Vampire Travel: Where the Bloodsuckers Are

No matter where you go, there’s a version of the vampire in popular culture. Some say that the vampire stands in as a symbol for our personal desires: overcoming death and living in a big house on the hill where we give in to our urges. But at the same time vampires show what we would have to give up for that life: sunlight, companionship, and garlic.

Around the world, vampire destinations have sprung up to help the passing traveler explore the vampire fantasy. Some of these places are legitimate historical sites, where early recluses laid the groundwork for vampire lore, and some are simply testing the famous phrase, “There’s a bloodsucker born every minute.”
Forks, Washington

The newest vampire destination, the creatures of the night in the “Twilight” book series call the rainy logging town of Forks, Washington home. Legend has it that the author did a search for the rainiest places in the United States, found Forks, and chose it as the setting of her books. As a Pacific Northwest native, I can attest to the fact that it’s perfect for avoiding the sun.

Since the books first began to rival Harry Potter in weepy enthusiasm, Forks has been overrun with tourists. The Chamber of Commerce set up Twilight tours every Saturday in a van and drives to different locations where the heartthrob characters from the book supposedly live, work, and eat each other.

Visitors on those tours got a special treat when film crews arrived to film scenes on location in Forks for the upcoming Twilight movie, although there are rumors that some of the vampires were especially difficult for the hair and makeup crews. Some sort of complaint about the mirrors.

>>book a flight to Washington

Vlad’s Castle, Transylvania

We all know Count Dracula, but Vlad the Impaler — the real-life person on whom the legend was based — was actually a Prince. Travelers can visit one of his castles near Brasov in Romania. While the castle looks like it’s straight out of Bram Stoker’s novel, visitors may be surprised to learn of the Dracula legend from the Romanian point of view.

In Romania, Vlad Dracula (means: son of Dracul) is a military hero who held off the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Although he did put those who crossed him to death with the gruesome method of a spear entering the body between their legs and exiting near their neck, impalement was a common form of execution in medieval Eastern Europe and the Balkans and nothing to get worked up over (unless you were the one getting impaled, of course). It wasn’t until stories of Vlad reached Germany and Russia that this violent leader was painted as a monster and Vlad might have had to worry about the pitchfork-and-torch crowd.

The castle is currently on the market for $135 million, although the sale will be under the condition that the next owner respect the history of the castle, still allows visitors and maintains a strict No Werewolves policy.

>>book Romania Airfare and read our Romania Travel Guide

Cachtice Castle, Slovakia

A hundred years after Vlad the Impaler, Elizabeth Báthory made her own contributions to the vampire legend, killing and torturing between 80 and 600 servants (stories vary widely) for the pleasure of it. And you can see where it all took place – Cachtice Castle in Slovakia!

Legend has it that Báthory bathed in the blood of her victims in an effort to retain her youthful beauty, but that has pretty much been debunked by an analysis of the testimony that brought about her house arrest and imprisonment. Although she was never formally tried, her legendarily sadistic methods of torture and the sheer volume of victims (she may be the most prolific serial killer in history) gave her the title “The Blood Countess.” I smell a TV movie in here somewhere.

>>read our Slovakia Travel Guide

New Orleans

The setting for Anne Rice’s seminal vampire novels, New Orleans offers visitors a variety of vampire-related sights during their trip. Walking tours through the city explore every aspect of the vampire in New Orleans’ past, and Anne Rice tours can show you famous locations from the book.

Fans and stalkers alike often lined up outside Rice’s house on Sunday mornings, when she would leave at a predictable time to go to church. Although it’s thought that Rice herself was not actually a vampire, it seems otherwise she didn’t get out of the house much.

Unfortunately, vampire tours have taken a bit of a downturn in recent years. The vacant lot where the vampire Lestat was trapped by his own reflection in Rice’s final book was renovated to become a trendy restaurant; and in 2004, Rice herself moved away. You may not be surprised to learn that with Rice gone and many of the sites washed away by hurricanes, vampire tours now kind of suck.

>>book a cheap flight to New Orleans

The Chupacabra Tour, Latin America

One of the strongest arguments for the existence of vampires is that nearly every culture, no matter how isolated or advanced, has a folkloric bloodsucking monster running around preying on the weak and innocent. The most recent version is the Chupacabra, a creature from Latin America that seems to have captured imaginations far and wide.

The Chupacabra Tour begins in rural Mexico where the first farmers started complaining of livestock turning up dead and emptied of blood. Sightings then spread to Puerto Rico, Chile and even Maine, although that seems to be an anomaly and there have been no reports of blood-sucking lobsters.

End in Cuero, Texas where the most recent sighting in 2007 gave the town instant celebrity and a few minutes on CNN when an officer took footage of a creature with short front legs running down a dirt road.

>>look for flights to Mexico

Bram Stoker’s house, Dublin, Ireland

There may be no more influential work in the Vampire-literature canon than Bram Stoker’s 1897 book Dracula. Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland, at number 15 Marino Crescent but is known more for being a member of the London theater scene thanks to his friendship with actor Henry Irving.

The house in Dublin where Stoker was born is still occupied and not available to tour, but looking at Stoker’s life can provide some insight into “Dracula.” For example, Stoker was bedridden until the age of seven and it is thought that this prolonged illness gave rise to the meditations on eternal sleep in the book. He was also the third of seven brothers and sisters, which would account for the portions of the book which are about killing people and wanting to be alone.

>>search for flights to Dublin and look for hotels in Ireland

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Photo credits:Forks High School by ewen and donabel on Flickr , Bran Castle by Horia Varlan on Flickr , Cachtice Castle, Slovakia via Wikipedia , Anne Rice house in New Orleans by cathro on Flickr ,
, Bram Stoker’s house, Dublin, Ireland by Wikipedia

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