As adventure travelers, there are generally very few places in the world that we don't want to visit. Often times the more remote and off the beaten path a destination is, the more eager we are to go there. But sadly there are some places – no matter how alluring or culturally interesting – that remain extremely dangerous for travelers, making them unsafe for outsiders. Here is a list of seven such places that we should avoid in 2016.
Topping the list of dangerous places once again this year is Syria. On going conflicts within the country between rebel factions looking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and his armed forces have led to instability on an unprecedented scale. Add in ISIS insurgents and ongoing airstrikes from Russian and NATO forces, and the entire country has practically been turned into a battlefield. It has gotten so bad that nearly half of the pre-war population has either been killed or fled to other countries. With no end to the conflict in sight, travelers should avoid coming anywhere close to the Middle Eastern country that is so rich in history and culture.
It is difficult to imagine any country being more dangerous to visit than Syria, but if there is one destination that rivals it, it is probably Nigeria. Due to the continued activity of the Boko Haram, and similar terrorist groups, the country is simply unsafe for both locals and foreign visitors alike.
These groups are prone to extreme violence, and have killed more than 20,000 people, while displacing 2.3 million more, since their uprising began back in 2009. Book Haram militants are also known to operate in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon as well.
Iraq faces some of the same challenges that Syria does – namely numerous factions vying for power with armed conflict often erupting between these groups.
On top of that, ISIS has a large presence inside the country as well, with whole regions completely under control of the militant insurgency. Western visitors are often the target of attacks throughout the country, with improvised explosive devices still a major concern for those living, working, and traveling there. In short, Iraq isn't particularly safe at the moment for the people living there, let alone foreign visitors.
While there have been some signs of Somalia finally gaining a semblance of stability in recent months, it remains a country that teeters on the edge of conflict and unrest. Islamic extremists have worked hard to undermine the fledgeling government there, but while those efforts are often violent, Somalia is now a nation that is preparing to rejoin the world's community. That said, it is still extremely dangerous for outsiders with kidnappings and murders a daily occurrence. Most countries – including the United States – still don't even maintain an embassy there. Even sailing ships are warned from straying too close to the Somali coast, as pirate activity has lessened, but remains a constant threat.
The Middle Eastern nation of Yemen continues to be embroiled in conflict as separatists in the south battle armed forces loyal to the elected government, which was overthrown in March of 2015.
The continued fighting there has made the country completely unstable, with daily attacks and kidnappings of foreign visitors a common occurrence. When the conflict began early last year, the U.S. government closed its embassy in the country and withdrew all of the staff. Officials have also urged all foreign workers and aid workers to depart due to the violent nature of ongoing civil war.
Western visitors remain the target of attacks in Sudan, particularly in the Darfur region. Terrorist groups exist in numerous areas, with bombings, carjackings, kidnappings, shootings, and home break-ins a constant problem. Conflicts between ethnic tribes continues to be a major source of unrest as well, while armed bandits frequent certain areas of the countryside too. While the capital of Khartoum offers some semblance of security, pretty much anywhere else in Sudan offers some kind of threat.
Another country that remains embroiled in a prolonged civil war is South Sudan. One of the newest nations on Earth, the country first gained its independence in 2011, only for war to breakout between competing factions less than two years later. More than two million people have been displaced due to the fighting, and foreign visitors have often found themselves caught up in struggle. And since the government has few resources to spare for law enforcement, looting, robbery, muggings, and violent attacks are all too common at this time.
Due to the continued presence of al-Qaeda and Taliban factions within Pakistan, foreign travelers are advised to avoid visiting the country unless absolutely necessary. Regular terrorist attacks, which include targeted killings, bombings, kidnappings, and armed assaults against government, military, and civilian insulations have made security a real issue throughout the country. In 2015 alone there were more than 250 attacks throughout the year, which is a good indicator of just how dangerous and unstable Pakistan truly is.
Democratic Republic of Congo
There are certain places within the DRC that are relatively safe for visitors, but certain provinces remain incredibly dangerous. In particular, visitors should avoid North and South Kivu in particular, as there are several armed militias operating there, not the least of which is a rebel group that calls itself the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. Armed bandits and para-military groups operate with near impunity across the area, with DRC forces often clashing with these forces. Murder, looting, kidnapping, rape, armed assault, and many other crimes are a regular occurrence, making it a very dangerous place for outsiders.
While foreign visitors are not specifically targeted in Venezuela in the same way as they are in some of the other countries on this list, violent crime is a frequent occurrence throughout the country. Muggings and armed robberies happen with alarming frequency, and Venezuela has the second highest homicide rate in the entire world. This makes it a dangerous place for travelers at all times, and while it is possible to travel safely there, caution should be taken when visiting, particularly in the capital city of Caracas.