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A guide to dark tourism destinations

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The term 'Dark Tourism' may sound a bit morbid, but for many travellers, it is about remembering historical tragedies, paying respect to the victims, and upholding the value of peace. Here's a selection of trips that give an insight into the horrors of yesteryear and an understanding of the impact these events have had on the local culture, past and present.

Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

Visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to pay homage to those who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Uncover a secret weapons bunker in the city's backstreets; a small unassuming 'tube house' nestled in a quiet neighbourhood concealing a trap door to a basement stocked full of rifles, grenades and ammunition. And experience first-hand the confined conditions of the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground command base in which 10,000 Viet Cong troops lived during the war. 
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Pompeii, Italy

Join a guided tour of the once-prosperous ancient Roman city of Pompeii that was buried in a deluge of ash from the violent eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius over 2000 years ago. Uncover timeworn ruins, preserved temples and the remains of magnificently-decorated villas. Imagine what it must have been like to be trapped in this devastating natural disaster as you come across human casts taken from the voids of victims trapped under layers of cinder and learn about everyday Roman life from the artefacts they left behind.
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Hiroshima, Japan

Although largely rejuvenated, Hiroshima still bears the scars of the catastrophic World War II atomic bomb that landed there in 1945. Visit the Peace Memorial Park located on the A-bomb hypocentre to pay respect to the 140,000 people who died from the nuclear attack, and learn about how the city was rebuilt and is now considered a symbol of peace. Today, over 75 years later, modern buildings line the river banks, and trams criss-cross the busy streets of this, once again, vibrant city. 
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Chernobyl, Ukraine

One of our most popular dark tourism tours is a long weekend break in Ukraine, exploring the eerie abandoned streets of Pripyat and learning about the unprecedented nuclear accident that not only caused deaths but also left thousands exposed to harmful radiation. Walk amongst the skeletons of disused fairground rides and the shadows of deserted factories that sit amongst rows of empty houses in the Chernobyl Number 4 nuclear reactor exclusion zone. If you time your trip right, you may also have the opportunity to look inside the nuclear power station itself.
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Khmer Rouge Regime, Cambodia

Be prepared to uncover some distressing accounts about the Khmer Rouge regime on this trip to Cambodia. A sombre ambience shrouds the Killing Fields of Choeung, and a large memorial contains the skulls of over 8000 victims of Pol Pot's mass genocide between 1975 and 1979. Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former secondary school that was used as Security Prison 21 and learn about the painful suffering that was inflicted upon the local people during this harrowing era. 
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Day of the Dead, Mexico

For a more light-hearted dark tourism trip, join a tour in Mexico that coincides with Day of the Dead festivities from 31 October until 2 November. The streets of Oaxaca come alive with vibrant flower decorations, upbeat music and sumptuous wafts of delicious Mexican food as locals remember cherished ancestors. Although an occasion of remembrance for those who have died, the ambience is one of celebration; rejoicing in happy memories and honouring the lives of deceased loved ones.
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Wartime Minsk, Belarus

Dominated by Soviet rule from 1920 to 1991, and decimated by catastrophic bombings in World War II, the Belarus city of Minsk has a convoluted and dark history. Only a small percentage of pre-World War II buildings remain standing, and today, Stalinist architecture and Brutalist statues loom over the historic centre. Visit Victory Square to see a memorial dedicated to fallen war heroes and walk around the Museum of the Great Patriotic War to learn more about the city's troubled past.
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Bastion Tunnels, Estonia

Step back in time to search a labyrinth of dark, cold underground tunnels, lit only by torchlight, in Tallinn. This secret network of Medieval bunkers and shelters sprawls underneath Estonia's capital city. Imagine how life would have been for troops in this subterranean world during World War II and find out how the passageways were adapted and modernised for Soviet use in later years as you duck under low ceilings and crouch into cramped dugouts. 
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Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland, the place where more than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, sadly lost their lives during the Nazi's World War II Holocaust, is now a place of peaceful remembrance. Abandoned railway tracks, that once transported victims here, lead up to the iconic gateway of this site of immense terror and persecution. Feel a lump in your throat as you view piles of the victims' personal effects and try to fathom the vast scale of wooden barracks and gas chambers that once stood here. 
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