Maybe you are looking for a detour to get away from the crowd, or you are a urbexer, or photographer, looking for a beautiful abandoned place to explore – there are a lot of well-known ruins and historic sites around the world (and I know, I have featured them a lot). I reached out to my fellow bloggers to introduce some ghost towns around the world to give you an authentic experience. Enjoy your day trip to these tragically beautiful places – wonder what it used to be as you tumbling through the shambles.
To see more about the abandoned sites around the world, check out 10 Abandoned Sites Around the World to Put in Your Travel Agenda.
Zoe from Together In Transit
This Belgium ghost town north of Antwerp is a village that is best accessible with a car since it’s a little bit out of the way from public transport.
The history of Doel is that this once lively village was where those who worked in the port of Antwerp actually lived. Expansion plans came in place to expand the port into the village, needing those who live there to actually leave. The village has not yet been demolished due to two or three residents refusing to leave their homes, but the rest has become an abandoned ghost town.
There aren’t many ghost stories about the location, but it’s a fantastic but strange place to now explore, view local graffiti art, and walk the empty streets. Many houses are closed up, with some not even safe to enter due to being empty for so long.
The plan to extend the port is still in place, so it’s a matter of them waiting until the last residents leave their home for a new location. Try visiting in the afternoon on a clear sunny day, since it’s best to see the artwork during the sunshine when you see all the colors. Lastly to still respect the last remaining people who decided to stay, since it is their home after all.
Humberstone Mining Town
Meg from Packing Up the Pieces
In the desolate and arid Atacama Desert of northern Chile lies the abandoned mining community of Humberstone. The mining village was founded in 1872 for the sole purpose of extracting sodium nitrate, which was used in fertilizers. The living conditions here were harsh, the lifestyle brutal, and Humberstone was abruptly abandoned in 1960.
Humberstone is one of the most well-preserved mining communities in all of Chile. Just down the road, it’s possible to also visit Santa Laura Saltpeter Works, which explains more of the actual processing methods.
Humberstone offers a look into the everyday life and logistics of living and working here. There is a super informative museum, but in reality, the whole space works as a heartbreaking archive of the people who called this area home. Make sure to wander through the processing zone and into Old Town Square. The bare plaza includes a theater, hotel, church, and clock tower. Nearby, visit the eerie abandoned swimming pool. There’s also a grocery store that showcases how the entire food system was ran and rationed to the community.
One of the most haunting places here is the old schoolhouse. Inside is a moving memorial for the Santa María School Massacre. This happened in 1907 when many of the local mining communities banded together to demand better working conditions. Sadly, the standoff ended with the Chilean government shooting innocent people. To this day, it is unknown how many men, women, and children perished for their fight for a better life.
Today, Humberstone is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an easy day trip from the almost “Miamiesque” beach town of Iquique. Collectivos depart frequently from the center of the city and drop right out front of the entrance of this preserved and informative ghost town.
The Bay of Abandoned Hotels
Kami from mywanderlust
The Bay of Abandoned Hotels in Kupari is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Croatia. Located only a few kilometers south of Dubrovnik and well connected with the famous city by a frequent bus no 10, this is a very easy day trip destination. The complex of seven hotels used to be a popular holiday spot for years, with some of the most important people in (then) Yugoslavia spending their summertime here. Most of the hotels were built in the 1960s, only one of them – Grand – dates back to the 1920s. During the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, the buildings were badly destroyed and left to decay however the rumors say the investor is planning to change the area to be the bustling summer hotspot again.
For now, you can easily visit the place and explore all the hotels inside. Even if the equipment is long gone, the interiors are still in fairly fine condition and you can see the former swimming pool, the fancy lobby, or a restaurant. You might even go all the way to the rooftop of one of the hotels and get a panoramic view of the whole bay and the surrounding area. This is one of the best urbex destinations in the Balkans and you can’t miss it when visiting Dubrovnik.
Sue from Where? Why? What?
