World’s most beautiful cemeteries

“The world’s most beautiful cemeteries?!”, I hear you ask. And yes, I admit that I have a weakness for cemeteries. Without being able to say exactly why. I find beautiful graveyards fascinating, mildly spooky, yet soothing. And there is always that feeling of reverence for everything being finite.

So wherever I can, I pay a visit to a beautiful cemetery near me. The bigger, the better. But it is also the respective rituals which decide if it is worth a visit. Always surprising to me: Not many people seem to be interested in cemeteries. Often, you find yourself all alone.

These are my favorite cemeteries so far:

Village Cemetary, Todos Santos, Guatemala

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graveyard in the sunlight

For most of the year, this is just an ordinary cemetery in a mountain village. But on All Saints, it awakens to a different, mysterious life.  This Dia de los Muertos which I have already described in the festival legends can easily be spent entirely on and next to the cemetery. This event makes for some extraordinary and beautiful cemetery photos.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Rtwo people in front of a decorated grave

Outside this beautiful graveyard, there are drunk men playing dissonant melodies on out-of-tune marimbas. Next to the tombstones people sacrifice and cry, pray and shout. Here, just like in the rest of the village, many of the inhabitants have already had quite a few drinks. They light firecrackers next to the graves and spend several hours with their deceased family members. While doing all of that, everybody, be it young or old, is dressed in the same costume.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Marimba player and people in costumes

The smells, the sounds, the colors – this place is unique! It is best to arrive a few days before. That way, you also get to witness the insane horse race which is taking place just before the Day of the Dead. Probably the date has been chosen wisely, as there are often participants dying in the contest and then carried straight to the cemetery where the celebrations take place the day after.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Kids at a grave

Various cemeteries, New Orleans, USA

Most beautiful cemeteries: Street between graves in New Orleans

USA’s deep South has a different approach towards death from the rest of the mainly Christian country. And this is because the slaves imported before the Civil War brought their own rituals and convictions back then, which precipitated throughout the whole Caribbean. Voodoo has been mixed into catholic rites. I could sense that strongly during my road trip.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves at the City of the Dead

Besides, in New Orleans people are not buried underneath the ground due to fear of epidemics, caused by the wet soil. Instead, people build compounds with little mausoleums, the so-called Cities of the Dead which are some of the most beautiful graves I have ever seen.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves and statue, New Orleans

It is particularly interesting here to watch a funeral procession from afar. Because these are traditionally accompanied by Marching Bands, famous for making  Mardi Gras so special. On the way to the grave they play sad music, on the way back cheerful tunes to help the people get back into normal life.

If you like it really special, you should visit the cemetery where voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is buried, and where Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda went wild on acid: St. Louis Cemetary No. 1.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Grave and flag

Cementerio Cristobal Colon, Havana, Cuba

Most beautiful cemeteries: Statue at Cementerio Cristobal Colon

Havana is not a very busy city to begin with. But on this cemetery you can find an incredible quietness. The trick at the gate: Tell them you are a student, then the entrance is free.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Classic car in front of graves

Around one million people have been buried on this beautiful cemetery. That’s quite a lot. Already the entrance gate is very impressive. Also worth seeing: The mausoleum for the firefighters who lost their lives in a mass fire in 1890. But apart from the sights it can be great to simply roam around between the graves and the palm trees.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves and palm trees

If you are lucky and one of the self-proclaimed guides approaches you, book him! It helps to agree on a price beforehand. You can still change this amount with a tip if you enjoy his services. These guides will take you to the big sights, but also to the small and hidden treasures, like graves of musicians and writers.

