It is a recent tourism trend in which instead of cute, beautiful and heartwarming destinations, people visit places associated with death, fear and suffering such as war memorials, natural disaster sites and the like.
In short, dark tourist destinations resemble death. They have historical significance and are important to understanding the steps that brought us to the world we are in today.
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What’s the obsession with dark tourism?
John Lennon and Malcolm Foley, researchers from Scotland’s Glasgow Caledonian University, coined the term “dark tourism” back in 1996. Lennon said it was human nature to be fascinated by such sinister places.
“As a race, we care about the worst we can be,” he told Newsweek. “This is reflected in our taste in consumerism in many forms, whether it’s film, TV series or books.”
Netflix even released a documentary series on the subject in 2018 – Dark Tourist – but despite its popularity, dark tourism is controversial. Many advocates emphasize the historical significance of dark tourist destinations, while others see the trend as unethical, especially when coupled with selfie culture and thrills.
Lennon believes these places have a purpose, especially from a conservation perspective, but it’s uncomfortable to commodify or celebrate certain destinations.
He said, “Sometimes these places are all an individual discovers in this history. Their preservation is important.
“But tourism can be politicized and there is a spectrum of acceptable to unacceptable.
“On the one hand you have these very important and iconic sites, on the other hand there are sites with a very clear commercial ethos that can be less than tasteful.”
Whether you’re a dedicated dark tourist or looking for a different kind of vacation, thousands of people visit these disturbing museums and monuments every year.
Some of the top Dark Tourism Destination
- Murambi Genocide Memorial, Rwanda
- Hiroshima, Japan
- Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, Cambodia or The killing fields of Cambodia
- Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Poland
- Leap Castle, Ireland
Murambi Genocide Memorial, Rwanda
These are the clothes of victims kept for display. The Murambi Genocide Memorial, one of six national sites commemorating the Rwandan genocide, houses the remains of 50,000 members of the Tutsi community who were killed at the site during the Rwandan Civil War. The group was taking refuge in a technical school that was under construction when it was overrun on 21 April 1994.
The museum opened a year after the massacre and features the partially decomposed bodies of 800 victims who were exhumed, mummified in lime and put on display – including infants and children.
When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, 80,000 people were killed instantly and 70 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed. Thousands more succumbed to injuries and radiation poisoning in the following weeks, with most of the dead civilians.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was created four years later as the city began to recover, and features the shell of the Atomic Bomb Dome (formerly the Product Exhibition Hall) and the Peace Pagoda. The site has over a million visitors a year and serves as a memorial to the victims and a reminder of the devastating effects of nuclear war.
Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, Cambodia or The killing fields of Cambodia
Stupa at Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre, Cambodia. The former orchard is just one of many “killing fields” created during the Khmer Rouge regime, with 129 mass graves at the site.
The Choeung Ek Genocide Centre in Cambodia, once an orchard, contains mass graves of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. Located six miles from the capital, Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek was just one of many killing fields created during the Cambodian genocide.
Between 1975 and 1979, 17,000 civilians were murdered at the site, and 8,985 bodies were exhumed in 1980. The 17-story glass stupa houses 8,000 skulls, and while 43 of the 129 graves currently remain intact, human bones and fragments of clothing remain intact. to be seen scattered throughout burial grounds.
Information boards located throughout the site explain the journey the victims would have taken during their final days, as well as detailed descriptions of what was discovered in the various burial pits.
Auschwitz Concentration Camps, Poland
Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Auschwitz concentration camps had more than 40 camps operated by Nazi Germany during World War II and the Holocaust and became one of the most embarrassing and important places in European history. At least 1 million Jews were killed in Auschwitz and 196 prisoners managed to escape from the camp. And in 1947 it was turned into a museum.
Leap Castle, Ireland
One of the most haunted dark tourism destinations in Ireland is Leap Castle. The castle was built in the 13th century and has a murderous history behind it. According to the castle’s website, “Leap Castle is home to many fascinating and sometimes terrifying spirits.”
Contributed by Ankit Raj Sharma
Edited by Imtiaz Ullah