For the 50+ Traveler

If Main Street USA at Disney isn't your style, you could always take a tour of the real life Dracula's castle instead, explore centuries-old catacombs, or stroll through a nuclear wasteland.

For those of us who aren't afraid of being afraid, here are 5 of the scariest destinations in the world.

The Island of the Dolls, Mexico City

TripAdvisor rating: 4.0/5.0

The Xochimilco borough of southeastern Mexico City is famous for its canals and its many chinampas (artificial floating islands). The most famous of these is known as Isla de las Muñecas -- the Island of the Dolls.

I'd say it's exactly what it sounds like, but in reality it's even creepier.

This small island was once home to a recluse named Julián Santana Barrera. Although his story cannot be verified, it goes like this. One day, Barrera found the body of a drowned girl on the shore of his chinampa. He later recoverd a doll from the canal as well. Assuming it had been the girl's companion, he hung it from a tree in her memory to keep her spirit from haunting him.

Since that time, thousands of visitors have done likewise, resulting in an island populated by an army of weathered, terrifying dolls. You can experience this macabre monument to a nameless (or nonexistent) child by taking a boat tour of Xochimilco's canals.

Dolls hanging from trees, Island of the Dolls
The Island of the Dolls. Wikimedia Commons

Hashima Island, Nagasaki, Japan

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5.0 (Certificate of Excellence)

If you're a fan of abandoned places, Hashima should be on your to-do list.

Located about 9 miles off the coast of Nagasaki, and also known as Battleship Island, it was originally home to an underwater coal mine. More than 5,000 people once called this little rock home, but it was deserted in 1974 when the coal ran dry. The suddenness with which the residents departed gives the island an eerily untouched vibe, its concrete buildings and sea walls surrendered to the ravages of time.

These days, the only visitors are tourists and filmmakers. Yes, Hashima also has Hollywood pedigree! It served as the lair of supervillain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

A female japanese student exploring the ruins of Hashima Island, Nagasaki
A student exploring Hashima Island. Wikimedia Commons

The Catacombs of Paris, France

TripAdvisor rating: 4.0/5.0 (Certificate of Excellence)

Here's a little pop quiz for you: what do you do if your city is overcrowded and you're running out of places to bury people? If you answered "renovate old quarries and mines beneath the heart of town and quietly fill them with human remains from cemeteries under cover of darkness" -- congratulations, you think like a Parisian!

For that is what the Paris authorities did between 1777 and 1859. over the course of 80 years, more than 6,000,000 people were buried (or reburied) in the Catacombs of Paris. Today, it is probably the world's most famous ossuary.

A walking tour of the Catacombs will cover about 1.2 miles, but you only have to go down 130 steps and up 83 to come and go, since all these remains rest a mere 20 metres beneath the surface streets.

Interestingly, the Catacombs represent only a small percentage of Paris' subterranean passageways.

Sign identifying human remains, Catacombs of Paris.
Translation: "Remains from the old graveyard of La Magdeleine (1 and 2 Ville L'Évêque street) deposited in the western ossuary and transferred to the catacombs in September 1859." Wikimedia Commons

The Winchester House, San Jose, CA

TripAdvisor rating: 4.0/5.0 (Certificate of Excellence)

Sarah Winchester was one of the wealthiest women in the world in her day. She was married to William Winchester, who owned a 50% share of the Winchester rifle company. When he died, that licence to print money passed to her.

But Sarah's wealth brought her little comfort. She was haunted by the turbulent spirits of all those who died violently on the business end of a Winchester rifle. So she moved out west, bought an unfinished farmhouse, and set a battalion of workers loose on the property.

For 38 years, she kept building and building and building, turning the modest homestead into a 160-room Victorian mansion. Apparently, she thought constant activity would ward off or appease the angry souls who tormented her. Construction only came to a halt with Sarah's death in 1922.

The house's design is as bizarre as Sara's motivation for building it, as you will see if you take a tour. Sadly, you're not allowed to take photographs inside the house.

Front driveway of the Winchester House
The Winchester House. Wikimedia Commons

Yungas Road (Death Road), La Paz, Bolivia

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5.0

Enough with the hauntings, the creepy dead people, the bones, and the ruins. What about something that's actually dangerous?

If that tickles your fancy, you should consider challenging yourself by taking the most dangerous road on earth, Bolivia's "Death Road." Built to connect La Paz with the rest of the country, the road rises 15,000 feet above the rainforest, into the cool, clean mountain air, and then slinks back down again.

It does all this with just one lane, leading to awkward standoffs as drivers heading in opposite directions try to figure out who has right of way. The sense of freedom is enhanced by a total lack of guard rails to hold you back. (Or, you know, keep you from plummeting over the edge to your death.)

Predictably, the road is lined with crosses to mark the places where good men and women went over the edge. According to one estimate, 200-300 people die on this road every year. How's that for scary?

Death Road in Bolivia, fog over the rainforest
Death Road in Bolivia. Wikimedia Commons

Wherever you travel, safe or risky, scary or anodyne, we hope you get home safe. Happy trails!