9 best dark tourism destinations to visit with teenagers

Dark tourism destinations are all around the world, some are very well known while others you may never have heard of. For some, the thought of visiting tourism sites associated with death and suffering can be too much, while for others it is a way to pay your respects to those who have died by learning about their lives. Is dark tourism ethical and should you visit dark tourism destinations with teenagers?

Where are best some dark tourism sites?

There is a long list of dark tourism sites around the world. Some are confronting, unbelievable and heart-wrenching. One thing is for certain when you visit dark tourism destinations you leave with a heavy feeling and a heavy heart about what has happened there.

Should you visit dark tourism destinations with teens?

That will depend on which your point of view and the reasons why people visit these dark tourism destinations. Taking teenagers to dark tourism sites is a way of teaching them about world history about our not so nice past and hoping it makes them reflect on what happened. History is not just a single event that occurred in the past; it is also the story of how we became who we are today.

Auschwitz Birkenau – Poland dark tourism site

Over 1 million people died at Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland. The site of the Nazi Death Camp is a permanent reminder of the Nazis’ war against the Jews. Auschwitz Birkenau was built in 1940 by SS forces and became the largest concentration camp of the Nazi era.

The barbed wire at Auschwitz Birkenua
Dark Tourism examples include Auschwitz

The Auschwitz Birkenau camp was used as the main place of mass killing during World War 2. You can the remains of two crematoriums, buildings where medical experiments were conducted and the train platform where the detainees were offloaded at Auschwitz Birkenau.

The Auschwitz Birkenau memorial site provides a great lesson for teenagers of what one man’s ideology can become and why it should never be allowed to happen again. For people, the world over Auschwitz is one of the most visited dark tourism destinations.

Read more: Are you considering visiting Auschwitz with kids? We visited with our daughter and here is a candid post on our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau with teens.

Port Arthur – Australia dark tourism site

The dark tourism destination of Port Arthur started out as a penal colony in 1833 where England sent some of its worst criminals (including teenagers) to the other side of the earth. The location in Tasmania, Australia, was as far away from England as any convict could get sent.

The Port Arthur Penal Colony is on to the top dark tourism destinations in Australia
Dark Tourism places in Australia

The prisoners at Port Arthur were broken men with no hope of ever returning to England. The men were given the worst jobs, they were beaten, they were put in solitary confinement with the use of psychological punishment being pioneered here until the camp closed in 1877. Many prisoners at Port Arthur took their own lives to avoid the conditions at the site. It is a great example for today’s privileged teenagers of what life was like for the less fortunate.

In 1996 Port Arthur Tasmania was again the source of immense pain for so many people. A gunman opened fire on visitors and workers alike as they sat in the Broad Arrow Cafe or walked around the prison site, killing 35 innocent people and injuring 19 others. This is the biggest mass killing in Australian history. This adds a very recent element to visiting this dark tourism destination with teenagers.

Chernobyl – dark tourism places in Europe

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian. An explosion at the reactor caused the top of it to rupture, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

A baby doll at Chernobyl fitted with a gas mask
Things to do in Ukraine include visiting Chernobyl

A large evacuation zone was set up and the area was declared a “dead zone” due to the radioactive contamination. People living near the reactor were evacuated to other settlements in the Soviet Union. The short-term effects resulting from heavy fallout exposure include radiation sickness and cataracts. Late effects are thyroid cancer, especially in children and adolescents, and leukaemia among exposed workers. The best way to experience the full Chernobyl story is with a guided tour from Kyiv.

People continue to visit Chernobyl due to the unique opportunity to experience the area itself and to learn about the disaster that occurred there. This dark tourism location is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history both in cost and casualties. Dark Tourism Chernobyl tours are popular for people visiting Ukraine.

The Killing Fields – dark tourism places in Asia

Khmer Rouge led by communist leader Pol Pot emptied the cities and forced Cambodians to move to Labour camps in the countryside, where forced labour, physical abuse mass executions took place. 

Skulls in a display case at the killing fields in Cambodia
Types of Dark Tourism

The Khmer Rouge leaders, under the influence of the Communist ideology, implemented the policy of killing the intellectuals, killing the middle class, killing the foreign enemies, and killing the religious sects”. This policy resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, including 1.2 million deaths from execution, 775,000 deaths from starvation, and 200,000 deaths from illness or disease resulting from poor living conditions.

