With “dark tourism” on the rise, here is a round-up of some of the newest products offered by UK tour operators.
Dark tourism – travelling to places historically associated with a disaster or human tragedy – is on the rise, fuelled by the influence of television shows such as HBO’s Chernobyl and Netflix’s Dark Tourist.
While some have questioned the ethics of travelling to such locations, Emma Garrick, senior product and commercial manager at Exodus, believes dark tourism can educate and raise awareness.
“Dark tourism is an important way of opening people’s minds to historical events they may not have been aware of,” she says. “This enriches people’s knowledge and ensures this part of history is not forgotten.”
Here we round up new dark tourism product.
Since mini-series Chernobyl aired in 2019, tourists have been flocking to this Ukrainian ghost city, which was left abandoned in 1986 following an explosion in the nuclear power station.
Exodus Travels has launched a Chernobyl & Kiev Long Weekend trip to the Exclusion Zone, which includes a permit enabling clients to visit the power station’s reactor hall and control room.
Exodus product manager Marta Marinelli says: “Chernobyl was the site of a terrible tragedy, and we aim to make sure those who want to visit and to learn about the area’s history and heritage can do so respectfully. We have chosen a trusted local partner to run the Chernobyl excursion, who will ensure the tour is conducted in an ethical manner.”
The itinerary includes time to explore the abandoned amusement parks, hospitals and schools of the area, as well as a night in the 19-mile exclusion zone that surrounds the blast radius.
“Ensure clients have fully read our trip notes and useful information so they know what to expect in terms of safe radiation exposure, safety rules and essential packing list,” advises Marinelli.
A bloody civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990, saw Lebanon plagued by massacres, sieges and bombings.
Keen to showcase how Lebanon has moved on, Saga has launched a nine-day tour, Lebanon: Pearl of the Middle East.
Ellis Manning, Saga’s product and purchasing executive, says: “It’s a modern country bouncing back after the civil war and is welcoming tourists. Our guests will have the opportunity to experience its Mediterranean coastline, mountain ranges, local wine and Roman architecture.”
Beginning in Beirut, clients will visit the National Museum and Mohammad Al-Amin Blue Mosque, while rural adventures include a tour of Unesco Biosphere-designated Chouf Cedar reserve.
In 1945, two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the only nuclear attacks in history. In Hiroshima, more than 60,000 people died instantly, while in Nagasaki 40,000 were vapourised by the blast.
InsideJapan’s 13-night Japan Unmasked tour takes clients to ground zero in Hiroshima, says Ruth Hubbard, InsideJapan’s product manager.
“Next year is the 75th anniversary of when the bomb dropped, and the tour includes time at the Genbaku Dome, a poignant reminder of perhaps the single most destructive moment in history, as well as a visit to the Peace Memorial Park.”
The Northern Irish capital has come a long way since the Troubles, with world-class gastronomy, exciting nightlife and the Titanic Museum attracting visitors from all over the world.
Clients visiting can also discover more about the Troubles, a period of 30 years that left more than 3,600 people dead.
One of the most informative and moving ways for clients to learn about the Troubles is by joining Black Taxi Tours on its 90-minute Belfast Mural Tour (from £50pp).
A driver, who is also a trained guide, will explain the significance of the city’s political murals, often stopping to meet locals who lived through the conflict.
Tours culminate with a visit to the Cupar Way “peace wall”, which divides the Protestant Shankill Road from the Catholic Falls Road.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, Regent Holidays is offering a one-off small-group tour to North Korea.
“Arguably the final frontier of conventional tourism, the Cold War never quite ended in North Korea, and it is a nation and system that is almost inconceivable to the outside world,” says Carl Meadows, Regent’s senior Asia travel specialist.
The 12-night itinerary includes a visit to the Demilitarised Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula and a tour of capital Pyongyang, while the group is also expected to experience meetings, parades and events marking the 25 June anniversary of the “Fatherland Liberation War”.
Exodus offers the four-day Chernobyl & Kiev Long Weekend from £999pp, including flights and some meals.
Saga's Lebanon: Pearl of the Middle East tour is priced from £1,899pp including flights, chauffeur services, half-board accommodation and optional travel insurance.
Japan Unmasked costs from £2,695pp, including B&B accommodation, transport and services of a tour leader, but excluding flights.
Grand UK Holidays offers an eight-day Giant’s Causeway & Belfast Titanic Experience from £659pp. Includes a Belfast day at leisure.
Regent Holidays offers a 12-day Korean War Anniversary Tour from £2,580pp including flights, full-board accommodation, excursions and transfers.