Published on October 22nd, 2013 | by Emma Hackwood11
6 Destinations with a Dark Side
They say that travelling is all about leaving your comfort zone and we’re not just talking about the thrills of bungee jumping or skydiving. To us, travel is about overcoming fears and facing cultural differences. If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, here’s a list of some of the spooky sites around the world that are both historic and horrific.
1. Transylvania, Romania
Transylvania is the most famous part of Romania, thanks to the legend of Dracula, conjuring up images of haunted forests and werewolves, medieval towns, vampires, and turreted cliff-top castles. On the border of Transylvania and Walachia, sits Bran Castle which was the home of the Bram Stoker’s legendary Dracula character. Our Flightie Andrea went to see this destination for herself on Halloween, and shares why it’s rustic charm makes this place a must-visit the next time you’re in Europe.
2. The Island of the Dolls, Mexico
There’s nothing creepier than the eyes of a doll staring vacantly out at you as if it were seeing straight into your soul. Which is exactly the sight you would be met with if you travelled to Isla de las Munecas (The Island of the Dolls), in Mexico’s ancient Xochimilco district. On this dark and creepy island sits what might be the world’s strangest and scariest tourist attraction ever. This island is home to hundreds of terrifying, mutilated dolls which appear menacing even in bright daylight.
On the eve of Halloween, Mexican families are known to don costumes, visit the graves of their loved ones, and hold parades in honor of their deceased friends and relatives. This celebration Dia de los Muertos, (known in English as the ‘Day of the Dead’) happens all over Mexico but is most well known in Oaxaca.
3. The Killing Fields, Cambodia
About 17 km south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, you will find The Killing Fields where the Khmer Rouge regime executed approximately 1.7 million people (21% of the country’s population) between 1975 and 1979. During the bloody Cambodian Civil War, children were taken from their parents and others were killed for no reason at all at Tuol Sleng Prison. This was a genocide in the most brutal of ways. Today, these killing fields are stained with the blood and memories of those brutally murdered and tortured. This dark history of Cambodia’s past is a haunting memory the country seeks to overcome, but never forget. This video below is a first person encounter by Canadian traveller Nadine Sykora on her recent trip to Cambodia with Contiki:
“I had to hold back and tame myself for this video. It was very difficult not to include all the information our guide was giving us since I for one didn’t know much about what happened in Cambodia during that time. It’s crazy to even think about how such a thing was even allowed to happen. Human nature has always been something that puzzles me: wars, genocides, murder.” -Nadine Sykora
4. Feng-Du (Ghost City) China
Situated at the northern end of the Yangtze River, this spot attracts tourists from all over China to learn about Chinese ghost culture and the afterlife. Visitors are constantly reminded here that good is rewarded with good, and evil is rewarded with terrifying and torturous evil. Known as the entrance to the Chinese Hells, this Ghost City has a yearly celebration in March which includes Spirit Shows honouring the spirits that haunt Feng-Du.
5. Edinburgh, Scotland
A history of gruesome military attacks, tortures and executions have given the infamous Edinburgh Castle its reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the country, (and the spookiest place in Europe). An international witch hunt could lead you to Scotland, where the North Berwick Witch Trials happened in 1590-1592, (about 32km from the capital of Edinburgh). The gothic architecture and peculiar history of the Scottish capital add to the city’s allure as a bewitching destination. If you’re one to study the history of Halloween itself, you’ll find plenty of claims that the tradition of All Hallow’s Eve has Scottish roots. There is a special atmosphere in many parts of Scotland even to this day where, as daylight fades, the flames of Halloween bonfires reveal ancient ramparts of castles and buildings where devilish deeds may once have taken place.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Well known for haunted locations full of Voodoo, black magic and all things dark and scary, New Orleans definitely makes the list of destinations with a dark side. Several companies offer tours specializing in cemeteries, voodoo or the city’s impressive array of stores selling all things eerie such as custom-blended potions, Tarot cards and authentic voodoo dolls. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, at 724 Dumaine Street, traces the origin and development of voodoo, which originated from the ancestral religions of the African diaspora. Its cramped rooms contain alleged possessions from New Orleans Voodoo’s most famous practitioner, a mulatto hairdresser, Marie Laveau. Located just outside of the city is the notoriously haunted and scenic Manchac Swamp, which has been ranked over and over again as one of the creepiest places on Earth.
Have you been to any of these places or have any spooky destinations you’d like to add? Let us know in the comment section below!