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What is Dark Tourism and Why It’s Becoming So Popular

dark tourism

Understanding Dark Tourism: Why We Visit Places Associated with Death and Disaster

You may have heard the term Dark Tourism thrown around a lot lately. You may have seen it in the news lately—a tourist taking a grinning selfie in front of a memorial to the victims of a terrorist attack or a group of people posing for pictures on the grounds of a concentration camp. What is it that drives us to visit places associated with death and disaster? Why do we find dark tourism so intriguing? What is it exactly, and why is it becoming so popular?

Horror Forest

While some people may find the idea of Dark Tourism morbid or disturbing, many are drawn to it for its educational and therapeutic value. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of Dark Tourism and discuss the pros and cons of each, and why this type of tourism can be so intriguing and interesting as well. In this article, we’ll explore the psychology behind Dark Tourism and discuss some of the reasons why people are drawn to it. We’ll also look at some of the ethical considerations that come with engaging in this type of tourism.

People may not think of seeking thrills and excitement when seeking out Dark Tourism, but rather an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the human experience. Sometimes we need to see with our own eyes the places where history was made. Others may say that visiting these sites is a way to process grief or to come to terms with the things we see in the news to understand the things that have happened in our own lives. By confronting these events head-on, we may be able to begin to make sense of these events in our own lives.

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You may or may not have heard of Dark Tourism, but it’s slowly becoming a thing. Who knew? Dark tourism is the act of visiting sites associated with death and violence. For me, I also include the obscure and odd into this category as it’s all a little darker than the traditional touristy places that our parents may have visited. It’s definitely not the beaches of Florida or Cancun or the exotic coastlines of California ;-), but it has its own appeal.

Dark tourism, also known as “grief tourism,” is the act of visiting places where death and disaster have occurred. These could be accidents, murders, or natural disasters. The appeal of Dark Tourism is complex and varies from person to person. Some people might be curious about the morbid, while others might be seeking a connection with the deceased. Whatever the reason, it’s important to be aware of the ethical implications of dark tourism before you visit any such site.


So why is dark tourism so popular? People often have different reasons for wanting to visit places associated with death and disaster. Some are simply curious about what it’s like, while others may want to confront their fears or understand the dark side of human nature. Whatever the reason, these places can be incredibly powerful and evoke a wide range of emotions. For some, it’s a chance to pay respects to those who have lost their lives. For others, they’re a source of morbid fascination. No matter what your reason for visiting these places is, it’s important to be mindful of the impact they can have on you. Remember, you’re dealing with sensitive subjects here, and it’s important to respect the feelings of those who have been affected by them.

fire angel


Should you visit a site that is defined as a place well-known as a Dark Tourist site?  My answer to you is an overwhelming yes.  It’s an experience you’ll never forget, but before you go, you should know the pros and cons of Dark Tourism to be able to prepare for what you will see. 

First, the pros. Dark tourism can be extremely educational.  It can help you understand history in an entirely new way.  It can also give you a better understanding of human nature including why we as humans do what we do.  Additionally, it can be a great way to explore your own dark side!  Isn’t that why so many people watch crime tv shows or want to understand the world of Jeffrey Dahmer (tell me you didn’t watch the Netflix series) or why is WWII so fascinating as horrific as it was?  So, is it worth it?  Only you can decide that. But I advise doing your research first to determine what form of Dark Tourism would truly interest you.

Second, I believe it will help you provide you a greater understanding for what happened at that location.  When we see the devastation and heartbreak that can be wrought by human nature, it allows us to reflect on our own lives and what’s important to us.  It also lets us confront our fears in a safe and controlled environment. By seeing the worst that humanity has to offer, we can come to understand why it’s so important to maintain our values and principles.

Ultimately, Dark Tourism is about learning more about ourselves and the world around us.  It’s a way for us to reflect on the human condition and how we, as individuals, can make a difference in the world.  It can also be a way to confront our own fears and mortality. By visiting these sites of death and torture and trying to develop an understanding of the deep dark-seated history,  you can possibly understand more about yourself, your heritage, and modern-day issues.  If you’ve faced something traumatic in your lifetime, visiting the site or something similar to your experience could have a healing effect as you confront your fear.

Wired Border

A third reason people seek out Dark Tourism is that many may feel the need to connect with the past.  Many people want to feel like they’re a part of history and to understand what it was really like for others living in those times.  Others might say it’s about pushing boundaries and experiencing something new and different.  

It may not be something that’s not necessarily comfortable or easy, but that’s what makes it exciting, right?  For some people, Dark Tourism is simply a way to explore the world and learn about different cultures and learn why certain practices were put into place.  

