Popularity is a funny thing, isn’t? It’s just so unpredictable. One day at school, your choice of hairstyle/favourite band/TV show makes you the coolest kid in class, and the next, nobody wants to play with you at recess anymore because you’re that square with the bowl cut (your childhood experiences may differ).
As for me, I remember a time during the early years of school where the yo-yo was suddenly --out of no-dang-where—back in vogue in a huge way. I’ve no clue how or why this happened, but I had to get myself a darn good one quickly to keep my friends. Keeping up appearances is super important when you’re twelve years old, friends.
There’s some kind of supernatural force that controls trends and fashions, I’m sure of it. Something that just suddenly decides, “You know what we haven’t seen for a while? Parachute pants like MC Hammer’s. Let’s make those bad boys a craze again.”
The same principle applies in tourism, to a certain extent. You never quite know if a certain attraction is going to be popular, and if it is, you have no way of knowing how long it’ll be popular for. Like enormous 80s hair, some things just go out of vogue. Success can be a fickle thing.
In this rundown, we’re travelling the world to look at some of the eeriest lost tourist attractions around. From Belgium’s magnificent Chateau de Noisy to Sedan’s Pyramids of Meroe and Berlin’s abandoned amusement park, there’s something for every kind of traveller here.
20 Spreepark, Germany: Fantastic Family Fun, Failed And Forgotten
We’re going to kick this party off the right way, with one of the saddest examples of lost tourist attractions of all. An abandoned theme park, to me, just has a poignancy beyond a lot of regular buildings. The great twisted, rusting Ferris wheels, the overgrown playparks… there’s nothing eerier.
Spreepark, in Berlin, Germany, has all of this in spades. The site began to lose its luster when the owners moved several of the biggest attractions to Lima, Peru, where they were working on constructing another park. The neglected Spreepark was closed in the 2000s, though (as Skyscanner reports) continued to offer tours until the Berlin government bought the land in 2014.
Today, the only visitors are photographers with a taste for decaying rollercoasters.
19 Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan: What A Strange Place For A Kingdom
Now, this is something special, right here. Japanese folklore and tradition are full of malevolent spirits, the kind of things that you might want to keep out of Little Jimmy’s bedtime stories. The notorious Aokigahara forest is said to be a hotbed for this sort of thing. You’ve probably heard of it, but did you know that it borders on a most unusual tourist attraction?
That’s right. Kamikuishiki is the home of the abandoned Gulliver’s Kingdom, a theme park homage to Gulliver’s Travels. It’s home to, among many other Lilliput replicas, a 45-meter sculpture of Gulliver himself, tied to the ground by the residents of Lilliput. As Skyscanner reports, the park’s failure can probably be attributed in part to its foreboding location.
18 Chateau de Noisy, Belgium: It’s Not Very Noisy Around Here Anymore, That’s For Sure
For our next stop, we’re crossing back to Europe, where Belgium plays host to one of the most tragic yet beautiful buildings you’ll find anywhere.
International Destinations reports that the Chateau de Noisy was originally built for the Liedekerke De Beaufort family in 1866, who fled France during the Revolution. The work wasn’t completed until 1907, and the castle was soon occupied by German forces during World War Two. In 1950, the National Railway Company of Belgium made the property into an orphanage, which closed its doors in the late 1970s.
Since then, nature has been steadily spreading through its glorious architecture.
17 Canfranc Station, Spain: Expect ALL KINDS Of Delays
Now, as a regular train commuter, I don’t have many expectations of the stations. Grand architecture, high ceilings and suchlike aren’t really a priority. I’m happy with the bland white herded-through-like-cattle service, so long as I actually get where I’m going on time.
This doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the façade of Spain’s Canfranc Station, which was quite a sight in its heyday. Canfranc is in the Pyrenees Mountains, and the station (opened in 1928) was a vital transport link between France and Spain.
In 1970, sadly, a train derailed and demolished the L’Estanguet bridge, which was never rebuilt. This left the now-defunct station to moulder away, though International Destinations reports that the roof was repaired in recent years. A big regeneration project is on the cards, CNN adds. We’ll see if that comes to fruition.
16 Varosha, Cyprus: Not So Star-Studded Nowadays
When it comes to once-popular tourist hotspots, Varosha is probably one of the most high-profile anywhere in the world. This super-exclusive and lavish resort in Cyprus played host to some true A-listers in its time: according to The Vintage News, the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor would frequent this luxurious resort in the 70s. Around this time, the Turkish invasion saw much of the island occupied. Varosha was evacuated, in such a hurry that many tourist trappings still litter the streets today.
Varosha remains under occupation and is strictly forbidden to all visitors as a result. Holy mouldering hotels, Batman!
15 Balestrino, Italy: A Town Of Two Halves
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Europe, specifically Spain and Italy, you’ll know that it’s a region defined by history and tradition. Cities and shops balance modern-day technology and methodology with proud, traditional ways of living, cooking and such, which makes for a unique cultural experience.