Tarará, is a gated beach resort town on the Playas De Este, just outside Havana in Cuba. It was originally built in the 1940s & housed numerous families from the United States. When the Cuban revolution took hold, the new government confiscated their homes & the residents of Tarará were forced to leave the country. Che Guevara visited numerous times & liked it so much he returned for his honeymoon in 1959.
In its prime, Tarará was a fantastic example of Art Deco homes & included an amusement park & theatre. However, after being abandoned for so long the whole resort went into disrepair. The amusement park is now only an outline that can be seen from the air, the residential area is an interesting mix of beautiful 1940’s restored homes & abandoned houses taken over by nature. In this second category is the theatre.
If you choose to explore the theatre, you are likely to be the only person there. Wear sturdy shoes & tread carefully as in many places the wooden floors are rotting away. It is a photographer’s dream as a mix of iconic design & nature, battling for supremacy. If you can, climb the stairs for sea views from the roof & don’t miss the impressive colorful mural depicting the events of the revolution or the parade grounds outside.
You can reach the beach at Playas de Este & Tarará by bus from Parque Central in Havana & then head inland to explore. Don’t expect a lot of facilities but how often do you get to explore an iconic abandoned theatre on a day at the beach?
Tskaltubo’s Soviet Sanatoriums
Emily from Wander-Lush
Peeling wallpaper, cracked tiles, and crumbling spiral staircases: This is what you encounter upon entering any of the abandoned Soviet-era sanatoria in Tskaltubo, a small town outside Kutaisi, Georgia. Once the most popular spa town in the USSR, today Tskaltubo is a shadow of its former self. Many of the bathhouses and resorts remain open to the public, but many of the larger sanatoria are completely abandoned, serving as a playground for urbexers and photographers.
Tskaltubo’s history goes back to 1926 when the state acquired the town with the idea to establish a vast balneological resort here. By the 1950s there were several dozen large sanatoria and smaller bathhouses functioning in Tskaltubo, all taking advantage of the area’s natural hot springs and mineral waters. The town became so popular, there were direct trains from Moscow. Even Stalin had a private bath.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Tskaltubo was largely abandoned and many of the buildings were left to ruin. In the 1990s, internally displaced people forced from their homes during the conflict in Abkhazia were resettled in some of the buildings. Many families still live in the old sanatoria today, thus it’s essential to be mindful of people’s privacy when exploring the area.
Each sanatorium and bathhouse has unique architecture and different treasures to uncover: Original plasterwork, grand staircases and columns, the outlines of old mosaics, crumbling fountains, and overgrown gardens. Some of the buildings have been purchased by private investors and will reopen in the future as hotels and spas, hopefully returning Tskaltubo to its former glory.
Tskaltubo can easily be reached by marshrutka minivan or taxi from Kutaisi in under 30 minutes.
Sinjana from Backpack & Explore
Dhanushkodi is a small town at the southern tip of India, connected with mainland India by a 100-year-old sea bridge, the Pamban Bridge. The town that has now become a sensation for offbeat travel-lovers was abandoned and declared uninhabitable for a better part of the last 60 years.
The town which was once a throbbing center of international trade between India and Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) was ravaged in the devastating cyclone of 1964. In what came to be known as the deadliest cyclone of the century in India, the town was destroyed. Countless fishermen lost their lives, the railway station was wiped out along with most buildings in the town. Due to poor weather forecasts and disaster handling at that time, the casualties were huge. The government declared the town uninhabitable, hence a ghost town. Most people left the town, barring a few poor fishermen families who didn’t have the resources to relocate.
It was after many years that tourism was allowed in the town and the fishermen got this extra avenue of income. A proper road was constructed only in 2017, that would open a whole world of opportunities for these local families. Dhanushkodi is the most pristine and beautiful beach town of India if you exclude the Andaman and Lakshadweep archipelagos. The beauty of the crystal-clear waters, white sand, and coastal forests is breathtaking. The government-imposed restrictions on tourism here are actually a boon and help preserve its natural beauty.
