5 best destinations for a spook-tacular Halloween

When the pagans first celebrated the beginning of the harvest festival during ancient times, they probably wouldn’t have imagined the tradition would still be observed thousands of years later.

They may never have thought that people in the distant future would be carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples or dressing up as their favourite horror film character to honour the feast of All Hallows’ Day. However, here we are. Halloween is just around the corner and it is the time we embrace the occult and pose the question of “trick or treat”?

How about taking the Halloween experience to the next level and visit some of the spookiest festivals the world has to offer? Here are our pick of the most ghoulish events and landmarks at this bewitching time.

PortAventura Halloween Shows – Salou, Spain

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Photo credit: PortAventura

From late-September to November, PortAventura turns into the spookiest theme park in Spain where zombies, mummies, witches and ghosts stalk the grounds. The theme park has a host of Halloween shows across its zones culminating in the incredible Halloween parade through the streets of Mediterrania.

Among the highlights of PortAventura’s Halloween programme is the Horror en el Lage (Horror at the Lake) show. What lies beneath the murky waters of the Mediterrania Lake? Watch a show of fireworks, daredevil jet ski stunts and pyrotechnics as a mysterious beast is summoned from the depths.

Festival of the Dead – Salem, Massachusetts

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The unassuming city of Salem, Massachusetts is known across the world for its association with the supernatural. Scene of the infamous Salem witch trials, the Puritans of the time accused and executed people thought to be witches during the 1600s and it is this that has been the inspiration of horror books and movies ever since.

Naturally, Salem is a special place at Halloween. The city holds it’s Witches’ Halloween Ball with rituals and magic shows while you can feel the intense experience of an authentic séance in the Spirit Parlor of Omen. And if you listen quietly you may be able to hear the howls of condemned victims echoing through the streets of the most haunted city in the US.

Dia de los Muertos – throughout Mexico

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In one of the most breathless opening scenes in a James Bond film, the beginning of Spectre sees Daniel Craig’s 007 chasing a terrorist through the streets of Mexico City. All around is a sea of skulls, skeletons and burlesque masks as the city is engulfed in the Dia del los Muertos celebrations.

Dating back over 3,000 years, the Day of the Dead marks the passing of ancestors in late-October and early-November. All across Mexico people take to the streets to honour dead children and infants (Day of the Innocents or Day of the Little Angels) and deceased adults (Day of the Dead). It is a hugely colourful albeit unnerving scene that needs to be experienced to be believed.

Dia das Bruxas – throughout Portugal

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Portugal really embraces Halloween but not in the conventional way. The Halloween Festival in Lisbon is a series of underground house and techno gigs with spooky decorations and costumes – it kind of misses the point. So, if you want something that is properly in the spirit of Halloween – ie, scare the pants off you – there is a few other Dia das Bruxas activities.

In the quaint village of Evora is Saint Francis church. It seems like a pretty normal…until you go inside. Here you’ll find thousands of skulls and bones with the chilling message ‘We bones, are here, waiting for yours’ adorning the door. Then, of course, there is the Pousada da Serra da Estrela, a former sanatorium, an eerie building with single room rates available. Try it out?

Capuchin Catacombs – Palermo, Italy

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You know how we mentioned the bone chapel of Evora? There’s one in Palermo as well. The island of Sicily is one associated with stunning views, delicious pizza and weekend break but even the most picturesque places have a sinister side.

Let us introduce you to the utterly creepy Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo – a home for thousands of mummified bodies since 16th century. If this wasn’t enough for you to give it a big, fat “NOPE” then how about the nearby castle of Carini being said to be haunted by the ghost of Baroness Laura Lanza? Great, just great.

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