Thursday, July 5, 2018

CALIFORNIA: Visiting a Necropolis (Colma) | Part I

Visiting cemeteries has become a bit of a tradition for us when traveling. Cemeteries provide a tranquil break from noisy cities and can often provide us with an interesting array of local history. So, of course, we made it a priority to visit our nation's Necropolis - Colma, California.

Colma is a small town just south of San Francisco, where the dead outnumber the living by 1000 to 1.  This small town was founded as a necropolis in 1924 - "necropolis" literally translates to "city of the dead" - and is the only one within the USA. Residents seem to have a good sense of humor about living in a necropolis, as the towns motto is, "It's great to be alive in Colma"!

The necropolis started to amass the dead in the early 1900s, as San Francisco outlawed and then evicted all cemeteries within the city limits. This is because the land in San Francisco is so highly valued that they felt it was a waste to use it for the dead. As a result, over a hundred thousand bodies were moved to to their new and final resting place - Colma, a town founded as a place for the dead. There was a small fee to relocated bodies, and those with survivors that could not afford this cost were instead buried in mass graves. 

We spent most of our limited time exploring the Cypress Lawn Cemeteries and Mausoleum, one of the largest in the area. The atmosphere was perfectly spooky - the coastal fog was rolling in over the mountains, the sky was overcast, and it was eerily silent (save for the occasional crow). We didn't spot many other living people during our wanders through the grave sites, but we did spot a sign warning of coyotes in the area.

It feels like every where you turn in Colma, there is another cemetery. In fact, there are 17, including a pet cemetery. Keep an eye out for our next two posts about this strange town!

Would you visit a necropolis? 



  1. Oh man I HAVE to visit this city!! Love all of the bird photos.

    1. I think you would love it! If you find yourself in San Francisco, make sure to set aside extra time for this place.

  2. I also love visiting cemeteries. This one is super intriguing!!

  3. That's actually a really cool idea! I once had a Tinder-date in Denmark - and this dude took me on a walk through a cemetery, at first when he suggested this I thought it was a bit creepy - but then I understood it - the cemetery was beautiful, and even tho' I didn't know any of the dead people, it felt nice to pay them a visit.