Halloween is just around the corner, and you've been queuing up your ultimate horror movie marathon for weeks. But for something seriously creepy this Halloween season, check out these hair-raising travel destinations that embrace the dead. Yes, you can get up close with real skulls, skeletons and bodies of the departed, making these places equally spooky, sad and strangely beautiful.
Capuchin Catacombs, Italy
The Capuchin Catacombs, or Catacombe dei Cappuccini, are not for the faint of heart. The burial site, located in Palermo, Sicily, is the final resting place of thousands of people. If descending below ground isn't enough to make you uncomfortable, the corpses will certainly send a shiver down your spine. The carefully-preserved bodies are in various states of decay, some little more than bones, while others remain eerily lifelike. Rosalia Lombardo was buried in the catacombs in the 1920s when she was nearly two years old. The mummification process was so successful she earned the nickname Sleeping Beauty of the Capuchin Catacombs. This crypt is the perfect place for anyone looking for a taste of the macabre and a glimpse of history.
Catacombs Underground, France
Paris may have a well-earned reputation for romance, but the City of Lights offers travelers more than Instagrammable pastries and photogenic boulevards primed for hand-held strolls. Beneath the city streets, the Catacombs of Paris hold the remains of roughly six million people. The ossuaries form a series of winding tunnels that spread for miles below ground. Aside from being a veritable collection of bones, the Catacombs of Paris have been the site of a number of rather interesting events. In 2004, a fully functional movie theater was discovered in the crypt, but how the mysterious cinema and its secret club came to be were never fully uncovered. In 2015, Airbnb held a one-time contest where the lucky winner spent Halloween night in style amongst the bones. While you may not be able to sleep in the Catacombs of Paris, you can still visit the labyrinthine crypt.
Chapel of Bones, Portugal
Taking eccentric interior decorating to the extreme is Capela dos Ossos in Évora, Portugal. Also known as 'The Chapel of Bones', its interior walls and pillars are lined almost entirely in an intricate pattern of real skulls and bones. The ghoulish chapel was conceived by a Franciscan monk, who sought to recognize how fleeting life can be. Perhaps even more chilling than the skeletal adornments is the inscription at the entrance of the chapel: "We, the bones that are here await yours."
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in the belly of a beast? The HR Giger Bar in Gruyères, Switzerland emulates that feeling with unsettling accuracy. Look up to the ceiling and you will see columns that could only be the vertebra of some unthinkably large creature. Likewise, the bar's chairs are elegantly crafted to look like bone. If you feel like you've stumbled into something from Ridley Scott's classic Alien movies, you're not too far off. H.R. Geiger was the surrealist artist whose designs brought the horror of those movies so vividly to life. If you want to explore more of his work, visit the museum post-bar.
Hueso Restaurant translates literally to Bone Restaurant, and the eatery in Guadalajara, lives up to its name. Approximately 10,000 animal bones line the walls and tables of Hueso (atleast they're not human this time). Some are real while others have been artificially created, but all are equally creepy. The entire restaurant is decorated in white, giving it the appearance of bleached bone. The dining experience is equal parts art, culinary delight, and a stark reminder of mortality. Are you hungry?
Ancient Egypt has had its fair share of press surrounding its mummies, but the ancient burial practice is actually found across the world. The Kabayan Mummy Caves were discovered when industrialization began to move into the forests of the Philippines. These mummies, also known as 'fire mummies', are a part of the cultural history of the Ibaloi people. Throughout this preservation process, the dead body would be placed in the fetal position in a coffin. These mummies remain remarkably intact, offering a fascinating, if slightly gruesome, window into the past. Today, you can visit the caves, which are considered an endangered site by UNESCO.
Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic
Sedlec Ossuary, often referred to as the Bone Church, is located in the medieval city of Kutná Hora, just outside of Prague. There's thousands upon thousands of skeletons here, which give the chapel an air of ghostly grandeur. A chandelier of bones hangs overhead, a work of art that uses at least one of every bone in the human body. Other bones form an elaborate coat of arms. The deathly decoration holds not only a grim fascination, but also a kind of otherworldly beauty. Prepare to be simultaneously revolted and awe struck.