Fascinating ghost towns around the world
Around the world, there’s an impressive number of towns and cities that have been abandoned by their inhabitants. From closed mining camps and disaster areas to former battlefields, many of these locations have been deserted. Frozen in time, these neglected places draw an increasing number of curious visitors each year. Check out these 20 fascinating ghost towns from the four corners of the globe.
Once the second-largest city in California, Bodie was deserted in 1942 after two fires. Founded during the gold rush, this ghost town was designated a historic site nearly 50 years ago. Visitors can stroll along the abandoned streets where some 10,000 people lived back in the 19th century.
Businessman Mario Bagno once dreamed of turning this northern town into Italy’s own Las Vegas. To do so, the entrepreneur bought every lot in the area, then bulldozed it all to build casinos, hotels, and restaurants. Alas, his success was short-lived—a 1976 landslide swept away the only road leading to the town and, with it, the project’s chances of survival. Today, Consonno is abandoned, the walls covered in graffiti and the buildings in a state of disrepair.
The city of Kolmanskop was founded by German colonists looking to mine African diamonds in the 1920s. The region proved to be one of the most prolific sources of the precious gem. More than five million karats of diamonds were produced during the first six years of mining. The city began to deteriorate when the diamond market declined shortly after the First World War. Today, the town is being reclaimed by the Namibian desert.
Located on the coast of the remote island of Spitsbergen in the Atlantic Ocean above the Arctic Circle, Pyramiden is, without a doubt, one of the least accessible ghost towns. After several prosperous decades, the former mining town, built by Russia in the early 20th century, met its demise when the coal industry collapsed and Moscow shuttered the city in 1998.
Explorers who love ruins will adore Kayaköy. The former Greek village, located on Turkish land, is home to the remains of hundreds of houses built into the mountainside. In 1923, at the end of the Greco-Turkish War, Kayaköy was emptied of its inhabitants during a population exchange. Today, visitors can wander among abandoned houses and 400-year-old churches.
Nearly 50,000 inhabitants of Pripyat, Ukraine, were forced to flee in an emergency evacuation following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Located just three kilometres (1.9 mi.) from the reactor, the city is still abandoned because of a high level of radiation that continues to poison the area.
The city of Varosha was the largest seaside resort in Cyprus until the Turkish army invaded in 1974. After a coup d’état to annex Cyprus to Greece, Turkey invaded the island and surrounded the city in barbed wire. The former vacation hot spot has been deserted for 45 years.
A major lack of investment and several setbacks during construction led to the demise of this futuristic Taiwanese seaside resort town. Some speculate that the area is haunted, perhaps another reason for abandoning this site famous for its colourful, UFO-shaped houses. In 2010, the eccentric village of Sanzhi was razed to the ground by the Taiwanese government.
In 1944, this French village was the scene of a brutal massacre by the German army. More than 600 men, women, and children were killed in cold blood, and the buildings were set on fire. It was the largest civilian massacre perpetrated by the Germans on French soil. After the atrocity, Oradour-sur-Glane was considered a martyred village. Its ruins are preserved so that the tragedy will never be forgotten.
Craco, Italy, is a medieval village that was abandoned by its inhabitants in the 1970s. Numerous landslides and challenging agricultural conditions forced the villagers to flee to neighbouring communities. Although the village is abandoned, the mountaintop ruins continue to draw curious visitors every year.
Ordos, built in the middle of the desert in the late 2000s, is considered one of the largest ghost towns in the world. The city was built to accommodate nearly a million inhabitants, but fewer than 60,000 people live there today. Dozens of buildings, an opera house, two malls, and even a five-star hotel lie within its borders, but almost nobody lives there. It’s an ideal destination for travellers seeking solitude.
The mining town of Wittenoom, built on an asbestos deposit, was shut down because of the mineral’s harmful effects on human health. Australian authorities forced residents to move to another town before erasing the name of the town from maps and road signs in the name of public safety. Today, the town is considered a contaminated zone, and visitors are strongly encouraged to avoid it.
Hashima Island, Japan
In less than 40 years, Hashima Island went from the most densely populated place in the world to completely abandoned. Nearly 5,000 miners worked there in the 1960s, but a decline in the coal market forced them to leave. Tourists can still visit this tiny, battleship-shaped island, with its desolate landscapes, and take in the massive, dilapidated concrete buildings and scars left by typhoons.
This Chinese city is a nearly perfect replica of Paris, France. Tourists will find everything, from the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe to a 108-metre-high (354 ft) faux Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, Tianducheng, which opened in 2007, remains almost abandoned. Only 2,000 residents live in the 700 buildings that line the deserted streets.
Ruby, a mining town on the Mexican border, peaked during the 1930s, when 1,200 people lived there. The mine closed in 1940, and one year later, there wasn’t a soul left in town. Ruby is now one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Arizona. Tourists can visit over 20 buildings, including the prison, the school, and several houses.
Perched at over 6,500 feet (1,981 m) above sea level in the Andes, the mining town of Sewell owes its name to its founder, American financier Barton Sewell. The mining camp is nicknamed the City of Stairs because of its many steep streets with stairs. Abandoned for over 50 years, Sewell was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006 to highlight its contribution to Chile’s industrial heritage.
Grytviken, South Georgia
More than 500 people once lived in Grytviken, a city located on the island of South Georgia, near Antarctica. The community was a whaling station, but in the 1960s, as the whale population declined, so did the town. Today, visitors can explore the only remaining structures, a cinema, church, cemetery, and museum.
rently in ruins, Mystras is a medieval city built in the 13th century. Fiercely disputed between the Byzantines, Ottomans, and Venetians, the city was definitively abandoned during the Greek War of Independence. For tourists, however, Mystras is a fantastic place to visit, perched at almost 2,000 feet (609 m) above sea level and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ross Island, India
Vegetation has reclaimed this ancient British prison in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Ravaged by an earthquake in 1941, the abandoned island was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, before again being deserted after the conflict ended. It eventually passed into the hands of the Indian government in the late 1940s. Excursions enable visitors to admire the thick jungle that covers the remains of its military buildings.
The Kennecott mining camp enjoyed years of glory until its copper seam was depleted in 1938. The city was abandoned, and its buildings have been in decline ever since. The site was classified as a national historic monument in 1986, offering visitors a veritable trip back in time.
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