5 of the spookiest towns and cities around the world

21 October 2019

While everyone still loves a beach holiday and a trip to Europe, niche experiences are becoming increasingly common. More and more these days, people want to learn something about a place they visit. TV shows and movies influence travel choices more than you think. And so too does the eerie and the macabre.

"Dark tourism" is a form of tourism that involves travelling to places associated with tragedy or death. David Farrier's Netflix series Dark Tourist delved into it quite deeply, with the Kiwi journalist exploring a number of strange, disturbing and creepy places that many people would shy away from.

While such places can send a shiver down your spine, there's no denying that more people are becoming interested in them. So, in the spirit of Halloween, the creepiest holiday of the year, we thought we'd share some towns and cities around the world that are sure to get that adrenaline pumping for all the aspiring ghost busters out there.

From a former penal settlement to a nuclear disaster site and the birthplace of Dracula, fans of all things eerie and strange will want to add these to their bucket list.

1. Port Arthur, Tasmania

Port Arthur is well worth a visit for its historic significance, but it's also undoubtedly a creepy location. For nearly half a century it was a penal settlement, and many believe the souls of those who died here never truly left. There are many tales of ghost sightings and paranormal activity. The cemetery here is home to 1,000 graves of convicts, officers, women and children who were buried there in the 19th century. Guides offer ghost tours of the Port Arthur Historic Site. In 1996 Australia's worst mass murder took place here, when a man named Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people. It's understandably a sombre place, so take care to be respectful when you pay a visit.

2. Sighișoara, Romania

This Romanian town was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration behind Bram Stoker's Dracula). The town itself is absolutely beautiful and one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the whole of Europe. With its winding cobbled streets and historic church towers and turrets, it's full of charm. Vlad the Impaler was born in 1431 and you can visit the house he lived in with his father, Vlad Dracul.

3. Chernobyl, Ukraine

In 1986, a safety test at nuclear reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the town of Pripyat in the Ukraine went horribly wrong. In what was the worst nuclear disaster in history, the reactor core ruptured and exploded, sending radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, affecting humans and wildlife in the surrounding area for years after the event.

Strangely, the popularity of the HBO show Chernobyl, which was based on the real events of what happened during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has increased the number of visitors to the site. Previously considered an off-limits site aside from the most extreme (or crazy) travellers, it's now opening up, with tour companies operating in the area reporting 30-40% increases in bookings to news site Reuters since the TV show aired.

Pripyat is the main place on the itinerary. The town was home to 50,000 people prior to the 1986 disaster, but today it's a ghost town that looks as though it's straight out of an apocalypse movie, complete with abandoned houses and an empty amusement park. During a day trip you can explore the exclusion zone and eat lunch in the only restaurant in the town. In October 2019 it was reported that the Reactor 4 control - previously strictly off limits - is now open for those who want to get even closer to where the accident occurred.

4. New Orleans, United States

It's not surprising that the birthplace of voodoo makes this list. This vibrant city is known for its music and culture, but you'll also find plenty of creepy attractions here. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau is said to wander the St Louis Cemetery on 23rd June every year. The LaLaurie mansion in the French Quarter is another spine-tingling attraction. The wealthy owner of the house, Delphine LaLaurie, starved and tortured her slaves, something that was revealed when the building caught fire in 1834. When the house was eventually sold, it was reported that human skeletons in contorted positions were found beneath the house - believed to be more unfortunate victims of LaLaurie's torturous tendencies. It's not certain how much has been embellished over time but there's no doubt this is one creepy mansion, with many reports of ghostly sightings and paranormal activity over the past two centuries. Join a ghost tour of the city or simply wander around the French Quarter after dark (in a group - for safety) and you'll easily see why this city has a reputation for being haunted.

5. Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland is full of castles, and many of them are purported to be haunted. Edinburgh Castle is probably the most famous of them all, and there is plenty here for ghost busters to whet their appetite. This iconic location has a long and bloody history, so it's no surprise there are reported to be countless ghosts hanging about, including a headless drummer boy. Nearby on the Royal Mile is Mary King's Close, which claims to be Scotland's spookiest street. You can join a spooky ghost tour of this place and find out all about the laneway's prior inhabitants and the creepy details of what happened to them. Beware of Annie's Room - we warned you! There are many other paranormal places in this city, including Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Edinburgh Playhouse, so go forth and explore if you dare.

If you're after a trip that's a little bit different (and maybe slightly spooky!) get in touch and experience the world differently with us.

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