Woman taking selfie on a cliff.

8 Dangerous Selfie Locations Where Travelers Teetered With Their Lives (And Lost)

Travelers are dying to take selfies. In some unfortunate cases, literally. The term selfie became a part of America’s mainstream vocabulary in 2012, gaining so much popularity that by November 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary named “selfie” the word of the year.

The selfie has since gained an undesired nickname, the “killfie,” due to the hundreds of globally reported deaths since the invention of smartphones.

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

A view of the Machu Picchu ruins.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

The Machu Picchu ruins sit at the top of a mountain about 8,000 feet above sea level. Steep drop-offs are abundant, and the citadel staff rope off areas where they ban travelers from entering for safety reasons.

But even permitted pathways can be dangerous. In 2016, a German tourist accidentally jumped to their death while leaping in the air to take a selfie.

2. Gocta Waterfall, Peru

A view of the Gocta Waterfall from a Peruvian village.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

In gut-wrenching irony, a South Korean man also died from taking a selfie in Peru on the same day as the German tourist. The man was at the secluded Gocta waterfall in the northeast part of the country. He slipped while taking a photo, falling 1,600 feet.

3. Grand Canyon, United States

Grand Canyon with Colorado River.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Approximately 12 people die per year visiting the Grand Canyon, and dying by selfies is becoming increasingly common.

Some of the ways people have died taking photos of themselves at the Grand Canyon include walking on the rim of the canyon that doesn’t have railings, hiking at Ooh Aah Point, and taking selfies in the Colorado River.

4. Tamil Nadu, India

Water rushing through a dam.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Four out of six family members drowned when a newly married woman took a picture of them in waist-deep water by the Pambar Dam. One of the family members slipped, pulling the others into dangerous waters.

The woman taking the selfie was among those who drowned. Her husband managed to save his sister.

5. Mount Huashan, China

The narrow walkway at Mount Huashan.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

No one knows exactly how many people have died taking selfies at Mount Huashan since the park doesn’t release details. But rumor has it that Mount Huashan takes around 100 lives, regardless of the method, each year.

What we do know is that a Chinese tourist fell to her death in 2019 after taking a selfie. Just moments before she plunged from dangerous planks bolted to a 7,000-foot-high side of a mountain, she was sending photos of her trip to university classmates in a group chat.

6. Trolltunga Rock, Norway

Woman holding arms up at Trolltunga.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

The famous Trolltunga Rock makes stunning fjord-backdrop photos for tourists who make it out alive. The hike to Trolltunga Rock is tiring. But once visitors arrive at the top, they may have to wait in line for up to two hours to take their selfie.

An Australian tourist made a life-ending decision upon her arrival at Trolltunga. Witnesses initially reported that she died taking a selfie. Later, the family heard from witnesses that she hadn’t been taking a selfie and instead hit uneven footing when she moved around people, plummeting to her death. Either way, Trolltunga Rock is a notoriously dangerous destination.

7. Santa Catarina, Brazil

Waves crashing on rocks
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

The waves can be vicious in Santa Catarina, crashing against massive rocks onshore. A Brazilian tourist walked into the ocean to take a selfie of herself standing by them.

The waves knocked her over and took her out to sea. A helicopter soon arrived with a diver, and he lifted the tourist out of the water. The medics detected a heartbeat after performing CPR, but the woman died of cardiac arrest on her emergency flight to the hospital.

8. Ozark National Forest, United States

Ozark Mountains.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

A U.S. college student had embarked on a trip to the Ozarks as part of a routine class activity. Her professor was experienced; he had taken students there for over 20 years.

The environmental science student lost her footing while taking a photo. She fell nearly 100 feet to the fear and shock of her professor and classmates.

A Close Call in Pamplona, Spain

Bull running.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

In 2019, an American tourist attending the running of the bulls in Pamplona nearly faced death while taking a selfie. The man had already safely completed the run.

The issue? He wanted to take a selfie to commemorate the experience. With his back turned, a bull rammed its horns into the tourist’s neck, sparking a two-hour operation that saved the man’s life. Perhaps the man will think twice next time before using animals for entertainment.

Most Common Country for Selfie Deaths

Map of India.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

India notoriously has high rates of selfie deaths. In a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Indraprastha Institute of Information Delhi, 60% of selfie deaths between March 2014 and September 2016 occurred in India.

Safety Before Selfie

Woman looking at phone with a suprised face.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

After two incidents of selfie-induced drownings during the monsoon season in Mumbai, Indian police took to social media with the hashtag #SafetyBeforeSelfie. They urged locals and tourists to restrain from taking selfies near rivers and flooded areas, saying that taking a selfie could mean taking their lives.

Male vs. Female Selfie Deaths

Man taking selfie on a rock.
Photo Credit: Simonapilolla via Depositphotos.

Researchers performed a study on selfies in 2018 and discovered that men have a significantly higher chance of dying during a selfie than women. Only 27.5% of selfie deaths were female; 72.5% were male.

Why the Gender Gap?

Woman rolling eyes.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

The researchers broke down the 259 selfie deaths between October 2011 to November 2017 as having happened due to risky or non-risky behavior. Men had an approximately three times higher rate of risky behavior, causing significantly more deaths.

Age Matters

Old man taking a selfie.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

The same 2018 study revealed what most of us can probably already deduce — it’s uncommon to hear about older adults dying from selfies. At the time of the study, the mean age for selfie deaths was just shy of 23 years old.

Portofino’s Solution to Selfies

Areal view of Portofino.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

Portofino, an Italian fishing village that’s become a tourist mecca, has put the kibosh on selfie-taking in two favorite selfie spots. The main reason wasn’t to prevent tourists from dying, though.

Instead, Portofino’s mayor sympathized with the locals’ complaints about tourists blocking streets and crisscrossing through traffic to take a photo of themselves. Portofino’s selfie ban operates daily from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm.

Have Some Compassion

Hands holding a toy heart.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

While it’s easy to roll one’s eyes upon hearing about selfie deaths, the reality is that most of us have taken photos of ourselves. Yes, there’s undoubtedly personal responsibility that comes into play; deliberately taking a photo in an area that’s banned for safety is an indisputable no-no.

But not all selfie deaths happen from picture-perfect models trying to rack up views on their Instagram accounts, and the families are the ones left suffering from the public’s judgment.

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Tape measure around deflated globe balloon.
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