(Collaborative Post) Cemetery Tourism: Boomer Travel Bloggers Reflect on Cemetery Visits

Straus Mausoleum at The Woodlawn Cemetery, the gravesite of Isidor Straus (co-owner of Macy’s Department Store). He and his wife Ida both died aboard the Titanic and are memorialized on the nearby monument depicting a lifeboat from the ship.

Boomer travel bloggers reflect on their cemetery visits around the globe

Wherever you travel, you’ll likely find a cemetery that reveals something about the history, culture and traditions of the people and place. It’s hard to resist wandering around to witness the architecture, sculpture and landscaping, even capturing the memory in a photograph. Most cemetery visits offer an opportunity for us to reflect on our lives, too.

My fellow boomer travel bloggers share their stories below of some of the interesting cemetery visits they’ve had during their travels.

Click on the link under each listing to read more about the cemetery visits on the respective travel blogs. (All photographs were taken by the respective bloggers).

The Cemetery Visits

Panteon Antiguo Cemetery

Graveyard during Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City
Graveyard during Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City

Outside Oaxaca City, Mexico

A Taste for Travel, Michele Peterson

Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is an important day throughout Mexico and Guatemala, and very rich with authentic traditions and rituals, especially in the states of Oaxaca and Michoacan. Many people describe the cemetery scenes as joyous fiestas but my experience has been that while there may be music, mescal and special foods, the graveyard vigils are also somber contemplative events celebrating life, the bond of family and the power of memory. As I found in the Panteon Antiguo (old cemetery) near Oaxaca City, it’s quite a moving experience to be invited to join families as they pay their respects to lost loved ones.

Mound Cemetery

Burial mound at Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio
Burial mound at Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio

Marietta, Ohio

Santa Fe Travelers, Billie Frank and Steven Collins

We didn’t set out to look for Marietta, Ohio’s Mound Cemetery. It’s on 5th Street, a block from our son’s home. The street itself, a tree-shaded avenue lined with restored Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses is worth a visit. The cemetery, final resting place for Revolutionary War veterans as well as many of the town’s founding families, is still in use. The early burial mound sitting in the middle of the gravestones makes this a unique place, too. Built by Adena people who were in the area from100 B.C to around 500 C.E., the mound is 39 feet high and 150 feet in diameter. Steps built into the mound lead to the top where you can sit on a bench and enjoy the view of the cemetery and the adjacent streets. Take time to read the inscriptions on the old gravestones. It’s a lesson in American history.

Zagreb National Cemetery

Zagreb national cemetery at Mirogi, Croatia
Zagreb national cemetery at Mirogi, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia

Travel Photo Discovery, Noel Morata

The main cemetery at Zagreb, Croatia called Mirogij is a wonderful place to visit for those looking for something different to do in the capital city. The cemetery is stunning with artwork, sculpture, beautiful floral decorations and impressive architecture from many famous crypts of Croatian personalities and historical figures.

Cemetery #1

Grave of Marie Laveau at Cemetery #1, New Orleans
Grave of Marie Laveau at Cemetery #1, New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Gypsy Nester, David and Veronica James

New Orleans is well known for its cemeteries, with crypts built above ground instead of the usual subterranean graves. The most storied resident of Cemetery #1, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, attracts hundreds of pilgrims to her tomb every day. The believers draw three Xs on the tomb or leave offerings, always in threes, of candles, flowers, dolls, coins, even cigarettes and cigars, in hopes of having the famous priestess grant their petitions. On occasion, the sacrifices will include chickens. The more urban of the worshipers have been known to offer up a bucket of KFC to fulfill the ritual’s requirements.

Aruba Cemetery

Colorful Aruba Cemetery
Colorful Aruba Cemetery

Aruba, Dutch Caribbean

Marilyn Jones Blog, Marilyn Jones

De Palm Tour driver Gio slows in front of a cemetery to explain why the mausoleums are painted so colorfully. “Most of Aruba is Catholic, but there is a little superstition mixed in as well,” he explains. “Friends and relatives want to make sure their dead feel right at home, so they paint the mausoleums the same color as their houses. If they paint their house a different color, they paint the mausoleum a different color.” Bright blue, yellow, gold, lavender and purple mausoleums topped with crosses and marked with names and messages line street-like rows; each cared for with love by the living to honor the dead.

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing

Tyne Cot Cemetery
Tyne Cot Cemetery

Ypres Salient, Belgium

Rachel’s Ruminations, Rachel Heller

Nothing prepared me for the effect of seeing so many graves in neat, white rows and reading so many names: young men, neatly lined up, who died in such gruesome, messy ways during World War I. It’s hard to describe how I felt: sadness, of course, but also a strong admiration for their willingness to sacrifice themselves this way. It was awe-inspiring.

