The Most Heavily Guarded Places On Earth

Here are some of the most guarded places on Earth!


Some places are so restricted and guarded that getting in, or even getting out, is practically impossible. Or it was until you found this article because here's an all-access pass into previously inaccessible places, from the world’s most secure Starbucks to Area 51. Let's explore the most heavily guarded places on earth!

Area 51

Area 51 might be the world’s most famous best-kept secret. But what do we actually know about it? The “official” story states it’s a classified US Air Force facility outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Originally, it was used by the CIA to develop and test the U-2 Reconnaissance plane. But that’s not why it’s famous.

In 1989, a man named Bob Lazar claimed he’d worked there reverse engineering a downed alien spacecraft. And ever since, conspiracies and myths have been rife around what’s going on at the site. It culminated in 2019 when 150 Americans threatened to run past security and free the aliens they believed were being held captive.

It’s impossible to know how expansive the security measures at Area 51 really are. The entire area is covered by a no-fly zone, with armed guards patrolling the ground and motion sensors helping cover where the guards aren’t. Employees aren’t even allowed to drive in. All transport is via private jets organized by Air Traffic Control under the name “Janet Airlines”.

area 51 no fly zone

But apart from that, the secretive existence of Area 51 only aids the enigma. Despite documented proof of Area 51’s existence dating back to 1955, the CIA refused to acknowledge it until 2013. That definitely sounds suspicious. But the truth is, we just don’t know what they’re covering up.

ADX Florence Prison

Opened in 1994, the ADX Florence prison, in Fremont County, Colorado, is currently the only supermax security prison in the United States and its top capacity is a meager 490 inmates. The facility specializes in the most high-profile prisoners, including Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber.

ADX Florence Prison

And the most dangerous prisoners in the world need the strictest security measures. Inmates at ADX Florence have practically no time outside of their cells. In fact, for the first three years of confinement, prisoners have zero contact with other prisoners. Only after those three years can they earn outside time through good behavior.

And outside time does not mean a frolic in a pretty meadow; the “outside” is a heavily guarded area called the concrete pit. The concrete pit is an oppressively small courtyard barely large enough to walk ten steps in a straight line. And its ceilings are constructed such that they let sunlight in, without letting the inmates see the sky or sun above them.

As for the cells, they measure a measly seven feet by twelve feet and feature one tiny window, four inches by four feet tall. You can just about see the sky through it but practically nothing else, making planning an escape impossible.

As for the décor, the bed, desk, and chair are all made from poured concrete. This way prisoners can’t use them to cause any harm to either themselves or the guards. If the toilet becomes blocked it switches off, and the shower runs on a timer to prevent flooding. Every possible detail you could imagine is accounted for.

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And it doesn’t stop there. Outside the cells are multitudes of motion sensors, cameras, and remote-controlled steel doors. Inmates are monitored by officers 24/7 and a panic button locks down the entire building if something goes wrong.

If, and that’s a big if, a prisoner still managed to get out, the other side of the prison fence is marked with laser beams and attack dogs. The best hope is they go easy on you and you get out on good behavior.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Humans are resilient, we always find a way to bounce back, and the genius folk over at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are working on the most incredible human lifeline you can imagine.

Picture it, if a future event devastates worldwide crop supplies, how are we going to feed ourselves? The Global Seed Vault is a backup gene bank with over 1.2 million seed samples originating from almost every country in the world to safeguard the future of the food supply.

The vault is located on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, which is the farthest north scheduled flights travel, making it exceptionally remote, but still accessible. And that’s not the only location bonus.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The main vault itself is buried a whopping 430 feet deep in thick rock and permafrost, which regulates internal temperatures to a fraction below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and keeps the seeds perfectly preserved. But their preservation doesn’t just rely on the elements, they’re also kept in state-of-the-art refrigeration units.

Even if those failed, scientists predict it would still take a whole 200 years for internal temperatures to rise above freezing. As for the seeds, each sample consists of 500 seeds of a particular plant stored within custom-made three-ply foil packages. And they’re nowhere near full.

The whole facility has the capacity for some 4.5 million varieties. So, even if you’re not big on salads, we should protect that place at any cost. Who knows, it could end up being the difference between a delicious, nutritious meal, and a bowl full of rocks.

