Dark tourism has become a popular travel interest in the last few years. Hundreds of places around the world can be considered dark tourism places, and since there are so many accessible locations, it's relatively simple to add a place or two to an existing travel plan. You may already have a few popular dark tourism places on your list without knowing it!
What is Dark Tourism?
Dark tourism is often associated with suffering, tragedy, and death. But it's more than just visiting specific sites; it's the motivation and personal interest behind the visit. It encompasses a range of destinations, including areas of natural disasters, war-torn regions, cemeteries, genocide memorials, and infamous crime scenes.
Why is Dark Tourism so popular
Dark tourism has gained popularity for several reasons:
Dark tourism sites can serve as a powerful reminder of the past and help people understand the historical and cultural context of events that have shaped our world. Physically standing where a tragedy happened has a different impact than reading about it in a textbook or watching a documentary.
Visiting sites associated with tragedy or suffering can evoke powerful emotions, such as sadness, empathy, and even a sense of reverence.
Many people are naturally curious about the darker aspects of history and human experience, and dark tourism provides an opportunity to learn more about these subjects in a tangible, experiential way. This curiosity can stem from a desire to avoid typical tourist sites.
What does a Dark Tourism getaway look like?
A dark tourism getaway can be tailored to travelers' preferences and interests. One way to start is to pick a location or topic of interest and find dark tourism sites within that. Or start with a dark tourism site you must see and see what else is nearby.
Learn about the French Revolution by touring the Catacombs of Paris, seeing the Panthéon Crypt, and the many cemeteries in the area. But also take time to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle every hour after dark, walk through Louvre, and eat all the macaroons and eclairs your heart desires.
Tour the beautiful and bizarre Winchester Mystery House, board a ferry to Alcatraz Island, or hike the "Earthquake Trail" on the San Andreas Fault Line to the epicenter of the big 1906 earthquake. While in northern California, you can also enjoy national parks and the beautiful coast.
Get to know the difficult past of South Africa's apartheid by visiting the Apartheid Museum and the infamous Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. You can also visit numerous national parks, wildlife reserves, coastal cities, and beaches.
Learn about the history of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian Genocide by visiting the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Pol Pot's cremation site. And see the impact of decades of conflict at the Landmine Museum. Also, take in gorgeous temples like Angkor Wat, the Royal Palace, and beautiful natural landscapes.
5 popular dark tourism spots
Here are some of the most popular dark tourism sites around the world:
Alcatraz Island, California, USA
The former federal prison island is 1.25 miles off the shore of San Francisco and was once home to some of America's most notorious criminals.
The once flourishing resort city in ancient Rome was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. Its ruins offer a haunting and visual glimpse into the past.
Ground Zero, New York, USA
The site of the September 11th attacks and the former location of the World Trade Center towers.
Tower of London, England
A former royal palace and prison with a long and dark history, including the site of many executions and where the Crown Jewels are displayed.
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
The site of the 1986 nuclear disaster remains one of the world's most contaminated areas, yet it is a popular place for those curious about atomic tourism.
Long Story Short...
There's more to dark tourism than taking a great picture and moving on. It's important to pause to respect and honor the people lost to these tragedies and learn from the past to do better in the future. Some dark tourism sites can be emotionally intense and unsuitable for certain people. Be courteous and sensitive to others visiting - they may have a personal connection and visit the site as a memorial, not a tourist spot.
Written by Andrea Jeschke