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558. the future of cemetery tourism

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery remains closed to visitors for the time being. But in the spirit of our last post & of armchair travel –all that’s available at the moment– we’d like to share some our other favorite cemeteries from around the world, along with a few suggestions for the future of travel as it relates to cemeteries.

Tourism will change as a result of the pandemic, but that’s good… the industry is long overdue for new paradigms. Crowded museums & big-ticket expositions will likely become a thing of the past. Travellers may search for less-crowded sites to explore & as open-air museums with little public, cemeteries provide a perfect alternative.

One concept that should disappear along with coronavirus is the outdated notion that a kind of world cemetery hierarchy exists. Somewhere, someone invented a statement that Recoleta Cemetery ranks as one of the most important in the world, along with Père Lachaise in Paris & Staglieno in Genoa. On who’s authority? To our chagrin, that tired comparison has been copied & pasted as much as “Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America”:

la Recoleta es considerado uno de los tres cementerios más importantes del mundo, junto al Pére Lachaise, de París, y el Staglieno, de Génova

Renombrado como uno de los cementerios más monumentales del mundo junto con Père Lachaise en las afueras de París y la Colina de Staglieno en Génova

Es uno de los más importantes del mundo junto con el de Staglieno en Génova y el Père Lachaise de París

Basta ya. Each cemetery has something special in its own right. Regular readers of this blog know that Recoleta Cemetery is unique due to its compact nature, its location near the city center, its high concentration of art & architecture & the opportunity to discover almost all of Argentina’s history. The list could go on & on. Recoleta Cemetery needs no comparison… only interest in unlocking its secrets, as with any cemetery around the world. Below are a few of our favorites:

Milano · Cimitero Monumentale – Not only is the entrance monumental, but fascinating sculpture continues to the very back sections of this grand cemetery. Something breathtaking lies around every corner:

Italia, Italy, Cimitero Monumentale

San Sebastián · Cementerio de Polloe – Terraced landscaping takes visitors up & down on the hunt for tombstones written in the Basque language… in spite of being prohibited during the Franco era:

España, Spain, cemetery, cementerio, Polloe, San Sebastián, Donostia

Sydney · Waverley Cemetery – Sure, Rookwood is fantastic; we can all agree with that. But the cliffside location of this cemetery overlooking the water makes for beautiful views throughout:

Australia, Sydney, Waverley, cemetery

Washington, DC · Arlington National Cemetery – simple tombstones placed row upon row of those who gave their life for their country, the tomb of the unknown soldier & monuments to both victories & tragedies:

USA, Washington, DC, Arlington National Cemetery

Madrid · Panteón de Hombres Ilustres – Art Nouveau memorials to national greats:

España, Spain, Panteón, Hombres Ilustres, Art Nouveau

Bucurešti · Bellu Cemetery – Packed tight & full of nature, the rustic layout invites exploration:

Romania, Bucurešti, Bucharest, Bellu Cemetery

Various locations with a single sculpture or a dominant style · Some cemeteries have a monumental piece (or two) that draw pilgrims to see them in person. Others possess a predominant architectural style, & often the stories associated with tombs also attract many visitors:

España, Spain, Catalunya, Barcelona, Poblenou, Kiss of Death
Barcelona · Cementiri del Poblenou – Forget Gaudí! Full of Art Nouveau tombs & sculptures, most striking is the 1930 piece titled “The Kiss of Death.”
España, Spain, Comillas, cemetery
Comillas · A small cemetery perched high on a cliff has a treasure trove of Art Nouveau.
Portugal, Alcobaça, mosteiro, Pedro, Inês, túmulos, tombs
Portugal · Mosteiro de Alcobaça – The tombs of star-crossed lovers Pedro & Inês are marvels of medieval sculpture, & their story has inspired artists for centuries. More info on our sister website, Endless Mile.

We hope this brief list of cemeteries other than La Recoleta provides inspiration for future travel. Tombs & mausoleums reflect their time as well as give us an idea of how their occupants wanted to be remembered. Do you have a favorite not listed here? We’ll share more of our travels on request, & we’re always looking for new places to explore. Let us know your best cemetery experience. With a bit of luck, cemetery visits may become part of mainstream tourism soon!

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