Spooky spots for restless souls: 10 of the world's creepiest destinations
From vampire trails to ancient cemeteries and resident ghosts, visit these locations if you dare
October is the month of all things ghostlike and ghoulish. It’s when spider webs and pumpkins spring up outside houses and when ghastly costumes and scary stories come to the fore. If all this Halloween mania has sparked your inner ghost-hunter, or if you’re keen for the eerie vibes to last longer than a night of trick or treating, then take a look at these destinations, which are more than capable of bewitching tourists year round.
From the most obscure and unusual to the downright terrifying, these locales have intrigued and terrified travellers for years. Visit if you dare.
New Zealand’s pitch black caves
The mesmerising damp caves of Waitomo on New Zealand’s North Island are pitch-black caverns sprinkled with only one light source – the glimmer of thousands of indigenous glow-worms that live deep inside the cavern. Hop aboard a boat and sail through the stillness of this surreal world accompanied by an expert guide who’ll tell you more about the 120-year history of this galaxy of tiny living lights. For a ghost hunter experience, spend the night at Waitomo Caves Hotel, a place that was once voted the country’s most haunted abode. The building dates back to 1908 and has a history of hauntings.
Fly direct to Auckland from Dubai with Emirates, prices start at Dh6,800 for the 16-hour flight
The hanging coffins of the Philippines
While many cultures bury their dead out of sight, in Sagada’s Echo Valley, coffins have been draped from cliff faces for centuries. Located in a mountainous province about 400 kilometres from Manila, the mysterious village of Sagada is a world away from the tropical image usually associated with the Philippines. The local Igorot tribe that lived here believed that hanging their dead from coffins nailed to cliffs brought the a step closer to the afterlife. In this part of the Philippines, you can expect pine trees in place of palm trees and mist-covered caves rather than sandy beaches, but it’s a fascinating find. “Sagada’s hanging coffins are a unique sight in the Philippines, an interesting custom that’s equal parts fascinating and eerie,” says J B Macatulad, a writer at Will Fly For Food, who has visited the region times.
From Dubai to Manila with return fares starting at Dh1,200
La Paz’s Witches Market
Located about 3,600 metres above sea level, La Paz has just been named as one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit by Lonely Planet, which commented on its “newfound ambition”. But Bolivia’s capital of cool is also home to one of its most traditional marketplaces. The Mercado de las Brujas is a witch doctor bazaar where herbal cures, folk remedies and unorthodox ingredients are sold in bulk. Expect impromptu fire ceremonies, talisman peddlers and an abundance of llama foetuses – the locals believe they bring good luck. If you’re looking for a place to get some rest after a day spent exploring the market, try the nearby La Casona Hotel. This colonial mansion with original 17th century features and a huge outdoor terrace is so pretty, you might not believe it’s haunted.
Fly to La Paz from Abu Dhabi with Etihad and Avianca. Fares start at about Dh7,000 and the journey takes about 28 hours, depending on stopovers
Nepal’s unexplained peak
Towering 7,000 metres into the sky Nepal’s Annapurna mountain range, Machapuchare – or fish tail mountain – is perhaps the most untouched place on Earth. There’s been a climbing ban in effect here since the 1950s, so the mountain looks set to retain its undiscovered status at least for the foreseeable future. Sudeep Upretee, who lives in the Kathmandu valley, says: “People who live near the mountain say that their fingernails and hair grow faster than is normal and anyone who spends a lot of time there, begins to get older faster” Perhaps this one is best admired from afar.
Fly to Kathmandu from Abu Dhabi with Himalaya Airlines ares from Dh1,4001. The flight takes less than four hours
Oman’s mystical walls of Bahla
Closer to home and about 200 kilometres from Muscat, Bahla is one of the oldest oases in Oman, and also happens to be shrouded in a legend laced with occult forces and evil spirits. This place has been called the home of the jinn, or untamed spirits, who some people believe live in the shadows of Bahla Fort. The imposing fortress dates to the pre-Islamic era and is open to the public. While you probably won’t come face-to-face with any jinn, you probably will come across some sleeping black bats.
