7 spine-tingling road trip getaways
If Halloween is right up your alley, there’s no better way to get your spook on than with a scary trip away. Booking.com, the digital travel leader connecting travelers with the widest choice of unique places to stay, a range of must-do travel experiences and seamless transport options, has trawled the corners of the globe to present some haunted places to explore - and stay - which also double up as great road trip destinations.
Tonopah, Nevada, USA
For horror enthusiasts, Tonopah in Nevada ticks more than a few boxes. It has one of the darkest skies in the US, making it the perfect atmospheric location for stargazing as well as an infamous local cemetery, known for its haunted vibes. Evening stroll anyone? If ‘urban exploring’ is your thing, a slight detour from LA and just over an hour and a half from Tonopah, brings you to Rhyolite Ghost Town. A town with a short-lived history spanning just 12 years, from 1904 to 1916. Thrown up as part of the Gold Rush era, the town thrived in its early years but soon faltered after a national recession, which led to the mine closing its doors in 1911. Desolate and eerie, you can walk among the abandoned buildings including the train station, general store and bank.
If you decide to stay in Tonopah, the ‘Lady in Red’ suite at The Mizpah Hotel screams vintage horror chic. Decked out in deep shades of claret, this is the perfect place to stay for a Halloween-inspired trip away.
Pluckley, Kent, UK
Pluckley in Kent is notoriously known as the most haunted village in Britain - and it’s not just according to the locals, as The Guinness Book of Records rubber stamped it so in 1989. Conveniently situated from London (55 miles / 89 km), it’s a great location for either a day trip or a longer stay...if you dare. Keep an eye out for any supernatural goings-on, the town is well known for a ghost sighting or two, 16 to be exact. Worth noting, that as well as it’s scary reputation, paradoxically, it’s also well known for its picturesque scenery and quaint village feel. Don’t be fooled, we say.
For some other spooky sites to make your Halloween roadtrip to the region complete, an hour from London and not too far away from Pluckley is the haunted New Tavern Fort in Gravesend. It’s here that a ghost sighting of a Victorian soldier was reported in 1992. The witness was wholly convinced that the apparition was a spirit from earlier times, adding to the mystique of the area. Another haunted stop to consider is Rochester Castle which was featured in the book, Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland by Richard Jones. Steeped in history and situated a mere 20-minute drive from the New Tavern Fort and 40-minutes from Pluckley, legend has it that The White Lady of Rochester Castle still roams the grounds.
For a ghost-free place to stay, check out charming and cozy The Pluckley Pad B&B.
Cluj-Napoca is the unofficial capital of Transylvania and is a choice location for anyone after an authentic haunted forest experience. Home to one of the spookiest woodlands in the world, Hoia Forest is a 30-minute drive from Cluj-Napoca. There are plenty of tales of ghosts and spirits residing in Hoia Forest, as well as the occasional extraterrestrial sighting. Many visitors to the forest comment on the peculiar and interestingly shaped trees, which are crooked and spindly, just like the ones you see in many horror movies. Folklore, local legends and a strong mystical energy that’s said to emanate from the forest is enough to get anyone into the Halloween spirit. If you do visit and don’t happen upon any ghosts or aliens, you’ll be equally rewarded with stunning views and one of the most photogenic forests in all of Europe.
If you can’t bear the thought of visiting Romania, without a Dracula Gothic-inspired experience, Bran Castle is a four and a half-hour drive from Cluj-Napoca. Famous as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, this stately castle on a cliff was an official residence for the Romanian royal family for centuries and a wonderful example of Gothic architecture at its finest.
For breath-taking views and a return to the contemporary world, the Magna Suite apartment in Cluj-Napoca makes for an excellent homebase for your Transylvanian explorations.
Bhangarh Fort in Rajasthan is not for the faint-hearted. Built in 1573 CE and known as India’s most haunted place, Bhangarh Fort is now abandoned and desolate, except for a few feral monkeys. Surrounded by thorny bushes and a barren landscape, this is a great place to immerse and imagine yourself in what was once a thriving and prosperous community. Folklore says that the fort was cursed to remain roofless forever - any roof that is built eventually collapses. There are also many stories surrounding Princess Ratnavati, who was known for her beauty and charm but was also cursed. Locals to the area are firm believers in the passed down tales that surround the fort. Entry is free and the fort is best visited between September and February. It’s important to note that if you are driving, you’ll have to park your vehicle outside of the fort and explore by foot. And entry is only permitted during daylight hours. This is, allegedly, to protect visitors from the wailing ghosts and spirits that roam the complex.
