Protect us from ourselves. It's nearly a guarantee that when you visit a major tourist attraction in America, it's going to be safe. Most places put up barriers and warning signs that will stop even the most selfie-happy, oblivious tourist from doing something stupid, getting hurt, and suing. That's why it always surprises (and delights) us when we see dangerous sites while traveling abroad. Here are nine tourist hot spots that could never exist legally in the USA, but that you should add to your list if you like adventure. (Just use common sense when you visit these spots and you'll be fine.)
(Photo: Thinkstock, iStock)
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Signs near the sides of the official pathway at the Irish Cliffs of Moher politely ask visitors "Please do not go beyond this point," but most tourists walk straight past them and out to the edge for the best views, as no one will stop them from venturing out. Even if you think you're staying far enough from the edge, nature is unpredictable—people have been swept off the edge by high winds, and the cliffs themselves aren't exactly guaranteed stable, as this recent video shows.
RELATED: World's Top 10 Scariest Cliff Walks
(Photo: Channing Brown via flickr/CC Attribution)
Huayna Picchu, Peru
Although the hike to Machu Picchu is much more grueling (and famous) than the climb up Huayna Picchu, the latter is definitely more dangerous. This lesser-known mountain is the one towering behind the site of Machu Picchu in all of those pictures you've seen online. The journey to the summit is steep (and often slick after a rain), and there may only be a handrail (or nothing at all) to stop you from plunging off the narrow pathways and into the void. Descending the uneven stone steps on the way down is precarious and will test the nerves of anyone with even an ounce of self-preservation.
(Photo: Brian Ralphs via flickr/CC Attribution)
Trolltunga, or "Troll's Tongue", a rocky outcropping in Norway, has exploded in popularity, thanks to all of the nerve-wracking photos people post online. In fact, this hard-to-reach spot (the hike takes around 10 hours round-trip) now regularly sees 20-minute lines of people waiting to grab a photo op at the tongue's tip. Plenty of crowds, a small space, no barriers, and a sheer vertical drop is a recipe for disaster, and unfortunately, a tourist recently died when she slipped off the edge here.
RELATED: How to Get High in Europe
Skellig Michael, Ireland
We can't imagine this happening at a tourist attraction in the U.S.—in 2009, after two visitors died at Skellig Michael, a review of the island's safety conditions was held. The verdict? Adding railings to the steep, uneven, slippery 1,000-year-old stone stairs would destroy the natural beauty of the site (and also lull people into a false sense of security), so the only safety precautions taken at this former monastic site were adding signs and giving out pamphlets that warn of the dangers of climbing the 600 steps to the top.
RELATED: 10 Best Hidden Places in Ireland
(Photo: Don Richards via flickr/CC Attribution)
Mount Hua Shan Plank Walk, China
Following a number of fatalities on the vertigo-inducing Mount Hua Shan Plank Walk, hikers are now required to wear a safety harness while crossing this series of extremely narrow walkways suspended nearly 5,000 feet up a side of a mountain. Think those pathways look small? Keep in mind that they're for two-way foot traffic, which means you might be sharing that board with someone going in the other direction. And, just because you're required to bring a harness on the walk, there's no one there to stop you from going without once you're out there—like this daredevil.
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Running of the Bulls, Spain
There are almost too many reasons to list as to why an event like the Running of the Bulls would never happen in America—outrage from animal rights' groups, massive and uncontrolled crowds, the danger of being impaled by a bull or crushed under hundreds of other runners … yet this iconic tradition continues every year in Pamplona. We recommend watching this event from the sidelines, rather than running the course yourself.
(Photo: Pamplona, Spain via Shutterstock.com)
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
Somehow, one of the most dangerous roads in the world (North Yungas Road) has become among the most popular stops on Bolivia's adventure circuit. The road used to be the only way to get between La Paz and the jungle region of the Yungas, but in 2007, a new paved highway connected the two, leaving the "Death Road" mostly empty of vehicular traffic—but attracting thrill-seeking cyclists instead. In fact,according to one of Bolivia's largest bike tour operator, bike traffic on the road has increased by about five percent every year, despite the cyclists that die during tours every year.
(Photo: Thinkstock, iStock)
Volcano Boarding, Nicaragua
Visit the top of an active volcano? Why not. Slide down the volcanic stones all the way to the bottom, at speeds of over 40mph on a wooden sled? Sure, as long as you pay $30. With Tierra Tours, you can sled down Cerro Negro, an active volcano outside of Leon Nicaragua, on a wooden board, while wearing a protective suit and goggles. No brakes and no fear allowed.
RELATED: 10 Explosive Volcano Destinations
(Photo: Sparkle Motion via flickr/CC Attribution)
Maho Beach, Saint Martin
Get too close to a runway in America, and you'll be in serious trouble. Stand on a beach directly under a flightpath of jumbo jets approaching the airport a mere 100 feet above your head? Only at Maho Beach in Saint Martin, where beachgoers have to be warned that standing too close to aircraft can "result in serious injury and/or death", as the jet blast can literally blow away tourists.
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Read the original story: Tourist Attractions That Would Never Exist in America by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.