Travel insurance exists for a reason: Sometimes the best destinations are not the safest. Traveling on paths where hikers get beaten is a risk that might or might not be worth taking depending on the payoff. In the case of the following six destinations, travelers who make the formidable trek will be outrageously rewarded.
1. Annapurna, Nepal
Fifty-three people have died while attempting to climb this 26,545-foot spire of jagged rock, making Annapurna, statistically, the most dangerous peak in the world. Although you personally may not gear up for a full-blown summit, you can still relish the scenery and face down a photogenic snowstorm or two on a guided trek to South Base Camp.
2. Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan
The mud volcanoes located along Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea coastline have a strange habit of spewing out 50-foot high flames every few decades. But, for the most part, the methane and mud bubbling out of the 400-plus volcanoes in Azerbaijan is surprisingly cold and inviting. Visitors indulge in chilly volcano mud baths between dips in the world’s largest lake.
3. Socotra, Yemen
In 2012, Yemen made its way onto the State Department’s “Seriously, don’t go here” list, but Yemen’s Socotra archipelago still exerts a gravitational pull on adventure-minded travelers. Tourists who make it there walk in groves of frankincense pines and touch the red sap of rare dragon’s blood trees, which mushroom out of the dry soil next to abandoned beaches. A landscape this beautiful can be a real distraction from Al Qaida threats.
4. Djibouti, Djibouti
Despite the fact that unemployment in the Massachusetts-size, perpetually unstable country of Djibouti is hovering around 60 percent, violent crimes against tourists are not particularly common (except by neighboring Somalian pirates). You’re more likely to get pickpocketed gawking at the capital’s incredible beaches or ripped off by a price-gouging taxi driver while navigating exotic, people-packed marketplaces. Then again, the government forbids taking photographs of public buildings, seaports, bridges, the airport, or military personnel, so you could end up in prison for an errant snapshot. Still, not taking a photo of the fetching Ambouli palm grove goes against every instinct instilled by Instagram.
5. Zambezi River, Southern Africa
Despite flowing through six countries, and around an untold number of hippos, crocodiles, and bull sharks, the Zambezi is a popular destination for thrill-seeking rafters and canoers. Hire a local guide and do a weeklong canoe trip to experience the real deal. This safari demands your undivided attention.
6. The La Paz “Death Road,” Bolivia
Bolivia’s North Yungas Road attracts mountain-biking madmen from around the world. The crumbling 3,600-meter path winds along sheer cliffs free of guardrails and crowded with old Bolivian vehicles before depositing spent peddlers in the scenic resort town of Coroico. Pack a helmet and a parachute.