The town of Balestrino, in Italy, defines this concept quite neatly. Located on a hill in Liguria, the original, historic town had to be abandoned, as it was discovered that the land was unstable. The old town of Balestrino is abandoned today, though the modern centre is still home to a small population of 600 or so people.
14 The Pyramids Of Meroe, Sudan: “Well, They’re Not As Big As Those *OTHER* Pyramids”
Of course, for the majority of us, only one place comes to mind when talk turns to pyramids: Egypt. Chichen Itza, too, sure, but I’ve said one place and I’m sticking to it.
There’s something about these Ancient Egyptian wonders that continues to capture the imagination of travellers around the world. They continue to be one of the most iconic and popular tourist attractions in the world, completed dominating pyramid-based tourism.
But what of the Pyramids of Meroe in Sudan? They’re pretty darn pyramid-y too, and they’re probably feeling quite bitter about the whole situation. This desert region was once part of the empire, and connects to Cairo via the Nile.
The Meroe pyramids are smaller than those of Egypt, and retain elements of Egyptian, Greek and Roman design. European Best Destinations reports that they were once very popular, attracting over 200,000 tourists per year, but conflict and economic sanctions have seen that number rapidly diminish.
13 Craco, Italy: A Ghost Town, Jim, But Not As We Know It
For our next stop, we’re taking a trip back to Italy, for a look at a very interesting case. While a lot of the locations in this rundown have been truly abandoned by people, Craco became a popular tourist destination only after it was abandoned by the inhabitants.
This beautiful town in south Italy was beset by a series of landslides, which eventually forced the inhabitants to up and leave the area. The locals left in 1963, and Craco has had a certain mystique about it ever since. It’s now a popular place for photographers and even filmmakers to shoot.
12 Villa Epecuén, Argentina: When The Healing Waters Turn Against You
Oh, nature. You sure can be a tricky thing at times, can’t you? Next we’re hoping over to Argentina’s Villa Epecuén, once a community served by the mighty Lago Epecuén. The waters of this lake were said to have therapeutic powers, as The Active Times reports. Heck, that’s got to be good for tourism.
Do you know what else Lago Epecuén has the power to do? Well, get us very, very darn wet indeed, that’s what. In 1985, a violent storm saw the lake break its banks and swamp the town, covering it in 30ft of sea water for decades. The waters began receding in the late 2000s, leaving some of the remains to eerily poke their heads out again.
11 Kolmanskop, Namibia: Money, Money, Money
What was it that brought German settlers to a remote desert region of Namibia? Well, the main thing that drives anyone to do anything these days - the allure of the almighty dollar. A diamond rush in the area saw miners flocking in, establishing quite a bustling community town.
As WWI came to a close, though, richer deposits of precious stones were discovered elsewhere in the region, with the settlers dashing off in pursuit. Ever since, the town has been steadily disappearing into the sand, a shadow of its former glory. Visitors do make their way there, though, to take the usual foreboding photographs.
10 Bedrock City, Arizona: What Can We Yabba Dabba Do About This?
As I say, it’s odd to think how trends come and go. Not only yo-yos and such (how did that ever become a thing again in the 90s), but TV shows. It’s fair to say, overall, The Flintstones are not the TV mainstays that they used to be, even if they are still iconic.
For me, they’re a never-forgotten relic of a simpler time, like Ronald McDonald birthday parties or something. It’s quite fitting, then, that Arizona’s Bedrock City, a life-sized replica of the cartoon town, is falling into disrepair (but resolutely staying put) too.
Originally built in 1972, this forgotten tourist attraction lies out in the desert of Williams.
9 Heritage USA, South Carolina: Another Unconventional Theme Park
Over the course of this rundown, we’ve seen the likes of Gulliver’s Kingdom and Spreepark in Berlin, two ambitious and hopeful theme parks that have been reduced to rusting ruins over the years. I’ve already shared my feelings about abandoned theme parks, one of the most clichéd yet perfect locations for a horror movie of all.
In Fort Mills, South Carolina, lies another: Heritage USA. This was a Christian-themed park, constructed by famed televangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker in 1978. It soon became one of the state’s most popular attractions, but unfortunate press attention and the damage wrought on the site by Hurricane Hugo forced the park’s closure.
As Skyscanner reports, some of Heritage USA’s huge 2,300 acre site has been used in other business ventures, but much of the original buildings remain.
8 Six Flags New Orleans, Louisiana: And Speaking Of Hurricanes…
After the sad tale of Heritage USA’s fate, we move on to another United States theme park whose success was cut sadly short. In this case, we’re in the Pelican State, where the popular Six Flags theme park chain opened a location in New Orleans.
The vast complex was opened in the year 2000, running until Hurricane Katrina struck five years later. The devastating impact left much of the park flooded, and it was never reopened. It was never… anything really, though various talks have been held and since fallen through. The site is currently owned by the city, though what’s going to become of it remains a mystery.
