By Madeleine Wilson
We’ve decided to dabble in a spot of dark tourism, and nowhere does haunted tours better than haunted cemeteries! Even if you’ve grown out of that gothic streak, we reckon these 15 cemeteries still pack a punch whether you end up on a mountainside in Japan, 40 feet beneath the ocean in Miami, at the Arlington war memorial cemetery or in Palermo’s fearful catacombs.
1. Arlington Cemetery
Washington DC, USA
Four million people visit this cemetery in Washington every year, and the rolling lawns of white tombstones are memorials to those who died in the nation’s wars. Approximately 300,000 people are buried here, so you’ll need to use the shuttle bus tour to get around. The Grave of JFK with its eternal flame and the solemn Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers are standout sights.
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2. Père Lachaise
Paris is home to several beautiful cemeteries, but Pere Lachaise is the most famous, with 44 hectares of leafy graves. Come here to see the final resting place of Jim Morrisson, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Chopin, and take a guided tour for €5.70. A little less touristy is Montparnasse, home to the graves of prolific thinkers and poets like Susan Sontag, Charles Baudelaire, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
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3. The Neptune Memorial Reef
Sorry to burst your bubble, but this city of the dead is in fact a recreation of the Lost City of Atlantis – otherwise it wouldn’t exactly live up to its name now would it? Forty feet below the surface of Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida, the project is the largest man-made reef in the world. It is first and foremost a place where the Neptune Society cremation service offers family and friends scatter their loved ones. But an increasing number of recreational divers are heading to the free site to explore the increasing wildlife that have been encouraged to make this new green burial ground their home. Cliché? Just a tad, but it’s good for the environment.
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4. Okunoin Cemetery
On the hillside of Mount Koya, the area is an important Shingon Buddist temple pilgrimage. The Garan temple complex was initiated by Kobo Daishi in the early ninth century and the network has continued to grow. Today, over 100 monasteries are nestled in the pretty ceder-filled valley and the Okunoin cemetery and Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum – lit by ten thousand brass oil lanterns – makes for a surreal and spiritual ‘time-out’ alternative to bustling Tokyo. It is located about 50km south of Osaka. From Osaka, take the train to Namba or Shin-Imamiya. From either of these stations you can join the Nankai Koya line to Gokurakubashi. From here, transfer on to the cable car which will take you up to Koyasan.
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5. Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Not for the faint-hearted, the catacombs are downright morbid. The macabre human remains line the walls of this underground cavern and became known for its mysterious preserving qualities which led to a flurry of Sicilian families queuing up to be laid to rest here. The embalming process began in the 1500s and the last to be admitted was the doll-like 2-year old Rosalia Lombaro, nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty”, and you’ll see why.
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6. USS Arizona Memorial
1,102 sailors were killed during the Attack of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The sunken remains of their battleship are still visible just below the surface of the water, and the USS Arizona Memorial was built as a viewing platform, from which over one million people come to pay their respects. The memorial is accessible by shuttle boat from the visitor centre on the mainland. Any United States Navy, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine vessel entering Pearl Harbor perform the ‘manning of the rails’ as they stand to attention and salute the USS Arizona Memorial as they sail past. Admission is free.
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7. The Merry Cemetery
Looking on the bright side, colourful crosses replace grey headstones at this cheerful cemetery in the little village of Sapinta in the Maramures region in Romania. Illustrations and brutally honest poems narrate the lives of the dead and visitors will receive a warm welcome from the craftsmen who operate a small workshop behind the cemetery.
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8. La Recoleta
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In the most scenic and upper class neighbourhood of the city, La Recoleta is surrounded by squares of gardens, mansions and boutiques. Most of the Argentine glitterati are buried here, with Eva Peron’s grave perhaps the most famous but least ostentatious of them all.
Take a La Recoleta tour from €71 for a group of up to 3 people.