White House

No piece of American architecture is more instantly recognizable than the White House in Washington D.C.. Over 1.25 million people take tours of the presidential palace every year, and the unassuming façade and immense volume of visitors might make you believe that it’s lacking in security.

However, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Each of the 6,000 daily visitors to the sprawling 55,000-square-foot complex must give 21 days’ notice to allow for extensive background checks. And that’s not the only hidden measure.

white house no fly zone Places Planes Don't Want to Fly Over

A flight restriction zone covers a 15-mile area around the building, and surface-to-air missile launchers are conspicuously scattered throughout the city in case anyone tries any funny business.

On top of the roof, a radar system surveys the immediate surroundings for signs of threat. Even if some pesky person did get close, the perimeter fence is over ten and a half feet tall, topped with sharp barbs, covered in pressure sensors, and mounted on crash-resistant concrete.

So, jumping the fence is a definite no-go. And if you thought long-range projectiles would work, guess again. All of the windows are totally bulletproof and two of the rooms, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center and the Situation Room, double up as nuclear bunkers.


Unsurprisingly, the headquarters for the US Department of Defense, in Arlington County, Virginia, isn’t skimping on its security. Anyone entering the Pentagon undergoes thorough screening, and inside photography is banned to protect confidentiality.

Any deliveries to the site must first go through a nearby 250,000-square-foot remote facility that processes 250 trucks every day. Once a vehicle is cleared to enter the facility it undergoes a thorough inspection, including checking the undercarriage with mirrors and having a canine squad search for explosives.

The Pentagon

Drivers must also pass through a metal detector before opening any cargo doors. All materials are x-rayed and subjected to product-specific inspections. Then, and only then, can they be transported into the Pentagon. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Pentagon itself is the blast-resistant windows along the E and A Rings of Wedge 1.

Each window is one and a half inches thick and weighs a ton. During 9/11, a hijacked plane was flown directly into the Pentagon and those windows saved the lives of thousands of people. It just goes to show how important those defensive measures are!

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Cheyenne Mountain Complex

The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is an impenetrable subterranean fortress in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It started out in the 1950s as a shield against long-range Soviet bombers and throughout the years it’s been the home of many important US defense units. And let’s just say if you were in there, you’d feel pretty safe.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex

The facility is buried under an outrageous 2,000 feet of tough granite and is secured against seismic activity, nuclear explosions, and electromagnetic pulse attacks. In modern warfare, specially designed electromagnetic pulse weapons, or EMPs, are used to disrupt communications equipment and sabotage entire electrical networks.

However, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is built like a giant Faraday cage, which uses electromagnetism to create a defensive shield around something to protect it from external charges. In order to build the secret sanctum, drillers had to excavate an incredible 693,000 tons of granite.

And once everything was built, they slapped two three-and-a-half-foot thick, twenty-ton blast doors on it capable of withstanding a 30-megaton blast from a little over a mile away. The most powerful nuclear weapon ever developed by the U.S., the B-41, had a maximum yield of just 25 megatons, so those big shutters are more than reliable.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex blast door

Today, the complex is completely closed off to the public and is used as a backup training center for North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. So, if you still fancy your chances at getting inside and snooping around, knowing this place is heavily guarded by military personnel might put you off.

The Iron Mountain Underground

In Butler County, Pennsylvania, off an unassuming road is one of America’s most secure storage facilities. Up until now, very few people outside of Pennsylvania even knew the existence of the place.

It’s enigmatically called “The Underground” and is run by data management company Iron Mountain. There are no signs from the road to show you where it is, and from the front door alone you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s nothing interesting there.

the underground iron mountain Pennsylvania data center

However, 220 feet below the ground, in a massive 1,200-acre former limestone mine is a small underground city, with its own fire brigade, security, speed limits, traffic lights, street names, and sidewalks. But why? Well, it isn’t just any old storage facility.

It houses everything from government records and corporate documents to famous musicians’ master recordings. Charles Darwin’s will is even kept in there! As such, the millions of priceless items require the utmost care and security to ensure everything runs smoothly, and that means some 2,000 people working there every day.

