Instagrammers fall ill at 'idyllic' lake that is actually a toxic dump

Annabel Fenwick Elliott
Monte Neme, in Spain, also known as the 'Galician Chernobyl' has become popular for selfies - istock

Instagrammers have got their mitts on a new beauty spot, turning up in droves to pose at a tantalising, turquoise Spanish lake.

Unbeknownst to most of them, it's not in fact a natural marvel, but rather a toxic dump. 

Monte Neme, in the northwestern coastal region of Carballo, is the remains of a Second World War-era tungsten mine and the azure hue of the water is the result of chemical contamination. 

Dubbed the 'Galician Chernobyl', it has proved hazardous to those who have swum in it, with one Instagram 'influencer' telling Spanish news outlet Publico that she had suffered vomiting and a rash that persisted for two weeks after she took a dip.

"Congratulations for bathing in a raft of highly toxic waste in a wolfram mine; without a doubt, Darwin would be proud of you," one follower commented on her photo.

According to the publication, "more than one has had to be hospitalized for damage to the skin and digestive system", which is certainly unfortunate for those unaware of Monte Neme's toxicity. But troublingly, it doesn't seem to be dissuading those in the know, with Publico citing one Instagrammer called Uxía, who apparently stated that her rash was "a little bad, yes, but the picture was worth it". 

The mine extraction of wolfram, an iron manganese tungstate mineral used to craft light bulb filament, began during the First World War. It was one of the only places in Europe Germany could harvest it, and for a while became the area's key economic hub. But it fell into decline in the Post-War period and closed for good in the 1980s.

Monte Neme isn't the only unusually attractive industrial wasteland to be drawing tourists. Russia has a lake dubbed (misleadingly) the 'Siberian Seychelles', bright turquoise in colour and surrounded by white sand.

Its real name, translated into English, is Lake Ash Dump, and it receives run-off waste from a nearby coal-fired power station. Its vivid colour is due to dissolved calcium salts and other metal oxides in the water, which is highly alkaline.

In a recent statement, the Siberian Generating Company warned: "We beg you not to fall into the ash dump in the pursuit of selfies. That is the biggest danger."

It further added, with an apt simile: "Walking along the ash dump is like walking at a military training ground - dangerous and undesirable."

Photographer Mikhail Reshetnikov told the Siberian Times: "When you drive up to this lake, there is a very strong smell of laundry detergent, of alkali. Naturally, there is no desire to touch such water. You just feel that this is not a safe place." 

That hasn't stopped bloggers and Instagram models from flocking to its shores. At least one couple used it as a backdrop to their wedding shoot, another woman used it to pose for photos with her newborn baby, and one image exists, confoundingly, of a balaclava-wearing DJ riding an inflatable unicorn in the water.

In relation to the skin redness he experienced post-frolick, the man stated in a caption: "Looking at my photo, I can say with confidence that it was worth it." Perhaps more alarmingly, he also remarked "the water tastes a little sour".

Shrivelled surrounding shrubbery and 'blue-tinged seagulls' provide more clues that the 'Siberian Seychelles' is not a healthy place for a day trip. Several visitors have reported breaking out in a rash having visited, while others say the soles of their shoes flaked off after coming into contact with the shoreline.

Now that we've established the unsuitability of such tourist attractions, may we direct you to our comprehensive guide on Europe's greatest lakes (below), with insights on which one is best for you, and how to get the most out of a visit.

No hazmat suits required.

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