It may seem like a bizarre tourist destination, but many people take pilgrimages to graves and tombs of people they admire or of tombs that are of significance. Some of these are glorious homages to the deceased, such as the Taj Mahal, and others are macabre and to some people appear very distasteful.
Some of the shrines are fascinating and educational and offer insight into the lives and traditions of the people who have died. Some cultures have specific traditions surrounding burial and the afterlife. Taj Mahal.org calls the white mausoleum a grand display of love and the Pyramids of Giza represent the importance of the deceased, whereas other graves are small and insignificant, but have a deeply interesting story behind them.
There are tragic stories of little children who died too early and their parents put a huge effort into ensuring that their memories were preserved and that their children felt safe even in death. Grander structures such as Westminster Abbey hold the tombs of many famous people, including kings and queens.
Other kings, queens, and emperors prefer a personal mausoleum to glorify them in death, such as the pharaohs of Egypt or the emperors of China. Whether it is a magnificent structure or a whole city devoted to the memory of the dead or a simple island tomb, these graves give us all a chance to pay our respects to those who are no longer with us.
23 Worth It: Westminster Abbey, England
Westminster-Abbey describes how the abbey in London houses many tombs of famous British people. Royals, authors, and poets are all buried here, and the abbey is open to the public on a daily basis. There are over twenty British royals and their consorts buried under Abbey’s floors.
There are numerous aristocrats and other dignitaries as well, so it is good value for money to take a trip around the abbey. Charles Darwin is buried there, as is Charles Dickens and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. There are various parts of the abbey devoted to the memory of the departed, and it really is like a history lesson to visit their tombs.
22 Worth It: Giza Necropolis, Egypt
The Great Pyramids of Giza are described by Discovering Egypt as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and much attention is focused on the astounding feat of their construction. Sometimes we gloss over the fact that these pyramids were built to house the bodies of great kings of Egypt.
A part of the soul of the pharaohs was believed to remain with their corpse, so it was felt it was important to place their bodies in these glorified settings. Ancient Egyptians believed that the deceased would need worldly items in the afterlife, so they were buried with numerous personal items as well, and many of these have been discovered through archaeological excavations.
21 Worth It: Terracotta Army, China
These terracotta sculptures depict an ancient army belonging to the first emperor of China and are designed to protect him during his afterlife. They date from around 200 BC and were discovered relatively recently in 1974 by Chinese farmers.
Part of the site of the army is a mausoleum for Emperor Qin according to National Geographic, and work was begun on this structure when he ascended the throne. The whole area is around 98 square kilometers, the actual tomb itself is the size of a modern football pitch.
20 Worth It: Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is one of the most romantically inspired and beautiful buildings in the world. It is a tomb dedicated to the wife of Prince Khurram, known as Shah Jahan, who later became emperor. His wife was his confidante and best friend and supported him in all his work. He was heartbroken when she died in childbirth and set about constructing the mausoleum to her memory.
Her dying wish was that a mausoleum is built in her memory according to History and the emperor fulfilled her desire and created the most impressive and exquisitely structured building he could. The beautiful palace stands as a monument to love to this day.
19 Worth It: Tomb of Agamemnon, Greece
There are nine tombs at Mycenae according to Visit-Ancient-Greece and the Tomb of Agamemnon is the largest of these. Also known as the Treasury of Atreus, it was constructed in the Bronze Age. The tomb is accessed by a series of passageways built into a hillside with the tomb at the center.
It is a highly decorated tomb, enriched with fabulous substances that were unusual at the time it was built. It has survived amazingly well since it was built around 1350 BC and 1250 BC. The pointed dome of the tomb is still intact and can be seen on Panagista Hill in Greece.
18 Worth It: Castel Sant'angelo, Italy
Castel Sant'angelo is also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian and was commissioned by Roman Emperor Hadrian and built between 134 and 139 AD. The structure still stands in Rome today where it is used as a museum according to Rome.net.