To extend your haunted stay to the area, a 30-minute drive from the fort lies Ajabgarh Fort - similar to Bhangarh in that it’s also said to be cursed and has been abandoned. Residents fled the fort after numerous ghostly sightings and strange goings-on. People have started to return to areas close by, but the fort itself remains hauntingly empty.
We recommend staying at the Tree House Resort in nearby Chandwaji, located 19 miles (30km) from Bhangarh Fort. Here you’ll be guaranteed a relaxing and serene experience, perfect after a long day ghost hunting.
Cartago, Costa Rica
Costa Rica, known for its rich and diverse ecosystem, is not a country you would normally associate with ghouls and ghosts. Cartago, a 45-minute drive from the capital, San Jose, is no different in that its natural beauty comes as standard, but it does have a little twist of its own. Cartago is home to a couple of fascinating scary sites, one of which is an abandoned hospital nestled inconspicuously within the lush countryside. El Sanatorio Duran (sometimes referred to as Mirador Sanatorium Carlos Durán or Finca Sanatoria Duran), was built in the 1920s to treat tuberculosis patients, it’s been disused since the 1960s.
If you like being creeped out, this is the place for you. The feeling of decay is ever present and reports of ghost sightings are commonplace with many laying claim to have seen and heard young children crying and wailing. In recent years, the hospital has opened to tourists interested in the macabre history of the place. The entrance fee is only $2 and visitors are pretty much left to their own devices to freely explore the grounds.
A 20-minute drive from the hospital will bring you to the active Irazu volcano, famous for its otherworldly green crater lake. If you visit, be careful not to get too close, there have been several small eruptions and lava flows over the past 50 years, so caution should be taken.
A great and convenient place to base yourself in Cartago is the Grandpas Hotel, only a 35-minute drive from Irazu volcano and just 15 minutes from El Sanatorio Duran.
When it comes to creepy caves, Belize wins hands down. Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, also referred to as ATM, and the ‘most sacred cave in the world’ lives up to its reputation as a very special and mystical location, with a human history dating back over 1,000 years, but only open to the public since 1998. Located in the Cayo district, the ATM cave is a Mayan archaeological site with several skeletal remains located within its chambers. Human sacrifices were commonplace during the Mayan times. In particular, interest and intrigue surround ‘The Crystal Maiden’ - a young woman, who was offered up as a sacrifice to the Mayan gods. Over the years her skeleton has calcified, leaving a glistening and glowing effect, which is enough to give anyone the shivers. Be warned, as it’s located deep in the rainforest and is not an easy cave to access. From the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve and with a licensed guide, it’s an hour on foot across shallow rivers and jungle terrain. At this point, visitors will need to roll up their sleeves and swim for just over a kilometer before entering the cave.
A trip to Belize without visiting a Mayan ruin or two would be unthinkable. Mayan culture is truly fascinating and can be somewhat terrifying to modern sensibilities. Some of the cultural norms of the time included a penchant for head shaping (flattening) and filing teeth to sharp points - definitely a little spooky and sinister. Nearest to the ATM cave, you can take your pick from either Cahal Pech or Xunantunich.
For a place to stay, The Hidden Valley Inn and Reserve is an hour and a half from the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve (ATM cave), just under two hours from Xunantunich and an hour and a half from Cahal Pech by car.
Central Java, Indonesia
The Lawang Sewu (‘a thousand doors’) is no stranger to paranormal activity. Originally built in 1904 as the central headquarters of the Dutch East India Railway Company, the grand European-style building in Semarang, Central Java, is widely acknowledged amongst locals as a favored hang-out for ghosts. During some of its time, Lawang Sewu was used as a prison by the Japanese, where in the basement, executions were held.
A 30-minute drive from Lawang Sewu is Desa Wisata Lembah Kalipancur, an interesting village set up especially for curious travelers to explore. One of the highlights is an abandoned plane. Slightly disconcerting but fascinating at the same time, one thing’s for sure, the dilapidated plane does indeed provide a unique backdrop for some interesting vacay pictures. In general, Central Java is a great region to explore with a car - relatively close by is Ambarawa, a quiet lakeside town, or Bandungan, which has a cooler climate and beautiful mountain views.
If you’re thinking of staying in Semarang, the Rooms Inc Hotel Pemuda is a stone's throw from the Lawang Sewu, and approximately an hour drive from Ambarawa and Bandungan.