Dark tourism: Morbid tourist attractions in the world


Dark tourism is increasingly becoming popular among adventure seekers. Here we try to deep dive into it.

The term “dark tourism” has gained world popularity in the present. Just like Indians, people from all corners of the world are hyped up by the whole idea of “Dark Tourism”. Dark tourism began to receive academic attention in the early 1990s, but it has only recently piqued the public’s and the media’s curiosity. Many tourist destinations around the world are well-known due in large part to the concept of “black tourism.”

Dark, however, is used here symbolically rather than literally. They only pay attention to a tragic period of history. As a result, black tourism frequently transports travellers to all these locations linked to tragedy, death, and misery. Every year, the phenomenon grows in popularity as visitors to these locations get more eager. The matter raises a lot of ethical concerns, and there is also concern that these disaster zones may end up being somewhat commercialised by people.

Although the phrase “dark tourism” is relatively new, the behaviour it refers to is as old as the world’s first human cultures. Public executions in the Middle Ages, pilgrimages to the crucifixion and burial sites, and gladiator games in Rome were all considered to be dark and the result of horror. Dark tourism leads us to a variety of locations that are banned and have an odd effect on the human mind. The majority of individuals shy away from discussing these locations because they find the gloom challenging to bear.

Why is dark tourism appealing in recent times?

Tourists do not enjoy travelling to these macabre locations. But by allowing them to go through the dark past, they give a sense of exhilaration, a bizarre mood, as well as a deeper comprehension of the world. There is much more to these sites’ emotional effects than simply evoking memories, and they cannot be rationally explained. Senior citizens and young students alike are among the travellers interested in dark tourism experiences. Some of them are drawn to the locations by their cultures and histories, while others are interested in learning more about the local wildlife.

Tourists do not enjoy travelling to these macabre locations. But by allowing them to go through the dark past, they give a sense of exhilaration, a bizarre mood, as well as a deeper comprehension of the world. There is much more to these sites’ emotional effects than simply evoking memories, and they cannot be rationally explained. Senior citizens and young students alike are among the travellers interested in dark tourism experiences. Some of them are drawn to the locations by their cultures and histories, while others are interested in learning more about the local wildlife.

Although dark tourism destinations are not typical tourist destinations, there is no denying that travellers are drawn to all of these features. The sites mentioned above should be on your bucket list if you’re one of those people who enjoy exploring the “dark side.” Simply being able to emotionally immerse oneself in a tragic setting appeals to many people. People should engage with and immerse themselves in historical culture. We can give ourselves the opportunity to ponder on history by visiting gloomy tourism destinations.

Dark tourism has close ties with educational tourism. Particularly in cases of darkest/darker tourism. This is frequently a dominating, if not the primary, reason why people go on dark vacations. Dark tourism may not be a pleasant recreational activity, but many individuals value the educational value it offers. During my visits to Berlin and Poland, I can say with certainty that I have appreciated seeing renowned cemeteries and learning more about World War II. Dark tourism places draw visitors from a diverse socio-demographic range. The reasons for doing anything come from educational goals, a desire to comprehend the past, etc. At the same time, some drives come from a desire to try something new or different.

Special tours offered on the Mexican border are one example of experiential tours connected to dark tourism. Undocumented immigrants can cross the border into the United States by participating in organised night treks. The trip includes both physical and psychological challenges, such as traversing tunnels and enduring kidnapping by imaginary people traffickers.

The term “dark tourism” refers to all of these various trip kinds. Numerous war films and TV shows have given the sector a boost, and as a result, it is rapidly expanding. Under the category of “dark tourism,” there are numerous varieties of disaster tourism, such as:

  • Holocaust tourism.
  • Disaster tourism.
  • Grave tourism.
  • Cold war tourism.
  • Nuclear tourism.
  • Prison and persecution site tourism.

The following dark tourist places frequently provide useful lessons from the past that are crucial for the present and the future.

1. Ground Zero, New York:

The scariest terrorist act to occur in the twenty-first century is widely regarded as 9/11. Significant changes were triggered by the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, which affected not only the United States but the entire world. Eventually, tight security, a shift in foreign policy, and tourism declined. Visitors still come to Ground Zero, where the rebuilt World Trade Center building and 9/11 Memorial are located, 14 years after the catastrophe. This is a memorial to the people whose lives were lost in the terrible catastrophe. It is undoubtedly a destination for eerie tourism, but it also honours New York’s resiliency and heralds a hopeful new chapter.

dark tourism

2. Chernobyl, Ukraine:

The Chernobyl nuclear power station saw one of the most horrifying radiation explosions on April 26, 1986. The catastrophe claimed the lives of 32 persons, many of whom also sustained burns and radiation damage. Pripyat, the employees’ home, has turned into a radioactive ghost town, and wandering through the abandoned community is still terrifying today.

