Want an up close view of the Eiffel Tower but can’t make it to Paris anytime soon? Google Mapsis optimal for virtual sightseeing. But not every landmark is visible on the site — some images are blurred and distorted by countries for security reasons.

This means that if you want to see towns or streets in North Korea, you can’t. Also blurred is the Royal Palace in the Netherlands and even a power plant on Cornell University’s campus in Ithaca, New York.

“The satellite and aerial imagery in Google Earth and Google Maps is sourced from a wide range of both commercial and public sources,” Google spokesperson Deanna Yick tells Mashable. “These third-party providers are required to follow the law of the countries in which they operate, so some of them may blur images and then supply us with those images.”

When Google Maps first launched, images of the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. were blurred. They have since been restored.

Yick said Google is constantly updating the imagery as a part of an effort to create the most graphically-rich and useful maps possible.

“We strive to publish the best data possible, and take into account many elements when determining which imagery is optimal, such as imagery date, resolution and clarity,” Yick said. “We receive updated information from our data providers from time to time, and if those updates improve the imagery of the area based on all of those quality elements, we may elect to publish that updated imagery even if the provider has blurred certain regions of the image.”

For a look at some of the world’s blurred-out locations, check out the gallery above.

Do you think it’s justified that some images are blurred on Google Maps? Have you ever noticed anything mysterious on the site? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


1. The Royal Residence, The Netherlands

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam in the Netherlands — called Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam — joins a long list of places blurred on Google Maps related to the Dutch royal family, including the Royal Stables and another residence called Huis ten Bosch.



2. Buffalo Niagara International Airport

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is largely whited out on Google Maps and details can’t be seen when the area is zoomed in.



3. Tantauco National Park, Chile

The Tantauco National Park in Chile can only be seen from a marker via Google Maps. The private natural reserve is home to many endangered animals



4. Keowee Dam, South Carolina

Man-made reservoir Keowee Dam on Lake Keowee in South Carolina is also blurred on Google Maps. Shaped like a Christmas tree, the dam helps run a power utility called the Duke Energy company.



5. Mysterious Russian Site

We’re not entirely sure why this location in Russia has been blurred out, especially since it’s in the Siberian tundra. The closest city is Egvekinot, Russia, which is a neighbor to Alaska across the Bering Strait.



5. Minami Torishima Airport, Japan

The Minami Torishima Airport — a one-runway airport serving the island of Minami Torishima, located off the east coast of Japan — is oversaturated with white. It is currently used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.



7. The Michael Aaf Building, Utah

The Dugway Proving Ground in Dugway, Utah is a region occupied by the U.S. Army where the military can test biological and chemical weapon systems. The Michael Aaf building on the proving ground is whited out, most likely for security reasons.



8. Cornell University Combined Heat and Power Plant, New York

The Cornell University Combined Heat and Power Plant in Ithaca, NY — which opened in 2010 — is blurred on Google Maps. The high-tech, eco-friendly facility generates electricity from natural gas as a part of the university’s effort to lower its carbon dioxide emissions.



9. Babylon, Iraq

The city of Babylon, Iraq looks more like endless farmland than a bustling city.



10. Vlissingen, The Netherlands

Properties owned by the Dutch royal family aren’t the only places blurred in the Netherlands. Joining the list are the oil tanks in Vlissingen (pictured), as well as several army bases and air force bases. The land area to the left also appears to be pixelated and adjusted.