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Dark tourism hot spots you need to visit in Latin America

Woman walking on abandoned train tracks

The dark tourism trend is fast gaining momentum with travellers the world over. Although we’ve always been interested in travelling to dark historical attractions such as Auschwitz or famous battlefields, last year’s ‘Dark Tourist’ series on Netflix shone a light on some of the more bizarre dark tourism attractions.

With five brand new trips to Patagonia and Colombia and 13 revamped trips across Latin America, we’ve put together a list of some of the dark destinations in Latin America that you may never have heard of.

The Nazi Graveyard of the Amazon – Brazil

In 1935, before World War II, a group of Nazis set out to explore and conquer the Amazon Basin in an expedition known as, ‘The Guayana Project’. The Nazis saw Brazil as a vast land filled with natural resources. It quickly became apparent that the journey through the Amazon was to be less than successful. The group were plagued with disease and got lost several times, having to rely on the local natives for help. Trip foreman Joseph Grenier passed away from malaria on the trip and erected in his memory, deep in the Amazon, is a curious 9-foot tall wooden cross bearing his name and adorned with swastikas.

Convento de San Francisco Ossuary – Lima, Peru 

Beneath this church in Lima you’ll find the remains of an estimated 75,000 people artfully arranged in a truly spine-tingling display. The catacombs acted as a burial ground until 1808 when the city cemetery was opened and remained forgotten until 1943. It’s believed they are connected via secret underground passages with other churches in the area.

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Virgin of the Mystic Rose – Medellin, Colombia 

The city of Medellin is one of the most well-known dark tourist spots in the world, thanks to the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Perhaps one of the most interesting sites here is the Virgin of the Mystic Rose – a shrine to ‘Mystic Rosa’ where it is believed Escobar’s cartel would visit to pray for successful hits.  Also known as the ‘Virgin of the Assassins,’ there’s rumour that Escobar built the shrine from rubble found in the once abandoned grotto and placed the statue here to express his gratitude.

Mexican Cenotes – Yucatan Peninsula 

These beautiful underground waterholes have a mystical quality to them. As stunning as they may be, many were used as a spot for sacrifices – sometimes human – by the Mayans. Archaeologists have found human bones, jewellery and ceramics in many of the cenotes. It’s thought that the Mayan’s believed them to be portals to the underworld.

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Ernesto Che Guevera Statue – El Alton, Bolivia

Che Guevera is perhaps one of the most divisive figures in history. Radicalised by the extreme poverty he witnessed throughout South America, he was driven to overthrow what he saw as the exploitation of Latin America by the United States. While this all sounds well-meaning, working with Fidel Castro, Che presided over the first firing squads and established labour camps across the country where he acted as judge, jury and executioner. In El Alto, at the outskirts of La Paz, stands this 30-foot-tall statue of Che stomping on the head of a bald eagle. The statue is made entirely  of scrap metal, including parts of engines, cogs, wheels, and other mechanical spare parts.

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