Skip to main content

10 best boltholes: where on Earth could Snowden go next?

By Barry Neild, CNN
June 27, 2013 -- Updated 2306 GMT (0706 HKT)
Snowden has a choice of tropical hideaways, France or even North Korea.
Snowden has a choice of tropical hideaways, France or even North Korea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NSA whistleblower could try Ecuador, but Iceland and North Korea also beckon
  • For some reason, Spanish colonial architecture features heavily in places of refuge
  • As a last resort, somewhere deep -- very deep -- in the U.S. could do

(CNN) -- Fleeing U.S. law enforcement and stuck in a Moscow airport, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seems stuck about where to go from here.

CNN Travel advises which countries should be on his list ...

1. Iceland

Iceland makes for an excellent fugitive destination, particularly for someone with a wintry name such as Snowden. It professes a love for Internet freedoms and once checkmated extradition efforts by offering citizenship to tax-evading U.S. chessman Bobby Fischer.

U.S. threatens Ecuador over Snowden

For Snowden it might feel chilly after Hawaii, Hong Kong and midsummer Moscow, but he could easily warm up with a dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon in Grindavik.

Why stay: Ash-spewing volcanoes could help to shroud actual whereabouts.

Why leave: New laws to aid whistleblowers aren't yet in place. Also, they eat puffins.

Ecuador: plenty of fascinating local traditions to keep Snowden interested.
Ecuador: plenty of fascinating local traditions to keep Snowden interested.

2. Ecuador

It's a two-way deal: exiles get a subtropical shelter while Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa gets to burnish anti-American credentials and gain a distraction from his clampdowns on press freedom.

Why stay: Plenty of Inca ruins and colonial Spanish buildings to admire.

Why leave: Ecuador still has an extradition deal with the United States.

Opinion: Why Ecuador might shelter Snowden

3. The UK

It might be heavily in diplomatic hock to Washington, but the UK remains a popular place of refuge -- particularly among Russian exiles drawn by its liberal outlook, robust legal system and miserable weather.

Despite security cameras on every corner, plenty of people have managed to lose themselves in London. And if all else fails, it has an Ecuadorian embassy, although since Julian Assange has already snagged the spare room, you'll be on the sofa.

Why stay: Strong tradition of political radicalism

Why leave: Did we mention the awful weather?

Boracay could be a comfy draw for Snowden in the island-rich Philippines.
Boracay could be a comfy draw for Snowden in the island-rich Philippines.

4. The Philippines

The Filipino police have a strong track record of helping foreign agents hunt down their quarry, but with more than 7,000 islands to choose from, it could take them some time.

Why stay: Boracay's beaches, Banaue's scenic rice terraces and -- as it happens -- more colonial Spanish architecture!

Why go: Corruption. Even if you're not on the lam, you'll still be bilked for backhanders.

5. Spain

Southern Spain's enduring popularity among expat UK villains has earned its coastline the unfortunate soubriquet of "Costa del Crime." A spate of arrests has tarnished its appeal, though.

Why stay: The sunshine, the paella, the sangria.

Why leave: British pubs selling greasy breakfasts to greasier Brits. Abject lack of Spanish colonial architecture.

The French might have a rep for rudeness, but at least they give extradition treaties a Gallic sneer.
The French might have a rep for rudeness, but at least they give extradition treaties a Gallic sneer.

6. France

The French have a rep for being rude to foreigners -- unless they're fleeing justice. The country has ignored extradition deals in the past, refusing to give up U.S.-wanted hijackers in the 1960s and '70s. If you've done something political -- or you're Roman Polanski -- you're probably safe.

Why stay: France has it all: culture, countryside and cheese.

Why leave: France also has the French.

7. Cuba

Embargoes didn't stop Jay-Z from heading to Havana, but you probably won't have to worry about facing the other kind of rap as Cuba lacks an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Why stay: Salsa, cigars and those great old cars held together with washing machine spares.

Why go: Worrying proximity to Guantanamo.

Cuba isn't always fun for skyjackers

Mad move? At least Snowden would be beyond the reach of U.S. justice in North Korea.
Mad move? At least Snowden would be beyond the reach of U.S. justice in North Korea.

8. North Korea

Clearly this would be madness. But at least in North Korea fugitives are almost guaranteed to be beyond the reach of international justice.

U.S. soldier Charles Jenkins demonstrated this principle between 1965 and 2004 after deserting to the north during the Korean War, and living -- albeit rather wretchedly -- to tell the tale.

Why stay: Don't stay.

Why leave: It won't be your emails that are monitored, just your every waking thought.

9. Transit

Snowden appears to have spent several days air-side at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, a location that Kremlin authorities insist doesn't fall within Russian borders.

Perhaps he could stay there, following the footsteps of Iranian exile Mehran Karimi Nasseri, whose eight years stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport inspired the movie "The Terminal."

Why stay: Limitless supplies of Dan Brown books and giant Toblerones.

Why go: Audacious flight from justice could be rendered into another lame Tom Hanks comedy.

America: big enough for Snowden to hide in?
America: big enough for Snowden to hide in?

10. United States

Why not hide in plain sight? It's a big, frequently beautiful country and there are parts of the country where people don't even know who their president is, let alone who's on his most wanted list.

Why stay: Land of the free.

Why go: Pressure to have plastic surgery. Even if you're not changing your identity.

Editor's note: Barry Neild may not be a diplomatic expert but he has a long history of jetsetting from one sunny place of refuge to another.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 0626 GMT (1426 HKT)
the Teufelsberg or
Spooks have left their mark on a once-divided city still thought to be an espionage hotbed.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
nanjing, handicrafts
With more than 6,000 years of history, Nanjing is one of the few cities in China still practicing the country's endangered traditional crafts.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Rock and weather collide over millennia to create natural bridges. Here are 15 of our favorites from around the world.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0539 GMT (1339 HKT)
A one-nun brewing operation, Sister Doris is putting Germany's women beer makers on the map. Sort of.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 0607 GMT (1407 HKT)
From Myanmar to Mickey Mouse, Stefan Zwanzger, aka The Theme Park Guy, gives his rundown of the best.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Four hundred years after the death of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, her murderous exploits prove a grisly attraction.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Formed by volcanoes and steeped in a rich history of Polynesian culture, Hawaii sounds more like a place in a fantasy novel rather than an American travel oasis.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 2356 GMT (0756 HKT)
Despite Kyoto's allure, until this year there's been a glaring absence from the city's travel scene -- a top tier, super-luxury hotel brand.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Why global adventurer Alastair Humphreys now looks for 'microadventures' close to home.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1133 GMT (1933 HKT)
Don't order Corona and don't freak out when you see Jessica Alba without makeup and you might pass for local.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
History buff? Hardcore surfer? These South Pacific islands have every traveler covered.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
Airlines and airports are going high-tech to reduce your time in line.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Eight of the top 10 scoring cities in the Economic Intelligence Unit's annual Liveability Survey are in Australia and Canada.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2221 GMT (0621 HKT)
When a man tells me to "trust him," my typical reaction is to run.
ADVERTISEMENT