Except for improving pub quiz trivia, why read about the most dangerous countries in the world? Beyond their negative reputations, many of the world’s most dangerous countries hide wonders that would normally have us flocking to adventure there.
While the dangers cannot, and should not, be ignored, nor should the landscapes, history and unique offerings of many of these unknown adventure destinations. Don't judge a book by its cover!
The list below will tour you through the world’s most dangerous countries, along with some other intriguing categories that reveal countries might not have been high on your adventure bucket list– until now.
Let’s go and discover an adventurer’s world less trodden.
A note of caution: If you do choose to visit one of the places, please heed the information and advice of authorities at home and at your destination to ensure you do all you can to stay safe while you’re visiting.
What is the World's Most Dangerous country?
According to the Global Peace Index, Syria is the world’s most dangerous country.
Measuring factors that include displaced people, violent crime and internal conflicts being fought, the Global Peace Index attempts to rank 163 countries in order of their peaceful or dangerous natures. Syria comes bottom of the list, scoring top marks (that’s bad) in more than half of the risk factors.
A civil war that has raged in the wider region since mid-2011 has become an ubiquitous sight on our news bulletins. It is a complex chess game involving not only President Assad, Islamic State militants and other ‘rebel’ opposition forces, but also many of the world’s biggest powers. So far, the war has seen an estimated 60% of the population displaced and casualties reaching an estimated 470,000 civilians alone.
The direction of travel from Syria is entirely one-way at the moment, with refugees fleeing the war-torn nation for whatever future they may be able to find elsewhere. But only a few years ago, Syria was a popular destination for adventurers and one of the safest countries in the Middle East.
The ancient city of Damascus showed how Christians and Muslims could share the skyline with church spires and minarets rising from bustling markets, coffee shops and hammams. Another ancient city (both are thought to be among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world) was Aleppo, though now little of what made this place so wonderful remains intact.
Beyond its mainly coastal cities, Syria is largely a desert. Dotted through this landscape are historic sites stretching back thousands of years such as Palmyra. Unfortunately, how many of these will still be standing after the war remains to be seen, with sections of ancient Palmyra already having been destroyed.
World’s Next Most Dangerous Countries.
Next on the list of the world’s most dangerous countries are South Sudan and Iraq, though Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria also rank high when it comes to high levels of terrorist incidents.
Displacement and internal conflicts have ravaged South Sudan, a nation that is barely six-years-old. In 2011, the country voted to break away from Sudan, but descended into civil war by the end of 2013. Fighting broke out over the control of oil resources but is reported to have also included ‘ethnic cleansing’ of groups including the Nuer people during the fighting.
At the time of writing, the world’s first declared famine in six years was also gripping South Sudan, with over 100,000 people facing starvation and a million others at risk.
Iraq has gone from one conflict to another throughout the last half century. From the removal of the British-installed monarchy and the decade-long war with Iran to the two US-led invasions and the current civil war involving Islamic State militants, Iraq has been at war almost continuously since the 1960s.
The tragedy of Iraq’s conflicts for adventurers is how they have closed off access to what was once Mesopotamia: the cradle of civilisation. Across four main regions, Iraq’s landscape offers desert, lush plains, rolling uplands and mountainous highlands that eventually connect with the Himalayas. There is even an area of coral reef in the waters of the Persian Gulf which lap Iraq’s coast.
The main draw of South Sudan for adventures is the White Nile, the river that dissects the country. It is surrounded by grassland, swamps and tropical forests. The Sudd is considered to be one of the world’s largest swamplands, extending over 130,00 sq km (50,193 sq miles) during the wet season.
However, in the south-east of South Sudan there are also peaks worth climbing, the highest of which is Mount Kinyeti (3,187 m/ 10,456 ft). The Imatong Mountains are actually all part of one massif, which extends into Uganda to the south.
Which country has the highest murder rate in the world?
Honduras has by far and away the world’s highest murder rate. The rate peaked in 2012 when close to one in every thousand people in the country were murdered.
Organised narcotics crime, government corruption, repressive policies and widespread poverty all contribute to the high murder rate. There is also a particularly high level of violence against women and LGBT people through the dominant Machista culture, which contributes to the potential dangers to visitors.