The ashes of the emperor and some members of his family lay in the castle, as well as those of succeeding emperors. The tomb was also used as a military fortress and many of the original artifacts were lost at that time. The moniker of Castel Sant'angelo was given after the Archangel Michael was said to have visited the tomb after a plague in 590 AD.
17 Worth It: Tomb of Cyrus, Iran
The tomb of Cyrus holds the remains of Cyrus the Great according to Iran ICA Online. He was a ruler of the Persian Empire, and the tomb dates back to the sixth century BC. It is an amazing structure standing alone in a vast landscape that was once a lush garden. The main tomb stands atop a six-stepped base and is constructed of limestone.
Any trip to the area must include a visit to the tomb of this great man, regarded as a King of Peace. Amazingly, the stepped base of the mausoleum is a perfect protection against earthquakes, although it is not known if the builders were aware of this safeguard when it was erected.
16 Worth It: Lenin Mausoleum, Russia
Any visit to Red Square in Moscow is not complete without a visit to Lenin’s impressive mausoleum, suggests Moscovery. In fact, it is virtually impossible to miss the huge structure that houses the embalmed remains of the leader, although some believe it is a wax likeness.
If you are planning a trip to see the tomb, bear in mind it is only open from 10 AM until 1 PM, and queues build up quickly, so get there early. If you manage to get in, you will also have the chance to see the tombs of Stalin and Gagarin inside the building as well.
15 Worth It: Mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs, Azerbaijan
This tomb is also known as the mausoleum of the dervish and has been described by UNESCO as “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture” and is on their list of World Heritage Ancient Monuments.
The palace is found in Baku, the ancient capital of Shirvan, according to Visions. The site houses the palace along with the burial site and a mosque. The tomb of the Shirvanshah is rectangular with a star of tiles on its octagonal dome. The magnificent setting is the resting place of Sultan Shirvanshah Khalilullah.
14 Worth It: Diana, Princess of Wales, England
Diana, Princess of Wales died tragically in August 1997. The worldwide outpouring of grief that followed her death united the world. Her brother, Earl Spencer, made the decision, with the Spencer family, to bury Diana at her childhood home in Northamptonshire in England, according to Spencer of Althorp.
The house and grounds are open to the public between July 1st, Diana’s birthday and 31st August, the date of her death, each year. It is not possible to view Diana’s actual grave as it is situated on an island in a lake within the grounds. However, her sons and family are able to pay their respects to this much missed and much-loved lady.
13 Not Worth It: Herman Harband, New York
The grave of Herman Harband is notable for the reference the gravestone makes to his wife, according to Find a Grave. He died in Hollywood and commissioned the gravestone before he died, raising the suspicion that he was nervous about his wife before he passed away.
The gravestone in the Beth David Memorial Gardens, reads: ”My wife Eleanor Arthur of Queens, NY lived like a princess for 20 years traveling the world with the best of everything. When I went blind, she tried to poison me, took all my money, all my medication and left me in the dark alone and sick. It’s a miracle I escaped. I won’t see her in heaven because she’s surely going to hell!”
12 Not Worth It: Marie Laveau, Louisiana
Marie Laveau was a voodoo princess during the nineteenth century, according to All That's Interesting. Her statuesque white tomb stands as a focus for occultists today. Marie was known to sell potions and charms to hopeful customers who were promised rewards of love and money. Details of Marie are sketchy but some wilder stories claim she sold charms that could save prisoners from execution.
Her tomb in New Orleans is covered in black crosses and occultists leave mementos in memory of Marie. There are heavy fines for doing so, but her tomb remains a focus for those interested in the dark arts.
11 Not Worth It: Rosalia Lombardo, Italy
The tomb of Rosalia Lombardo tells a tragic tale. The 2-year old girl tragically died of pneumonia in 1920 and her father was so heartbroken that he had her body preserved and visible in her coffin. Her internal organs are believed to be intact to this day, and Cult of Weird says that her eyes open if you look at her for long enough.
