Top 10 Failed States: Forbidden Wonders

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This is our peculiar fail compilation from some of those countries that have a red warning at the top of the page in Wikivoyage or on the Foreign Office website. Every year there is a new list of states in conflict, places where virtually no one would think to go on holiday. Countries like Afghanistan are not exactly included among the world’s most visited tourist destinations.

The human disruption and chaos that exists in some corners of the planet doesn’t mean that there aren’t formidable wonders that some adventurers -or fools- will not hesitate to visit.

The list of sites not recommended to spend next summer vacation is long, but based on the ranking prepared annually by the magazine Foreign Policy we have selected our countdown of the top ten countries considered in 2011 as the worst destinations, as far as your personal safety is concerned.

[Update: This article was written just before the Syrian war]

Ivory Coast
10- Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has more than a decade of experience as a banana republic: great natural resources in the hands of incompetent politicians, fueling tribal wars that have led the country to look into the abyss of civil war, as its famous reggae singer Alpha Blondy feared in the nineties. In this photo, the skyscrapers of the vibrant economic capital, Abidjan.

Biggest church
Fortunately, the latest reports indicate that the conflict is slowly being resolved. Therefore we would be able to visit the world's largest church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro. It was built in the eighties, as a replica of St. Peter's Basilica of Rome in the middle of the savannah, by a president who was in power for three decades.
Image by John Spier

Fail compilation 2011
9- Iraq. Unless you've spent the last ten years frozen and waiting for a miracle cure, or you’re a citizen of the People's Republic of Korea, you may already know that the invasion that sent the cradle of civilization straight to the highest positions of this list was a catastrophe. In this picture, the ruins of the city of Hatra, a World Heritage Site.

Gates of Babylon
Iraq not only has oil in the subsoil, but also has hundreds of archaeological sites from the earliest cities in the world, key to understanding our past. Instead of empty desert, it is believed that a few thousand years ago, the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates were fertile lands where legendary cities like Nineveh, Ur and Babylon flourished. Anyway, if you want to see the original Gates of Babylon, it’s easier to travel to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Central African Republic
8- Central African Republic is a country where in many areas, only the law of the jungle reigns. According to Lonely Planet’s brief chapter about the country, if you are looking for the real Africa, CAR may be for you. Furthermore, it is inhabited by very friendly people despite the prevailing anarchy.
Image by Hdptcar

African Elephants
The Central African Republic is also home to other kinds of wildlife in natural parks such as Manovo-Gounda St Floris, located in the northern part of the country where it is threatened by poachers armed with assault rifles, or the Dzanga-Sangha reserves (pictured), established in the more stable southern part of the country.
Image by Nicolas Rost

Lakes Afghanistan
7- Afghanistan has a lot to offer to the traveler who dares to venture within its boundaries, despite more than thirty years embroiled in conflict after conflict spanning back to the disastrous Soviet invasion of 1979. As shown, the incredible turquoise lakes of Band-e Amir.
Image by Hadi Zaher

Minaret of Jam
The slightly leaning (Tower of Pisa style) Minaret of Jam stands in the middle of nowhere. In Afghanistan there is also the touristy Bamiyan Valley, which sadly became famous in 2001 after the detonation of the giant Buddha statues carved into its hillsides.
Image by David Adamec

Victoria Falls
6- Zimbabwe is another land with vast natural resources managed with countless blunders, including the hyperinflation that in 2008 led its central bank to print 100 trillion dollar notes. However, the main tourist circuits are still open, like the famous Victoria Falls, on the border with Zambia.

Great Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe could be an excellent holiday destination for national parks, like Matusadona or Hwange, where you can observe the big five African animals. You can also visit the remains of medieval castles such as Great Zimbabwe (pictured), which was the center of a powerful empire.
Image by Erik Törner

5- Haiti seems abandoned to its fate since the cameras left after the apocalyptic earthquake of 2010. The first Latin American nation to become independent and abolish slavery in 1804, has several fortresses as Laferrière (pictured), built to defend the country from France's attempts to bring it back to the imperial yoke.
Image by Nick Hobgood

Jacmel, or what is left of it, is a beautiful colonial town with picturesque buildings. After the earthquake it had to be included in the list of endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund. In the picture, the market in 1991.

4- Democratic Republic of the Congo is an enormous territory that has been ravaged by bloody conflicts and dictatorships since its independence from the brutal Belgian colonization. The Coltan War, also known as the Great War of Africa, was about foreign companies adding fuel to the fire to facilitate the looting of the country’s natural resources. In the photo, the burning lava lake of Mount Nyiragongo, a gate of hell very appropriate to the recent history of this region.
Image by Terese Hart

Congo Nature
Aside from human misery, the Congo is considered one of the few megadiverse countries, which means that it has a high level of biodiversity. In addition to the major parks and reserves of elephants and primates, you can also photograph the colorful landscapes of the large mining region of Katanga.
Image by FairPhone

Pyramids of Meroe
3- Sudan/South Sudan. The Foreign Policy list is made with data from previous years, so for us these still count as one entry, even though the independence of South Sudan has already been recognized by the international community in July 2011. The famous pyramids of Meroe have fallen to the north, which is largely Muslim.
Image by Jordan Sitkin

Kassala, with its rounded Taka mountains in the background, is away from the drama lived out in Darfur in recent years (ethnic cleansing).
Image by Håkon Kvåle

2- Chad is bound by the Darfur region in the east and the Central African Republic to the south. Chad is another example of disastrous decolonization that is dragging this huge piece of Africa from bad to worse. In this photo, the mountains of Ennedi, rising like a great disintegrating hulk, at the east of the country.

According to Lonely Planet, Chad is Africa for the hardcore. No doubt, there are many wonders there awaiting to be explored in better times. But if you don't like waiting, find out more about the Lakes of Ounianga and the Ennedi Plateau following this link.

Laas Gaal
1- Somalia has the sad distinction of being the most failed state in the world, to the point where we are not even sure if it is still a state. Also, although they are not currently recognized, at least two of its regions have established themselves as independent countries (Somaliland and Puntland). Laas Gaal (image) is one of the oldest rock painting sites in Africa. Discovered in 2002 and despite all the difficulties, the caves are in excellent condition.

While Somaliland in the north has managed to reorganize itself and keeps some stability and security, the former capital Mogadishu has been without a real government since 1991. It is a city without law and is considered one of the most dangerous places on Earth (Remember the movie Black Hawk Down?).
Sandstorms like the one pictured are very common in the Horn of Africa.

  1. Hi! Thank you very much for this post! How wonderful it would be see see these places with my own eyes. The descriptions were brief and to the point. Beautiful pictures!

  2. Thanks for your comment, this is the best reward we could have!


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