As well as physical things though, Iron Mountain also safeguards important digital data. Multiple copies of the same data are stored in separate places, so if part of the Center goes down, customer information is still accessible because it’s stored elsewhere. But it requires a butt-ton of power, and generators produce a lot of heat. So, The Underground has a cooling system that draws water from a 35-acre section of a flooded mine!

the underground iron mountain Pennsylvania data center underground lake

The facility also has a waterproof roof to prevent leaks, and it’s in a low earthquake risk zone. Plus, if all that wasn’t enough, a 3-ton steel gate and 24/7 armed guards make sure no unwanted visitors can get in.

Air Force One

That’s enough underground stuff for now. It’s time for some fresh air, and there ain’t nowhere fresher than 35,000 feet. Air Force One is the code name given to any aircraft carrying the President of the United States of America. Most commonly it applies to a custom-modified Boeing 747.

Air Force One

You might’ve flown business class, some of you might’ve even flown first class, but you’ve probably never flown President Class. This particular plane is decked out with a private residence, meeting rooms, medical facilities, all the secret service agents you could imagine, but absolutely no weapons.

But if weapons aren't allowed, then how are they gonna protect the president? Well, Air Force One has so many built-in defense systems that it doesn’t really need them. For a start, it has multiple infrared countermeasures capable of redirecting missile threats away from it.

Many missiles are designed to follow heat, but Air Force One has special jammers that radiate an altered infrared light. It interferes with the missile sensors, causing them to lose sight of the heat produced by the aircraft engines. If that doesn’t work, it also has deployable flares that burn super hot and can misguide any threat.

Air Force 1 has special jammers at work

Furthermore, the internal communication systems are encrypted, meaning any calls, radio comms, or computer connections can safely reach whoever they need without fear of interception. And if the super-plane has to fly over a dangerous area, scramblers jam nearby aircraft radars, keeping the president’s location totally anonymous.

But do you want to know the coolest thing of all? It’s stocked up with enough supplies to stay aerial for two to three days. Theoretically, because of an in-air refueling connection, it doesn’t ever actually have to land. It can just keep flying and get a top-up from a specially designed-refueling aircraft when necessary.

Vatican Apostolic Archive

The world’s smallest country, Vatican City, covers a tiny area of just under 0.2 square miles inside the Italian capital, Rome. But don’t let its size deceive you. At times, the nanoscopic nation has held some big secrets, especially the contents of the Vatican Apostolic Archives.

Inside, a mind-blowing 53 miles of shelving houses a vast collection of state papers, correspondence, account books, and other documents accrued by the Catholic Church over the last 1,200 years.

Vatican Secret Archives

After being separated from the Vatican Library during the 17th century by Pope Paul V, scholars’ access to the records in the Apostolic Archives were extremely limited until the 19th century. Even now, unlike most state archives, it’s completely closed off to regular people.

In fact, the application process for access is incredibly complicated. Any students, amateur historians, or reporters are automatically blacklisted. Academic scholars wishing to gain access must be at least 75 years old and have their authorizations reviewed every six months.

Once approved, the chosen few enter through a secret side entrance protected by the Swiss Guard, the Pope’s specially trained armed forces, and are ushered to the secret collection. In there, they’re permitted to a pitiful three documents per day. Photography and ink are banned, and researchers are only permitted to use pencil, paper, and their personal computers.

What are they so scared of people discovering? There’s a wide range of theories about what lines the shelves, ranging from doomsday texts predicting the end of humanity, mysterious books for summoning Satan, proof of aliens, and even a functioning time machine.


The Vatican might be the smallest country in the world, but there’s an even smaller territory out there that guards some very mysterious activities.

If you haven’t heard of Sealand that’s because it’s a micronation, a territory that claims sovereignty or independence but isn’t officially recognized as a country. It’s based on HM Fort Roughs, an offshore platform in the North Sea 7.5 miles off the east coast of England.

The history of Sealand is incredibly strange and complicated. Originally built during WW2 to defend British waters, HM Fort Roughs ended up decommissioned and was taken over by a man called Patrick Roy Bates in the 1960s. He wanted to run a pirate radio station there because it was outside the legal jurisdiction of the UK.

The Principality of Sealand

Fast forward to the year 2000, and a data haven called HavenCo registered their address on Sealand. Data havens are unregulated spaces that hold and protect content and associated information. You might’ve heard of Tor, a browser that people use to access the Dark Web. HavenCo was kind of similar and one of the directors was Patrick Bates’ son, Michael.