Take the one-hour flight to Muscat with Salam Air from Abu Dhabi conomy fares start at Dh580
India's skeleton lake
If you like a mystery then this one is for you. About 5,000 metres above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains, Roopkund Lake is home to the scattered remains of several hundred bodies of unknown origin. Colloquially known as Skeleton Lake, how the bodies got there or where they came from remains a mystery. The glacial lake is frozen for the majority of the year, but in summer it reveals its harrowing contents. The mystery of the bodies – which were discovered in 1942 – remained unsolved until a few years ago, when scientists documented that the cause of death was huge frozen hailstones. The cold temperature in the region has preserved bones, hair and flesh, and the site attracts thousands of dark tourists.
Fly from Dubai to Dehradun via New Delhi with Air India. Fares start from Dh1,200 and the journey takes about six hours, depending on connection times
Haunted tales in Banff
The Fairmont Banff Springs offers luxury accommodation and postcard views of what is undoubtedly some of the prettiest land in Canada. Mountains, glaciers and evergreen forests surround this Hogwarts-like hotel, which has fine-dining, upmarket bars and a luxurious spa. But wander down to the back of the hotel and you’ll find a stone spiral staircase where, rumour has it, a bride-to-be tripped on her dress on her way to her wedding ceremony, which was being held in the Mount Stephen Hall. The eternal bride is now believed to haunt the hotel, and there have been several sightings of a ghostly woman clad in white wandering the grounds. If you’re staying up on one of the towers on the ninth floor, unexplained noises and haunting echoes are to be reported.
Fly to Calgary with British Airways via London ares start from Dh5,200 and the journey is around 21 hours
Vampire trails in Scotland
With its storied past, Scotland is full of haunting tales. In the north of the country, on the Aberdeenshire coast, Cruden Bay is at first glance a pretty little fishing village, but dig deeper, and you’ll discover an unsettling past. In the 19th century, it was the holiday haunt of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. The ruins of Slains Castle, which drape murkily down from the headland, inspired Stoker’s vision of Count Dracula’s castle. Visitors can book a stay at the Kilmarnock Arms Inn, where Stoker stayed in 1895, . Would you risk a visit to the place where the most infamous vampire in history was incarcerated?
Fly to Edinburgh with Emirates from Dubai from Dh2,200 for the eight-hour flight
Cemetery walking in New Orleans
Louisiana’s oldest and most haunted cemetery is home to more than 100,000 souls, many of which lie in decaying crypts. aunted by ghosts of yellow fever epidemic victims and civil war battles s you wander around St Louis Cemetery No 1, you should also be on the lookout for the ghost of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen from the 1800s, who is said to shove those who don’t visit with respect. Two Chicks Walking Tours offer excursions of the grounds and describe it as: “A sacred site full of mystique steeped in history. The walkways are quite thin in places with tombs of various styles throughout. While it’s maintained today by the Catholic church, a religious syncretism existed for a time.”
Fly to New Orleans via Chicago with Etihad. Journey time is about 20 hours depending on connections and fares start from Dh7,000
Celebrity Hollywood ghosts
Los Angeles is a hard city to leave, but for some people, it’s downright impossible. Marilyn Monroe is thought to be one of the many restless spirits haunting the City of Angels. She’s rumoured to roam the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where she lived for two years when she was an aspiring model. The hotel was built in 1927 and room 1200 is where Marilyn is believed to reside. Since Monroe’s death in 1962, there have been several reports of guests seeing a woman’s shape in the mirror and feeling cold spots in the room. The hotel’s operator has also reported a series of mysterious phone calls originating from the same room.
Fly direct to Los Angeles with Emirates. Fares cost from Dh5,150 and flight time is around 16 hours
Updated: October 29, 2019 07:42 PM