Cemetery tourism: When the past and the present are connected

05:00:35 - October 26, 2021

A cemetery is probably not many people’s choice when searching for a tourist destination. This place is often considered non-recreational, with a gloomy, boring and ghostly atmosphere. However, times have changed. Nowadays, cemetery tourism with many unique experiences has become popular in many countries.

A cemetery is the bridge between the present and the past, between the living and the dead. Visiting a graveyard isn’t always reserved for those in mourning, but has long developed as a type of tourism. After the Covid-19 epidemic broke out, people want to spend more time contemplating life and prefer to go to secluded places more and more. Cemetery tourism is a suitable type of travel for those needs.

Solitude doesn’t mean bore

Cemetery tourism is a growing market with its very own beauty and interesting aspects. Tourists go to cemeteries around the world with many different purposes such as reflecting on their lives, seeking out the graves of famous people, studying genealogy, or because they like monuments or old stone architectures, etc.

Cemetery tourism is suitable for those who like a quiet place where few people pass by. Standing in memorial of the dead in carefully planned cemeteries, tourists will hardly see a crowded and busy scene like in other places. They can slow down, relax their minds, or indulge in deeper thoughts about life. This is also a type of self-conscious tourism.

In the famous historic cemeteries like Highgate (UK), Père Lachaise (France), etc. and the majority of cemeteries founded in metropolises during the previous centuries, visitors can experience the great landscape, majestic monuments and learn about the sacrifices of great historical figures. Besides, they can feel the harmony among nature, human and art. Many cemeteries are also designed as a park-like setting to welcome everyone to explore.

For example, The Lake View Cemetery in Ohio (The USA) is a popular tourist attraction for picnics and socializing. Often referred to as the city’s “outdoor art museum”, walking, jogging, and driving through the cemetery are all acceptable. In addition, Lake View Cemetery also offers trolley service to take visitors to many of its architectural and historical highlights on Sundays during the summer months.

In lesser known old cemeteries hidden behind overgrown walls, visitors have a chance to discover a secret garden with new species of flora and fauna as well as enjoy their own space and time.

Almost all cemeteries welcome everybody at no charge. Besides, some of them even offer maps, brochures, smartphone apps, audio tours, or guided tours.

Similar to visiting other solemn places such as temples or shrines, cemetery tourists also need to behave in a civilized and proper manner. If the cemetery is still being used, there may be mourners there. Tourists should show respect for their pain. Besides, they also need to lower their voices, limit noise as well as take selfies and avoid joking here.

How do cemeteries attract tourists?

Operate diverse cultural and historical activities

Europe and especially Spain are ideal destinations for cemetery tourism. They often organize guided tours, in addition to cultural events to attract visitors and fund raising for their upkeep. For instance, the Cementerio de la Almudena, the largest cemetery in Spain, at 120 hectares, offers guided tours of the tombstones and sculptures. When the project was first launched, the tour was filled up with 2,000 registrants just within three days.

The activities organised in cemeteries in Spain are also diverse, from night time walks using candles or torches to films viewings and concerts. Moreover, they find ways to connect the past and the present by holding photography competitions on their grounds with the photos posted to Instagram, or by scanning QR codes on tombstones to learn more about those who lie within.

Promote fascinating history

Père Lachaise in Paris (France) is one of the cemeteries that draws the most international tourists in the world, welcoming up to 3.5 million visitors each year. Père Lachaise, the 44-hectare area located on the northeast side of the city, is the largest cemetery in Paris containing over 70,000 tombs. It is also one of the most beautiful, and has a very interesting history.

Père Lachaise was opened in 1804. The cemetery was on the outskirts of town, making French citizens walk far during funeral processions so it was not used much. That’s why Napoleon had the remains of famous people like Henry the third’s wife, poet Jean de la Fontaine and playwright Molière relocated here with much fanfare and publicity.

Today, an entire industry has grown up around Père Lachaise including guided cemetery tours, blogs and books. Besides, some movies are filmed and many politicians, actors, singers, writers or painters were interred here such as Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, etc.

Charming nature

Cemetery does not always look so gloomy and horrible. If visiting Highgate Cemetery, tourists will feel like stepping into a classic English garden. Situated on nearly 15 hectares in north London, Highgate is similar to a nature reserve, and it is a historic resting place. In that place, trees, shrubs and flowers grow without human intervention, being home to many living inhabitants, which include foxes.

In the midst of the cemetery are stone monuments, some dating back to 1839. This is also the final resting place of famous people such as Karl Marx, George Eliot, and Malcolm McLaren.

Going to more than 193-hectare Green-Wood Cemetery in New York, tourists can contemplate rolling hills, several calm ponds, a lake, a glorious view of the Statue of Liberty and thousands of historic monuments. The cemetery used to be impacted by Superstorm Sandy and lost about 300 mature trees, but the grand mausoleums and monuments have still been in place.

Cemetery tourism is not a challenge of going to the haunted places like in the horror movies as some people often assume. Cemetery tourists will absolutely choose carefully invested and planned destinations, not unsafe spontaneous graveyards. This type of tourism promises to get more and more attention as it can help people be more self-aware, more in harmony with nature and history – culture as well as stay away from overcrowded places.

Cemetery tourism: When the past and the present are connected


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