Lisa from Travel Connect Experience
Ancient Monterano (Antica Monterano in Italian) is one of the most fascinating abandoned towns in Italy. A perfect destination for hiking near Rome, it stands out for the state of preservation of the ruins, for the number of architectural structures, and for the fabulous landscape. Several Italian films have been shot at Antica Monterano and foreign films include Ladyhawke and Ben Hur.
The ghost town rises above a high spur of tuff, surrounded by thick woods, at the foot of which flows the River Mignone. The place was inhabited by the Etruscan civilization, which preceded the Roman one by several centuries. As evidence, in addition to the findings, there are caves carved into the tufa at the entrance of the city and a road entirely excavated in the wall of tufa that was the most ancient access to the city from the valley. From the eighth century onwards, the city experienced an increase in population and an economic boom, becoming a bishop seat and then an alternative residence for noble families such as the Orsini and Altieri during the Renaissance and Baroque.
No less a person than the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned to renovate the main palace and church, which now no longer have a roof. Two charming fountains remain one of which depicts a frightened or worried lion. A centuries-old fig tree has grown in the main church and is considered sacred by the inhabitants. It is said that in the church at night strange rituals take place, given also the presence downstream of a sulfur spring.
The town was abandoned due to a malaria epidemic during the 17th century. After wandering through the countless ruins of the city and observing the interesting engravings that have accumulated in the walls over the centuries, take the path down to the valley. Awaiting you is the sight of bubbling puddles from where sulfur gushes forth, coloring the rocky landscape yellow and white, and a roaring stream. Crossing the stream you can visit the tunnels of the sulfur quarries if you have the stomach for it. Beware of spending the night near the sulfur: some travelers have died from the fumes.
Walking around the mine, you can discover a mysterious and monumental profile carved into the rock by unknown hands. It is advisable to visit the ghost town with a company because otherwise, you might be the only visitor…
Getting there: Choose a sunny or dry day, avoiding July and August. Antica Monbterano is not easy to get to by public transportation. Park your car at the entrance of the “Riserva di Canale Monterano” and then continue on foot. The nearest town is the “new” Canale Monterano, which was populated after the escape from Ancient Monterano.
Real de Catorce
Shelley from Travel Mexico Solo
Real de Catorce is one of about 130 Mexico pueblos mágicos, meaning “magic towns.” It is popular with visitors as one of the country’s historic Ghost Towns and is located in San Luis Potosí state, in Central Mexico.
Real de Catorce, Mexico, is a desert town in the mountains that sits at 9,000-feet (2,750 meters) elevation in the Sierra Catorce Mountains. Usually called just “Real” (pronounced ray-al), this was once one of the biggest and most bustling Mexico silver mining towns.
To enter Real, you drive through its Tunel de Ogarrio, a mystical 1.25-mile-long (3.2km) tunnel carved out many years ago in the town’s hay day. This dramatic entrance really sets the tone.
Once out of the tunnel, the town’s unique look, complete with broken forts in shambles and crumbling stone buildings, has a captivating esthetic. Real has been used as a filming location in The Mexican with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and other movies.
One of the best things to do in Real de Catorce is joining a local guide for a horseback ride through town. As with many ghost towns in the world, some say there are mystical qualities and energies in the town.
Real has long been a pilgrimage site for Catholics and indigenous Huichol (pronounced wee-chole) shamans. It is becoming increasingly popular with international tourists drawn by the desert ambiance, spiritual energy, and unique look.
Martha from May Cause Wanderlust
If you like photogenic abandoned places, you could consider visiting Kolmanskop in the middle of the Namib desert.
It is an abandoned diamond-mining town that has been deserted for 70 years, ever since the diamonds ran out. And not only is it abandoned and decayed, but the desert itself is also taking over: sand dunes are slowly eating up the houses!
You need a permit to tour the town because it is situated within Sperrgebiet National Park, which has restricted access due to the potential presence of diamonds. Nevertheless, once you pay for your permit, you can have a guided tour of the town’s communal buildings, including an ice factory and a bowling alley. This tour gives a nice insight into what life was like in the town during the diamond boom in the early 20th Century.
