Unveiling the Most Dangerous Places in the World

Afghan woman in hijab in Kabul, Afghanistan
© 279photo Studio/Shutterstock.com

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: August 29, 2023

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Our planet is filled with awe-inspiring beauty and wonder. It is also a perilous place filled with danger. And, in the ultimate paradox, sometimes the beauty and danger of our world coexist in the same places. Let’s go on a trek around the globe, seeking out some of the most dangerous places in our world today. 

The Most Dangerous Country in the World

Afghanistan takes the top spot as the most dangerous nation on Earth. The hot arid climate can be hazardous. For example, Jalalabad regularly sees summer temperatures of 110°F or higher. And there are dangerous animals in the nation, too. The saw-scaled viper, for instance, is a deadly snake that bites more humans than any other snake in the nation. However, the extreme danger in Afghanistan is not the result of climate, animals, or any other natural force. The biggest danger to humans in Afghanistan is other humans.

Afghanistan has a higher number of deaths from war and terrorism than any other nation in the world, a record it has held for years. World Population Review has ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous nation in the world each year since 2019, and it ranked near the top for years before that.

The situation has become even more dire after the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. With the Taliban in control, the civil strife in Afghanistan has only increased. Threats to women have skyrocketed. Religious persecution is rampant, often with deadly consequences. It is estimated that 90% of Afghans are impoverished. A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in nearly every conceivable way in this war-torn nation.

The remainder of the top ten most dangerous nations in the world are Yemen, Syria, Russia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. Various combinations of war, terrorism, extremism, and totalitarian governments make these countries the most dangerous places on Earth.

Taliban fighters and truck in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17 2021

The dangers in Afghanistan increased even more after the Taliban regained control of the country.

©VOA / Public domain – Original / License

The Most Murderous Nation in the World

Mexico is the most dangerous nation in the world among countries that are not involved in armed conflict or subject to terrorist regimes. The top five cities with the highest murder rates in the world are all located in Mexico. The nation is also home to seven of the top ten cities with the highest number of homicides per 100,000 people. Celaya and Tijuana lead the way. These cities see up to six murders per day, on average. The sky-high homicide rate is often due to drug-related violence and organized crime.

Auxiliary Police, Mexico City

Police in Mexico are up against a stunning level of violence in many of the nation’s cities.

©Paul Sableman / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

The Most Dangerous Road in the World

When a road’s nickname is “Death Road,” that pretty much tells you all you need to know. Yungas Road in Bolivia descends from the Andean city of La Paz to the Yungas Valley, representing an elevation of change of nearly 11,500 feet in less than 40 miles of roadway. Parts of the Yungas Road are less than ten feet wide. It features switchback curves, blind corners, and waterfalls that splash over the road. 

Prisoners of war constructed the Yungas Road in the 1930s. Much of the roadway is unpaved, yet trucks and buses frequently trek over this dangerous dirt road. There are only a handful of guardrails and safety barriers along the entire stretch of road, but there are plenty of memorials where vehicles drove off the road, and the passengers fell to their deaths. On average, a car plunges off this precarious road every two weeks, resulting in upwards of 300 deaths per year.

A truck on the edge of the edge of Yungas Road, Bolivia

Bolivia’s Yungas Road is no ordinary commute!

©RomaN-Dnepr / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

The Most Dangerous Island in the World (Due to Animals)

Ilha da Queimada Island is located about 20 miles off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean. It is often considered the most dangerous island in the world because it is infested with golden lancehead pit vipers. This island, nicknamed Snake Island, is the only place on Earth where these venomous snakes are found.

The snake’s hemotoxic venom can be lethal, especially considering how far the victim is from medical help. The island is uninhabited, per Brazilian law. The snakes exist in such extraordinary numbers that it is impossible for humans to safely inhabit the island.

golden lancehead vs fer-de-lance

Thousands of golden lanceheads slither around Snake Island.

©Nayeryouakim / Creative Commons – Original / License

The Most Dangerous Island in the World (Due to People)

North Sentinel Island is part of an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. While the island is part of India’s sovereign territory, the Indian government exercises little control over the island’s residents. The  Sentinelese people live in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world. Any outsider who lands on the island is seen as a threat and is in danger of a violent response from the native people. The Indian government does not prosecute violent acts committed by the Sentinelese people. 

The government also prohibits travel to the island without express permission. This prohibition is designed to protect both the traveler and the island’s inhabitants. Because the Sentinelese have lived in isolation for generations, they likely would have little immunity to diseases that are common throughout the rest of the world. 

The island’s residents killed two fishermen whose boat ran aground in 2006. In 2018, John Chau, a 26-year-old American missionary, illegally paid local fishermen to transport him to the island. He landed on the shore of North Sentinel Island, hoping to bring Christianity to the indigenous people there. Instead, he was killed by the Sentinelese.

