We travel for a number of reasons; historical monuments, cities famed for their food, or to see landscapes that take your breath away. Occasionally, travellers will crave something different typical tourist destinations just won't satisfy. Travelling is not always about picturesque sights, but also discovering the deeper roots of the places you visit. Most travellers are seeking unique and thrilling experiences that travel magazines don't always advertise. Some search for the feeling of adrenaline rushing through the body. Others look towards dark tourism, which has steadily increased in popularity over the past few years. It is a style of tourism that centres around tragedy, strange or horrific events.
We're drawn to these experiences simply out of curiosity. It's easy to read about on the internet or through history books, experiencing it first hand is like being able to step into a time machine. Standing in the centre of it all brings a perspective that textbooks could not bring to life. It provides a different appreciation or honour to victims that could only be brought to reality by being there yourself. Or just the thrill of seeking out abandoned spaces. Continue reading to find out 10 places thrillseekers should visit.
10 Chernobyl, Ukraine
The spring of 1986 marked one of the world's worst civilian disasters when an explosion at a reactor in the nuclear power plant left devastating impacts in Chernobyl, Ukraine and surrounding areas. The ramifications of the meltdown still linger today. Scientists have declared that the area will be inhabitable for the next 20,000 years.
The Exclusion Zone is available for travellers to visit, and it's divided into two areas. A 30km area zone claimed to be somewhere between contaminated and normal, as well as the smaller circle 10 km zone. This area is the closest to the nuclear plant and is the most contaminated. Nearby is the town of Pripyat that was also evacuated after the explosions. Exploring these desolate towns feels as though you have stepped into a video game's post-apocalyptic wasteland. Strewn with abandoned buildings and deserted playgrounds creates an eerie atmosphere.
9 Shicheng, China
Shicheng, China is also known as the Atlantis of the East. A city that can be dated back to the Han Dynasty in 208 AD was purposely submerged underwater in order to make room for a man-made lake, now known as Qiandao Lake. Stunningly, many of its architecture and sculptures are still perfectly intact having been underwater for the past 50 years.
Now sitting at 131 feet underwater, only advanced divers can explore this submerged ancient city. For a country that has lost thousands of historical sites, it's astounding to have a piece of history pristinely kept at the bottom of Qiandao Lake. Explorers can feel as though they are swimming through a time capsule.
8 Eastern State Penitentiary, Philidelphia Pennsylvania
The Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 and was once the most famous and expensive prisons in the world. The building was structured to have a central surveillance center and seven cell blocks that sprawls out in all directions, much like a bicycle wheel. While walking through, visitors can feel the presence and energy lingering from prisoners of hundreds of years ago. Its architecture style was inspired by asylums—which it's reform ideas itself—were not too far from.
The penitentiary was known to reform and rehabilitate detainees through 24hours of solitary confinement. This form of rehabilitation failed (duh) and caused prisoners to suffer from various mental illnesses. Eventually, overcrowding resulted in the closure of the penitentiary; a building meant to hold 250 inmates held 1,700. By the mid-1980s the penitentiary was completely abandoned. It is now a popular site for paranormal investigations and thrillseekers to explore.
7 Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Perched upon a small hill in Šiauliai, Lithuania is the bizarre yet intriguing Hill of Crosses. Home to thousands of crosses of every denomination jammed into any space available. The Hill of Crosses is a "symbol of national and religious identity." What started as a protest to the Russian regime remained as a historic reminder of the resilience of Lithuanian people. The Hill of Crosses was destroyed and rebuilt four times during the Soviet era. Today, it remains standing with now over 100, 000 crosses.
Walking up towards the hill feels as though stepping into a scene of The Walking Dead. You know, when Rick thinks he found a new safe haven before discovering someone evil lurking around the corner. The sight of the hill itself is perfectly peculiar. The crosses are all different sizes and made of different materials; stacked on top of each other and popping out at all angles. Some have various inscriptions, others have rosaries hanging that could be heard jangling in the wind. While beautiful in its own way, there is no denying the Hill of Crosses' eerie aura.
6 Aokigahara Forest, Japan
Located below Japan's breathtaking beauty of Mount Fuji lays Aokigahara Forest, or more dauntingly nicknamed, "Suicide Forest." One hundred kilometres west of Tokyo is the lush and sombre forest noted as a beautiful hike before pursuing Mount Fuji. Aokigahara Forest is not a place to be gawked at as a place people who are suffering come to end their lives. Although it is true that the forest has become a notorious location for many unfortunate suicides, residents and park patrollers have been working hard to reclaim the forest for the hauntingly beautiful forest it is.
