Walking through an abandoned place can feel like wandering through the past, as if you’ve slipped into a memory of how things used to be. But, sadly, the glory days are long gone. Now, these once-thrilling tourist attractions lie empty and rusting. These towns – once full of life – are vacant, desolate and ever so slightly eerie. And there’s even a strange beauty to these 20 forgotten landmarks plucked from all over the globe. Explore if you dare…
20. Ho Thuy Tien – Huế, Vietnam
If you walk through the jungle near the Vietnamese city of Huế, you may encounter something unexpected beyond the vines and trees. The Ho Thuy Tien waterpark lurks here, you see, although it’s now in total disrepair. Graffiti covers the once-vibrant attraction, which could now double up as a creepy set for a horror film.
Originally, Ho Thuy Tien – with its brightly colored slides and eye-catching installations – was envisioned as the perfect place for a family-friendly day out. After the park was launched in 2004, however, it failed to bring in the crowds. And, in time, Ho Thuy Tien was deserted – left to be swallowed up by the surrounding greenery.
19. Rummu prison – Rummu, Estonia
Back when Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union, Rummu’s prison was once a place to fear. This forbidding institution had been constructed on a quarry – a site where convicts had no choice but to labor. But then there was change. Estonia broke away from the USSR in 1991, and this meant the end of the prison, too.
Then, after the site had been abandoned, water began to gush in from the quarry. This torrent swiftly produced a lake, meaning whole sections of the prison became submerged. And while folks do still venture to this forgotten part of Estonia – to dive, for instance – they’re fortunately free to come and go as they please.
18. Houtouwan – Shengshan Island, China
Though it’s not far from the urban metropolis of Shanghai, Houtouwan isn’t exactly teeming with human life these days. But while this village – once a fishing community – is now deserted, it’s not actually that spooky to look at or explore. This part of China’s Shengshan Island could even be described as beautiful if you were so inclined. And that’s largely down to the verdant greenery that covers the quaint, charming buildings here.
Back in the ’90s, the inhabitants of Houtouwan started to move to other places in China to look for work. Then, one by one, homes were left empty, with only a tiny number of people choosing to stay in the village. And nature eventually reclaimed the abandoned buildings, creating a strange but undeniably stunning spectacle.
17. Train Cemetery – Uyuni, Bolivia
Bolivia is in the heart of South America, so it makes sense that there were once plans to create a huge rail network there. And as the city of Uyuni would have been crucial to this scheme, a shedload of trains were understandably brought there in preparation. Still, there turned out to be a small hitch: the whole project was completely doomed.
So, what happened to the trains once they were deemed surplus to requirements? Sadly, they were left to rust and decay in Uyuni, where they can still be found today. And in Spanish, the site where the locomotives sit is now rather sinisterly known as “Cemeterio de Trenes” – or the “Train Cemetery.”
16. Bodie – California, USA
In its heyday, Bodie, California, was a town of almost 10,000. Plenty of people had come to work the gold mines there, ultimately transforming the place from a wasteland to a thriving community. But these good times didn’t last forever – as Bodie’s fate certainly proves.
Yep, gold-mining isn’t exactly the booming industry it once was in California. And Bodie is clear evidence of that. The settlement has long since been abandoned, with only a fraction of the town still standing today. But what does survive acts as something of a time capsule, providing us with a look into a past when riches were there in the ground for the taking.
15. Gulliver’s Kingdom – Kawaguchi, Japan
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is an indisputable classic, but in theme park form? Well, the Japanese thought it was a great idea back in 1997. Unsurprisingly, the attraction in Kawaguchi wasn’t a hit. And just four years after launch, this quaint mock-Lilliput shut down for good.
Years on, though, the park’s bizarre installations remain in place. And among them is a massive effigy of Gulliver himself – a spectacle that photographer Martin Lyle has described as “unreal.” Lyle, who experienced the park firsthand, added to BuzzFeed in 2014, “[The Gulliver model] was such a momentous thing to stand in the presence of. It was the most amazing and surreal object I have ever seen.”
