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Halloween is a great occasion to visit some of the spookier corners of Europe — and there are plenty of them. With centuries of turbulent history behind it, there is no shortage of eerie abandoned villages, haunted castles and a variety of certifiably scary spots all within relatively easy reach of London by plane.
Without further ado, here are some of the top places to get your spook on this Halloween.
Celebrated for its iconic monastery and abbey that reach for the sky high above a windswept rocky tidal island, the 247-acre site actually had fortifications long before the feudal period, when the Mont took on its present aesthetic. While it’s known to get pretty touristy by day, by night there have been sightings of apparitions of monks roaming about the narrow byways of the citadel in ghostly medieval garb.
There are several flights a day from London Heathrow and Gatwick to Paris, mainly to Charles de Gaulle Airport, but also to Orly. Rent a car or take the TGV train from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes or Dol de Bretagne, followed by a coach ride to the Mont.
You might think Ibiza is all foam parties and beach bliss, but that’s not all. The old section of Ibiza Town is called Dalt Vila, and its medieval and later Renaissance walls are all still largely intact. Unlike the party island’s famous nightclubs, Dalt Vila is largely a brooding, abandoned seaside tangle — especially at night when it’s eerily quiet. Wander the ramparts and see for yourself just how spooky Ibiza can actually be. On a different spooky note, the islet of Vedra right next to Ibiza is a known energy vortex and is said to be visited regularly by extraterrestrials.
Fly nonstop to Ibiza on British Airways from both London Heathrow and London Gatwick. Alternatively, several low-cost carriers fly to Ibiza from around the U.K.
The Puglia region of southern Italy is associated with sunny skies, beautiful stretches of coastline and a rich architectural heritage. But this is Europe and there’s no escaping the memories of darker times. Otherwise gorgeous Otranto, right on the Mediterranean, is home to this 11th century Norman chapel that houses the the bones and skulls of 813 Christian martyrs beheaded during a Turkish massacre in 1480. The skulls are stacked up high in a series of glass cases behind the altar, along with the stone upon which the martyrs’ heads were chopped off.
Fly from several of London’s airports nonstop to Brindisi Papola Casale Airport. From there rent a car for the drive south to Otranto.
There is something hauntingly beautiful about the entire windswept southern coast of Crete. When you approach the abandoned fortress of Frangokastello, facing the Libyan Sea, the first thing you may marvel at is how something so sturdy came to be such a lonely spot. The rectangular fortress was built during the period of Venetian domination of Crete in the 14th Century and later expanded during the Ottoman Turkish occupation. The castle is said to be haunted by ghosts of warriors who died during a battle in 1828.
Fly nonstop from several London airports to Chania (CHQ) nonstop — EasyJet (from LGW), Jet2 (from STN), Ryanair (from STN) through early November. You can connect year-round via Athens on Aegean Airlines, a Star Alliance member.
By some estimations, Venice is the most haunted city in the world. Stray off the main tourist path and follow the dark canals to wherever they may lead, especially at night, and you’ll be hard pressed to not be a little bit spooked. The northernmost quarter (or sestier) of the city, Cannaregio, tends to be the most desolate at night and may also be the most haunted, but some of the tall palazzos that line the Grand Canal, such as Ca’ Dario, are said to harbor their fair share of not-so-nice spirits. The Venetian island of Poveglia, which was used in the past to hide both plague victims and lunatics, may house upwards of 100,000 ghosts (it’s also off-limits to day-trippers).
Fly from all major London airports to Venice through late October — Ryanair (from STN), EasyJet (from LTN and LGW) and British Airways (from LGW and LHR).
Ghost towns come in all shapes and sizes, but little Cyprus is home to the tragic and bizarre ghost town of Varosha. This is the southern section of the historic city of Famagusta, which, like the rest of northern Cyprus, has been occupied by Turkey since the summer of 1974. That summer remains frozen in time, with then-modern hotels lining the beach, abandoned. Varosha sits in the self-declared “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and is technically off limits, but you can easily take an organized tour from Larnaca, on the “Greek” side of the United Nations buffer zone.
British Airways has two flights a day from London Heathrow to Larnaca. Low-cost carriers like Wizz Air, EasyJet and Jet2 also operate to the city.
Let’s face it: There is never a bad time to visit Sicily. And as if you needed “The Godfathert” to remind you, Sicily does have its sinister side. Enjoy it in a famously spooky way with a visit to the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily’s capital city. The Capuchin crypt is the eerie home to some 8,000 mummies, in various states of decay and many striking curious poses, lining the walls. The catacombs were originally meant just for the Capuchin friars themselves, but by 1597, other Sicilians were invited to join in on this danse macabre. Some visitors have reported hearing whispers and whistling emanating from the skeletons.
EasyJet and Ryanair fly between London airports and Palermo through October.
The Italian province of Matera in the Basilicata region has been getting a lot of attention recently as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Of course, its history goes back a lot farther than that, and in the case of the ghost town of Craco, to around 540 BC. Southern Italy is notoriously earthquake-prone and following years of landslides plus an earthquake in 1980, the whole town was simply abandoned. But the eerily empty stone houses are mostly all still there, seeming to emerge naturally from the rocky, lunar-like landscape.
Through October, you can fly EasyJet or Ryanair to Bari International Airport (BRI), which is the closest to Matera. Other airports in the area include Brindisi and Naples.
Featured photo by Joel Saget/Getty Images.
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