There’s something about ghost towns that strike a chord in each one of us. In fact, in terms of tourist destinations, abandoned places are high up on the list. Perhaps it has something to do with our innate sense of adventure. You can add a pinch of danger to the mix.
At a lesser level, some tourists probably think that they could experience the paranormal activity when visiting these abandoned sites. You know how these stories go. A local story about haunting has a way of spreading like wildfire thus, creating an urban legend. Don’t be surprised to hear about some ghost miner dragging along his pickaxe just waiting for an unwitting traveler.
It could simply be a voyeuristic interest in seeing how people of that era lived. True enough, there is nothing more odd than seeing a once joyous community that has been abandoned, leaving behind the tracks of a past life.
Why these places where abandoned only boil down to two main reasons – greed and extreme natural calamities.
We list down some of the ghost towns and the reasons behind why they were abandoned. Eerily atmospheric, these abandoned towns are sure to linger in your memory.
20 Beichuan, China
Visiting this small city about 140 kilometers from Chengdu is like being stuck in a Twilight Zone. How else can you explain the eerie atmosphere knowing that thousands have died there? Could a body still be buried amid the rubble? Eek! When we say stuck in the past, in the case of Beichuan, we mean it literally. The Chinese government converted it into a huge memorial and tourist destination. Nothing has been touched here since a 7.9 magnitude quake rocked its core in 2008—each ruin, even each piece of stone frozen in time—killing half of its population. It’s like being brought back to the immediate aftermath by a time machine. Like we said, eerie.
19 Pripyat, Ukraine
You might not have heard about this small city, but don’t worry. Not many Ukrainians did because it was a secret area known only to workers and their families. That is until the nuclear meltdown that is now known in history as the Chernobyl disaster. On April 26, 1986, the nuclear station exploded during a test run killing 30 people instantly. Countless more died later due to radioactive diseases.
Today, you can still see (well, not really because tours to the facility are not allowed) the remnants of the tragedy in a piece of lump billed as “The Elephant’s Foot.” It’s probably a good idea to steer clear of this radioactive waste since an hour of exposure will kill you.
18 Humberstone and Santa Laura, Chile
This saltpeter mine lying north of Chile right in the Atacama Desert, considered one of the driest places on earth, is a testament to man’s innovation and greed. Before the turn of the Century and right before World War I, this was the largest producer of natural nitrate, used for gunpowder and fertilizer. But a conflict between Britain and Germany over control of the mines eventually led to its demise.
When Britain shut off the supply, Germany scrambled to find an alternative, hence, the synthetic nitrate developed by Fritz Haber. This changed the ballgame in terms of ammunition production, not just in Germany but for the entire world. Ironically, while the Humberstone and Santa Laura saltpeter mine thrived in war, it was war that also killed it.
17 Michigan Central Station
If you like to explore abandoned areas, there’s no need to go far than in Detroit, Michigan. When it opened in 1914, it was a testament to what man can do. Standing 18-stories high, it the tallest rail station of its era. In its heyday, it was grand. It was majestic, almost rivaling the Grand Central Station in New York. Now, it’s just an ornate reminder of how hard the local economy was hit, and how real the auto industry slump was. The last train here left in 1988 and it’s been abandoned ever since.
16 Hashima Island, Japan
Just 15 kilometers off the coast of Nagasaki, you will find the abandoned island of Hashima. If you’ve watched Skyfall, the James Bond film in 2012, then you would be familiar with its dilapidated buildings, the cracked roads, and whitewashed structures. This used to be a mining town until 1974 when operations ceased. True to form, Japanese efficiency took over. It just ferried the entire town of workers and their families elsewhere and left the area to rot. It was, after all, much more expensive to sustain families with no means of income.
15 Centralia, Pennsylvania
Want to see hell on earth? How do you like to walk with virtual fiery sinkholes all around you? Well, it’s your lucky day! Head on to Centralia, Pennsylvania where a coal mine has been burning since 1962. You have a nice walk in the woods or on the street then, boom! Hellfire! You fall into one of those sinkholes and be burned alive.
You might think, “Well, it’s a nice town. I think I will wait for the mine to burn itself out.” Sure, you can do that if you are Methuselah. The fires are expected to continue to burn for another 250 years.
14 Varosha, Cyprus
Tall skyscrapers, white sand, and pristine beaches. Varosha in Famagusta was a thriving resort in the early 70s. In fact, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton were just among the celebrities that visited the tourist destination.
Then in 1974, the Turkish invasion happened and the inhabitants and guests abandoned the resort. That just made it easier for the Turkish military to fence off the entire city. Today, you can visit the ghost town. Just watch out for that Turkish sign which reads, trespassers will be shot on sight.
13 Döllersheim, Austria
Just 68 miles of capital Vienna, you will find yourself in Döllersheim. It’s a quaint town, charming even, if not for the fact that this was the birthplace of Adolf Hitler’s father, Alois, and his the burial ground of his grandfather. When Austria was annexed into Germany, Hitler ordered the town abandoned and converted it into a military training ground, as well as some military camps. Just for kicks, Nazis bombed houses in the village as part of their training. Today, it’s still technically a military camp although now being managed by the Austrian Armed Forces.
