Academic Research,  Dark Tourism,  Tourism Management,  Travelling

The Darkest Secrets Of Travelling

So What Is Dark Tourism?

As a matter of first importance, ‘Dark’ in this setting isn’t implied literally but metaphorically, as in “a dark chapter of history”. What’s more, these dull parts of history and mankind are just very fascinating. Consequently it bolsters into the travel industry as well.

Dark tourism has been characterised as tourism including travel to places generally connected with death, tragedy and catastrophe.

There is a long tradition of individuals visiting later and old settings of death, for example, travel to gladiator games in the Roman colosseum. Another example could include going to open executions by beheading, and visiting the catacombs.This practice has been considered academically only relatively recently. Travel essayists were the first to portray their travel to dangerous spots. For example, P. J. O’Rourke called his trip to Warsaw, Managua, and Belfast in 1988 ‘holiday in hell’, or Chris Rojek discussing ‘black spot’ tourism in 1993 as ‘milking the macabre’.

Are You A Dark Tourist?

A large portion of us are in any event to a degree dark voyagers (regardless of whether we’re aware of it). It is in no way, shape or form as colorful, questionable or extraordinary as it might appear or as certain media reporting has painted it.

Ask yourself this: have you at any point been to, or thought of visiting, war historical centers and commemorations? Let’s say the A-Bomb-Dome and Peace Park/Museum in Hiroshima, Japan? Would you consider a voyage through the catacombs of Paris or its Pere Lachaise graveyard when visiting the French capital? Or then again attempt to search out the hints of the Berlin Wall when visiting the German capital? Perhaps considered observing the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero when in New York?

If the answer is yes, or maybe then you have answered yourself. In the case of Auschwitz or 9/11 ground zero you would be in a really good company of dark tourists, as millions visit these sites every year.

The Spectrum Of Dark Tourism

Dark tourism comes in a very wide variety of forms. It could be classified into different forms or categories, such as cold and hot dark tourism. We could say the ground zero, the Dracula castle in Romania or the Colloseum is the cold side of dark tourism. However events like we see in today’s media where people travel to Turkey taking pictures of U.S. airstrikes against brutal Islamic State terrorists in the Syrian city of Kobane could be classified as hot dark tourism.

The association with ‘death and disaster’ can be exceptionally direct. You could see this in Moscow, where the actual dead bodies of socialist pioneers and great communist leaders are on open display. Or then again it very well may be very backhanded and indirect, as at destinations of volcanic eruptions and destruction (for example Iceland). In Iceland potentially there weren’t any actual deaths at all.

Hot War Tourism

Photo by Jordy Meow on Unsplash

So going back to Turkey and people taking pictures of planes bombarding Syria. 

Wearing easygoing T-shirts with their arms around one another, the men posing for photos with a war behind them.

Yet, these Turkish day-trippers are taking pictures of U.S. airstrikes against merciless Islamic State fear based oppressors in the Syrian city of Kobane.

With blasts occurring behind them in a city where ISIS have butchered several Kurds in the course of the most recent  weeks. The lighthearted men appear to be increasingly keen on recording the moment on cameras and cell phones than grappling with the awful truth and reality of the situation. (Click here if you want to see the pictures and read the article)

A historic point of view of the war travel can uncover some more shocks and bits of knowledge. For instance, the archives at Thomas Cook – one of the world’s most seasoned travel organisations, set up in Britain in 1841- disclose various instances of how recently finished wars have demonstrated an extremely popular reason for holiday packages. (Cook 1871)

It is fascinating how hypocritical the human mankind can be in certain situations. Seeking peace, and protesting against wars to going on a sunbath holiday with a few bomb strikes in the background. People taking selfies and other unethical forms of photos, manifesting one’s own ego while others die in agony and tragedy of the situation.

Vacation On The Edge

Picture obtained from Daily Mail

According to Tourist Isreal, Mount Bental is one of Israel’s favorite mountain peaks to visit. Mount Bental can be found in the middle of the Golan Heights, The Valley of Tears. One of very rare places where one could drink tea or coffee from a popular Cafe and potentially be able to see the airstrikes on Syria.

From a Murderer to YouTube Celebrity

The 21st century is by far the most controversial times of the human kind, where it is not even certain if one is a male, female or maybe a chimpanzee. We live in times of political correction absurd, allowing for strange behaviour to be normalised and manifested.

A great example of how unethical and unmoral  practices become normalised can be found in Latin America. This example is greatly visualised in the Netflix series Dark Tourist. In one of the episodes, David travels to Medellín, where he investigates the legacy of Pablo Escobar. He later tours La Catedral with Escobar’s former hit man Popeye.  

John Jairo Velásquez Vásquez likewise known as “Popeye”, is a former assassin who was a a major part of the criminal structure of the Medellin Cartel. All the way until his surrender to the Colombian justice system in 1992. He has confessed to 257 personal killings.

Now Popeye has a YouTube channel with over 1.15 million subscribers, and is performing in movies and tv series. You could also go and see Popeye in Columbia where he does tourist tours, showing where, who and how he killed. Sadly these tours are very popular.

Soft Extreme Dark Tourism

So going away from wars and killing, there is also a different approach to this darkness. Some of the activities could include the following:

  • Experiencing a mock illegal border crossing into the US
  • Witnessing exorcisms of the Santa Muerte followers in Mexico
  • Spending time with real-life vampires in New Orleans
  • Going to Tennessee to visit the scariest horror house in the world, McKamey Manor. And actually getting tortured.
  • Semipalatinsk Test Site, the primary testing site for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weaponry. With high radiation levels, and an atomic lake created as a result of the nuclear bomb tests
  • The Gates of Hell.
  • Undergo a voodoo disciple in Africa

The creativity of dark tourism is endless. People are attracted to places with bad history, or perceived danger. The Dark Tourist Netflix series is an opener into the different places in the world that are not Disneyland, or exotic beaches. It shows how different the meaning of travelling can be from one person to the other. 

How thrilled or excited would you be to participate in any of these activities? Or how unmoral or unethical do you think it is to participate in any of these activities? 

Could you do a backpacking trip to visit any of these dark places? 

Let me know what you think.


Cook, T. J. 1871. Re-opening of Paris. Travel Excursionist, 15 May. Thomas Cook Archive, Peterborough

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