Take a moment to think of visiting Salem, Massachusetts, and why we in history burned perceived witches at the stake.  It doesn’t make logical sense in today’s times, but in the past, it appears it was a standard and fully acceptable to light the match to burn someone that they just didn’t understand. 

So, maybe it’s not the history or just purely the understanding of the past that drives someone to visit a site based on Dark Tourism, but maybe it’s just being attracted to something that is strangely alluring or unknown. It could be possible that you are attracted to Dark Tourism because it is described as and taboo in nature.

Many of us are drawn to things that we’re not supposed to be drawn to (if it weren’t true, we wouldn’t be drawn to the bad boys and chocolate).  Thankfully, Dark Tourism offers us a chance to explore the darker side of human nature. 


While I can give you a ton of reasons as to why you should go, I do need to also provide you with the reasons why you should hold off on visiting these locations.  These places can be really disturbing. You’re going to see some things that are going to stay with you long after you leave, and depending on the site and your emotional state, you may not be in the best place, either mentally or physically, to deal with what you may see.  Mentally, you may not be able to process a site where many people of your heritage were killed in cold blood. 

Likewise, if you are dealing with physical constraints, a site like Chernobyl and the excessive nuclear pollution may affect you physically more than you are ready for.  The radiation, while their government states is low enough for visitors, may end up being a bit too much for some.

Logo OF Atomic

Another reason you may want to hold off is that Dark Tourism can potentially be expensive. You’re probably going to have to pay for a guided tour to ensure your safety and provide you with an optimal experience at the site. One other reason why not to go is that these sites can be really crowded.  You wouldn’t think it, but the frequency with which these sites are visited can be occasionally a bigger tourist trap than Disney World.


So now, we’ll take a look at the different types of Dark Tourism as there are different categories that may be of interest to you.


What is disaster tourism?  Essentially, it’s the act of traveling to places where disasters have occurred, natural or man-made.  It can be a very controversial topic, as some people argue that exploiting these tragedies for tourism purposes is in bad taste.  But others feel that learning about these events and the aftermath can be valuable, as it helps us to understand and learn from them.   Examples include Chernobyl of course, Pompeii, or Ground Zero in New York.  Pompeii was so interesting in the fact that they could show molds of the people who were affected down to their expressions when the volcano took over.  The area was beautiful, and it was hard to see how such a tragedy could take place there.

Garden of the Fugitives


War tourism is definitely one of the more disturbing types of Dark Tourism but is also one of the most popular.  I’ve visited a number of these sites as my background is military and I felt I needed to understand why various wars in our past happened.  I spent a day where I was taken to the site from Ho Chi Minh City out to the Cu Chi Tunnels which were ran by the decedents of Viet Cong.  As an Air Force chick out of the military for less than a decade at the time, being immersed into what these men went through during this time and being on a tour led by those that would have killed us where we stood, was intimidating to say the least.  At the same time, experiencing the sites and placing my feet on the sites where our family members fought was eye-opening.  Walking through the tunnels, or shall I say almost crawling through them, was enough to know that this war would have been complete hell.  The temperature of the tropics, the smells of the jungle, the feel of what it was to descend underground and know that many of our family members did that by force.  Many of them were drafted and told to go into a random hole and smoke out the bad guys.  There is no way in hell that I would have been that strong, and I spent many years in war myself.  

One experience you have to have if you are interested in this type of tourism is to visit the Vietnam Remnants Museum.   The pure emotions and feeling after walking out of this site would make anyone wanting to pursue war again, just shut down.  While the reasons for why we went to war and continued war are out there, seeing the outcome many years later for what we did to their people was overwhelming.  The decedents who have experienced deformities and diseases due to Agent Orange is something that isn’t taught often enough.  Our own Vets experience a level of issues that are barely addressed and seeing in person the effects on the locals was overwhelming.  The sadness and the pure feeling of being overwhelmed after I left this building was enough to make me need a break for the rest of the day.  We did this to them… and why?  Ask our politicians.

Us Airforce

One other location I found exceptionally compelling was that of Hiroshima.  Imagining that THE Atomic bomb went off there and then seeing what it was to date was, well, unrecognizable.  There was a total of one building that was part of this era that was left standing, while everything else was demolished and built over brand new.  The museums were all that was left to tell us that anything ever happened there and as I walked through them, the emotions that followed are something that I won’t forget.  

