Visiting a concentration camp, genocide memorial or radiation zone may not seem like everyone’s idea of a holiday but dark tourism is seeing millions of people flocking to historical locations associated with tragedy.
Capitalising on this growing trend, Uganda has seen the potential in its sad past to attract dark tourists to the country. Many people might not know much about former dictator Idi Amin and his slaughter of 300,000 civilians 50 years ago, but films such as Last King of Scotland and 27 Guns have gone some way to sparking people’s interest.
Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board says: “Dark tourism offers complex and personal stories of those affected [by atrocities]. These also act as deterrents so that such events never occur again. Uganda’s history, especially during the 1970s, gives us a unique understanding of the character that many people – both citizens and foreigners would want to learn from.”
According to the Uganda Hotel Guide: “A visit to any of the sites that were used for torture should therefore be added to any traveler’s itinerary to make a complete Uganda safari package. The survivors of torture explain to you how these incidents happened which increase travelers understanding of Uganda’s horrible past.”
Why would anyone want to visit a place associated with suffering? Professor Lennon, a lecturer in dark tourism from Glasgow Caledonian University London and the man who helped coin the term, was quoted in the The Telegraph as saying he believes such dark tourists are “motivated by a desire for actual or symbolic encounters with death.”
Globetrender has already written about the rise of dark tourism to Chernobyl, following the HBO series of the same name. According to Reuters, bookings with one Chernobyl tour agency have gone up 40 per cent since the US series appeared on screens this spring.
Here is a guide to eight other dark tourism hotspots around the world, from My Late Deals
1. National 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Where: New York, USA
History: The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the 2,977 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.
Visitor info: The 9/11 Memorial is free and open to the public daily from 7.30am to 9pm. Museum tickets can be purchased on the website up to six months in advance and include entry to all exhibitions.
Photography allowed: Inside the Memorial Museum, personal photos, video, and/or audio recordings are permitted for private, noncommercial use only, unless otherwise posted.
Anything else to know: Visitors to the 9/11 memorial in New York City are being warned to stop throwing coins into the reflective pools as it is against the rules.
2. Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Where: Near Krakow, Poland
History: KL Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers. Over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives there.
Visitor info: Admission to the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial is free of charge but entry cards should be reserved on the website. The Museum is open all year long, seven days a week, except January 1, December 25, and Easter Sunday.
Photography allowed: Taking pictures on the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial, without flash and stands is allowed. The only exceptions are in the hall with the hair of Victims (block nr 4) and the basements of Block 11.
Anything else to know: Visitors to the grounds of the Museum should behave with due solemnity and respect. Visitors are obliged to dress in a manner befitting a place of this nature. Before visiting it is also suggested to read the rules which can be found on the website.
3. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Where: Hiroshima, Japan
History: On August 6th, 1945, an atomic bomb detonated at approximately 600 meters over downtown Hiroshima. Severely devastated, Hiroshima became the world’s first city to be attacked by an A-bomb. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum conveys to the world the horrors and inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and spreads the message of “no more Hiroshimas”.
Visitor info: Admission to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum costs 200 yen. The museum is open all year round except Dec 30 and 31. Closing times vary depending on the month.
Photography allowed: Video and photography without flash is allowed for personal purposes. However, tripods and selfie sticks are not allowed in the museum.
Anything else to know: When visiting please do not touch any of the exhibits or display cases, keep quiet as to not disturb other visitors and no large bags.
Where: Pripyat, Ukraine
History: On April 25 and 26, 1986, the worst nuclear accident in history unfolded in Chernobyl as a reactor at a nuclear power plant exploded and burned. 30 years on, scientists estimate that the zone around the former plant will not be habitable for up to 20,000 years.
Visitor info: Local tour companies insist that, after 30 years, the site is safe to visit. A number of different tours are available to purchase from local tour companies.
Photography allowed: You can take pictures of everything at Chernobyl excluding the campus of Chernobyl nuclear power plant and at the checkpoints with the guards.
Anything else to know: The threat of radiation is still a problem at Chernobyl, although levels have decreased significantly enough that the Ukrainian government allows visitors if they are with a tour guide and follow the guidelines laid out by tour companies.
Prohibited tourist attire, according to Chernobyl Tour, includes: shorts, short trousers, skirts, open footwear, and short sleeves.
Prohibited behavior includes: eating, drinking and smoking in open air; touching buildings, trees, plants; gathering and eating mushrooms, berries, fruit, and nuts in forests and gardens of the abandoned settlements, sitting on the ground, putting photo and video cameras, bags, backpacks and other personal belongings on the ground.
5. Murambi Genocide Memorial
Where: Near Murambi, Southern Rwanda
History: Nyamagabe (formerly called Gikongoro) and the satellite town of Murambi was the site of one of the most unforgettable horrors of the 1994 genocide. Refugees flocked to Murambi, the location of a half-built technical college, after being told that they would be safe there. It was merely a ploy though and on 21 April the army and Interahamwe militia moved in and, depending on who did the counting, between 27,000 and 40,000 people were murdered here.
Visitor info: The memorial is open daily from 8am to 5pm apart from on Umuganda Saturdays (the last Saturday of every month) where it opens from 1pm to 5pm. There is no fee to enter and audio guides are available.
Photography allowed: As with most of the other National Genocide Memorials, photography is no longer permitted inside
Anything else to know: This is by far the most graphic of the many genocide memorials in Rwanda, as hundreds of bodies have been exhumed and preserved with powdered lime, and appear as they did when the killers struck. As a result, Murambi can be overwhelming, and not everyone can stomach it.
Where: San Francisco, USA
History: A former notorious maximum-security federal prison that housed the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.
Visitor info: Alcatraz Cruises is the official concessioner to the National Park Service, offering tickets and transportation to Alcatraz Island. The hours of operation vary with the season – departures are available about every half hour throughout the day beginning at 9am. Alcatraz is open every day except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s day.
Photography allowed: There are no restrictions on cameras or videos.
Anything else I should know: You can stay on Alcatraz Island as long as you like, but allow at least three hours for cruising to the Island, taking the Cellhouse audio tour, exploring the rest of the Island and its historic exhibits and returning via ferry to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. It is recommended that you line up half hour prior to your departure time.
7. The Ruins of Pompeii
Where: Pompeii, Italy
History: The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 C.E was many thousands of times greater than an atomic bomb and the entire population was wiped out, but the ash preserved much of Pompeii providing an extraordinary insight into the life of a city during Roman times.
Visitor info: Tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices at the entrance to the site or through the online ticket office. Pompeii is open every day except 25th December, 1st January and 1st May. From 1st April to 31st October the site is open from 9am to 7.30pm (with last entrance at 6pm). At other times the site is open between 9am and 5.30pm (with last entrance at 3.30pm).
Photography allowed: Video and picture taking is allowed for personal use only.
Anything else I should know: The Pompeii site is vast. If you have a deep interest in the subject matter you will need all day, most leisure tourists may spend two hours, three hours at most.
8. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, near Phnom Penh
Where: Situated 15 kilometers south-west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
History: Between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, women, children and infants who had been detained and tortured at S-21 were transported to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek. It is a peaceful place today, where visitors can learn of the horrors that unfolded here decades ago.
Visitor info: The killing fields of Choeung Ek are open daily from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Admission costs US$6 and includes an audio tour. A number of local tours run from Phnom Penh.
Photography allowed: Photography is allowed.
Anything else I should know: Women will need to cover their knees and shoulders.