3. Murambi Genocide Memorial, Rwanda:

The Murambi Genocide Memorial is regarded as the gloomiest and most sinister location in the annals of dark tourism. The museum opened its doors on April 21st, 1995. It was previously a technical institute where, over a 100-day span, more than 50,000 people perished (April and June 1994). In contrast to all the other locations of the genocide, this museum is entirely unique.

Although there are modern amenities, there has been no attempt to protect visitors from the suffering that occurred here. Lime is used to preserve human remains, which are then displayed. The curator wants visitors to understand precisely what occurred at the location. He was only 19 at the time of the occurrence, and he managed to escape from a nearby camp in order to live.

7. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia:

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum may be found in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. It is popularly referred to as the “museum of death” and was once a high school. The Khmer Rouge, who ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, called the facility S-21 and used it as a location for torture, executions, and interrogations.

The captives were subjected to abhorrent treatment, and pictures of them were turned into a scary gallery. The structure is still standing and serves as a memorial to the genocide in Cambodia. It is accessible to everyone, and guided tours are offered frequently. The images of the 114 convicts who were executed in the centre can also be seen.

dark tourism

5. Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Poland:

Auschwitz, the biggest concentration camp in the world, opened its doors in 1940. This infamous camp is dedicated to the horrible suffering that Jews underwent at the hands of the Nazis. In the Auschwitz concentration camps, around 1.5 million people perished. Finally, Soviet forces took over the camp in January 1945.

A total of 7,000 captives housed in the camps were able to be rescued. Auschwitz is still important historically. It stands for suffering, grief, and the death of children. Annual visitor numbers to this place exceed 250,000.

6. Hiroshima, Japan:

Our minds are permanently scarred by the awful Hiroshima disaster. On August 6, 1945, when the bomb was dropped on the city, almost 80,000 people perished instantly. Radiation poisoning and damage caused by radiation affected over a thousand people. In addition, 70% of the structures were destroyed as a result of the bombardment.

Four years after the catastrophe, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park which featured the renowned Peace Pagoda was built. People visit the site to remember the dead and to consider the consequences of nuclear war. It makes sense because it is one of the most dangerous places in the world for dark tourism.

There are few notable dark tourist behaviours that have been reported as unpleasant or improper as a general rule, though:

  • Photographing grieving individuals.
  • Smiling and laughing among people who are struggling.
  • Treating individuals like museum exhibits.
  • Profiting from other people’s pain.
  • Displaying all-around disrespect.
  • The unethical practices and abuses associated with dark tourism.

What is memorial tourism?

Dark tourism is still mostly unknown today, making it challenging to regulate in order to prevent exploitation of any kind, which is regrettably common. Additionally, memorial tourism, a form of tourism that emphasises a location’s historical heritage, is frequently confused with this type of tourism. Memorial tourism is particularly prevalent when the site in question has been marked by a particular event, significant in that it may be defining or potentially upsetting.

The destinations may be similar, but the reasons why people travel there are very different. People who engage in memory tourism visit these locations out of a sense of duty to remember, pay respect to, and comprehend the events, while dark tourists are more drawn to the macabre and unsettling aspects.

There are better places to practise rail balance than the location that represents the death by the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people. The same issue is apparent at Chernobyl, which was made famous again by the series of the same name. Since then, this post-apocalyptic location has seen waves of Instagrammers competing for the photo that receives the most likes on social media, with some even posing in their underwear. Some tourists go even further and choose to disobey the laws of particular locations. For example, in Fukushima, a few daring visitors venture into the red zone, which is absolutely prohibited due to its high radioactivity.

However, it’s not only travellers who go beyond; the travel and tourism sector also makes use of the phenomenon’s popularity to create deals that occasionally verge on being offensive. The Karosta hotel in Latvia is an exceptional example of its sort; in reality, it is a prison hotel that delivers an explosive experience and where guests are treated like inmates. This unique stay includes iron beds, jail food, and nightly verbal and physical abuse by the “guards.”

With the internet making the practice more accessible, dark tourism has only grown in popularity in recent years. This topic is being covered by numerous blogs, Instagram pages, Facebook pages, and Youtube channels, which are also revealing the regions of the world where it is practised. This world is full of mystery to explore, and I guess people will continue to explore it thoroughly.

Also Read: Dark tourism of India: The allure of gruesome destinations

(Purbasha Palit is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication from Amity University.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Partnersincrave.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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