To a traveler, nothing feels worse than being told there's an awesome place you've got to see... but that you can't go visit it.
We hate to say it, but these 10 spots--mysterious, abandoned, tropical and top-secret--will probably remain forever unchecked on your bucket list.
This is real-life Shutter Island, people. Until 1968, the island was used as a mental hospital-- legend says that one doctor who habitually butchered his patients was later thrown from the island's bell tower to his own death. Poveglia's deeper past is even darker: It was a quarantine spot during the Bubonic Plague and Black Death epidemics. Over 160,000 people were reportedly sent there to wait out illnesses until death, after which their bodies may have been burned. There have been sporadic reports of a tour company that will take you to Poveglia, but as far as we know it's completely off-limits to locals and tourists.
White's gentlemen's club, London
There's a very good chance this is the most exclusive clubhouse in the world-- members are entirely male and have included a number of British royals like Prince Charles, who had his Bollinger-sponsored bachelor party here before marrying Princess Diana. There's a billiards room, bar, and restaurant that serves a set menu of "game, grouse and grey-leg partridge in autumn." White's members are also famous for their betting habits, which are recorded in a book: In 1816, Lord Alvanley bet his friend 3,000 pounds (a hefty sum in any age) that one raindrop would fall to the bottom of the window before another. You've gotta know someone at White's to get in... so good luck.
North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
This beautiful, blue-water island near India is off-limits to tourists, but not by the government's choice. There's an indigenous tribe of 50 to 250 people living on North Sentinel, and they've driven all visitors -- from journalists to rescue helicopters to gift-bearers with coconuts -- off their island with bows and arrows. We have pretty much no idea what they do there, and even if you wanted to risk a visit, the island is only safe to approach by sea for about two months per year. You'll have to settle for a Google Maps tour.
The Vatican Secret Archives, Italy
Unless you're a Dan Brown-ish scholar, you're never getting in here. Only about 1,000 legitimate researchers per year are allowed into this ultra-secret library, which houses official papers -- including Henry VIII's annulment request, documents from Galileo's trial, and mail from Mary Queen of Scots -- on 52 miles of shelving. Conservationists are currently working to digitize a letter from Michelangelo that they found in the archives... how very Da Vinci Code.
Bohemian Grove, California
There's a gentlemen's club in San Francisco that holds the super-secret Bohemian Grove retreat every summer. Some of the most accomplished men in America, from presidents to L.A. Times publishers, come to this campsite for two weeks of what reportedly includes comedy performances, peeing in the woods, and exclusive talks about business and government matters. One time, a Vanity Fair editor tried to sneak into the shindig. He was arrested.
Area 51, Nevada
We all know the story behind this one... or do we? Area 51 is a top-secret zone on Nellis Air Force Range in the desert beyond Las Vegas, and nobody's truly sure what happens there. We do know, however, that the CIA is somehow involved, that they didn't publicly acknowledge Area 51's existence until July 2013, and that they're probably using the space to test weapons or aircrafts. More creative skeptics say the government is hiding UFOs or baby aliens behind barbed-wire walls. Either way, you may not enter under any circumstances... unless you want a visit from "the cammo dudes."
This is one of Earth's most pristine young ecosystems: it didn't even exist until debris from volcano eruptions created a little island during the 1960s. Despite its recent birth, there are already 89 bird species on Surtsey-- seagulls came onto the scene in 1984, and a few years ago scientists sighted the island's first puffins. Other new inhabitants include seals and slugs. The only humans to visit so far are researchers-- they stay in a tiny hut with a few bunk beds, and they have to be careful to clean up all traces of their existence. In other words, commoners are not allowed on Surtsey.
Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center, Virginia
FEMA's center of operations is the go-to spot for our country's top officials when disaster strikes. Dick Cheney and many members of Congress were shuttled here on September 11-- the 564-acre facility has offices, dorms and a dining room in a location safely outside the city of D.C. There are armed guards. And access to the president's Emergency Alert System. So you can't go there.
The Jiangsu National Security Education Museum, China
This museum displays some of China's finer spy gadgets like miniature cameras, microphones disguised as calculators, and pistols that look like lipstick. Chinese citizens are allowed to tour the museum, whose exhibits explain the country's spy tactics, but foreigners will be turned away at the door. And no matter who you are, you're forbidden from taking pictures.
Aldwych Tube Station, London
During World War II, this subway station was used as an air raid shelter and a hiding place for artworks from the National Gallery. It continued running, later with limited service, until 1994, but now the station is totally and creepily out of use. There are vintage trains on the tracks, and the old lobby and platforms stand empty. Rarely, it's open for tours. Most of the time, you have to break in.
CLARIFICATION: The language of this post has been amended to better describe the location of Area 51.