Because Sealand had declared itself sovereign and was outside of UK territorial waters, it could make its own laws for what kind of information could be passed through it. As for what that information was, it’s all pretty tight-lipped. In fact, the only stuff HavenCo openly banned from storing is way too dark to be discussed in this article.

In 2008, HavenCo mysteriously ceased operations just like that. Gone with no explanation. However, the Principality of Sealand goes on. Patrick’s son, Michael, or to give him his full title, Prince Michael of Sealand, oversees operations now.

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If you’re granted approval by Sealand’s royal family, aka Michael, you can pre-arrange a boat to visit. Don’t worry, there’s probably no risk of your boat getting taken out by snipers. But there’s something about its piracy-steeped history that makes its firmly guarded secret even more mysterious.

Mormon Granite Mountain Records Vault

The Catholic Church is not the only religion closely guarding vast amounts of information. Just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Wasatch Mountains is a colossal 65,000 square-foot archive belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or as you might know them, the Mormon Church.

The archive is buried 600ft into the mountains, and the Latter-day Saints store around 3 billion pages of data on genealogy and family history in it. Since 1894, the Church has dedicated heaps of time and resources to collecting those records, and in recent years has been making them available online.

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They claim to have records of over 12 billion of our ancestors, with some dating all the way back to the first century CE. While the information is publicly available, the physical documents are extremely well protected. The vault features six huge chambers which are all accessible from a single main entrance and two smaller passageways.

Whopping 12-ton doors guard the main entrance, and 9-ton doors guard the smaller passageways. All are designed to withstand nuclear explosions. Members of the public are denied access to prevent any unwanted tampering.

Granite Mountain Records Vault security

But what do Latter-day Saints want so badly with a bunch of old family history records? Well, the answer could be very innocent. Latter-day Saints believe that the eternal joining of families in the afterlife is achievable, and having this information enables them to perform special ceremonies to make it happen.

However, some believe the digital records’ deliberate exclusion of same-sex couples means they’re only being stored to further the Latter-day Saints’ ideologies. While it is an undeniably useful body of information, it could be argued that those records are subtly re-writing history, or denying access to history to those who don’t conform to the Latter-day Saints’ ideals.

Fort Knox Bullion Depository

The U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox houses over half of the treasury’s gold reserves. They’re the government agency that controls the production of money, as well as overseeing the finances of the federal government.

In order to print more dollars, they’re required to back up every dollar with a self-determined quantity of gold. And Fort Knox is where they keep an astounding 147.3 million ounces, which is roughly 20 solid gold Boeing 747s.

U.S. Bullion Depository Fort Knox

At the time of writing this article, one ounce of gold is around $2,000. So in total, it's estimated that Fort Knox houses around $295 billion. Each corner of the perimeter is protected by guard posts scouting the entire area, and if you somehow get past them, rings of razor wire and mines will slice and blast you to pieces. If by some miracle you do manage to evade all that, good luck getting into the actual vault.

The vault door is 21 inches of torch and drill-resistant solid steel weighing a formidable 20 tons. As for the key, no one person knows all the techniques and tricks required to get inside. Instead, discrete combinations are shared among multiple staff members. And even if you have all the codes, it still takes 100 hours for the door to fully unlock.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Fort Knox protects the government’s money, but what about our money? While some people’s opinions about the Fed aren’t exactly glowing, they’ve certainly put the work in concerning their gold reserves.

At 33 Liberty Street, Manhattan, the Fed manages the largest, most active, and most influential gold storage reserve in the world. Just 80 feet below street level is a whopping 6,195 tons worth around $357 billion.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York from west

Yet just 2% of that gold is American-owned. The other 98% belongs to the central banks of 36 foreign nations. However, the fed vault is so safe that foreign banks prefer storing it there. No humans are allowed to enter the vault itself. Inside, robots move pallets upon pallets of gold into 122 compartments.

Each one contains gold belonging to a separate account, never mixed, because the exact bars deposited by their owner are returned to them upon withdrawal. To preserve anonymity, the compartments are also all numbered instead of named. They can technically be accessed but first, you’ve got to get through a 140-ton steel and concrete door.