This island is one of the most dangerous places on Earth for anyone who is not part of the native population.

North Sentinel Island can be viewed from the air, but that’s as close as you’ll want to get to it.

©vivaswa/Shutterstock.com

The Place With the Most Dangerous Weather in the World

With an elevation of 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern United States. This mountain in New Hampshire is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is also home to some of the worst weather in the world, especially in the winter.

In February 2023, the temperature on Mount Washington dipped to -46°F. Winds whipped at 127 mph, which created a windchill of -108°F. It is the lowest windchill ever recorded in the United States, including Alaska.

The wicked weather is not limited to the winter, though. On April 12, 1934, a wind gust of 231 mph was recorded on Mount Washington. A hurricane or tropical cyclone did not create the highest windspeed ever documented. 

Mount Washington is well-known for its dangerously erratic weather.

©iStock.com/mountainguy

The Most Dangerous Valley in the World

Kikhpinych is a stratovolcano in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. A small valley at the base of the volcano is known as the Valley of Death. Because little wind blows through the valley, deadly volcanic gasses accumulate, including hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon disulfide. The gasses and the toxified river in the valley kill virtually all birds and mammals that enter. Humans dare not venture into the Valley of Death.

Volcano Kikhpinych  of Kamchatka in Russia

The gasses from Russia’s Kikhpinych volcano create a toxic environment in the valley below.

©Sergey Krasnoshchokov/Shutterstock.com

The Most Dangerous Mountain in the World

Mount Everest is the world’s highest and likely its most famous mountain. Since 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit, well over 300 people have died attempting to replicate the feat. The dangers of scaling this peak are many, including falls, altitude sickness, hypothermia, avalanches, and other perils.

However, while Everest’s total number of fatalities is far higher, the deadliest mountain in the world may be Mount Annapurna. While the fatality rate for climbers on Everest has been around one percent since 1990, that rate jumps to nearly 30% on Annapurna. It is so perilous that even the most extreme climbers tend to steer clear. Annapurna is among the least-trekked mountains in Nepal.

Annapurna I

Mount Annapurna’s fatality rate for climbers far exceeds that of Mount Everest.

©iStock.com/Andreas Felber

The Places With the Most Dangerous Temperatures in the World

The coldest temperature ever recorded was, not surprisingly, in Antarctica. The mercury dropped to -128.6°F on July 21, 1983, at Vostok, a Russian research station.

The highest air temperature ever documented was in Death Valley, California. On July 10, 1913, the temperature soared to 134.1°F in the aptly-named Furnace Creek area.

The highest surface temperatures ever recorded were in the Lut Desert in Iran and the Sonoran Desert along the Mexican-U.S. border. Both deserts have seen surface temperatures over 177°F.

Vostok Station at Antarctica

Vostok Station in Antarctica was the site of the coldest temperature ever recorded.

©sergioluno/Shutterstock.com

The Most Dangerous Lake in the World

Lake Nyos in Cameroon may very well be the most dangerous lake in the world. The danger comes not from water currents, weather events, or dangerous animals but rather from carbon dioxide. This deep lake rests in the crater of an extinct volcano. However, releases of carbon dioxide still pose a threat. In 1986, a massive release of this toxic gas from Lake Nyos killed 1,700 people and more than twice as many animals. Since this disaster, the area around the lake was largely abandoned. 

Lake Nyos sits in a volcanic crater that releases toxic carbon dioxide.

©United States Geological Survey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

The Most Dangerous Former Battlefield in the World

The Battle of Verdun lasted 300 days and claimed a staggering 300,000 lives. This 1916 battle was the longest conflict in World War I. The aftermath of the battle is still seen well over a century later.

A 42,000-acre territory around the Meuse River in northeastern France has been dubbed Zone Rouge (or “Red Zone” in English). This battle site from The Great War is the site of an unknown number of unexploded shells, grenades, and other ordnances. The unexploded gas shells which contain tear gas, chlorine, or mustard gas pose the greatest threat. The soil is so contaminated with arsenic in parts of Zone Rouge that almost no plants will grow.

Explosives are collected by the ton each year, but the area is still riddled with undetonated ordnances. It is estimated that it could take 300 years or even longer for all of Zone Rouge to become inhabitable again. 

There are no living veterans from World War I that remain, yet this battlefield is a dark reminder of the horrors they faced. It is filled with perils to this day.

Zone Rouge, France

Zone Rouge, shown in red, is categorized as complètement dévastatée (completely devastated).

©derivative work: Tinodela (talk)Zone_rougeRed_Zone_Map.jpg: Lamiot / CC BY-SA 2.5 – Original / License


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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