Asia, City breaks, Europe, North America, Tours

The idea of getting away from it all usually conjures up images of golden beaches, glamorous cities and the chance to relax. However, there is much to be said for stepping back in time to look at the past and its infamous moments to give you a holiday you’ll never forget. Here’s my guide to infamous places to visit this May.

Pripyat (Chernobyl)

When the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl melted down to the horror of the world in 1986, I doubt it was at the forefront of anyone’s mind to take a trip there. However, with the benefit of time, Chernobyl and the city of Pripyat have become tourist destinations in spite of the destruction caused here. Located in northern Ukraine, a visit to Pripyat is best described as an eerie experience, as you walk into a ghost town. Take a guided tour to see such sites as Pripyat school and the apartment buildings where everything lies as it did on that fateful day, utterly frozen in time. Obviously there is still an exclusion zone around Chernobyl itself but the tours do bring you as close to Reactor 4 as possible. May offers at great time to visit one of the spookiest places in the world, with temperatures averaging 15C (59F).

London’s East End

The East End of London once had a notorious reputation for being the seat of the crime lords of the capital. Springtime in London is a good time to visit, with temperatures averaging 17C (63F) and over 12 hours of sunlight to make your way around the city. Explore the dark side of London by visiting sites which take you back deep in its past. Walk the streets of Whitechapel where Jack the Ripper caused such terror and take a tour around the sites where his victims met a sorry end. Whilst here, take a tour around the infamous sites where London Gangsters such as the Krays lived and took control of the area from. You’ll even be able to visit locations used in the film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and other London gangster films.

Auschwitz

May offers the most poignant time of year to visit here, marking the anniversary of VE day and the liberation of the camps across Europe. The notorious death camp is now an international holocaust memorial and museum showing the crimes of the Nazi authorities against millions of innocent people. Visitors can find the memorial just outside the southern Polish city of Oświęcim. You need to allow at least 90 minutes to tour the original camp of Auschwitz I where the first experiments and mass murders using Zyklon-B were carried out and the same again for the extension camp Auschwitz II – Birkenau where the systematic mass extinction of hundreds of thousands took place. Guided tours of the memorial and museum will show how the camps operated and remember the victims and the crimes against them. Visitors are asked to remember the rules for visiting.

  • Where:  National Road 933, Oświęcim
  • Cost: Entry is free but guided tours are charged
  • Open: 8:30am – 6:00pm each day throughout May
  • Website: auschwitz.org

Hiroshima

World War II affected this city more than most, with the devastating effects of the world’s first nuclear attack visible throughout Hiroshima. Located on the southern coast of Japan, Hiroshima welcomes average temperatures of 18C (64F) throughout May which provide a comfortable climate to explore the city. Arguably the most striking and iconic image of Hiroshima is the A-Bomb Tower which has been made a UNESCO world heritage site. Sitting in the heart of the city, it was the only structure to survive the blast and it became a symbol of hope. Nearby you’ll find the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as well as memorials to those who died and have died since.

Alcatraz

Arguably, this is the world’s most famous prison. Known as ‘the Rock’, Alcatraz sits on an island in San Francisco Bay and was once the home to many notorious criminals including Al Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. Closed in 1963, the prison has been open for tours ever since. Enter the prison as an inmate would have done, taking a ferry crossing from Pier 33 before heading up to the processing centre. Then it’s time to make your way through this imposing space, taking a tour of the one man cells and down ‘Park Avenue’, the space between the cells. Explore the gardens and the exercise yard which offered the prisoners some fresh air. Learn about the famous inmates and how whilst people tried, no one ever managed to escape.