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Tour Guides From Hell: Lord Dying’s Erik Olson Lists the 10 Most Extreme Travels Destinations Around the World

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Background artwork by Thibault Fischer

Those who follow Lord Dying frontman Erik Olson on Instagram know that when he’s not busy unleashing thunderous riffs upon the masses he’s jet-setting across the globe in search of the next great high only travel can offer (he’s a damn fine photographer, too). We asked Erik to compile ten of the most extreme places he’s visited, and the ensuing list is making us all sorts of jealous. Check out Erik’s picks, along with Lord Dying’s trippy new single “Freed From the Pressures of Time,” below. Lord Dying’s new album Mysterium Tremendum will drop worldwide on April 26th via Entertainment One (pre-order here).

After playing music, my next biggest passion is traveling. You might even say at this point it’s become a bit of an obsession. So far I’ve been to 101 countries and plan on visiting all of them! There isn’t really anywhere on Earth I wouldn’t go to. I love experiencing different cultures and learning about new places first hand.

Today I’ve picked out ten extreme destinations I’ve visited in the last couple years that really stood out. Hope you enjoy!

Dargavs, City of the Dead (North Ossetia-Alania, Russia)

Dargavs is a series of Tombs built into the hillside of the Caucasus Mountains dating back to the 14th century. The tombs are in excellent condition as there are few tourists that make the difficult journey, and the locals say they’re haunted. It’s said that when plagues swept through the Dargavs settlement some of the sick that didn’t have any family left to bury them just went up to their tombs and waited to die.

Pyramids of Meroe (Meroe, Sudan)

The Nubian Pyramids of the Kushite Kingdom are found in Meroe, Sudan. These pyramids are incredibly well-preserved relics of a forgotten age. Unbelievable if you get the chance to witness them at sunrise. I’ve seen the Great Pyramids of Giza as well but these were incredible because there weren’t really any other tourists there.

Juche Tower (Pyongyang, North Korea)

Pyongyang in itself is a pretty extreme destination for any intrepid traveler, and I’m glad I got the chance to visit before Trump banned Americans from traveling there. Juche Tower is
a monument to the Juche philosophy introduced by the first Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung. Everyone there follows the philosophy, which is like a religion. It’s also been credited for creating the cult of personality surrounding the Supreme Leaders.

Gates of Hell/Darwaza Gas Crater (Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan)

Turkmenistan is another interesting extreme destination all on its own. The dictatorship is run by a crazy person known as Turkmenbashi who wrote an autobiography and forced everyone to read it. He also made a giant monument of the book. About five hours north of the capital of Ashgabat, in the Turkmen desert, lies the Darwaza Gas Crater, also known as The Gates of Hell. Back in Soviet times some Russian scientists were poking around in the desert drilling for oil and stumbled across some natural gas that collapsed into a crater. They lit it on fire to burn off the methane gas in 1971 and it’s been burning ever since. I cranked Slayer’s “Hell Awaits” on repeat the whole time I was there :)

Leptis Magna (Tripolitania, Libya)

Libya is a very difficult country to visit. After the revolution and the fall of Gaddafi things haven’t been the same. They don’t issue tourist visas so you have to find someone that can get you a business visa. You are not allowed to take photos. If the police see you taking photos they may detain you and assume you are a spy. However, it’s an incredible place with so much potential and I really hope things stabilize. One of the most amazing destinations to see in Libya are the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna. They are massive and virtually untouched by other tourists. I think 58 other people have visited them besides me since 2011! The ancient city was built up by Septimius Severus, the first African-born Roman emperor. This is the best preserved Roman site in the Mediterranean and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Danakil Depression (Afar Triangle, Ethiopia)

This is the place with the average hottest temperatures on Earth and it’s as beautiful as it is strange. Sitting 100 meters below sea level the Danakil is located in the Afar Triangle near the Eritrean border. I love surreal landscapes and this is one not to be missed! The green and yellow hydrothermal pools not only look cool, but are of great interest to astrophysicists as they contain extremophilic microbes that could help understand how life might arise on other planets and their moons.

Blue Mosque (Mazari-Sharif, Afghanistan)

I’m a lover of all the stops along the ancient Silk Road and Afghanistan is no exception. This isn’t a destination many Americans think about traveling to, and I was honestly quite nervous myself, but I loved the time I spent there and hope to go back. That being said, safety is definitely a concern, and in fact my guide — whom I trust — told me while I was there that of the country’s 30 provinces only six were safe for tourist travel. One of the six safe provinces is the Balkh Province, which is where I stayed, in Mazari-Sharif. In Mazar you can find The Shrine of Hazarat Ali, also know as The Blue Mosque. The architecture of this mosque is incredible. It’s similar to other mosques you can find along the Silk Road built in the 15th century, but none of the others are nearly as big.

Babylon (Iraq)

Iraq is another destination most Americans don’t think about visiting, at least outside of a military capacity. Last year I went there twice. I love Iraq. It’s a beautiful country with some of the kindest, most hospitable people and some of the best ancient sites the world has to offer. This is the cradle of civilization. All that being said, there are also some serious security concerns one should definitely consider before traveling. For the intrepid traveler interested in an experience way off the beaten path you will be greatly rewarded. One of many amazing sites to see is the ancient ruins of Babylon. This is the most famous of the Mesopotamian cities. The ruins are in excellent condition, and the location is also where Alexander the Great died. The ancient city has been cited many times in the Bible which earned it quite the sinful reputation.

Stalin’s Museum (Gori, Georgia)

At this point I have traveled fairly extensively across all the former Soviet countries including Russia and found that none of them are very proud of Stalin, as they shouldn’t be. Virtually all of the old statues have been removed and destroyed. Except in Gori, the birthplace of Stalin, where they have a museum celebrating the brutal dictator. It’s a fascinating museum that conveniently leaves out the Gulags and the millions that died because of this man. Outside the museum is the actual house he was born in and the armored Soviet train car that he travelled everywhere in during World War II.

Abandoned Council of Ministries Building (Sukhumi, Abkhazia)

The Republic of Abkhazia is a breakaway state and partially recognized republic on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. The capital is Sukhumi. I find all the breakaway states of the Caucasus region fascinating. The region had autonomy in the Soviet Union but when the Union dissolved tensions began to build between Georgians and the local Abkhaz. This led to a very bloody war and ethic cleansing against the local Georgian minorities. In the center of the city was the Council of Ministries building, which was hit with bullets and tank shells and eventually gutted by fire. It still stands there today. They have left it completely as is as a reminder of the brutal war that happened not so long ago.

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