The atmosphere is undeniably eerie. Amongst the dense and dark foliage are the many signs cautioning visitors to "think carefully about their children and parents" if the intent of the visit was to end their lives. Not only due to its unfortunate nickname, but the forest is also frighteningly quiet, as there's barely any wildlife as it grew out of the hardened volcanic rock. In addition, the trees have grown so incredibly compact, it barely allows for the sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves. With the allure this forest has, it should be reclaimed with its original name as the "Sea of Trees".
5 Island of Dolls, Xochimilco, Mexico
The story of the Island of Dolls begins with a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera. Julian discovered the body of a young girl mysteriously floating in the river. Shortly after his discovery, floating by was a doll he assumed to have belonged to the girl which he hung up to honour her spirit. Feeling haunted by her spirit, he continued this tradition of hanging up dolls for her for the next 50 years.
As you approach the island, you'll see in the distance hundreds of dolls strung to everything you see from trees, bushes, fences and huts. The scene is straight from your nightmares. Decaying figures with decapitated heads, hollowed eyes, and disfigured limbs leaves a spine-chilling sensation everywhere you look. Paranormal believers have allegedly heard whispering from the dolls late in the evening. As if not ominous enough, it was also reported that Julian died in the same spot he found the girl.
4 Ho Thuy Tien, Thuy Tien Lake, Vietnam
What was once a lively park for locals has turned into an ominous playground for adventurers to trek through. Ho Thuy Tien's existence was short-lived after opening its doors prematurely before the completion of the park itself. This abandoned water park is located by Thuy Tien Lake in Hue, Vietnam. It's a difficult spot for travellers to access since it has now been marked as unsafe due to its deteriorating state leaving what's left to be a hazardous site for anyone brave enough to trespass.
A dreamland intended to draw in tourists to Hue never quite came to its fruition. Despite its closure, daring travellers are still finding their way to explore this theme park. Upon entry, stands a hefty three-storey dragon sitting on the park's aquarium. The entire park has been covered in graffiti. The decaying structures and overall sullen ambience of the space serve as an amazing location for photography enthusiasts.
3 The Killing Fields of Cheung Ek, Cambodia
A tragic genocide took place in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge Regime, taking the lives of over a million people and leaving many impoverished in a short period between 1975 and 1979. Cheung Ek is one of the numerous and largest locations where mass murders took place during the Khmer Rouge era. Devasting yet alluring for tourists worldwide. Many come to pay respects and experience the tribute to those who have died and survived the horrors of the genocide.
Here stands a Buddhist Stupa, a glass memorial that holds thousands of skulls in memory of the victims found in the mass burials at Cheung Ek. Visitors will discover silent surroundings and overwhelming sadness and leave with a powerful insight into the country's past. While heartbreaking, it is also a sobering encounter of Cambodia's history and a definite must see when visiting Cambodia.
2 The Doorway to Hell, Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan
The Doorway to Hell looks exactly like the place Frodo Baggins was supposed to throw the ring in Mordor. The Darvaza gas crater is a natural phenomenon that left scientists puzzled in the 70s was discovered by accident with a drilling rig. It created a massive crater that contained an underground natural gas cavern leaking tons of poisonous fumes. In hopes of solving the problem of escaping poisonous gas, geologists lit it on fire, assuming the flames would die out within a few weeks.
The crater's flames are still going strong today with geologists scratching their heads as to when it'll stop. Its sinister glow from the cavern can be seen from miles away. There is no place on the planet that is similar to this fiery pit in the middle of the empty and vast Karakum desert. If you ever find yourself in Turkmenistan, visit the large inferno in the middle of the Kakakum desert.
1 Heaven's Gate, Zhangjiajie, China
If the Doorway to Hell isn't your cup of tea, there is also Heaven's Gate in China! If you have a fear of heights, this place is definitely not for you. A location where you don't want to take the phrase "don't look down" lightly. For thrillseekers, you've come to the right place. Tianmen Mountain is 1528.6 meters high and has 999 steps to reach the top. Nine, being a lucky number in Chinese numerology, meaning good fortune and eternity. At the top of the mountain is the world's highest cave properly coined "Heaven Gate" as it is typically covered in clouds.
During the hike to the top, visitors will encounter a 60-meter long glass pathway to feel as though walking through the sky. If that isn't enough to make your heart stop, at the end of the glass pathway is a 160-meter hanging bridge. Once you've survived the stressed-induced adventure, you'll lay your eyes on a stunning cave that's 430 feet tall and 190 feet wide. The sights during this adventure are impressive in every way. Often shrouded in fog, it's quite the mystical walk to the top.