Fairview Lawn Cemetery

Well looked after grave site of Titanic Victims: Gone But Not Forgotten
Well looked after grave site of Titanic Victims: Gone But Not Forgotten

Nova Scotia, Canada

Budget Travelers Sandbox, Nancie McKinnon

This cemetery in Halifax is the final resting place for over one hundred victims of the Titanic disaster. I find it heartening that the victims have not been forgotten. There are often fresh flower, notes, and small keepsakes left on individual graves. I’m sure that the families would be happy to know that their loved ones continue to be looked after. The movie Titanic brought the cemetery into the limelight. At one point it was suggested that admission be charged. Thankfully that never happened!

La Recoleta Cemetery

LaRecoleta - Architectural details like columns and domes enhance the structures
LaRecoleta – Architectural details like columns and domes enhance the structures

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Grownup Travels, Jane Canapini

Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely not into horror movies, zombie walks or edge-of-your-seat thrillers. In fact, my idea of a Halloween costume is a jellyfish. So it might seem a little out of character to imagine me wandering leisurely through a cemetery. But when that necropolis is as beautiful and tranquil as Buenos Aires’ La Recoleta, even the chicken-hearted like me will find a reason to visit. Because if this cemetery’s architecturally elaborate mausoleums and evocative statues don’t capture your imagination, its most famous residents, like Eva Péron, just might.

Hanaka o’o’ Cemetery

Grave marker at Hanaka o'o' Cemetery
Grave marker at Hanaka o’o’ Cemetery

Maui, Hawaii

TravelNWrite, Jackie Smith

The walking path that links Maui’s popular Ka’anapali Beach to Lahaina Town, passes an area scattered with gravestones. It is the Hanaka o’o’ Cemetery, according to a nearby sign; the final resting place for some of the of immigrants who came from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, Spain and the Philippines to work in the island’s sugar cane plantations and processing mills. We were the only tourists who veered from the walking path on a late morning in February to explore the place that is nowadays bordered by a busy island highway and a state beach park. Some markers were ornate and others, the ones that caught my eye and imagination, were the incredibly simple ones: “Who were you? What is your story?” We wished we could have read the characters on those that were engraved.

When you’ve finished these, I hope you’ll read my recent post on cemetery tourism on More Time To Travel:

Cemetery at Glendalough Ireland (credit: Andrew Levine)
Cemetery at Glendalough Ireland (credit: Andrew Levine)

Do you visit cemeteries during the course of your travels?

This post is part of a LinkUp with Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery.

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  1. Hi Irene. What a great list of cemeteries! I hope to get to a few of these in my future travels. Thank you for including mine. I was surprised to read that Isador and Ida Straus were among the victims of the Titanic tragedy.

  2. Cemeteries can be interesting places to visit. Thanks for including my bit on Mound Cemetery.

  3. Do people still do grave rubbings? We did that when I was a kid in Connecticut, using very thin paper and soft black charcoal. You could often read much more of what the stone said that way, and it was fascinating to find some dating to the 17th century!

    1. I know that at least some cemeteries prohibit them because the only gravestones are in deteriorating condition. I was surprised, however, to learn that most cemeteries welcome children.

  4. Yes, I do visit cemeteries when I travel and some of the best are in Ireland. The old cemeteries of the western U.S. are wonderful, too. The stories they can tell! Loved this round up — it’s given me some ideas for future travels.

    1. I felt the same way after visiting one of the American cemeteries in Europe. Military cemeteries are especially sad, I think, because they are associated with war and the untimely deaths of young men and women

  5. Irene, what work it took to put all this together and what a superb end result: it is amazing to see the variety of cemeteries even in this small slice of the world that we’ve all contributed. Thanks for including me in this post. I noticed your comment about military cemeteries and I too, find them to be so incredibly sad whether at home or far away but those on foreign soil are even more heartbreaking, I think.

  6. Charleston, SC, has some great old cemeteries…and the one at St. Paul’s Chapel, in lower Manhattan, has some ancient stones. Very powerful to visit.

  7. I admit to being able to spend an inordinate amount of time wandering cemeteries, especially old ones, reading tomb stones and wondering about the “inhabitants”. In New England, so often, one finds a man with 3 deceased wives and several children. You can tell by the dates that some died in childbirth. I’ve visited a number of the ones listed here: La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, the WWI cemetery at Tyne Cot outside Ypres in Belgium, and a cemetery in New Orleans.

  8. Okay, now I’m convinced I’m missing out on a whole part of seeing things by not visiting cemeteries when I travel. Amazing stories and photos! The next time I go somewhere, a cemetery visit is in order.

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