What is Dark Tourism or a Dark tourist?

The short answer: most of us are at least to a degree dark tourists and into dark tourism even if you’re unaware of it. It is by no means as gloomy, dubious or outlandish as it may at first appear or as some websites have stated. Dark tourism has been defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy.

Well to start off, ‘dark’ in this context is not meant literally but metaphorically, as in “a dark chapter of history“. And these dark aspects of history and humanity are simply quite interesting. So there are a lot of people who are interested in history. For example, my husband and I love WW2 history. And would love to explore War Sites. So thus it makes us Dark Tourists.

What is a Dark Tourist/ Dark Tourism really? Click to find out.

Think about it…

Have you ever thought of visiting the 9/11 Memorial site a Ground zero in New York? Tour the Catacombs of Paris? Even visiting a famous Rock Star’s grave. Or like us, would like to visit War Museums. How about a paranormal abandoned hospital?

If you answered yes or maybe to the few things I have mentioned above, then you are potentially a dark tourist.

To give you an example, the 9/11 Memorial Site in New York has about 5 million tourist visitors each year. Which makes it the most popular “dark site” in the World today.

The spot where the JFK shooting/murder happened is also a big tourist attraction. Going so far as having an X crossed out on the road at the exact spot he was shot in the car. And thousands of tourist go to see that every year.

In general: dark tourism is considered to be sites you travel to that are in some way connected to death or disaster. Or so goes the rough definition usually applied on Internet sites. But of course, it is much more complex than that short one-liner suggests I think.

Dark Tourism can be viewed in different ways. The connection with death and disaster or it can be quite indirect, like touring Volcanos and such. Which might not have caused deaths, but still gives a gloomy and dark feel to it.

‘Dark tourism’ is just a convenient cover term, but it covers a vast range of different types of sites that may have little to do with each other otherwise. Most visitors to dark tourism sites go there simply because they find it interesting and intriguing. Many come to learn something, or to try to understand something grim and unnerving that is hard to come to terms with. Some may attach even more philosophical depth to it.

“It has been speculated that one element could be that many dark tourism destinations make visitors confront their nightmares; e.g. what would you do if you found yourself in a civil war breaking out all around you – or if a nuclear power station blew up next door?”

So maybe there isn’t a single straightforward answer.

What is NOT included in dark tourism are such mainstream tourism elements as sunbathing on beaches or surfing.  Neither are traditional elements of tourism such as opera, ballet, theatre and a large portion of art galleries. But that doesn’t mean dark tourism couldn’t be combined with any of those other elements of tourism. You are still on holiday after all. So take me for example. I would love to go on a day trip visiting some war museum, but also enjoy other touristy stuff while on holiday.

I think what it comes down to, is having an open mind when travelling. To be open to learning. And to explore. However, if all you want from travelling is beaches, sun and relaxation, then I’m sure you don’t have to worry about being called a Dark Tourist.

If you would like to see what is at the top of our Tavel Bucket List, then click here.