More recent statistics have shown a marked fall in murder rates in Honduras to 74.6 per 100,000. However, Honduras still leads El Salvador (ranked second) and Venezuela (third) by more than 10 points on the murder scale. In contrast, the US ranks 109th on the list of homicides with a murder rate of 3.9.
Despite this, Honduras has so much to offer an adventurous visitor. Beyond the more dangerous cities, the small nation has a dozen national parks and superb diving around the Bay Islands. It’s also very cheap to visit, so a little will go a long way towards memorable adventures here.
Wildlife abounds in the varied wildernesses of Honduras, with populations of rare mammals living in the forests and islands. These include the cloud forests of one of the world’s last undeveloped wildernesses, La Moskitia, and Celaque National Park, which has four mountains just waiting to be climbed.
Which country is Most Dangerous for Women Visitors?
This one may well come as a surprise. The world’s most dangerous country for a woman traveller, especially alone, is India.
With an average of 93 rapes reported a day, such brutal attacks are now at “epidemic levels for women tourists”. Many countries advise against non-essential travel to this colourful nation, with the major cities coming in as the most dangerous places to go.
But it’s not just the visitors who are at risk. India ranks fourth on the list of most dangerous places to be a woman, with trafficking, forced marriages and femicide all-too-common.
Rishikesh is the only region deemed safe enough for a woman to visit alone, with a regular flow of tourists into the state for its well-known yoga ashrams.
The wonders of India are very well-known. From the Ganges river, the Taj Mahal and the ancient city of Varanasi in the north to the tropical paradises of Goa and the state of Kerala in the south, India has so much to offer any traveller.
For those looking to head skywards up mountain paths, the northern states of the country offer mountains that are arguably only bettered by neighbouring Nepal.
The highest peak in India is Kangchenjunga (8,586 m/ 28,169 ft), the world’s thirds highest peak. The states of Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Jammu/Kashmir contain various extensions of the Himalayas, along with the Karakoram range, the Indian high point of which is Saltoro Kangri (7,742 m/ 25,400 ft), otherwise known as K10.
Which are the World’s Most Unknowable Nations?
For this one, we’ve used the ranking of press freedoms to define countries whose everyday realities are the hardest to know. After all, if there is no way of getting reliable news from the country, how can we know what to expect when we arrive?
Coming bottom of the list of press freedoms in Eritrea, closely followed by North Korea. As an aside, Syria is now the fourth worst.
Under a dictatorship for over 20 years, the small African nation of Eritrea has ranked bottom of press freedoms in each of the last eight years. It has a ban on press freedom, with the national media being a mouthpiece for President Afeworki.
North Korea’s closed door policy may well be more familiar to many of us. After all, ironically, this policy makes our own news feeds whenever foreign press are granted rare visiting rights to the totalitarian regime.
Eritrea may be secretive, but its landscape has plenty to entice and there are few other reasons not to organise a visit. It is much safer than many countries in the region, ranking 116th on the Global Peace Index. With soaring escarpments, sandy beaches and numerous mountain peaks, there is much to satisfy an adventurer in this African nation.
The highest mountain in Eritrea is Emba Soira (3,018 m/ 9,902 ft). It is part of the Eritrean highlands that peak on the northern side of the Great Rift Valley as it opens to meet the Red Sea. The country also features a number of volcanoes, the highest being the Nabro Volcano (2,218 m/ 7,277 ft), which last erupted in 2011.
Near the border with South Korea, the mountainous region of Kumgangsan in North Korea includes the eponymous Diamond Mountain, whose peaks reach in excess of 1,600 m (5,250 ft). Waterfalls, pristine lakes, deep lagoons and forested peaks all make this a hiking eden, though one which is incredibly hard, and potentially dangerous, to access.
What Visas are the hardest to get?
There are many countries whose main challenge seems to be simply getting across the border. While this doesn’t necessary foretell of dangers within those nations, it does up the potential risk of an unsuccessful trip.
To visit Iran you’ll need to wait on a slow visa process, only accessible via an official travel agency in Tehran. While one official website says the process only takes around a fortnight, accounts show delays in excess of three months are pretty normal.
The wait may well prove to be worth it though as Iran has much to offer an adventurer. Huge mountain ranges that include the highest mountain in the Middle East, Mount Damavand (5,610 m/ 18,438 ft) pose challenges for any experience of mountaineer.