12 Craco, Southern Italy
As far as ghost towns go, there are worst places than Craco. At its height of economic activity, there were 2,000 people living here. They had a university, churches, stores, towers, and even a freaking Medieval castle!
Artifacts and relics suggest that Craco was inhabited since the 8th Century. However, people had to leave the town because of a series of landslides. It’s been abandoned ever since but you can take a tour, as long as you stay within the safe zones.
11 Kayaköy, Turkey
Since the 14th Century, Muslims and Christian lived in this area in harmony. That is until the four-year Greco-Turkish War that ended in 1922. After that, Kayaköy has become a virtual ghost town following mass migrations. Few tourists come here for a visit, partly because of the arduous climb getting there. But if you ever come around, marvel at the architecture of its time, the cookie-cutter buildings, all designed to withstand the elements and the promise—that people with different religious beliefs can happily live together in peace.
10 Kolmanskop, Namibia
Right in the Namib Desert, there’s a ghost town called Kolmanskop. To be fair, there’s not much to see there. It’s just an ocean of sand, along with a few buildings and houses all covered by dust, grime, and disappointment. This used to be a diamond mine filled with local manpower and German workers.
In fact, during its heyday, it seemed strange to find what seemed like a European town in the middle of the desert, which was probably done to prevent homesickness. At least, we can credit German efficiency since the buildings are still left standing for more than a century despite the harsh elements.
9 Imber and Copehill Down
This is the ghost villages of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, which was abandoned to make way for the training of US troops and other Allied forces in preparation for the invasion of Europe. After World War II, however, the British army just took over and prohibited villagers from returning.
Out of the goodness of its heart, the military opens the villages to tourists several days a year but only in non-militarized zones like the St. Giles church and the original structures found along the main road.
8 Oradour-sur-Glane in France
Located four hours south of France, this sleepy village was the scene of one of the most atrocious massacres in history—when entire population except six people were wiped out by the Nazis. The extent of the cruelty can be gleaned from the fact that it took them hours to kill 642 men, women, and children.
Today, it’s stuck in a time capsule. You will find yourself back in June of 1944 right after the massacre. Thankfully, the bodies have been buried. But you will still see the horrors of war.
7 Tawergha in Libya
Tawergha in Libya was abandoned during the Libyan civil war that saw the fall of a dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. Some 40,000 villagers left the area for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Most of them didn’t even have time to pack their belongings except for the clothes on their back. Even today, the de-facto government of Libya has not allowed the residents to come back despite promises to do so. You probably can’t visit the area because militias are still loitering around targeting Tawerghan residents.
6 Pegrema in Russia
The fact that nobody really knows why this small hamlet was abandoned only adds to the mystery. But the timeline appears to be right after the Russian Revolution. If you are curious what pre-revolution Russia looks like, then head off the site in Lake Onega of the Republic of Karelia. The houses are in bad state of disrepair but there’s something haunting about them.
5 The Residencial Francisco Hernando Development
It was meant to be the New York of Spain. In fact, it’s right there in the promo tagline, “The Manhattan of La Mancha.” The developers had grand plans for the area. It did sound viable to build another city, Seseña, to serve the already overpopulated Madrid. But the numbers didn’t work out as citizens had to interest in moving.
There were supposed to be 13,000 homes but they only built less than half that due to the housing bubble. But to say that the project is totally abandoned would be incorrect, there are about 1,000 people living in the apartments today.
4 Ross Island
Named after Captain Daniel Ross, this island is located in the Andaman Islands, India. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you, its history is richer compared to most urban cities of today. It used to be a penal colony that was converted into a POW camp by the Japanese Imperial Army.
So side-by-side with the colonial buildings, grocery stores, and the Presbyterian Church are garrisons and some war remnants. Most of the structures are swallowed by the earth and the trees.
3 Dhanushkodi — Pamban Island, India
There’s only so much a small island village can take from a series of typhoons. The tipping point occurred in 1964 when Rameswaram cyclone battered Dhanuskodi, located in the Pamband Island, under the administrative supervision of Tamil Nadu in India. Before that, this was a major port of entry for India since it’s located just 30 kilometers away from Sri Lanka. There are still a handful of people living there. These are fishers who rely on the sea for their livelihood. But a look at the ruins gives a glimpse of what a thriving town this was prior to that powerful cyclone.
2 Garnet, Montana
Garnet is certainly living up to its billing as “Montana’s Best Preserved Ghost Town.” During the 19th Century, this was a thriving mining town that was home to at least 1,000 people. Pioneers who found that the gold rush sites of California and Colorado were already teeming with prospectors moved to this area to try their luck.
During its heyday, there were four hotels here and countless saloons. But gold and quartz were not perpetual gifts that kept on giving. By 1917, the mountains have bled dry. By 1940s, the entire Garnet town was abandoned to remain a memorial of a life that was.
1 Villa Epecuén
This tourist in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, about 600 kilometers from the capital, used to be booming particularly in the 60s and 70s when its population ballooned to 5,000. Its saltwater reportedly had healing properties, which drew tourists to the site. Then in 1985, the rains didn’t stop for days and caused Lake Epecuén to swell.
Then the dam broke. The entire village was buried under 33 feet of water at one point. Villagers and tourists flee never to come back. Well, except for one obstinate man, Pablo Novak, an original inhabitant who returned to the land of his birth in 2009 to roost.