14. Buzludzha Monument – Buzludzha, Bulgaria
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria spent four decades under the control of the Communist Party. And while it probably comes as no shock to learn that the Communists needed a headquarters, the location for this extravagant building wasn’t in the capital of Sofia. Nor was it situated in the Balkan country’s second-largest city of Plovdiv. Rather incredibly, this awe-inspiring structure was placed atop the remote Buzludzha mountain.
The Buzludzha Monument, as this base was known, was finally abandoned after Bulgaria embarked on its transition into an independent nation. And since that time, the HQ has been left to face the elements on its own. No longer a symbol of Communist rule, it’s now a spine-chilling reminder of life behind the Iron Curtain.
13. Valle dei Mulini – Castione della Presolana, Italy
Several thousand years ago, a tectonic event in Italy created a massive crack in the Earth’s surface. Then, in time, a stream began to flow there. And as humans finally came into the area, they took advantage of this natural resource, building communities and businesses around the valley and its life-giving water.
Eventually, though, these factories and mills went into decline after production moved elsewhere. And in the decades since the buildings here were left to crumble, Valle dei Mulini has become yet another eerie reminder of the past – telling us that life once thrived in this picturesque part of Italy.
12. Eastern State Penitentiary – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Back in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was a truly state-of-the-art facility with a novel way of treating its inhabitants. Simply put, the prison was run so that its inmates were prohibited from ever speaking with one another – a concept that seems incredibly brutal today. Even in the 19th century, this approach had its critics. Upon seeing the penitentiary in 1842, Charles Dickens remarked, “The system here is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong.”
Dickens wasn’t the only one to object, either. Opposition to the prison’s set-up eventually led to it becoming a more traditional facility, meaning inmates were finally allowed to see and speak to one another. This remained the case until 1971, when the facility was shuttered. But that wasn’t the end of Eastern State Penitentiary. After years of being left deserted, it’s once again open – but this time as a museum.
11. Holland Island – Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
At its height, Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay had around 300 people living on its remote shores. As erosion laid waste to the land, however, these folks were ultimately driven away. And, eventually, only a single house remained there. The rest were either dismantled and transported to the mainland by former residents or lost to the waters for good.
That last house did its best to withstand the forces of nature, but it turned out to be no match for the extreme weather conditions that hit this part of Maryland in 2010. And, today, Holland Island survives merely as a memory, its fate a warning to take the real threat of erosion seriously.
10. Pripyat, Ukraine
April 26, 1986, is a date that lives on in infamy. That day, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released a truly staggering quantity of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The catastrophic incident left locals in nearby Pripyat facing horrible injury – even, eventually, death. For their own safety, then, the citizens of Pripyat were forced to leave their homes forever.
Even today, the city is deserted – not least because it’s still highly radioactive. But if you dare to venture into Pripyat, you can get an inkling of the daily lives of people in the Soviet Union. Evidence of those former inhabitants remains through the Communist iconography and propaganda that adorn walls in the area. Owing to the lack of humans here, Pripyat has also become something of a haven for wildlife.
9. Hashima Island – Nagasaki, Japan
Thanks to its rich reserves of coal, the once-desolate Hashima Island had its fortunes transformed at the end of the 19th century. Buildings were raised ready for miners to move in – along with a school, stores and even a movie theater. And folks flocked to the island, with up to 5,000 living there in the 1950s.
But the good times weren’t to last. The cost of coal started to go down, eventually forcing the closure of the mine on Hashima Island. That left the workers to flee for pastures new in search of other jobs, leaving the island sadly deserted once again by the mid-1970s. Still, things have changed in recent years. Now, this remote part of the world has become a tourist attraction for those who dare to take a trip here.
8. Power Plant IM – Charleroi, Belgium
After its opening in the early 1920s, Power Plant IM quickly became crucial to the Belgian area of Charleroi. Homes across the region were fueled by the facility’s electricity for more than half a century – making it virtually irreplaceable. But unfortunately for the planet, it wasn’t exactly clean energy that was being produced.
Yes, Power Plant IM burnt tons and tons of coal – enough, in fact, to reportedly account for a whole 10 percent of the carbon dioxide belched out into Belgium. Naturally, environmental campaigners weren’t keen to hear this, with protests over the plant being partly responsible for its shut-down in 2007. And the striking structure still stands empty today, although there are calls for its demolition.