There are also two huge deserts in Iran, with the Lut Desert featuring curious rock formations called kaluts, a sort of middle-eastern Utah. To the north-east, the Turkmen Plains, or Torkaman Sahra, are an endless sequence of rolling hills. Virtually untouched by modern development, this area reveals secrets like the 11th-Century tower, Gonbad-e Qabus.
Another hard country to gain the stamp of approval for is Turkmenistan. Again, use a local agency to get the letter of invitation required to begin the process and count on a wait of more than six weeks. Oh, and you’ll need to list everywhere you plan to go when you apply. A condition of any visitor visa is that you are accompanied by a local guide throughout your trip, and further permits are required to access national parks, so don’t expect to feel liberated during your visit!
Once you’re in, hiking in Turkmenistan is an experience of the semi-nomadic culture normal in the Karakum, the ‘Black Sand’ desert. Highlights include the ancient city of Nisa, which was an important trading point between east and west and once marked the edge of the former Roman Empire. In the south are the Kopet Dagi Mountains that connect with the northern mountains of Iran.
What is the World’s Most Isolated Nation?
Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, literally, is the tiny island nation of Kiribati. And as realistic destinations to visit (excluding more isolated but uninhabited islands like Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean), Kiribati is just about as isolated as you can get.
Pronounced ‘Kiribas’, there are only two international flights a week, one from Honolulu and one from Fiji, to the country ranked the fourth least visited in the world. The easternmost islands also have the most advanced time on Earth at UTC+14hours. But while living in the future, be sure not to miss your flight home– the next one doesn’t leave for a week!
Kiribati has four groups of islands that offer everything from world-class fishing to unique cultural experiences and various World War II relics, including those from the Battle of Tarawa. It also has three curiously named settlements to visit, named Paris, London and Poland.
Which countries will you never visit?
If you find yourself on the tiny island nation of Nauru, or the equally minuscule Manus Island near Papua New Guinea, there’s a chance are you’ve been sent there by the Australian government. These tiny specks of land have been used in recent years as offshore detention centres, and is where the government sends unwanted asylum seekers who arrive to Australia by boat.
A stay on this 21 sq km island can (officially) last up to five years, during which time the case for asylum is supposed to be processed. However, last year’s Nauru Files shone a light on the brutal conditions that exist in the camps. For a tiny nation once one of the richest per capita in the world, now stripped of its valuable resources, this existence as a ‘client’ nation to Australia brings little more than a bleak survival.
Why visit Nauru? With the landscape stripped bare of the lucrative phosphate, unfortunately there are few reasons a tourist would visit Nauru. One is that you can run around the entire nation in a couple of hours, another that it is the boast that this is the least visited country in the world (200 tourists in 2011).
What is the World's Deadliest Mountain?
We couldn't go through a list without mentioning at least one mountain! Of all the world’s ascents, Annapurna (8,091 m/ 256,545 ft) is the world’s deadliest peak, with a death rate that has been as high as 41%. That means, for every five people who reach the summit, around two people will die trying.
What makes Nepal’s Annapurna so dangerous? There’s Annapurna’s ‘black wind’ that causes almost instant frost bite, massively variable weather conditions, avalanches and a summit that is ranked the 10th highest in the world.
But it is also the high point of one of the most spectacular mountain landscapes in the world, with the Annapurna massif also containing the distinctive fish-tail mountain (Machapuchare, 6,993m/22,943 ft), one of the world’s deepest gorges (Kali Gandalf Gorge) and the world’s highest mountain pass (Thorong La Pass, 5,416 m/ 17,769 ft).
One way to enjoy Annapurna with only a fraction of the risk is to walk around out on the 220 km (137-mile) Annapurna Circuit. This trail takes in much of what the landscape has to offer but without needing to attempt the deadly slopes of Annapurna itself. Just be careful on Thorong La Pass: in 2014 a sudden snowstorm killed 43 hikers there.
Where are the World’s Scariest Hikes?
And lastly here’s one we prepared earlier!
Check out our list of death-defying, nerve-jangling, pant-wetting hikes from around the world. If makeshift planks nailed thousands of feet up sheer cliffs is your idea of fun, consider this your hiking bucket list!
Now then, after all these cautionary tales, why not visit our Destinations page and choose your next adventure travel spot?
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