Today you can visit many of these sites around Phnom Penh including the S21 prison in the city and Choeung Ek, which sits on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The Killing fields can be very confronting for teenagers with skulls and bones all around the grounds. The Killing fields are a reminder of the dark side of the Khmer Rouge movement and the terrible consequences of an extremist regime’s policies.

Pearl Harbour, the USS Arizona Memorial site

The USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbour in Honolulu, Hawaii, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.

USS Arizona in the waters off Hawaii
Dark Tourism USA attractions include Pearl harbour

Teenagers visiting Pearl Harbour can see a number of memorials such as the USS Arizona memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, The U.S.S Bowfin Submarine and more. The bombing of Pearl harbour was significant in prompting the United States to enter World War 2.

Pompeii – dark tourism Italy

Pompeii is one of the oldest still intact dark tourism places in the world. In AD79 Mount Vesuvius blew up and buried the city under 15 m of volcanic ash, with an estimated death toll of 25,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.

a body frozen in time at Pompeii
Bodies were frozen in time at Pompeii Dark Tourism site

In modern times the city was unearthed in 1748. Since then it has become one of the leading attractions for tourists in Italy. You can walk the streets of Pompeii, visit Villas, and see frescoes, mosaics and Roman statues. Pompeii is located around 120 km from Naples in the area of Mount Vesuvius.

Teenagers in Italy will find Pompeii interesting as it is like looking at a time capsule, to see what life was like in the Roma area 2000 plus years ago.

Hiroshima – Dark tourism Japan

Hiroshima is a city that is known for its tragic past. It was the first city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb and it has since become a symbol of the horrors of war and the power of nuclear weapons.

Japan Dark Tourism in Hiroshima

The site where the bomb was dropped is now a memorial and museum, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. The museum tells the story of what happened on August 6th, 1945 and how it affected not only Hiroshima but also the rest of Japan.

Visitors can also see artefacts from that day, such as melted glass bottles and scorched schoolbags. Hiroshima’s annual Peace Memorial Ceremony and Festival attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England. It is an ancient fortress that has been used as a royal palace, prison, and execution site for centuries.

The famous Tower of London complex
Top tourism sites in England

The Tower of London was a prison from the 11th century until the 19th century. It was also a palace and a site for executions. Many famous people were imprisoned here including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and Robert Devereux. Today you see a memorial shaped like a pillow inside the tower grounds where many of the prisoners were beheaded on Tower Green. For teens in London, we recommend the free tours in the tower with the Yeoman Warders. They will tell you about the history and myths and legends of the tower.

Murambi Memorial Site, Rwanda

This genocide was sparked by fears that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) would take power and enact revenge for crimes committed against them during the colonial era. The widespread ethnic violence began after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on April 6th, 1994 by unidentified gunmen.

Murambi Memorial Site is a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Rwandan genocide. In total, between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed during the 100-day period from April 7th to July 15th of 1994. Located in southwestern Rwanda, Murambi Memorial Site is a tribute to those who lost their lives.

Dark tourism destinations. Our conclusion

In conclusion, dark tourism destinations can be educational, emotional, and immersive for those seeking to visit. The nature of these dark tourism destinations might be too much for some younger children, but teenagers may find visiting dark tourism places a unique way to understand the history and another way to understand the world they live in.

Dark tourism destinations are one of the fastest-growing tourist industries in the world, with more than 7 million tourists visiting dark tourism sites annually. For those looking to take a trip with their teens, consider going dark.

We hope this post from us here at Wyld Family Travel has given you plenty of information on whether you should visit dark tourism destinations with teens.

Travel with teenagers and tweens. Travelling with young adults has just as many issues as travelling with young children. Choosing the best teenage vacation destinations can be so time-consuming. Planning a family holiday can be stressful and finding the best tips for travel is essential. Use our Travel with Teenagers Destination Guides from all over the world for your next family vacation inspiration to make your family vacations with teens epic.

More travel inspiration for your family vacations with teens

Author bio:

Father, husband, traveller, and chief destination manager here at Wyld Family Travel. When Mark is not talking about travel or planning travel you will find him working in disability support. Mark is a family travel advocate, having travelled to over 45 countries with his kids from 10 months old, through to their teenage years. You will find his work here and on other popular websites.

Having a beer in Pilsen Czech
Mark Wyld

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