Graveyard Tourism

With Halloween and the Day of the Dead quickly approaching, the macabre spirit in all of us is beginning to bloom, right? Well, if not, perhaps we can foster a little admiration for the dark side, which is surprisingly not always so dark in Ecuador.

Cemeteries, apart from serving their functional purpose, also offer great tourism attractions throughout the world. Think of Arlington Cemetery in Washington, the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, or Venice’s San Michele, and the Recoleta in Buenos Aires.

And though you will not find them on any list of world famous cemeteries, Ecuador has three that are certainly worth a stroll.

General Cemetery of Guayaquil

Even if you like the idea of visiting a cemetery with 700,000 dead on 15 acres Guayaquil’s General Cemetery sounds overwhelming. But last year the National Institute of Heritage made visits a little more manageable by offering guided tours and self-guided routes for discovering the dead and navigating the
thousands of monuments and tombstones.

The tours have names that sound like the titles of paperback novels you might buy at the airport: “On the Trail of Eternity,” “Under the Heavens of Memory,” “Memories – The Angel’s Flight” and “In the Shadow of the Last Verse”. Each takes a different look at the cemetery, highlighting who is buried where or admire the architecture of some of the great mausoleums.

If you prefer the self-guided options, then the cemetery has planned routes you can take at your own pace. Opt for either a historical-based tour or a sculptural-monumental walk. If you are interest is musical and literary, discover the dead artists who rest in peace. If you prefer revolutionaries and statesmen, there is a separate path for you.

For more information: Cuatro rutas del cementerio general de Guayaquil.

Topiary Garden Cemetery of Tulcan

Tulcan, a border town with Colombia in Northern Ecuador (and Ecuador’s highest city at 3,000 meters) would seem an unlikely stop for many tourists. But, if you happen to be remotely close, stop by. Since 1987 the cemetery has been a “natural tourism site of interest,” recognized by the Ministry of Tourism. Tulcan is not known for its fantastic shrines and graves sites, but rather what is found all around them – the cypress bushes.

Clipped and trimmed in the form of arches, symbols, geometric designs, Egyptian figures, and Ecuadorian fauna, the cemetery is a living museum of sorts. Since 1936 it has maintained a tradition of living sculptures to represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of the world.

If you go: The weather in Tulcán is often cool and misty due to the altitude. The Carchi Provincial Holiday is in the Fall (November 19th). If you go in the Spring, note the Fiesta de Tulcán is April 11th. Tulcán has an open street market on Tuesdays and Sundays.

San Diego Cemetery of Quito

Created in the 19th century, the San Diego cemetery takes its name from the adjacent San Diego Church and Convent, which is today a museum and should be part of your visit to the graveyard.

The cemetery was created as an alternative to being laid to rest in one of the parish cemeteries around town. It is home to monumental mausoleums of great figures in history, like Ecuador’s President Velasco Ibarra, which still receives daily flower donations (he died in 1979). But it is also the resting place for Quito’s most humble residents, even today. The cemetery is open 9 a.m. – 5. p.m. Phone: 2952516.

Note: San Diego Cemetery is near old town, so a visit works well with any tourism agenda.

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