The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has made bustling cities like New York resemble ghost towns. Social distancing has shut national parks and turned tropical paradises into forbidden islands. But instead of dreaming about canceled trips, why not learn about some strange places that have always been forbidden?
Turns out there’s been an actual ghost town (that’s North Brother Island, by the way) within New York City limits for 80 years. And some islands have long been prohibited—for fascinating reasons. While all the places below are restricted in some way, a few can be visited by invitation, seen from afar, or experienced through replicas (once travel restrictions have ended). For now, there’s no time quite like a self-quarantine for descending into the online rabbit hole, where you’ll find plenty of photos and information for a virtual vacation.
1. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
In April 1986, an electrical test triggered a chain reaction at the Chernobyl No.4 nuclear reactor. The explosion and resulting reactor fire spewed radioactive particles into the atmosphere for nine days, becoming the worst nuclear accident in history. Shortly after the meltdown, a sarcophagus of concrete and lead was built over the reactor, and an exclusion zone was established with a radius of 19 miles. This Zone of Alienation was later expanded to 1,000 square miles and contains some of the most radioactively contaminated places on earth. In recent years, the New Safe Confinement, a steel entombment structure, was built over the previous sarcophagus. Since 2011, tour groups have been allowed to visit parts of the zone.
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