7 Tunnel Of Love, Ukraine: If Any Lovers Can Reach It
It’s one of the golden rules of travel that we’ve all resigned ourselves to: if it’s an actual place that exists, couples will go there and take super lovey-dovey selfies with it as a backdrop. Whether it’s Rome’s famed colosseum or a flaming dumpster in a back alley in New York, it doesn’t matter. It’s happening.
With that in mind, though, it’s a curious fact that few couples actually make it to Ukraine’s ‘Tunnel of Love,’ a forgotten railway in Klevan. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s very remote and difficult to find. Of course, more intrepid travellers won’t give a single heckola about that (they never do), but many will.
6 Bodie, California: What Do You Call A Gold Rush Without Any Gold?
You’ve probably already gotten this memo, but people can be a super greedy bunch at times, can’t they? It’s all about grabbing anything you can for your own gain, regardless of the impact on the planet at large. Speaking as a miserly old cynic, anyway.
As we saw with the deserted town of Kolmanskop earlier, an otherwise-inhospitable area becomes as tempting as a free night at a five-star resort when there are precious stones to be found. This is also the case in the abandoned Californian town of Bodie, which was the site of a gold rush in 1859. As The Active Times explains, it didn’t turn out to be the treasure trove people hoped for, so settlers left and the town was forgotten.
5 Rhyolite, Nevada: How Times Have Changed
Now, you might have heard of a little town in Nevada called Las Vegas. It’s one of those special little secret places that you have to visit right now, before the tourists hear about it and it becomes garish and tacky. Las Vegas, you understand, is not big or tacky. Oh heckola, no. They don’t stand for any of that sort of nonsense in Las Vegas.
Snark aside, that description is actually fitting in the case of another Nevada town, Rhyolite. At its height, in the late 1800s/early 1900s, it was a bustling town of more than 10,000 people (which is bustling for the time, seriously). Nightlife and partying were common (now that sounds like Vegas), until the financial troubles of 1907 marked the town’s decline. It’s now home to nothing more than a bottle house and train depot, the only two buildings left intact.
4 San Zhi, Taiwan: The Tourist Hotspot That Never Was
Now, here’s a curious curveball to throw into the mix. For our next entry, we’re heading over to Taiwan, where the remains of what was to be the next great tourist destination continue to moulder away.
San Zhi, Curbed reports, was intended to be a futuristic and intriguing resort to attract visitors from around the world. Construction of this odd Close Encounters of the Third Kind-looking resort began in 1978, but was indefinitely halted due to money troubles (and a suspicious amount of accidents on the site, which led workers to believe it was unlucky).
Much of the unfinished resort remains standing.
3 The Yashima Resort, Japan: The Forgotten Village
Now, we might not be talking Gulliver’s Kingdom levels of eeriness here, but there’s something about this next Japanese resort that fills you with that same sense of unease.
This time, we’re in Yashima, a mountain resort on one of the main islands that make up Japan. Web Urbanist reports that, during the economically-successful years of the 80s, investors decided to create a resort at Yashima, an entire little tourist village with all the trappings you’d expect of such. That boom didn’t last, sadly, and the resort had to be entirely shut down. As of now, it stands abandoned, gift shops still displaying the same old tourist fluff in their windows.
2 Genoa Wonder Tower, Colorado: A Real Roadside Wonder
If you’ve been fortunate enough to take a road trip around America, you’ll know that there’s a huge variety of routes to choose from. You’ll also know that there’s an even greater variety of different roadside attractions to enjoy, from the unmissable to the hilariously awful and kitschy. That’s what it’s all about.
The World’s Wonder View Tower, in Colorado, is a 65ft tall tower on Frontage Road, Genoa. It was constructed in the mid-20s, by C.W Gregory. Super novel at the time, the tower’s gone to seed a little now (as you’d expect, being almost a century old). While the tower is abandoned now, there are whisperings that something may be made of it.
1 Dogpatch USA, Arkansas: Staying Classy
Now, you’ve got to respect Dogpatch USA, you really have. Sometimes, themed buildings or attractions just don’t commit. They might have a certain kind of wallpaper or furniture, but it stops there. Not so here.
The creators of Dogpatch USA wanted to go all out with their Lil’ Abner-themed theme park, and that’s 100% what they did. From Trout Pond (which offered real fishing opportunity for fish that the restaurants would cook for you or pack for you to take home) to West Po’k Chop Speshul (one such restaurant) and Barney Barnsmell’s Skunk Works, that took that theme and ran all the way to the end zone with it.
The park opened in 1968 and closed in 1993. It’s been in several owners’ hands since, and several legal snaffoos later, nobody’s quite sure what’s going to become of what remains of it.
References: Skyscanner, International Destinations, European Best Destinations, The Active Times, MSN, Curbed, Web Urbanist.