Tulcán Municipal Cemetery – Tulcan, Ecuador - Atlas Obscura

Tulcan, Ecuador

Tulcán Municipal Cemetery

This Ecuadorian cemetery is home to a jaw-dropping topiary wonderland. 

While most cemeteries are content with their tranquil natural vistas, one caretaker at Ecuador’s Tulcán Municipal Cemetery decided that he was going to step it up a notch, and transformed the graveyard’s tall hedges into a sprawling topiary wonderland.

In 1936, gardener Josè Maria Azael Franco, who worked as the caretaker of the city’s municipal cemetery, began sculpting the rows of bushes under his care into a variety of shapes and designs. There are the archways and angular geometric shapes that can be found in topiary collections around the world, but Franco also created a number of unique natural sculptures all his own. The garden features animals, angels, Incan symbols, and bulbous, iconic creatures squatting in a row.

Franco passed away in 1985 and was fittingly buried at the cemetery, in the shadow of his life’s work. The topiary wonders live on to this day, cared for by Franco’s five sons, and the cemetery staff. Today the 3-acre graveyard features more than 100 creations, creating an immersive sculpted necropolis. As Franco himself put it, the cemetery is a place “so beautiful it invites one to die.”