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9. Highgate Cemetery
This Gothic spectacular is most famous for housing the grave of Karl Marx, but there are plenty more reasons to visit this North London Graveyard. Highgate opened in 1839 during the reign of Queen Victoria, so expect grand Victorian tombs, gravestones and mausoleums, surrounded by woodland and wild flowers. Highlights include listed buildings, like the elaborate Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon – tombs, vaults and winding paths climbing up a hillside to the huge Cedar of Lebanon. Highgate is apparently also famous for being the site of the ‘Highgate Vampire’!
Take a Highgate Cemetery tour from €4-€8 per person
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10. Hollywood Forever Memorial Park
Los Angeles, USA
Perhaps the most star-studded cemetery around, the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park is where some of Tinsel Town’s greatest stars have come to rest. With the Hollywood Sign looming overhead, and the back lot of the Paramount studios in the distance, this picturesque cemetery has been the star of many movies itself, from ‘Hot Shots’ to ‘LA Story’. Famous graves include Rudolph Valentino, gangster Bugsy Siegel and musician Johnny Ramone.
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11. St Louis No 1 Cemetery
New Orleans, USA
New Orleans is below sea level, so its cemeteries had to be built like cities above ground, to prevent the coffins flooding to the surface! Dating back to 1789. St Louis is the oldest in the city, and feels like a surreal town, with streets of tombs and street signs. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is said to be buried here!
Take a St Louise No 1 Cemetery tour from €14 per person
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12. St Mary’s Cemetery
The seaside town of Whitby in the North of England may seem like an odd choice, but it has one of England’s most striking graveyards,with bizarre graves of nursery rhyme characters like ‘Tomb Thumb’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’. The grounds are next to the abbey featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a local story teller leads Tombstone, Dracula and Ghost Walks of Whitby around Halloween. Once you’ve been suitably spooked, explore the nearby moors, go for a wintry walk on the beach or tuck in to some of the best fish and chips in the country at The Magpie – and yes, I can tell you from experience, that they are darn tasty!
Take a Whitby tour from €6 per person
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13. Staglieno Cemetery
This huge cemetery on a hillside in Genoa is one of the largest in Europe. Noted for its beautiful sculptures and elaborate tombs, the cemetery opened in 1851, and includes a copy of the Pantheon. The Appiani family tomb inside was featured on the cover of a Joy Division album and the cemetery inspired a host of famous writers.
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14. Old Jewish Cemetery
Prague, Czech Republic
The Old Jewish Cemetary is one of the principal sites in the Jewish Quarter, and its jumbled tombstones are a moving memorial to Prague’s Jewish community. Prague’s Jews were only allowed a few burial sites in the city, so an estimated 200,000 are buried here, with the earliest tomb stone dating from the 15th century. Entrance to the cemetery is included in admission to the Jewish Museum and Synagogues.
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St. Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg is full of stunning architecture, and the city becomes even more scenic as winter approaches. Even the cemeteries are grand here, and the Tikhvin is in the grounds of the grand Alexander Nevsky Monastery, built by Peter the Great. It is home to the graves of famous Russians Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky, and some beautiful baroque churches and gothic memorials.
Take a 3-hour Tikhvin tour from €26 per person.
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16. Tyne Cot Cemetery
Near Passendale, Belgium
This British and Commonwealth cemetery is the resting place for nearly 12,000 First World War soldiers, and is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any conflict that’s ever taken place. The sea of stones are a testament to the senseless slaughter of those four years of war, where technology had far out-run tactical thinking or human compassion within the armed forces. A necessary visiting spot during the World War I centenary reflections.
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Have we forgotten any? Tell us your favourites in the comments section below..
Beverly & Pack, Aschaf, RC_Fotos, claytron, JeremiahChristopher, alwright1, kewy1, ho visto nina volare, Jonathan Fuchs, David Berkowitz familymwr, Aschaf, dede85s, Official U.S. Navy Imagery, tiswango, premus and pterjan for the images off Flickr! All images were suitable for use at times of publication according to the Creative Commons license.