Ghost towns aren’t only found in movies. All across the world, there are mysterious abandoned cities that stand as ominous time capsules capturing the imaginations and vacation days of thousands of tourists.
If you’ve got a sense of adventure and a camera, you may want to pack your bags and head out to explore some of the most fascinating abandoned cities around the world.
Varosha, Cyprus was once a popular tourist destination.
Varosha in Cyprus has been fenced off since 1947.
It isn’t often that a tourist destination frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot becomes a ghost town. But that’s exactly what happened to the Varosha section of Famagusta in Cyprus.
Throughout the early 1970s, Varosha was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, according to BBC. In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. As the opposing Turkish and Greek armies descended on the area around Varosha, the residents fled for their lives.
According to BBC, Varosha has remained abandoned and under the control of the Turkish Military since 1974. It has been fenced off, and nobody but military and UN personnel are allowed into the once beautiful tourist destination. There have been numerous attempts to broker a deal that will once again open up Varosha, but nothing has been agreed upon.
While visiting Famagusta, you can view the high rises and beaches of Varosha that are slowly being retaken by nature from the far side of the military fence.
Wittenoom, Australia was overrun by asbestos.
Founded in 1946, Wittenoom was born as a mining town in Western Australia. The nearby gorge was brimming with blue asbestos, an important raw building material in the early 20th century. By the early 1950s, Wittenoom was the largest town in Pilbara region.
Amid growing health concerns, the declining demand for asbestos led to the mine closing in 1966 with most of the residents moving away to find other work, according to ABC. Wittenoom was officially closed in 2007 and the Australian government took steps to limit access to the former mining town and removed it from all official maps
Due to the nature of the mining that took place there, asbestos fibers are still found in the topsoil and air around Wittenoom making it dangerous to spend too much time in the town.
As of 2018, there are only three permanent residents of Wittenoom who defy the Australian government.
Ruby, Arizona is an abandoned mining town.
Standing as one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the American Southwest, Ruby, Arizona remains as a reminder of the wild west. With a mine founded in the 1870s that produced gold, silver, lead, zinc, and copper, Ruby officially became a town when it opened its first post office in 1910.
Wild West history buffs aren’t the only people interested in Ruby, true crime aficionados and nature lovers should be fascinated with Ruby as well.
The town and the surrounding area were the sites of three horrific double homicides known as the Ruby Murders. These led to one of the largest manhunts in Southwest history, according to Legends of America.
Of the crime, the judge at the time, Judge W.A. O’Connor reportedly said, “The crimes of which you have been convicted are perhaps the cruelest ever committed in Arizona. Let the punishment that awaits you serve as a warning to others who may contemplate the commission of similar crimes.”
The mines are now home to an enormous colony of Mexican free-tail bats. The giant cloud of bats can be seen rushing from the mine entrances at sundown during the summer.
Officially abandoned in 1940, the remains of Ruby now reside on private land, but it is open to the public for a small fee. It remains one of the best preserved western towns in the US.
Craco, Italy is the backdrop to many movies.
Located in the arch of Italy’s boot, Craco dates back to well before 1060. Throughout its thousand-year history, Craco saw many conflicts between monarchs, armies, and political ideologies. In 1963, the last 1,800 residents were forced to leave Craco for their own safety and were relocated to Craco Peschiera, a new town in the valley below, according to Ancient Origins.
Despite being abandoned, Craco remains one of Italy’s popular tourist destinations and was added to the World Monuments Fund watch list in 2010.
Residents of Centralia, Pennsylvania feared carbon monoxide poisoning.
Like something out of a nightmare, the coal fire under the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been raging since 1962 and may burn for another 250 years.
An attempt to clean up the local landfill lit the coal seams under the surface of this small Pennsylvania town. In the years the fire has burned, residents have slowly abandoned their homes fearing not only the fire beneath their feet but sudden sinkholes and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Eminent domain was used to take control over most of the homes in Centralia and the dozen or so remaining residents agreed to give their property over to the government when they pass away. The state government condemned Centralia in 1992.
Adventurous tourists still venture to Centralia looking to walk along the cracked, graffitied road that leads into town.
Tianducheng, China is a replica of Paris.
Built as an enormous luxury housing development, Tianducheng emulates the famous French city of lights in everything from the period correct architecture to the 300 foot tall miniature Eiffel Tower. It even has a replica fountain from the Luxembourg Gardens.
With the capacity for over 10,000 residents, the city has remained mostly abandoned except for the employees of a nearby French themed amusement park, according to City Lab.
Pripyat, Ukraine remains the site of the most devastating nuclear power disaster in history.
Founded in 1970 as a “nuclear city,” a city specifically built to house the workers at a nearby nuclear power plant, Pripyat had more than 13,000 apartments, schools for 5,000 children, two dozen stores and cafes, a cinema, sports hall, cultural center, several factories and a hospital when disaster struck at the Chernobyl power plant, according to USA Today.
After the reactor blew on April 26, 1986, releasing toxic radiation into the surrounding area, the entire city was evacuated. The people from Pripyat were relocated and the city of Slavutych was built as their new home.
Since the radiation levels have decreased considerably in the years since the disaster and the reactor has been capped, people have been allowed back into the”Nuclear Exclusion Zone.”
Hashima Island, Japan was once a bustling community.
Hashima Island, colloquially known as Gunkanjima (meaning Battleship Island), is an abandoned island located off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.
Originally developed as a residence for people working in the undersea coal mines in 1887, Hashima Island quickly expanded into an island of concrete high-rise buildings housing over 5,000 people. In addition to the usual community buildings, this island fortress featured a clubhouse, movie theater, communal bath, swimming pool, rooftop gardens, stores, and even a pachinko parlor.
The mine eventually closed in 1974 when Japan moved away from coal power and with the jobs went the residents. As interest in the island grew because of its interesting history and striking architecture, travel to the island was resumed in 2009. Hashima Island was also featured as a villain’s lair in the James Bond movie “Skyfall.”
Even though only a small portion of the island is open to the public, it remains a unique look at the rapid industrialization of Japan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
By Chris Urie
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