Haunted? Probably. Haunting? Undoubtedly. Take a look at these 13 beautiful cemeteries from around the world!
Est: 12th Century
Japan’s largest cemetery, situated idyllically in the forest of Mt Koya, is home to more than 200,000 graves, 100 temples, and numerous mausoleums, including that of Shingon Buddhism founder Kobo-Daishi (an impressively maintained monument perpetually lit by 10,000 burning lanterns). Add to that the many strange memorials in honour of such deceased as termites who lost their lives at the hands of pesticide companies and puffer fish who fell victim to gastronomy, and Okunoin is one of the most memorable experiences a taphophile can find.
Where: San Diego, California, US
The remains of 112,000 people who died in military conflicts dating back to the mid 1800s lie at this beautiful site, which overlooks San Diego Bay.
Est: 18th Century
A stone’s throw from the city of Oaxaca, this cemetery comes alive on Halloween in preparation for Día De Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) on 1st November. Candles are lit, figurines erected and food & drink served as festival goers get ready to welcome the spirits of lost loved ones in this eerily beautiful setting.
In stark contrast to the gnarled, ancient places of rest which largely make up this list, Austria’s Islamic Cemetery is sleek, minimal, and modern. Designed by Austrian architect Bernardo Bader, it even picked up the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2013.
Where: London, England
Divided into an East and West area, Highgate Cemetery is home to the famous remains of (among others) father of Marxism Karl Marx, manager of Sex Pistols Malcolm McLaren, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams and criminal mastermind Adam Worth.
Legends of the Highgate Vampire surfaced in the 1970s after Seán Manchester and David Farrant separately claimed to have spotted a supernatural entity on the cemetery grounds. This led to a mass vampire hunt in March 1970 (as well as providing inspiration for Hammer’s Dracula AD 1972).
Est: 11th Century
Though the impressive new central structure was only built in 1970, the first burial at Maqbaratoshoara- of the poet and modern-day Persian dictionary author Asadi Tusi- was recorded in the late 11th Century. Since then over 400 poets, mystics and luminaries of Iran have been laid to rest here.
Where: Paris, France
The largest cemetery in Paris and most visited in the world, Cimetière du Père Lachaise was established in the early 18th Century by Napoleon and laid out by French architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart. Since then it has become a post-mortem hotspot for celebrities from around the world including: Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Proust and Edith Piaf.
Where: Kolkata (Calcutta), India
Previously an uninhabited marshland, South Park Street Cemetery’s overgrown and architecturally diverse grounds serve to create a balmy otherworldliness for the wandering visitor. With massive Gothic and Indo-Saracenic monuments remembering various former British colonial rulers on show throughout (including Major General Charles Stuart’s tomb, which resembles a Hindu temple complete with stone deity carvings) there is a strange sense of posthumous grandiosity about the place.
Where: Georgia, US
Though the most recent nod to its beauty came when the now infamous “bird girl” sculpture was featured on the cover of 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bonaventure’s atmospheric beauty has been readily apparent to visitors throughout its 170 year history. Today 160 acres of overgrown moss trees, ferns, flowers and bush palmettos cover Southern-Gothic-style gravestones and mausoleums in various states of charming dliapidation.
Where: Florida, US
A slight departure from the rest of the entrants on this list, Neptune Memorial Reef is an underwater mausoleum for cremated remains, located just off the coast of Key Biscayne. Conceived by Gary Levine and designed by artist Kim Brandell, the 600,000 square feet memorial reef was intended to represent the Lost City of Atlantis.
Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
Ghost stories abound at this age-old graveyard located at the southern edge of Edinburgh’s old town, including numerous unexplained (though also unproven) appearances of a poltergeist after a homeless man broke into Sir George Mackenzie’s tomb in 1998. True or not, there is certainly something about the kirkyard which works to connect the visitor with Edinburghs past to unsettling effect.
Where: Whitby, England
As one of the settings in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, how could the graveyard of Whitby’s Church of St Mary not make the list? Read Stoker’s mention of it below:
“For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary’s Church. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the Abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible… It seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell.” – Bram Stoker, Dracula
Where: Buenos Aires, Argentina
We’re not one to argue with the BBC, who hailed La Recoleta as one of the world’s best cemeteries in 2011, nor CNN, who in 2013 listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Former Argentinian First Lady Eva Peron’s black marble crypt is just one of many arresting tombs among the 6,400 on show.