Atomic Bomb Dome

So, you ask why I may want to visit these sites and experience this level of emotion.  Well, it’s because it is our history and feeling it is such a powerful experience that is so much more significant than hearing about it.  Visiting Poland and Auschwitz is on the top of my list of places to visit this year.  I don’t want to go there because of the dread and horror that took place there, but rather to feel something that so many haven’t.  It’s going to that site where the impossible happened, and take an active role in sharing the truth, and sensing something that is so much bigger than myself that drives me to go.


Banditry Tourism, What the heck is that?  Well, it’s essentially the tourism of crime scenes and other dangerous places.  People might visit a site where a murder has taken place, or where a terrorist attack occurred. Sometimes people are drawn to these places because they’re morbidly curious, and other times they might be looking for a sense of adrenaline rush.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to be aware that there can be serious risks involved in banditry tourism.  Bonnie and Clyde were excellent at leaving many places where you could find the remnants of banditry.  Their ambush site is one, and their grave sites, oddly enough are in Dallas.  As that is my home, you would think this is known fact and I had no idea.

Bonnie Parker


Necrotourism is one other variation of Dark Tourism that many people enjoy for a variety of reasons. So, what is it?  Well, it’s the act of traveling to places of death like a cemetery or a resting place. And yes, it’s a morbid fascination, but there’s something about it that draws people in. Maybe it’s the feeling of being on edge, of walking into a scene of carnage and mayhem. Maybe it’s the thrill of the taboo, or the desire to see things that are off-limits to most people. For me, I enjoy going to cemeteries that are older in nature.  I enjoy seeing the different types of headstones and either the creepiness or the beauty of how others are memorialized.  Personally, I had to visit Jim Morrison (for those of you that don’t know… the lead singer of the Doors) who is resting in a gorgeous cemetery in Paris. I enjoy seeing the old gravesites that are rather entertaining.  In the olden days the stones were written to describe who you were, what you did, or how you died.  Some of those can be downright amusing and well, it’s giving me ideas for my own future.  Whatever the reason is, or why you may want to visit the dead, necrotourism is a growing trend and you may enjoy seeing a bit of history.

Supernatural Tourism

Supernatural Tourism:

When it comes to Dark Tourism, there are two main types: Macabre and supernatural. Macabre tourism is all about death and violence, while supernatural tourism is focused on the paranormal and the occult.  Both types can be creepy, and they often go hand in hand.  For example, many people who are interested in macabre tourism might also want to explore places that are said to be haunted.  One of my favorites on the list was the Stanley Hotel in Colorado.  It is where the influence of Stephen King’s book The Shining took place.  I can tell you that this is the one place where I felt something touch my arm, from my wrist to my shoulder, that was very cold.  

While I can’t prove it, it made all of my spidey senses stand up.  I’ve also had a number of experiences in my family’s home where I’ve seen the orb in photos, had things move, the sink turn on from across the room, and my car alarm turn on inside the garage when no one could have possibly been near it.  I’ve had enough experiences to say something is there, but have I seen an apparition? No.  It is a goal.  It may freak me out, but it’d be nice to know that all of those incidents were real and not a figment of my imagination.  So, if supernatural tourism is your deal, go for it; it’s all about what interests you.  But it’s important to be aware of the different options out there, so you can make an informed decision about what you want to see or desire to handle.

Stanley Hotel

Obscure Tourism: 

I’m also placing obscure tourism in this category as it’s darker or maybe just strange in nature.  It’s abnormal, off the beaten path, and not something you will see every day.  Heck, a Penis Museum in Iceland, the Island of Dolls in Mexico, or the Catacombs in Paris.  So many odd things to see, but I can tell you they were super interesting to see.  If you’ve seen the movie As Above So Below, you will get my fascination with the Catacombs.  It scared the life out of me to actually go through with the tour but was so worth it.  I would definitely recommend this experience

Horror Tourism


So, after reading this article, it’s up to you to decide if Dark Tourism is for you. On the one hand, visiting these places can be a very sobering and intense experience.  It can force you to confront some of the darkest parts of human history and nature.  On the other hand, some people argue that these sites can be educational and provide a valuable opportunity for reflection and contemplation. They can help us learn from the mistakes of the past and prevent them from being repeated.  

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the pros outweigh the cons in any given situation. Just make sure you are aware of what you’re getting yourself into before making a decision.  If you decide to do it, know you’re going to be given an experience of a lifetime.  You’ll be visiting something that provoked the writings in our history books or created a foundation for the type of humans we are today.

No matter where you go and what you do, make sure you Travel Till You Drop!


About Jill

Hi, Jill Here

Hi! I’m Jill, a Dallas, Texas girl traveling the world. After a career in the Air Force and touring over 50 countries later, my need to explore keeps going! It’s time to rock & roll and find all those places I never knew I was missing.

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