Dark tourism has become a buzzword in the modern era. There was a time when its usage was limited to research papers and journals, but these days it is familiar to everyone associated with the tourism industry. There are numerous attractions in different parts of the globe that is popular specifically because of the term 'dark tourism'. However, 'dark' here is meant metaphorically and not literally. They only focus is on a dark chapter of the history. Thus, dark tourism often takes explorers to all such places that are associated with tragedy, death, and suffering.
While the term 'dark tourism' is relatively new, the practice it talks about is as old as the ancient human culture. The gladiator games in Rome, pilgrimage routes to crucifixion and burial sites, public executions in Middle Ages were all identified as dark and sprung from terror. Different places that dark tourism takes us to are considered taboo and also have a strange impact on the human psyche. Most people avoid talking about these places because they feel that the darkness is hard to swallow.
Why is 'Dark Tourism' Appealing in Recent Times?
It is not pleasurable for tourists to visit these morbid destinations. But they give a sense of thrill, a surreal feeling as well as a deeper understanding of the world by letting them walk through the dark past. The emotional impact of these places is not rationally straightforward and there is a lot more than creating memories.
Popular Dark Tourism Destinations in the World
Intrigued? In case you want to visit morbid places with a dark past you should continue reading. These destinations often impart practical lessons of the past that has an important role to play in the future.
1. Ground Zero, New York
9/11 is considered as the scariest terrorist attack taking place in the 21st century. The destruction caused to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center brought about significant changes not only in the United States but also around the world. Tight security, change in foreign policy and tourism diminished eventually.
14 years after the incident, people are visiting Ground Zero where the new World Trade Center building stands along with the 9/11 Memorial. This is a tribute to those whose lives were lost during the dreadful incident. No doubt, it is a place of dark tourism but also reflects a bright new chapter and celebrates New York's resilience.
2. Chernobyl, Ukraine
One of the most horrific radioactive explosions took place at Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26th April 1986. Thirty-two people died in the accident and many suffered radiation injuries and burns. Pripyat, the home of the workers has become a radioactive ghost town and walking through the abandoned settlement is spine chilling even today.
33 years after the incident, major companies run guided tours to Pripyat and Chernobyl. Tourists get to witness the crumbling buildings and abandoned classrooms that leave them amused. It is said that Chernobyl is radioactive even today but it is completely safe if you limit the exposure time.
3. Murambi Genocide Memorial, Rwanda
Murambi Genocide Memorial is considered the darkest and the grimmest site in the history of dark tourism. The museum came into existence on 21st April 1995. It was once a technical institution where more than 50,000 people lost their lives within a period of 100 days (April and June 1994).
This museum is completely different from all the other genocide sites. Despite the modern facilities, it has taken no attempt to shield tourists from the hardships that took place here. Human bodies are preserved in lime and are on display. The curator wants people to know what exactly happened on the site. He was only 19 when the incident took place and he survived after running away from a nearby camp.
4. KGB Headquarters, Lithuania
KGB Headquarters and prison is one of the most feared buildings in the world. This prison was operational from 1954 to 1991 and had a dark aura emanating from the building. Most of the prisoners were Jewish insurgents and they were tortured to death.
Presently, this is a museum of genocide victims and offer guided tours of the interrogation rooms, execution zones and the prison cells. A few of the larger cells also display gas masks, torture devices and photographs of young men wearing uniforms.
5. Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Poland
Opened in the year 1940, Auschwitz is known as the largest death camps in the history of the planet. This infamous camp is all about the Jews horrific sufferings in the hands of the Nazis. Around 1.5 million people lost their lives in the Auschwitz concentration camps. Finally, the camp was taken over by Soviet soldiers in January 1945. They were able to rescue approximately 7,000 individuals who were held prisoners in the camps.
Auschwitz holds a lot of historical significance even today. It is the symbol of torture, suffering and death of innocent lives. Every year, this place is visited by more than 2,50,000 tourists.
6. Hiroshima, Japan
The dreadful incident at Hiroshima is etched in our memory. On 6th August 1945, the bomb was dropped on the city and around 80,000 people died immediately. More than thousands suffered radiation poisoning and injury. In addition, 70% of the buildings got destroyed because of the bombing.
Four years after the tragedy, a Peace Memorial Park was built at Hiroshima and it also incorporated the legendary Peace Pagoda. Tourists visit the park to pay homage to the victims and also remember the consequences of a nuclear war. No wonder, it is one of the deadliest dark tourism sites across the globe.
7. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is located in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Often known as the 'museum of death', it was once a secondary school. The Khmer Rouge who ruled from 1975 to 1979 renamed the institution as S-21 and made it a centre of torture, execution and interrogation. The prisoners went through horrific punishments and they were photographed to create a haunting gallery.
Currently, the building is preserved and chronicles the Cambodian genocide. It is open to the general public and guided tours take place regularly. One can also witness the photographs of 114 prisoners who were executed in the centre.
Dark tourism sites are not the conventional tourist spots but we cannot deny the fact that visitors are attracted to all such elements while travelling. If you are one of them who finds thrill in the 'dark side', the above-mentioned places must be on your wish list.