However, my favorite part was exploring the private houses on my own, after the tour. Some are closed to visitors because they are structurally unsafe, but there are quite a few you can poke around in your own time. It felt a little sad to be somewhere which was once a place of hope and dreams and is now crumbling, sand slowly filling the rooms. These houses are eerie and beautiful at the same time.
Namibia might be a long way to go for many, but it is worth the long-haul trek because Kolmanskop is not the only attraction – there are so many exciting things to do in the Namib desert.
Chernobyl and Pripyat city
Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Thrown into the history books on 26th April 1986, the nuclear disaster that occurred at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant resulted in a large area of northeast Ukraine and Belarus being evacuated.
Pripyat city was a young city in Ukraine and was built to accommodate the workers at the new nuclear power plant. It was vibrant and bustling with several schools, cafés, and tower blocks. A routine test at the nuclear power plant went terribly wrong on the night of the 26th of April resulting in an explosion within the reactor. The whole area was contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive dust and despite extensive work to clear the area there are some areas that even today are dangerously radioactive.
The people were evacuated the day after the explosion and left most of their belongings and pets behind, believing that they would return. It is haunting to walk around and see small parts of people’s lives left in the rush to evacuate. The buildings are now crumbling and collapsing, and nature is taking over. The dogs that were left were initially culled but many survived and these now roam the streets, being adopted by the workers.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a place that will stay with you after a visit. It can only be visited as part of an organized tour and there are strict controls on entry into the zone with checkpoints and monitoring. If you organize a tour, then stay for at least one night as this allows you to explore deeper into the zone. This is a year-round place to explore but in the winter it can be bitterly cold and in the summer hot with buildings hidden within the trees.
Bodie Ghost Town, California
Agnes @The Van Escape
Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. It is only 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, so it is a perfect idea as a day trip from the Lake Tahoe area. It’s also close to Yosemite, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road (Hwy 270) and seven miles south of Bridgeport.
Bodie is a ghost town absolutely worth a visit. The old houses, vehicles, furniture, and tools are in pretty good condition. You can step back in time and imagine the town when it was teeming with life. It’s well preserved and authentic Wild West ghost town. In 1859 gold was discovered by a group of prospectors, including W. S. Bodey, in the area. A mill was established in 1861, and the town began to grow. In the beginning, only about 20 miners lived there.
Bodie became a boomtown in 1876 after the discovery of a profitable line of gold. By 1880 it had a population of about 10,000. The town was full of families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, and people from every country in the world. At one time, there were reported to be 65 saloons in town, including “houses of ill repute,” gambling halls, and opium dens. Bodie even had a Chinatown. But promising mining booms in Montana, Arizona, and Utah have lured men away from Bodie, and the town starting to decline. Bodie was first described as a “ghost town” in 1915.
Bodie became a State Historic Park in 1962. It’s also registered as a California Historical Landmark. There are no commercial facilities at Bodie to preserve the ghost town atmosphere, such as food or gasoline. There is only a bookstore where you may also inquire about daily tours. About 100 structures still standing in Bodie you can visit, including one of many once operational gold mills, an old church, and houses.
Bodie is open all year. But in winter, because of the high elevation (8375 feet), it is accessible only by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles. So, the best time of visit is from spring through fall. The price for a visit is $8.00 per person (18+) and $5.00 per child (ages 4 to 17).
Another ghost town in California (in fact, there are quite a few of them is Nipton, which is located on the California and Nevada’s border, merely an hour away from Las Vegas. The town enjoyed its prime time when mining businesses were booming, and also suffered from abandonment when the industries were pulled out. Today, the town has a population of 16 people to only keep it “alive”, and it is a getaway and a sought-after spot for urbexers to get away from the tourist crowd in Las Vegas, to find out more about what to see and do in the area and outside Las Vegas Strip, check out Beyond the Strip: 11 Incredible Things to See and Do around Vegas