What attracts tourists to dangerous countries?

By: Sandstorm

Jan 19 2010

Category: Adventures, Middle East


Perhaps it’s the thrill of danger or the blind sense of adventure, but holiday makers (including me) are increasingly attracted to the more volatile parts of the world.

In his article Into Harm’s Way, Tom Chesshyre explores what attracts tourists to hostile locations and concludes that visiting dangerous places gives the more adventurous (or ‘foolish’) traveller ‘cultural currency’ among their peers.

But I don’t think it’s that.

It’s more of a craving to be out of your comfort zone – almost like an anti-thesis to a luxury package holiday where everything’s provided for you.

It’s also about the innate thrill associated with doing something dangerous, in exactly the same way that people are drawn to extreme sports like bungee jumping and skydiving. Humans have an intrinsic need to ‘test’ themselves, and the same applies with adventure travellers.

More fundamentally, for me, is the desire to see countries ‘realistically’ – as they are – without the glitz and forced luxury. Seeing (for myself, rather than through the media) that the world isn’t perfect surely makes for a  better developed, more well-rounded perception of the world we live in.

Tom also asks whether it’s ethical for tourists from prosperous countries to go on organised tours to see sites of immense poverty and conflict.

I agree, it isn’t – I really don’t condone the idea of specifically going to see areas of suffering and destruction as a tourist attraction and it’s not something I’d ever do.

But the fact remains that if you want to see a lot of these places, the only sane and safe way to do it is with a specialist tour provider.

These are the five places I’d like to visit, despite Foreign and Commonwealth Office warnings against all-but-essential travel to certain parts:

Yemen: Like some kind of ancient and forgotten civilisation from the Stargate movie (complete with imposing gateway), Yemen isn’t famed for its beauty or modernity. It’s a hugely unstable country, but there’s something spellbinding and deeply intriguing about the ancient city of Sana’a.

Venezuela: In essence, a nightmare. The political situation between Venezuela and Colombia is fragile to say the least. In parts, it’s a violent and drug-addled country where street crime and kidnapping is high, and even the airport is considered unsafe. But then it does have the sweeping valleys of the Andes and some of the most spectacular scenery on earth…

Israel: Rocket attacks and political tensions make this part of the world extremely volatile. But Jerusalem is one of the most ancient and beautiful cities in the world full of fascinating historic and archeological sites.

Iran: An absolute no-go. But ancient Persia is an enchanting country with an astonishingly diverse landscape combining snow-capped mountains, pristine beaches and thriving, culture-drenched cities.

Ecuador: The areas bordering Colombia are tense. armed robbery is rife and there are very real risks from a multitude of natural disasters, from flooding to volcanic eruptions. Conversely, the Tungurahua volcano is absolutely breathtaking and attracts hoards of backpackers every year.

So over to you! Are you attracted to dangerous countries? Or have you always wanted to see a country despite it being unsafe? Do leave a comment, would love to hear what you think!


3 comments on “What attracts tourists to dangerous countries?”

  1. All the best things that have happened to me on my travels have been unexpected, and that’s what I crave from a holiday – unpredictability. And what could be more unpredictable than a dangerous country?

    I’ve been in some potentially hazardous situations in my time and looking back perhaps I was foolish, but no one can take the experiences I’ve had away from me and those memories are the ones I know will last and last.

  2. You should at least spell check the name of countries if you pretend to be a travel expert – there is not Equador!

  3. Very charmingly put. A very good point, Suzy, and I have of course corrected it – journalists do sometimes make the odd mistake, you know – even the best of us!

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