Try dark tourism: Chernobyl, Pompeii and other disaster zones that are drawing visitors
Add these top five destinations to your bucket list.
A trip to Chernobyl offers an assortment of melancholic vistas. In April of 1986, Chernobyl witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history. A series of mistakes at the power plant caused a series of explosions that blew the lid off a reactor, dispersing radioactive material into the atmosphere. Winds carried the toxic over Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, leaving millions of acres of contaminated land in its wake. This called for permanent evacuation.
Tourists are creeping in years after the disaster to examine the Exclusion Zone, the abandoned area surrounding the reactor. There's the ghost town of Pripyat whose abandoned amusement park, moss-covered Ferris wheel offer a glimpse of a once well-thriving town. A drained pool and a soccer field reclaimed by vines are a few other sites that recall failed dreams.
Gulf of Alaska
While nuclear disasters cause major damage to our ecology, oil spillage into oceans is also an area of concern. Over the last two centuries, a number of accidents involving oil tankers and rigs have resulted in the spillage of gallons of oil into our oceans, destroying precious marine life. One such is the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. In March 1989, over 11 million gallons of crude oil was released into the waters of the Gulf of Alaska, contaminated more than 1300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean.
The result was a massacre of hundreds of sea otters, harbour seals, and eagles and hundreds of thousands of seabird within days. Cruise operators running glacier tours out of Prince William Sound highlight the history surrounding the Exxon Valdez spill and its aftermath, including the oil industry's operations in the area today.
Pompeii, one of the must-see sights of Italy, perished when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. Untill approximately 1500 years ago, Pompeii lay undiscovered. The mounds of ash and pumice buried everything from its streets to its frescoes. Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre's broader excavation in 1748 brought to the fore large structures, including an entire Roman theatre.
More recently, 300 human skeletons of people trying to flee the eruption were found on a nearby beach. Today, Pompeii, Italy's most popular tourism attractions, is part of the larger Vesuvius National Park. Though it's possible to explore the site by oneself, it is suggested to opt for an audio guide tour so that one doesn't miss out on details.
The four-square-miles large Aokigahara forest, sitting northwest at the base of Mount Fuji, in Japan has the unfortunate distinction of being the world's third most popular place to die. Historically associated with demons in Japanese mythology, the forest's dense tree network literally blocks winds, making it exceptionally quiet and an eerie place. Statistically, about 100 suicides occurred there every year. However, it is suggested that many other corpses have been lying there for years undiscovered.
Each year dozens of corpses are found by volunteers who clean the woods, but many are forever lost in the very thick woods. Japanese authorities have discontinued publishing exact suicide numbers in order to avoid making the place even more popular. While one is likely to be enchanted by the tranquil forest during a guided walk, the eerie stories may send shivers up your spine.
Bikini Atoll is an archipelago in the Pacific which belongs to the Marshall Islands. After World War 2, the USA made nuclear weapon tests in the areas. The people had to leave their homeland and were relocated to an uninhabited island, assuming that they could return to their island later.
However, the US made the tests so blatant that the island was completely contaminated, and the inhabitants could never return. In front of the island there are still two wrecks of Japanese warships. It is possible to dive in these wrecks today.