11 Unique Cemeteries to Visit Before You Die

July 25, 2017
Julie Jarema
Riveted Editorial Board

When you think of vacation, graveyards probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. Emma Healy bases a whole road trip on finding her way to a cemetery to find a specific gravestone in You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith. Sure, not everyone wants to go look at a rock and be reminded of death when they’re trying to relax.

A couple people on the Riveted Team (including myself, no surprise) have parents who decided that it was best to get a dose of history by traipsing between headstones during family vacations. My family never based an entire vacation around visiting a cemetery, but maybe it’s because we didn’t know about these.

1. The Merry Cemetery (Sapanta, Romania) – Look at those cheerful colors and pictures and limericks (which call people out on their misdeeds—there’s seriously no hiding any secrets in small towns) on the stones! It’s practically a party.

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2. Père Lachaise (Paris, France) – You’re in good company in this beautiful, park-like cemetery with Molière, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Èdith Piaf, Maria Callas, Jim Morrison, and Frederic Chopin to name a few.

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3. Neptune Memorial Reef (Key Biscayne, Florida) – Mermaids need to rest in peace somewhere, too. Just kidding. This memorial is an underwater mausoleum for the cremated remains of divers and sea lovers.

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4. Chiesa dei Morti (Urbania, Italy) – Inside, there’s a Cemetery of the Mummies, which displays 18 mummies from around the middle ages and Renaissance in upright glass cases. Even weirder, these bodies all mummified naturally. The Brotherhood of Good Death, founded in 1567, is responsible for this display.

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5. Highgate Cemetery (London, England) – If you want to see some solid obelisks, you should visit this cemetery. There’s also the Circle of Lebanon, which is a set of tombs built around an ancient cedar tree. You can pay a visit to George Eliot, Douglas Adams, and Karl Marx here. The supernatural sightings here go beyond just ghosts—a vampire sighting was reported, and a vampire hunt was organized for Friday, March 13, 1970 by two dueling magicians.

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6. Cemetery at Xoxocotlan (Oaxaca, Mexico) – This cemetery truly comes alive on November 1 for Dia de los Muertos. The vigil begins with altars, candles, and marigold petals. In the new cemetery, the party begins with picnics, musicians, and pan de muerto.

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7. Cementerio General (Santiago, Chile) – It’s the largest cemetery in South America, and the one of the world’s most scenic, according to CNN. It’s full of huge mausoleums, detailed sculptures, and peaceful gardens.

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8. Cementerio General (La Paz, Bolivia) – Compact tombs are stacked on top of each other to create concrete compartments, which total about four stories high. Colorful murals and flowers brighten up the plots. Due to overcrowding, crypts are only reserved for 10 years. After that, remains must be cremated and collected by family members.

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9. Maqbarat-o-shoara (Tabriz, Iran) – The name of this cemetery translates to the Mausoleum of Poets. The modern arches contrast against the traditional architecture, making it a unique place to visit.

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10. Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles, California) – No surprise, this cemetery is full of celebrities and directors and other film luminaries. Each summer, thousands gather to watch classic Hollywood films projected onto the side of a mausoleum for their outdoor movie screenings (and horror movies once October rolls around).

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11. Chichicastenango (Chichicastenango, Guatemala) – This is one of the most colorful cemeteries in the world, built on a hill, and steeped in Mayan tradition. Tombs are painted in bright colors to symbolize purity, protection, or sometimes just the deceased favorite’s color.

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