Dark Tourism
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Dark Tourism

Dark tourism. black tourism. Graveyard tourism. Grief Tourism. War graves. celebrity cemeteries. Pilgrimage sites. pet cemeteries. Columbarium walls. Historical graveyards. Ancient burial sites.

You may be inclined to think that this type of tourism is taking things just that little bit too far, but as macabre as it sounds,dark tourism - also known as graveyard, grief or black tourism -  is not as bad as it sounds, with the number of people choosing dark tourism destinations as part of their holiday, growing every year.

So just what is it about visiting graves and buriel chambers that turn some people on?

Well,It could be a love of the macabre, general human interest, human empathy, knowledge of our forebears or just knowing that this is the one thing that each and every one of us has in common, the fact that one day, we will all end up in exactly the same place, good and bad, rich or poor alike. 



 Image courtesy of Francois Trazzi, wikimedia commons.





Since Victorian times people have flocked to the gravesides of their artistic heroes, with it now become big business in more recent times.

The graves of pop stars and movie stars, artists and the literary world has always played a large part in tourism,and is not as unusual as you may  think.

Two of the world's most viewed celebrity graveyards are the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France and the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, USA.




In recent years there has been a growing trend in people tracing their family history. People all over the world have always been interested in looking up their ancestors, and with the internet able to give most of us detailed family history information at the click of a mouse, many people are finding themselves in a position to visit once unknown family grave sites.

This type of tourism is of particular interest to people of the so called new world, such as the US and Australia, whose many ancestors are from distant shores such as the British Isles, mainland Europe and Asia.

There are also those who have relatives buried in far off locations due to them having travelled in their line of work, and this can be quite an emotional and rewarding find for people whose long lost family members have died in some far away locale.


          Image courtesy of wikimedia commons.




Ex service men and their families have been visiting sites of the war dead for centuries, so this aspect of graveyard tourism is nothing new.

Old soldiers and the decendents of the war dead have found peace and emotional pride, when finally coming upon the graves of their long lost relatives or service comrades in a foreign location, whose lives were cut short in such tragic circumstances.

On another level, nothing gets the message across about the futility of war better than the sight of thousands of white crosses above the remains of  young men and women who paid the ultimate price of war. 

Famous wargraves are those at Ypres in Belgium and Arlington Cemetery,Virginia,USA.




Short city break holidays have been a growing trend in recent years and due to their urban location a city graveyard is usually on the list of must sees for some people.

Different cultures and religions around the world have differing types of burial and funeral rites, and no more is this apparant than in the architecture of certain country's graveyards and graves.

People have been buried in caves, have little houses upon their graves, have been buried on mountainsides, and can have all manner of different types of headstones and grave sculptures for people to investigate during a day out at a foreign graveyard destination.


 Image courtesy of Arpingstone, wikimedia commons.




Again, there is nothing new about religious pilgrimages.Most of these types of sites are attributed to Marian sightings, but there are also many pilgrimage sites around the world that are venerated because they are the burial site of an eminent, religious saint or church elder.

Pilgrimage sites are found all over the world and dedicated to every religion, with pilgrimage tours to these type of locations becoming one of the largest, single holiday packages in recent years.




 For the rich and famous the final resting place for their favourite furry pal is generally one of the new up and coming pet cemeteries found around the world.

Some of these graveyards can also be the final resting place of certain famous animals that have been seen on T.V or in the movies or who have been sporting superstars, such as Lassie, Rin Tin Tin or a famous racehorse, which can make a visit to one of these type of cemeteries a nostalgic trip down memory lane for many people.


  Image courtesy of Kerry Raymond, wikimedia commons.



With the onset of the internet and hi - tec media coverage of news topics, people are finding world wide tragedies being beamed into their homes within minutes of disaster striking.

People are becoming increasingly more aware of other nation's grief and feel they need to offer their sympathies, condolences and support.

This has now become big business in tourism, with people eager to visit tragic sites around the world, in order to pray for the dead and offer solidarity to the country concerned.

No more is this more apparant than at the sites of 9/11 Ground Zero in New York and at the tsunami sites around Asia. These type of locations as well as mass murder sites have become particularly poignant if a friend or family member was involved.


 Image courtey of Profdeh, wikimedia commons.



Historical burial sites are of great interest to people of the 21st century, as it gives us a great insight into how certain communities have developed culturally over the years.

The most interesting of these type of sites are those of royalty and gentry family mausoleums, or those created for particular groups of people such as outcast graveyards for prostitutes, suicide victims,foundling babies and workhouse residents.

These type of sites are a wealth of information about how life was for our forebears and the trials and tribulations that they endured, and in some way, can convey to us just how lucky we are to be living in a fair and just society today.

A famous royal burial site is Westminster Abbey in London and a famous outcast graveyard is Cross Bones Cemetery in Southwark, London.


  Image courtesy of Dave Jenkins, wikimedia commons.



Sites of ancient burial grounds and ancient battle fields are another type of tourism that has been with us for many years. Old Celtic, Saxon and Viking burial sites and battle grounds are a common site around the British Isles and are of particular interest to ancient history buffs and students of archaeology from all over the world.

Church architecture has also been a favourite past time for many tourists and of course where there is a church, there is usually a church yard containing a graveyard, which is usually steeped in local history of the surrounding area.

Famous battlefields in the UK are Culloden Moor in Scotland and Bosworth Field, England.


     Image courtesy of Sheri, wikimedia commons.




Locations of various tombs, crypts and dungeons are located around the world, some of which are just created to thrill or horrify the lovers of the macabre.These types of locations can be sited at castles or prisons or at the sites of  murders or torture.

Famous dungeon sites are the London Dungeons in England and the Underground Burial Chambers in Paris, France.

On a more poignant level, many of these types of locations are conveying hidden messages. Such as the Rwandan genocide atrocity or the Jewish holocaust during World War Two. By letting people see the horrors of what happened to these people, it makes us aware of the evil there is in the world and makes sure that the people who died at the hands of these monsters will never be forgotten, and hopefully that this kind of thing will never happen again.


                                         THE GENOCIDE MUSEUM, RWANDA.






                                          © D.B.Bellamy.October, 2010.

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Comments (10)

I'm not sure why this is considered dark, but from a cultural/historic perspective, burial methods and grave "art" are very reflective of a people's culture as music, food, or dress.

oh ya.. when I visited England and Wales (from Canada) it was totally cool to see such old graves. Very fascinating in fact.

Why visiting burial grounds or graveyards of historic significance be termed 'dark tourism' ? They may also symbolize some heroic acts or exemplary lives.

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@james and mdlawyer, there are so many categories of tourism now adays that the governing bodies have to give each and every one of them a tag, and this is the tag they have given to this category, although I do agree with you both, as a travel consultant of twenty years, I can think of far more darker categories of tourism.

Great article! When you visit graves, you feel a connection to the people, even if they're long gone. I think the prostitutes cemetery is especially touching.

Fantastic work. Very interesting selection of sites. Voted and facebooked.

Ranked #1 in Local Reviews

Thankyou everyone for your comments and promotion , much appreciated. Dee :)

This is so thorough and great information.

Excellent write-up during this Halloween season.

Keep up the good work...very well done!