Graveyards aren't all spooky places. With scenic views, lush greenery, impressive architecture, and history to boot, these cemeteries are practically travel destinations in themselves.
1. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
Those of you who remember the '90s will recognize this cemetery as the one featured in the novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Like the book, the cemetery itself has a Southern Gothic atmosphere, with Spanish moss giving shade to time-worn Victorian monuments. There are many notable figures buried here, like singer Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, but it's Gracie Watson who most deserves a visit. Having died at just six years old, her grave is marked by a life-size marble statue with her hand resting on a tree stump, symbolizing her life cut short. Visitors often leave toys at her gravesite.
Tour: Walking tours take place on the second Sunday of each month at 2 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3 pm. Tours are free, but donations are appreciated.
2. Cemetery at Katolische Pfarre Hallstatt, Hallstatt, Austria
The cemetery at the Hallstatt Catholic Church may look like a perfect final resting spot, overlooking the Hallstätter See—a picturesque lake near the ancient village of Hallstatt. Sadly, however, nothing here was very "final." Since space was at such a premium in the tiny cemetery, bodies were removed from the graves—sometimes after as little as 10 years—so new ones could be buried in their place. The old skulls were neatly stacked on shelves in the Beinhaus, or Bone House, in the 12th-century St. Michael's Chapel. Today, you can still see 1,200 skulls on display.
Tour: There are no guided tours of the cemetery. The Beinhaus is open from 10 am to 6 pm, and admission is €1.5.
3. Waverley Cemetery, Sydney, Austrlia
Sydney's cliffside cemetery sets the gleaming white marble of the Victorian and Edwardian monuments against the blue of the water beyond. With views like that, it's easy to see why more than 80,000 interments have taken place here since the cemetery was founded in 1877. It's a favorite of poets, as Dorothea Mackellar, Henry Lawson, Louis Beck, and Victor Daly are all buried here. After you've explored the 40-plus acres of statues and monuments, find the path that links up with a scenic cliffside walk that stretches all the way to Bondi Beach.
Tour: Volunteers sometimes give historical tours of the cemetery at a cost of $22 per person. Contact the Cemetery Office at +61 02 9665 4938 or cemetery@waverley. nsw.gov.au to ask about upcoming tours.
4. Mount of Olives Cemetery, Jerusalem, Israel
For centuries, the cemetery at the Mount of Olives has been an important Jewish burial ground, and you can see more than 100,000 grave markers lining the slope. (Don't let the coffin-like shapes of the gravestones fool you—the bodies are buried underground). The Mount also has tremendous Biblical significance. Jesus is thought to have walked down the slope on the first Palm Sunday; it's also said he was arrested at the foot of the mountain in the Garden of Gethsemane. But even those without any ties to these religious traditions have reason to visit the Mount of Olives: from the top, you can get a panoramic view of the Jerusalem's Old City.
Tours: The cemetery offers three guided tours, focusing on either the pilgrims who made offerings in the First and Second Temples, the Mount during the Six Day War, or the border between the desert and Jerusalem's inhabited land. Email harhazetim @cityofdavid.org.il for specifics.
5. Cimitirul Vesel, Săpânţa, Romania
When you put the words "death" and "Romania" together, it usually conjures up images of dark, gothic, Dracula-inspired scenery. But Săpânţa's Cimitirul Vesel—or the "Merry Cemetery" in English—is actually anything but gloomy. The sky-blue graves here are marked with hand-carved, intricately-painted crosses, then adorned with an image of the person below and a poem about his or her life. But there's no hagiography here: the poems seek to represent the true life of the deceased, and drinking problems, infidelity, and other less-than-flattering traits are fair game for Dumitru Pop, the crosses' creator.
Tour: The Merry Cemetery is often a stop on larger tours of Romania; visit romaniatourism.com for more information.
6. Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Don't cry for those buried here, Argentina—the Cementerio de la Recoleta is posh enough to be the final resting place of famed Argentine first lady Eva Perón. It's beautiful, with narrow alleys lined with mausoleums adorned with intricate carvings. If you can tear yourself away from the monuments—and don't get lost within them, they're so tall and close together, it's easy to lose your way—the ritzy surrounding neighborhood is full of grande mansions that'll give the living real estate envy.
Tour: Free tours are offered in Spanish Tuesday-Sunday at 9:30 am, 11 am, 2 pm, and 4 pm, and in English on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 am (call to confirm). Buenos Tours offers a Retiro & Recoleta Half Day Tour, a three-hour walking tour of the cemetery and upscale surrounding area, for $55 per person. There are also special tours for the blind; call for more information.
Visit all of these cemeteries that are beautiful enough to spend eternity in.
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