Then, once inside, you’ll need to open a padlock, two combination locks, and an auditor’s seal, for every single compartment. All the while 24-hour motion-sensitive cameras survey the entire area.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York Vault Door

Tumen River

The Tumen River marks the land border between North Korea and China. While during the day many North Koreans use the river to bathe and wash clothes and vegetables, by night it becomes a vital lifeline to escape the tyrannical regime. But crossing doesn’t come easily.

Aerial view of Tumen River

Night-time temperatures can plummet to just 1 degree Fahrenheit, however, the freezing waters are the least of any potential escapee’s concerns. The soldiers who stand guard have strict instructions to “shoot first, ask questions later” and most of the river is lined with barbed wire fences which are hard to see in the dead of night.

There are also watchtowers filled with more guards hidden throughout the nearby hills to catch any would-be defectors. Even if fleeing innocent civilians are lucky enough to make it across, that’s not the end of their woes. The North Korean State Security Department operates special squads to track down and arrest those who’ve escaped before extraditing them back to North Korea.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Chinese city of Yanji, just 15 miles away from the crossing, is now one-third Korean-speaking. Many who’ve tried to escape made it safely and are enjoying a better quality of life there. At least for now, it appears that there’s a glimmer of hope.

Korean Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ

While North Korea’s border with China sounds bad, it pales in comparison with the border with South Korea. Following the end of the Second World War, fighting between the Soviet-occupied north and the US-occupied south resulted in the demarcation of a new border permanently separating the two.

But the division of those two rowdy neighbors has done nothing to quell the aggression. After a treaty was signed in 1953, a 2.5-mile uninhabited safety buffer runs along the 150-mile border, known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ.

Unique Interesting Borders Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)

Despite not belonging to either country, it’s one of the most heavily armed places in the world. North Korea has forward deployed 750,000 troops within 63 miles of the DMZ, and South Korea has 450,000 troops, including 20,000 American troops, within the same distance. And that’s not including all the artillery.

In the middle is the Joint Security Area, a neutral territory used for diplomatic engagements. It’s the only point in the DMZ where North and South Korean forces meet face-to-face. Other than that, a few scattered observation posts are dotted throughout the landscape in opportune positions.

Unique Interesting Borders Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)

However, due to flagrant incursions of the treaty from both parties, tensions remain outrageously high. So much so that American troops are rumored to sleep in their boots in case anything kicks off.

CIA Starbucks

The CIA is the US federal government’s intelligence service that gathers, processes, and analyzes national security information from all around the world. If that seems pretty vague, it’s because practically everything they do is shrouded in watertight secrecy.

Their headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is so private that even the architects who drew the plans in 1963 required extensive government clearance. As for what goes on there, it’s almost completely classified.

CIA Headquarters

There’s a museum dedicated to the history of the organization, but no one from outside the agency has ever been allowed to enter. Supposedly, CIA agents have to undergo polygraph tests every 3 to 4 years to ensure nobody’s jeopardizing national security.

Even the nine employees of the on-site Starbucks have to undergo thorough background checks, and no one can enter the store without special security clearance. And even when they’re done digging about in your background, they don’t even call your name when it’s ready. To keep total anonymity, baristas have to pair each order to the customer’s face. Picking out one CIA agent from another would be exhausting.

Starbucks serving to CIA agents

Greenbrier Bunker

The Greenbrier is a luxury resort near White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. During the 1950s, the government approached the Greenbrier resort about creating a secret emergency relocation Center big enough to accommodate the whole of Congress in the event of a nuclear disaster.

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Tensions between the US and Russia were high, and the threat of nuclear war had everyone on edge. So, between 1959 and 1962, while the hotel built the new West Virginia Wing, they also built a subterranean nuclear bunker. Inside was a dormitory, kitchen, hospital, and broadcast center with seasonal backdrops made to look like everyone was still in Washington.

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In fact, the rooms Greenbrier lent for guests’ business meetings were fitted out with hidden concrete blast doors 19.5 inches thick and weighing around 20 tons each. For 30 years, the bunker’s existence was a secret held between the Greenbrier, Washington, and the government workers who posed as hotel employees.

It was decommissioned in 1992 though after the Washington Post broke a story about its existence, and is now used as a data center. Still, it’s crazy to think they hid it right under vacationers’ noses for all that time.

I hope you were amazed at the most heavily guarded places on Earth! Thanks for reading.

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