Cemetery tourism has been reserved for centuries to attending funerals or paying our respects to the departed, but nowadays, this is not the only reason.
Cemetery tourism is increasingly popular and it’s not surprising, as burial grounds can be both beautiful and interesting.
Also a peaceful place to visit, graveyards may not be everyone’s first choice when planning their tour of a town or city, but the truth is that for an increasing number of tourists, they are an attraction, allowing them to visit the burial sites of the famous or simply to learn more about the past. No longer frowned upon, as long as it is done with the due respect for the dead, their families and the grounds, cemetery tourism is attracting people for both guided tours and casual strolls.
Also known as necrotourism, the motivation for people who enjoy visiting cemeteries is generally far from being dark, they may enjoy going there to create works of art, photography or to learn the historical aspects of the deceased who rest there or of the location. It can reveal burial customs and traditions and provide an insight into how people deal with death.
Some may also visit burial grounds to look into their own past, searching out records to find the location of buried ancestors, and while travelling to the burial sites of religious figures is a centuries old practice, visiting a cemetery as a tourist is now a practice which sees tickets for guided tours to certain graveyards snapped up within minutes.
Visiting cemeteries where there are other tourists may cause people to get caught up in the beauty of their surroundings and forget where they are, but etiquette when visiting burial grounds must not be forgotten.
If the cemetery is still being used, it is important to remember that there may be mourners there so respect should be shown for their pain.
Visitors should be careful and behave much as they would when visiting a place of worship, if you think something might be inappropriate, the best thing is to not do it, even when it comes to taking photos, think about what you are doing. Selfies are, of course, a big no-no.
If you are visiting a memorial site, be aware of its history and understand what it could mean to people in the area. Visitors should also keep touching to a minimum or not at all, and keep their voices down.
Although they can be lovely places to visit, it is also worth remembering that some less pleasant activities can take place in certain graveyards, it’s important to stay safe and not go wandering off into secluded areas.
In Spain, visiting cemeteries on a regular basis, albeit once a year for some people, is nothing new, and to celebrate All Saints’ Day, it was traditional to take flowers to the dead and spend the night with them, although it is becoming less common as younger generations prefer to celebrate Halloween instead.
In any case, there are dozens of burial grounds throughout Spain and Europe which organise guided tours, theatrical representations and cultural events to attract visitors and in most cases raise funds for their upkeep.
One such graveyard is the Cementerio de la Almudena in Madrid, the largest in Spain, at 120 hectares, which offers guided tours of the tombstones and sculptures. When the project was first launched, the 2,000 free available spaces on the tour were snapped up within three days.
The activities organised in cemeteries range from night time walks using candles or torches to films viewings and concerts. Other cemeteries in Spain have brought past and present together by holding photography competitions on their grounds with the photos posted to Instagram, or by including QR codes on tombstones to learn more about those who lie within.
Despite this increasing popularity, in Spain at least, there is no register by the Ministry of Tourism regarding how many people visit burial grounds for tourism purposes, but there is no doubt that cemetery tourism is no longer a minority attraction.