Without one of them you will never learn about all the legends like the one of the dog which lay down in front its lordling’s grave for several days, until it finally also died.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves at Cristobal Colon

Cementiri de Montjuic, Barcelona, Spanien

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves in front of BarcelonaThere is a tradition in Southern Europe of burying the dead above the ground. But nowhere have I seen it as impressively as in Barcelona. The quite big cemetery was established in the late 19th century when the population of the Catalan city exploded.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves in a wall at Montjuic Cemetary

It was designed with walls and connecting paths so it would fit into the cliffy area, resulting in its very own specific charme. The walls seem virtually endless and are packed with compartments for the urns.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves at Montjuic Cemetery

It is very interesting to take a closer look at the compartments with all the faded photos and inscriptions, and imagine the respective family history. There are cats dozing in the sun between the walls.

 It is best to enter the cemetery from the entrance at the bottom of Montjuic hill. The Olympic Park is right there, too, and well worth a visit. Then you can slowly make your way to the top of the hill. Once you arrive there, you have an amazing view not only of the city, but also of Barcelona’s industrial harbor.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves and trees

Chinese Cemetery, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Most beautiful cemeteries: Stupas at Kanchanaburi CemeteryChinese play a big role in Thailand’s daily life, even the smallest towns have a Chinese community. So it is no surprise that you can also find many Chinese temples and cemeteries here. I was especially fascinated by his one here, when I discovered it in Kanchanaburi, not far from Bangkok.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Stupas in Kanchanaburi

But as spellbound as I was, it was really hard to find out anything about this place.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Stupas in Kanchanaburi

I recommend just walking along between the countless, colorful stupas and look at the cemetery from many a perspective. Some of the stupas are equipped with tiny bells on the top which quietly ring in the wind.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Stupas in Kanchanaburi

Central Cemetery, Vienna, Austria

3 million people are buried on this beautiful cemetery, imagine that number! The cemetery is so gigantic that it has its own bus line. Wide roads go through the compound, the only way to even make it from one side of the 2.5 square kilometers large area to the other. If you pay a fee, you can even take your own car onto the cemetery.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Entrance with trees in Vienna

But equally important as its size are the numerous personalities resting here: Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and Strauss are buried in ostentatious graves. Next to famous actors and writers. And, of course, presidents and war heroes. Not only is there a Jewish and an Islamic area, but you can even find a Buddhist one.

Also impressive: The Russian Orthodox church, the Karl-Borromäus church as well as the presidential crypt.

As my visit has been so long ago, I only took analog pictures back then. And I cannot seem to find these now…

Cementerio General, Antigua, Nicaragua

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves at Antigua Cemetery

Colonial Antigua is worth a visit in its own right. But one of the most memorable things for me is the cemetery on the edge of town. Also here, the dead are buried in mausoleums above the ground. These are decorated with wreaths and exotic flowers. The cemetery might seem simple at first sight, but soon you’ll notice all the crucifixes and statues on top of many of the graves.

If you let your eyes wander in that position, all these statues look just beautiful in front of the blue sky and the green vegetation.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Grave art in Nicaragua

Manila North Cemetary, Philippines

Most beautiful cemeteries: Street and graves in Manila

This cemetery had been on my list for quite a while already, as it is rather special. People call many of the tombs on this cemetary their homes. Yes, you read that right! They have put furniture in there and, according to what they told me, they quite like it there. They have power and water and the place comes with a quietness that you can’t find often in the hectic capital.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves in Manila

I warmly recommend a guided tour through North Cemetery, the information given is very interesting. For example, head over to red Carabao Hostel right next door where they offer very good tours. And if you want to do something good afterwards, volunteer for one of the organisations taking care of the young inhabitants of the cemetery.

Most beautiful cemeteries: People and statues in Manila

Cementerio La Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves at La Recoleta

The cemetery in La Recoleta is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It is big and it comes with lots of beautiful graves, statues and art. Best of all: It is free to enter and you can download an app which guides you through the most important graves.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves in La Recoleta

Of course, you must not miss the graveyard of Evita Peron which is surprisingly modest. But also just strolling around this beautiful graveyard is worthwhile.

Most beautiful cemeteries: Graves in La Recoleta

I plan to update this post as I keep on travelling. Feel free to suggest other beautiful cemetaries that I haven’t included yet!



This post is also available in: German

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