Scientists say that the blinking is caused by humidity in the tomb where she lies, but whatever the truth is, she remains one of the best-preserved mummies in the world.
10 Not Worth It: Florence Irene Ford, Mississippi
Florence was a 10-year old girl from Mississippi when she died of yellow fever. Her mother knew that in life she was scared of storms according to Dale J. Young, and so when her daughter died, she arranged for her tomb to be constructed with a stairway down to the casket so that her mother could go down and comfort her daughter when a storm struck.
A glass window allowed her to see her daughter when she visited. The glass wall has been covered by concrete since Mrs. Ford’s death, but the steps are still clearly visible today.
9 Not Worth It: Tana Toraja, Indonesia
The landscape in Toraja shows evidence of the volcanic landscape with enormous boulders dotting the scenery. Some of these boulders have doors, Asia for Visitors tells us, which lead to tombs of deceased Torajans. They were carved and chiseled by hand by these amazing Indonesians.
Much care and attention are paid to the resting place of the souls and funerals were extravagant and lavish affairs. Every few years the living family of those who has died, come to the tombs to clean up the grave, exhume the bodies and even give the corpses a change of clothes.
8 Not Worth It: Catacombs of Paris, France
Catacombs.Paris tells us that these vaults are believed to hold the remains of around six million people. Originally a quarry for many of the monuments that stand in Paris today, the tunnels proved to be a useful solution to the number of dead who were victims of eighteenth-century epidemics.
The Catacombs cover 186 miles of tunnels beneath Paris, some of which are open to the public, and skulls and bones are clearly visible. They were used as tombs until 1861 and helped to prevent the spread of illness from contamination above ground.
7 Not Worth It: Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy
This burial place shows us the dedication of the Palermitan people to mummifying their dead from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Palermo Catacombs tells us that this freaky sensation, which is open to visitors, shows the bodies of the dead literally pinned to the walls.
The coffins are open and the bodies can be clearly seen. There are around 2,000 mummified bodies in the catacombs, making this tomb the largest collection of mummies in the world, complete with preserved clothing. The catacomb covers around 300 square meters of the tomb and gives us an insight into the solemn tradition that surrounded death in early Sicilian society. Rosalia Lombardo is also here.
6 Not Worth It: Sedlec Ossuary, the Czech Republic
Sedlec Ossuary tells us that this burial chamber in the Czech Republic is also known as the Bone Church and houses bones of between 40,000 to 70,000 human skeletons. The bones have been arranged to ‘decorate’ the ossuary. It includes a bone chandelier constructed in 1870 by Frantisek Rint.
From the outside, the chapel looks like a fairly inconsequential Gothic church. Once inside, it is a different story. Apart from the chandelier, which is made from every bone in the human body, there is an entire coat of arms constructed of human bones taken from people who requested that they are buried in this holy place.
5 Not Worth It: Lilly E. Gray, Utah
Lilly E. Gray died in 1958 and is buried in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her grave bears the simple inscription ‘victim of the beast 666’ according to Cool Interesting Stuff. She died of natural causes, so questions were raised as to why she should have been buried with such a cryptic epitaph.
Lilly’s husband was an eccentric who blamed the US government for many of the ills and problems in his life. It appears that rather than referring to a devilish beast, the Beast 666 refers to the government instead. However, that suggestion does not stop speculation and mystery surrounding the epitaph, which many believe has satanic references.
4 Not Worth It: Chase Vault, Barbados
Barbados.org tells us that the unique Chase Vault is a large structure dedicated to the memory of the Chase family. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the vault, except that the coffins are said to move.
Despite no evidence of human interference, when cemetery workers entered the vault to add new bodies over the years, they found that the lead coffins within had been thrown around in an apparently violent manner. Eventually, the mysterious discovery meant that any new coffins have to be buried in another location. The Governor of Barbados had overseen the sealing of the vault and no other passages were found to afford access to the vault, so the mystery remains unsolved.