We’ve all seen abandoned cities, towns, and whole countries on TV or silver screens. Be it a horror movie or a post-apocalyptic show, the eerie images of what was once a settlement full of life can feel truly uncanny and give us a chill down the spine. Although, away from our regular hustle and bustle of everyday life, such places exist all around the world.
Ghost towns are abandoned settlements, usually ones that contain substantial visible remains. There are many reasons why a town becomes a ghost town, like economic decline, war, natural disasters or pollution. Ghost towns are usually completely uninhabited, however, there are some ghost towns that have very small populations. Some of the towns are restricted and access to them is at times forbidden, while others are turned into tourist attractions or parks. Scroll down below to read about some of the most interesting ghost towns around the world and don’t forget to comment and vote for the ones that you liked the most!
This historic area dates back to 540 BC when the Greeks moved inland from the coastal town of Metaponto and named the area Montedoro. Through centuries, it was a successful settlement with a university, four large palazzi, and a growing population. In 1656, a plague struck and reduced the number of citizens by hundreds. Craco persisted through many conflicts, however, its ultimate downfall was out of the resident’s control as it was environmental and geological. First, in 1892 – 1922, a large chunk of the population migrated to North America mainly due to poor agricultural conditions. Then, in 1963, Craco started to be evacuated due to a landslide. Following an earthquake in 1980, the site was completely abandoned. Nowadays, the location is a popular tourist attraction as well as a set for movies including Quantum of Solace and The Passion of The Christ.
Back in the 19th century, after the discovery of a profitable line of gold, Bodie was a booming town. At its best times, the town had 5,000 to 7,000 residents along with 2,000 buildings. The town started to decline at the beginning of the 20th century, showing the first signs with the dropping profits and a few years later, abandoned railway track. Today, Bodie is an authentic Wild West ghost town that has just 110 buildings standing. Visitors can freely walk the deserted town streets and see the interior remains as they were left, shelves still stocked with goods or occasional litter on the ground, but removing it is against the rules of the park.
Perhaps one of the best-known ghost cities in the world, Pripyat in Ukraine was founded in 1970 as the ninth nuclear city in the Soviet Union to support the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. By the time it was evacuated a day after the Chernobyl disaster, on the afternoon of April 27, 1986, the city had a population of 49,360. Naturally, after the disaster, the city was abandoned and soon became a ghost city. Nowadays, as radiation levels declined, more and more tourists visit the location and various Ukrainian companies offer guided tours around the area.
Oradour-sur-Glane was a village in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in west-central France. It was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants including women and children were massacred by a German Nazi soldier company. Out of the entire village’s population, only around 30 survived the massacre with 20 escaping the village before the SS unit arrived. The unit, led by Adolf Diekmann, sealed the city and forced everyone out of their houses. Men were led into the sheds where they were shot by machine guns and later set ablaze. Only 6 men escaped, although one was later shot dead. Women and children were locked in a church where the soldiers set off an incendiary device. As victims were trying to escape through the windows, they were met with machine-gun fire. Out of 247 women and 205 children in the church, only one 47-year-old woman managed to survive. She escaped through a window, was non-fatally shot and managed to crawl into the bushes where she hid overnight. After the war, the then French president, Charles de Gaulle, decided that the village should be turned into a memorial. A new village of the same name was built nearby.
Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus
An abandoned southern quarter of the Cypriot city of Famagusta, Varosha was once a modern tourist area. It was so popular that by the 1970s, Varosha was the number-one tourist destination in the entire Cyprus. This led to a rise in new buildings, mostly hotels and various tourist attractions. At its peak, Varosha was the number one tourist destination in the world and saw guests such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Brigitte Bardot. It all changed with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 when the area came under Turkish control. The residents of Varosha fled and the area has remained abandoned and under the occupation of the Turkish Armed Forces. To this day, Varosha is uninhabited and entry is forbidden to the public.
Another one of the US’ abandoned mining towns, Garnet dates back to the 1860s. It was once the residential and commercial center for a heavily mined area. It is believed that in 1898, around 1,000 people populated the town that was once known as Mitchell. Unsurprisingly, Garnet was abandoned two decades later when the gold in the mines ran out. Despite suffering from a fire that destroyed half of the town in 1912, Garnet is now one of the state’s best-preserved ghost towns and has 16,000 visitors annually.
Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima, is an island located about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city of Nagasaki, southern Japan. There are undersea coal mines, established in 1887, almost 80 years after coal was originally discovered on the island. It had its peak population in 1959 with 5,259 residents living on the island. In 1974, as the coal reserves slowly depleted, the mines were closed and people left.
It remained abandoned until early 2000s when interest in the island’s undisturbed historic ruins emerged. The government restored some of the buildings and tourists were allowed to visit Hashima since 2009. In 2015, the island was approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kennecott was once the central mining camp that connected several copper mines nearby. It all started back in 1900 when two prospectors spotted “a green patch far above them in an improbable location for a grass-green meadow.” What it turned out to be was the richest concentration of copper ore ever discovered which had up to 70% concentration of pure chalcocite. During these times, Copper became an extremely valuable mineral due to the invention of electricity, automobiles, and telephones, therefore hundreds of people came to this place to work 7 days a week to send the money home to their families. During its active years from 1909 till 1938, Kennecott mines produced over 4.6 million tons of ore that had made a profit greater than 100 million dollars. Unfortunately, in the mid ’20s, a local geologist predicted that the end of the high-grade ore bodies was inevitable. Most of the high-grade ores were depleted in the early ’30s and the five mines closed one after another. The last train left Kennecott on November 10, 1938, marking the end of its time and leaving the place a ghost town.
Unlike most of the ghost towns in the USA, Cahawba is not one of the former mine camps. In fact, Cahawba used to be the first permanent state capital of Alabama (from 1820 to 1825). It is located at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers and, unfortunately, suffered many seasonal floodings because of it. That’s why the state legislature decided to move the capital to a better location in 1826. As the settlement was abandoned by its population, Cahawba became a ghost town. It was preserved as a state historic site, the Old Cahawba Archeological Park, and people are working to develop it as a full interpretive park.
The town was founded back in 1862 with a major gold discovery in that year. One of the city founders was Dr. Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, a physician who gave up medicine for a time to become a gold miner. Although when he started gold mining and practicing medicine, he soon found out that he had more reputation as a physician than as a miner and that there was greater profit in allowing someone else to wield his pick and shovel while he attended to his profession. Subsequently, he moved elsewhere to devote the rest of his life to his medical practice. At the town’s peak, Bannock had a total population of around 10,000 residents with the last residents leaving in the 1970s. 60 structures still remain in the abandoned city, many well-preserved and can be explored by visitors.