The Rise of DARK Tourism

We’re delving into the depths of this rising travel trend, listing some of the most visited locations and memorials with tragic historical significance and emotional resonance. The wreck of the Titanic, firmly cemented in the public consciousness by James Cameron blockbuster. It’s all too easy to forget that the Titanic was a very real tragedy. The Titanic was a luxury passenger liner that embarked from England in 1912, destined for New York before it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic days into the voyage. Special cruises began in 2019 to take tourists.

To the spot where the Titanic sank, those with the cash to afford it are taken down to the wreckage in deep sea submarines, giving them glimpses of the Grand Staircase, the bridge, the propellers and even the room from where the fateful SOS was sent or less well bankrolled enthusiasts, there’s always the option of visiting a museum. There are some 200 museums around the world with exhibitions devoted to the Titanic, the Tower of London, London has no shortage of destinations for those with a curiosity for the macabre from the London dungeons to Jack the Ripper walking tours.

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There’s a dark past waiting to be explored around nearly every corner, but most notable is the Tower of London sat on the Bank of the River Thames. The castle and fortress is one of the city’s most impressive and recognizable structures. Perhaps best known today as the home of the Crown jewels. The grounds are still inhabited by a spooky murder of crows, but the thick stone walls once housed the highest profile prisoners the country has ever known, including Guy Fawkes and Anne Boleyn. The 9/11 Memorial, New York, the most recent tragedy. On our List 911 still lives fresh in the memory of people around the world.

The memorial took ten years to complete, but within two years has received over 10 million visitors. The site exists to provide a historical record of the attacks and to commemorate the victims and survivors, combining a thoroughly researched museum documenting the events with quiet spaces for reflection. Many visitors take photos with the survivor tree, a pear tree that had originally stood in the World Trade Center Plaza and survived being badly damaged and scorched. Eventually going on to be replanted on site as a healthy leaf sprouting tree, with smooth limbs extending from gnarled stumps, Alcatraz on the opposite side of the country is a very different type of attraction sitting in the Bay of San Francisco.

Alcatraz is among the most legendary ex-prisoners in history. The fortress started life as a military Garrison before becoming a prison in 1915. Initially housing conscientious objectors during World War One. In 1933, the Rock was taken over by the Department of Justice. And transformed into a maximum security prison. There are many myths about life in the prison, but in reality it was never full to capacity and there were never any executions on the island. It was, however, home to infamous criminals like Al Scarface, Capone Machine Gun Kelly and the Anglin brothers masterminds behind one of the most intricate escape attempts ever devised. The site has become one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions and now requires you to pre-book tickets to Pompeii. For over 1700 years, the site of Pompeii lay covered by ash and rock before being rediscovered in the 18th century. One of the most historically significant architectural sites on Earth, Pompeii is a tragedy frozen in time following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Visitors see an entire perfectly preserved city from the stunning mosaics and temples through to the shells of petrified bodies caught in the ash and pyroclastic flow.

Pompeii is probably the oldest example of dark tourism. As visitors flocked to the site as part of a European Grand Tour soon after its rediscovery, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a location that will forever be associated with the terrible power of science, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the direction of World War Two and the entire nature of warfare. The beautiful Peace Park is part of a complex of some 60 memorials and monuments across the city, but stands out as a site of grieving because of its location on the river at the epicenter of the blast. Many tourists choose to visit on August 6th. The date of the bombing for the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial ceremony. Chung Ek, Cambodia not all countries and governments were always so keen to fully preserve and commemorate the darkest periods of their past, though the killing field of Chung as the tourist destination most associated with the Cambodian genocide, it was simply one of hundreds of such fields where Pol Pot Skamar Rouge regime murdered a massive percentage of the country’s population in the late 1970s. Other sites have either been lost. Built over or the jungle has returned. Today, the Chunk Memorial and Genocide Museum is marked by a Buddhist stupa, a reliquary with acrylic glass sides housing more than 5000 human skulls. Chernobyl Ukraine. No other location on our list will have a more long lasting history than Chernobyl.

The site of the worst nuclear accident in history in 1986, with radiation affecting an area of roughly 1000 square miles, Chernobyl will remain uninhabitable for some 20,000 years. Visitors flock to the desolate city of Pripyat next to Chernobyl where they can experience a real life ghost town, a perfect freeze frame of the Soviet Union, now abandoned and overtaken by nature, HBO’s 2019 critically acclaimed drama has sent visitor numbers soaring. This is the epitome of dark tourism.

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