Most people go on vacation to see popular beach resorts, well known shopping districts or family-friendly attractions, but for some travelers, a tourist attraction with a dark and sinister past is more alluring. These attractions often represent a particularly dark time in human history, and some argue that they should be visited for that very reason, so past events can be remembered and learned from.
The following are 7 tourist spots with dark pasts:
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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Meaning “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” in Khmer, Tuol Sleng was a former high school (under a different name) that was notoriously used as Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. An estimated 17,000 to 20,000 prisoners were held, tortured and executed within the former classrooms and grounds of Tuol Sleng.
The current museum looks much as it did when it was liberated in 1979. Some of the torture rooms were left as they were found, with little more than a rusty iron bed against one wall. Second floor rooms now house the pictures and names of many of the prisoners who lost their lives at Tuol Sleng.
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Located in northern Ukraine, close to the Belarusian border, Pripyat is the site of the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power disaster in 1986. Thirty one people died directly in the accident, but the number of radiation-related cancers and deformities is still growing today. Interestingly, the animal population of Pripyat, as well as its surroundings, has bounced back, and the fauna now looks more similar to what would be found in a national park, rather than what one would expect from the site of a nuclear disaster.
Today, tourists are allowed to pay highly regulated visits to the site through one of 5 well-known tour operators in the area.
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Auschwitz-Birkenau – Poland
One of the Auschwitz group of concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazis during the Second World War. Approximately 1 million European Jews were killed at this camp, and it was officially designated as a museum in 1946. It is truly a chilling experience to travel through the prisoners’ quarters and gas chambers of this notorious concentration-extermination camp.