17 of the world's most incredible abandoned sites
The planet is brimming with humanity’s creations, and while most of our buildings, cities, parks and subway stations still bustle with life, some have been abandoned or simply forgotten.
By taking a brief look at the neglected architecture, we can, in a way, bring them back to life — although some have already been repurposed or reclaimed. Experience these uncanny places from a distance, or when possible, walk among their forsaken structures, reveling in the ingenuity and ghosts of our collective past.
Where: South Tyrol, Italy
In northern Italy, near the borders with Austria and Switzerland, you’ll find the manmade Lake Reschen and the lonely, somber steeple and bell tower of Graun’s (the town the lake displaced) 14th-century church, jutting right out of the water.
It’s a striking sight, framed by the surrounding Alps, driving home the fact that nothing lasts forever.
Where: Famagusta, Cyprus
Varosha was once a luxury seaside resort in the Cypriot town of Famagusta. After the division of Cyprus between Greek Cypriots and Turks in 1974, Varosha was fenced off by the Turkish military and then forgotten by time.
The beaches are still magnificent, but if you surreptitiously “check in” to a derelict hotel, expect to wait a very long time for room service to arrive.
Where: San Antonio del Tequendama, Colombia
The Salto Hotel, clinging to the side of a precipitous incline, is situated next to the roaring Tequendama Falls. This once lavish hotel offered spectacular views of the cascading Bogota River, and the verdant mountains cradling it.
Alas, the hotel was eventually abandoned, but years later, the Tequendama Falls Museum of Biodiversity and Culture took over the premises. The incredible views, however, have always remained the same.
Perched high on a craggy hill in southern Italy is the abandoned (due to earthquakes and landslides) town of Craco. This ancient, austere village has severed as a backdrop to big films such as ThePassion of the Christ, Quantum of Solace, and more. Breathtaking views and medieval architecture await anyone willing to explore the ancient streets of this lonely, isolated town.
Maunsell Sea Fort
Once upon a time, the Maunsell Sea Forts were naval structures built to guard the Thames Estuary from German invaders during WWII.
Although in service for less than a decade, these alien-looking stilt-based sea towers now offer a formidable, if rust-laden (time has taken its toll) sight for curious onlookers. All you have to do is make the effort to head out into the water and get a really good look at them.
Kolmanskop was once a thriving German and Namibian town fueled by the discovery of diamonds nearby; but those glory days are gone. The desert has reclaimed swaths of the abandoned town, and the German miners have long since departed—leaving no one behind to sweep the sand from the houses that diamonds helped build.
Where: Qiandao Lake, China
Atlantis does exist (kind of), and it’s located in China. Lion City, also known as Shi Cheng, was created when China relocated the town’s residents and then flooded the valley where the city lay in 1959, making way for a new reservoir and a hydroelectric power station.
The result is a mysterious metropolis under 130 feet of water in some places, featuring ancient buildings and sculptures, now only accessible by diving.
Tunnel of Love
Where: Klevan, Ukraine
Simple, beautiful, and dreamy, Ukraine’s “Tunnel of Love” is one seldom-used global site that doesn’t send lonesome shivers down your spine.
Although a private train servicing a plywood factory does still occasionally roll down the tracks (so technically it’s not totally abandoned), the overgrown, leafy tunnel is a favorite among starry-eyed couples off for a romantic stroll, pledging their undying love to one another.
Mount Buzludzha Communist Party Headquarters
On a secluded summit in Bulgaria’s Balkan Mountains, hikers can ascend to the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party, long since scrapped by the government.
The building now sits atop the mountain like a crashed flying saucer. The structure has been looted for years for its roof paneling and sprayed with ironic graffiti, but even still, it serves as an imposing memorial to the power of Bulgaria’s Communist past.
Where: Canfranc, Spain
Canfranc International Railway Station, located in the Spanish Pyrenees near the frontier with France, was used by Spain’s dictator Franco and his forces as well as by the Nazis during World War II (talk about an ominous past). After a bridge was destroyed in 1970, the opulent station was abandoned, and then became a large playground for people who love derelict places.
Curiously enough, a mobile astroparticle physics laboratory has now been set up in the tunnels beneath the station with researchers busy investigating the nature of dark matter. Go figure.
Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) is an uninhabited industrial Japanese island that once housed more than 5,000 workers (and their families) toiling away in the island’s undersea coal mines. In the mid-1970s, the island was abandoned as coal become less profitable in the face of petroleum.
Gunkanjima is now famed for its stark concrete structures and high seawalls, which were made even more famous as an elaborate set in the James Bond film Skyfall.
Where: Isla de Pinos, Cuba
The Presidio Modelo, or “Model Prison,” once incarcerated Fidel and Raul Castro. The circular, Panopticon prison buildings (five of them, side by side) were then utilized by Castro after he took power, but due to overcrowding, hunger strikes, and rioting, the prison was eventually shut down.
Today the doors to the Presidio Modelo have been reopened and repurposed as a museum, national monument, research center, and school.
Chernobyl and Pripyat
In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster took place—the worst nuclear power accident in human history. Pripyat was the Soviet “nuclear city” built to service the power plant.
Needless to say, after the accident, Pripyat was abandoned, although tours to the town and Chernobyl are now offered, providing a glimpse of the desolate edifices left behind, and oddly enough, the flora and fauna (lynx, moose, wolves, and more) that have thrived in the absence of human beings.
Although located in Turkey, Kayaköy was once populated with mostly Greek Orthodox residents. Turkey’s conflicts with Greece meant that the people of Kayaköy (Karmylassos in Greek) eventually left Turkey for Greece as part of a population exchange—and thus ditched their homes.
They left behind houses, churches, and other reminders of the souls that once flourished on these now vacant streets.
City Hall Subway Station
Where: New York, New York
Smack dab in the heart of Lower Manhattan is the abandoned CityHall subway station. This stylish, architecturally unique station fell into disuse in the mid-1940s due to the fact that its platform only had room for five or fewer subway cars or less.
Nowadays, apart from official tours to the station, its primary use is as a turning loop for the 6 train, which is a shame, because it truly is a gorgeous example of how artfully sublime a subway station can be.
Where: Liguria, Italy
Balestrino is effectively two towns these days. The new town can still claim a bit of human activity, whereas the old town is completely abandoned and off limits. Deserted in 1953 due to geological activity (earthquakes), this lovely hilltop town now affords evocative views of medieval churches, disused bridges, and an empty castle—not to mention outstanding vistas of the nearby sea.
Six Flags Jazzland
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
Hurricane Katrina left widespread devastation in her wake in 2005, including the wrecked Six Flags Jazzland Park.
Once the storm passed, the rollercoaster and other attractions were never to reopen again. What remains is water, a few alligators, and a massive monument to the destruction Mother Nature can inflict on the gigantic toys we build for our amusement.
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