 13 riders have died since 1998.
4. Snake Island, Brazil
Who’d have thought that Ilha da Queimada Grande, affectionately known as Snake Island, an island off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean, would have almost 2,500 Google reviews.
As it turns out, most of these reviews are a hoax as the island is only open to the Brazilian Navy, researchers and zoologists. One reviewer quips, "Great place to have a picnic and folic around barefoot." Another "Loved it! I got to see all my old high school peers!"
The dangerous element of this island? It is the snakes, as you might have guessed.
Some estimate that there is one snake to every square meter (10.8 square feet), and the majority are forms of venomous pit vipers. It's reportedly tough to traverse the island without getting attacked by snakes. Nevertheless, it looks like (probably illegal) tours go there, which ranks it as a holiday destination, maybe?
5. North Sentinel Island
Again, it might be a stretch to call this a holiday destination, but it’s too compelling to leave off the list.
An Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island is home to perhaps one of the most mysterious indigenous tribes left on the planet. The indigenous peoples are called the Sentinelese, who have defended their voluntary isolation for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.
The Indian Navy patrols the island as the indigenous peoples are protected by law. Any contact with the outside world would likely cause their death by illness due to their undeveloped immune systems.
However, that didn’t stop John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old US missionary, illegally entering the island in 2018. He was killed by a bow, showing that Senintelese people are alive, kicking, and resistant to outside contact.
Here’s a more contentious one, as Somalia, like Sinaloa, has been at the centre of some daring travel blogging that reveals that it’s perhaps not as dangerous as commonly perceived.
The UK travel advice for Somalia is: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Somalia. There is a high threat of kidnap throughout the country. Terrorist groups have made threats against westerners and those working for western organisations.”
Road travel as a tourist in Somalia is illegal without armed guards.
Lonely Planet says that travel in Somalia was very popular even some 20 years ago, and with signs of an economic boom, safety could return to the country once more.
The deportation of US Somalian settlers is triggering this boom. Somalia is home to ancient architecture and some perfectly preserved cave paintings in the cave of Las Geel that dates back to 9000 BC.
7. Oymyakon, Russia
Dubbed the coldest settlement in the world, Oymyakon regularly reaches temperatures of -40C, with the lowest recorded temperatures down at -70C.
It's inhospitable to nearly all plant and animal life, but somehow, it's home to around 800 human settlers. In winter, the nighttime is 21 hours long, but at the end of the season, the village hosts the "Cold Pole Festival" with Chyskhaan, the Yakutian "Lord of Frost."
The Yakutia region has become an unusual tourist destination for those wanting to experience some of the coldest temperatures known on Earth. One 8-day expedition takes tourists to the heart of Yakutia and costs around 2000 Euros.
The Yakut people are some of the toughest on Earth but are renowned for their warm and welcoming nature and rich culture. The only danger here, it seems, is the extreme cold!
8. Caracas, Venezuela
Caracas is one of the most dangerous places on Earth due to the sheer scale of its murder problem. For every 100,000 people in Caracas, 110 are murdered, according to Statista.
Extremely violent crimes are common. The UK's official advice is first to avoid travel. Secondly, if you do travel, never resist an attacker or mugger, as murder is so likely if things escalate.
Private security firms are now common in Caracas and are recommended for travel to and from the airport. Nevertheless, travel to Venezuela is still popular, mainly due to the Angel Falls, the world's tallest uninterrupted waterfall. This is a true holiday destination and rates as the trip of a lifetime with thousands of successful tours each year.
Still, Caracas remains a dark and dangerous place for travellers, and extreme vigilance is advised.
9. Libya and Syria
Most of us are probably familiar with the awful scenes from war-torn Libya and Syria. Their capital cities, Tripoli and Damascus, respectively, were once triumphs of human civilization, founded around 3000 BC or perhaps even earlier. These regions' cultural heritage and history are hugely important as they represent some of the first sophisticated societies on the planet.
Damascus and Tripoli have avoided the worst of the conflict, and these stunning cities would yield so much for travellers if they didn’t remain unsafe for most tourists.
However, this is contentious, with some sources suggesting that Tripoli and Damascus remain peaceful, stable, and beautiful.
For now, the situation remains unstable, and the UK government advises extreme caution when travelling to either Libya or Syria.
10. Pripyat, Ukraine
Pripyat, 104km north of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, has been officially open to tourism since 2011 (and unofficially long before that).
Pripyat is the deserted town that neighbours the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear power plant that spewed 400 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Today, 7,000 people head in and out of the exclusion zone to work, and considerable numbers have resettled in villages around the plant, despite warnings of severe radiation lurking in the ground and water supply.
For tourists, Pripyat is a genuinely haunting sight to behold. It's an attractive proposition for tourists who will remain safe so long as they enter the zone with a knowledgeable guide.
Reports have suggested that some gung-ho tourists have been subjected to quite a dose of radiation whilst frolicking in the zone, however.
Where is the most dangerous place in the world for a holiday?
That said, there are some genuine holiday locations here that suit intrepid explorers, adventurers or someone looking for an authentic experience that will likely yield many a campfire tale.
You should always heed official guidance where possible, especially as Covid-19 has thrown another spanner in the works. Check out the government’s travel advice here for more information - always do your homework, especially with any of these destinations!