Gloomy castles, creepy crypts, haunted hospitals – there are many fascinating places to discover if you’re brave enough to embrace the darker side of travel. Whether you're keen to jump on the dark tourism trend or are eager to embrace the #Halloween spirit (excuse the pun), add these destinations to your spooky travel wishlist.
Matjiesfontein is a local and lekker gem right here in Mzansi. Hidden 250 kilometres from Cape Town, the tiny one-street town holds the title of South Africa's most haunted site.
At the Lord Milner Hotel, visitors can expect (or dread) to meet Lucy, who floats around the passages in her nightgown. Kate is a 19-year old nurse who died mysteriously and is now rather fond of frequenting the hotel's card room. The Lady in White is partial to night-time walks in the garden and the rattling of doorknobs (apparently, she isn't able to open any doors, or so they say). But don't worry too much. The hotels unaccounted for guests are all said to be harmless.
Dracula's Castle in Transylvania, Romania
Romania's spooky claim to fame is the tale of their slightly sabre-toothed Count Dracula. Legends abound that the gothic-style Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, was once home to Count Dracula, the 'original' vampire, long before vampires that sparkle in the sun a la Twilight came about.
The castle is open to visitors all year round and is a fascinating outing for history buffs.
Vampires aside, Romania is an interesting, slightly 'alternative' (and value for money) European destination. It lies southeast of Hungary and is packed full of history with its castles and medieval towns lying in the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains. The country's capital, Bucharest, boasts cobbled streets and parks, trendy cafes and beautiful buildings and museums hidden throughout the city.
The Mummies Museum, Mexico
Scared of mummies? Perhaps don't plan a visit to Guanajuato in central Mexico then. The town houses a museum that is the final (we hope) resting place of more than a hundred mummies. They were all once residents of Guanajuato, who lived and died somewhere between 1850 and 1950.
Pennhurst State Hospital, Pennsylvania
Nothing says haunted quite so much as a deserted hospital. Pennhurst State Hospital in Pennsylvania enjoys a dark reputation as being one of the most haunted sites in the USA, and the world. The hospital and mental asylum was built in 1908, and 10 000 residents passed through its doors (most to not make it out again) before it was shut down amidst claims of patient neglect.
It’s a popular tourist attraction. Visitors have reported hearing voices, footsteps and items crashing across rooms. On offer are a photographic tour, a daytime history tour or an overnight paranormal tour.
Poveglia Island, Italy
Fancy a trip to an island in Italy? Unless you're into dark tourism, we'd recommend steering clear of Poveglia Island. This small island lies in the Venice Lagoon and is where the government once sent plague-infected Venetians to die. Today, the island is completely abandoned, and you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a local willing to take you there!
Island of the Dolls, Mexico
Scared of dolls? Island of the Dolls is one of the eeriest places to visit in Mexico. Thousands of broken and decaying dolls hang from trees on the small island (located just south of Mexico City), placed there by the island's former owner who died there of a heart attack. It's one of the area's most famous attractions and visitors can hire a boat to take them there.
Chernobyl’s ghost towns, Ukraine
The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was a radioactive nightmare that caused residents to evacuate so quickly that in some cases, dinner was left on the table. The town of Pripyat was home to 50 000 people, and within 36 hours of the accident, it was evacuated. Its streets have stood abandoned ever since.
Today, tourists can join expeditions to the heavily-guarded exclusion zone that depart from Kiev, approximately 90 minutes away. Drive past abandoned houses that stare back at you from blank windows, streets and hospitals. There's even a funfair that is slowly being taken over by nature.
And if spooky or dark tourism isn't your thing, there's always pumpkin pies, spiced lattes and good ol' trick and treating to celebrate Halloween!
Gloomy castles, creepy crypts, haunted hospitals – are you brave enough to embrace the darker side of travel?