7. Haludovo Palace Hotel – Krk, Croatia
Back in the day, the Haludovo Palace Hotel was a ritzy getaway for the wealthy – perfect for a blow-the-budget vacation. But perhaps there weren’t enough folks willing to splash the cash in the former Yugoslavia, or maybe the idea was just ahead of its time. Either way, it didn’t take long for the establishment to run into difficulties.
After somehow managing to keep the doors open for close to two decades, the Haludovo Palace Hotel was dealt a devastating blow in 1991. You see, as war began to rage in the area, a holiday there didn’t seem like such a good idea. And today, the deserted hotel – complete with its empty rooms and swimming pools – practically looks like the last building standing at the end of the apocalypse.
6. Ta Prohm – Siem Reap, Cambodia
In the days of the Khmer Empire, Ta Prohm stood proud as a site of Buddhist worship and education. With its magnificent gopuras and intricate carvings, the temple was a true vision to behold – a worthy addition to King Jayavarman VII’s legacy. Over the centuries, however, Ta Prohm fell out of favor, left to the jungle that surrounded it.
Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, archaeologists from France stumbled across the temple. And while they found the once-splendid building overrun with vegetation, they still recognized its cultural value. Thanks to subsequent preservation efforts, then, Ta Prohm still stands today.
5. Al Madam – Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Ghost towns are generally pretty creepy places – especially when they’ve been reclaimed by nature. And Al Madam, which lies to the south of the UAE’s Emirate of Sharjah, is definitely no exception. There’s something undeniably ominous about the vacant houses half-buried under the desert sands.
And it gets even more macabre. According to popular folklore, Al Madam was abandoned because mystical beings known as jinns pushed locals out of the area. The more scientific explanation, on the other hand, is that the desertification of this part of the Middle East gave folks no option but to move to more hospitable climes.
4. Craco – Matera, Italy
The Italian settlement of Craco isn’t exactly easy to access, but that was once part of its charm. Back in the 8th century, you see, its precarious position on a 1,300-foot-high bluff neatly protected it from potential invaders. But as anyone with a passion for geology will know, cliffs can crumble. Recognize where we’re heading here?
In fact, it’s frankly astonishing that people lived in Craco until the tail-end of the 20th century. Then, after natural disasters laid waste to the site, it was finally abandoned altogether. But there’s still a handful of historical treasures here – a magnificent castle, for instance. Craco has also served as a backdrop for a number of movies, including Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
3. Kennecott, Alaska
Right at the dawn of the 20th century, two men exploring the area around Alaska’s Kennicott Glacier struck gold. Well, copper, but that was more than good enough for mining. And thanks to this fateful find, a whole town – the ever so slightly differently named Kennecott – sprang into existence. But while life was good here for a few decades, eventually the supplies of copper were exhausted.
So, the folks who had headed to Kennecott in search of work moved on even before WWII broke out. Thankfully, the location’s historic and cultural value has since been recognized, and Kennecott is now a tourist attraction. Yes, you can see firsthand what life would have looked like in a small, faraway mining community – if that’s your bag, of course.
2. Anping Tree House – Tainan City, Taiwan
More than a century ago, British sugar merchants Tait & Co. Laid claim to a warehouse compound in the Taiwanese district of Anping. And while nothing has been stored here in quite a while now, the complex is still worth visiting. At the back of the property, you see, there’s a vision that’s almost beyond belief.
The walls of the warehouse here have been completely overwhelmed by the roots of banyan trees. Weirdly enough, you can even still make out the shape of the building itself through the foliage. Altogether, it’s a bizarre example of nature battling against the artificial – and, from the looks of it, largely winning.
1. Nicosia International Airport – Nicosia, Cyprus
Nicosia International Airport was once a bustling hub taking passengers to far-flung climes. But this all came to a screeching halt in 1974. That year, Turkey invaded Cyprus, which led to the formation of a demilitarized zone on the island. And sadly for the airport, it happened to fall right within this artificial partition.
As people have been banned from entering the demilitarized zone since the mid-1970s, there have been no take-offs or landings from Nicosia International Airport in all that time. More daring photographers have managed to take pictures of the facility, though, and their snaps are both poignant and rather eerie.