Ghost towns are not exclusive to the American West. For different reasons, cities and villages remain empty, dilapidated, and sometimes even… haunted around the world. We’ve put together a tour schedule of deserted villages to satisfy your wanderlust fantasies—or fears. Have fun!
1. Belchite, Spain
A town in Zaragoza, Spain is called Belchite. Despite being among the driest places in the Aragonese region, the location was picked for its defensive qualities. It was involved in the battle between the Islamic kingdom of al-Andalus and the Christian kingdoms of Spain throughout the Middle Ages. Spain and France engaged in combat there in 1809. The village was devastated by intense fighting during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Instead of reconstructing it, the locals in 1939 built a neighbouring new town of the same name. The original’s remains remain as a spectral memorial to those who perished there during centuries of brutal warfare.
2. Craco, Italy
For a number of reasons, Italy is home to several ghost towns. Sometimes the reason people move to the city over time is as simple as there not being enough work in rural areas. However, Craco has experienced more than its fair share of disaster. Perhaps you’re even wondering if the town is doomed.
Located atop a 400-meter (1,300-foot) cliff, its construction was primarily defensive in nature. Livestock grazing is the only use for the rocky surrounding area. It was inhabited as early as 540 BC by Greeks. After centuries of conflict, the Romans, German tribes under invasion, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleonic France, Fascist Italy, and the victorious Allies came to control of it. The Black Death claimed a large portion of its people. The low economic prospects in Craco caused roughly 1,300 residents to travel to America in the late 18th and early 19th century. Before it was eventually abandoned, it saw devastating landslides, flooding, and an earthquake between the 1960s and the 1980s.
3. Dhanushkodi, India
For Hindus, Pamban Island, often referred to as Ramashwaram Island, is a sacred place.They contend that there once was a bridge named “Adam’s Bridge,” which connected India and Sri Lanka. The abandoned town of Dhanushkodi is located at the southeast tip of the island. It used to be a bustling port and a destination for Hindu pilgrims. All of that came to an end in 1964 when the town was totally destroyed by a storm, which claimed almost 2,000 lives. Because of the extreme destruction, the authorities decided not to reconstruct Dhanushkodi and instead to relocate part of its religious facilities to the town of Rameswaram. Today, visitors who come to experience the uncanny feeling of meandering amid its once-thriving remains make pilgrimages there.
4. Humberstone, Chile
In 1872, Humberstone was first established as the town of “La Palma.” It’s in northern Chile, in the Atacama Desert. The town’s survival in the severe desert climate was dependent on the extraction of saltpetre, a preservative-like potassium nitrate form. The town was dubbed in honour of James Thomas Humberstone, who became the CEO of the Peruvian Nitrate Company. The village disappeared with the decline of the industry, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Monument in Chile.
5. Irbene, Latvia
Northwestern Latvia’s abandoned village of Irbene got its name from the Irbe River that flows nearby. A covert radar station was built in Latvia in 1971 by the government to eavesdrop on the Baltic Sea region while the country was still ruled by the Soviet Union. Irbe was constructed as a residence for military commanders and their families, featuring a school, sports facilities, retail stores, and performance spaces. The city itself was not even mentioned on maps, and its very existence was kept a secret. The town remains empty to this day since the Soviet Union’s Army departed it in 1993.
6. Kayaköy, Turkey
With a few exceptions, Kayaköy is a largely deserted community in southwest Turkey that welcomes tourists as a “museum village.” It was a Greek settlement in Asia Minor in antiquity, and the majority of its residents were Greek Orthodox Christians. They endured centuries of Turkish domination. The majority of the town’s residents fled to Greece during World War I as a result of crimes committed by the Ottoman Empire against ethnic minorities. Their abandoned churches and homes in the Greek style now stand as a testament to the unfortunate fate of the town’s former residents.
7. Kolmanskop, Namibia
One of Namibia’s first hubs for the diamond mining sector was Kolmanskop. The Afrikaans translation of the town’s name is “Coleman’s Peak.” It was formerly a rather prosperous town, but as the local diamond field started to collapse during World War I, the community started to crumble. Kolmanskop’s demise was cemented in 1923 when better diamond mines were found hundreds of kilometres to the south, prompting the majority of the town’s residents to flee and seek their fortune elsewhere. There was no one living in the town in 1956. Now, most of the buildings are covered in knee-deep sand as the desert reclaims them. Several TV series, films, and even music videos have used the eerie scenery as their backdrop.
8. Poggioreale, Italy
Ghost towns appear to be everywhere in Italy. Sicilian Poggioreale is one of these. It was a small, fruit-focused rural farming hamlet. That was all before the town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, which claimed 200 lives. While some of the survivors rebuilt the town a few kilometres south in an area judged safer, many others emigrated to the United States. Poggioreale is occasionally referred to as a “modern Pompeii” by Sicilians.
9. Pripyat, Ukraine
Not only is Pripyat, Ukraine, a ghost town—it’s a ghost city. Due to human mistake and mechanical breakdown, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor erupted in 1986, exposing the surrounding area to dangerously high radiation levels. With little notice, the approximately 50,000 residents of Pripyat were forced to flee, taking with them most of their belongings as they did so.
The city is a spectral image of a disrupted day: dirty dishes still on tables, classrooms with notes written on the whiteboard and books falling to the ground, kid’s toys left behind during the hurried escape, and an abandoned amusement park that stands in eerie silence. The surviving dogs have proliferated into untamed packs. For forty years, trees in urban parks and along streets have grown unpruned into an urban forest. It is safe to predict that Pripyat will remain a ghost city for the remainder of our lives, even though radiation levels have dropped enough for adventure tourists to make a quick visit.
10. Varosha, Cyprus
Once one of the most well-liked tourist spots on the island of Cyprus, Varosha is a beachside resort region. The Greek inhabitants of Cyprus were compelled to flee following the Turkish invasion in 1974. Varosha’s status remained unclear and has been a political football between the two parties since the United Nations assisted in dividing the island’s inhabitants between Greek and Turkish citizens.
Thus, its nightclubs, restaurants, and hotels have been sitting, deserted, and rotting in the briny sea air for fifty years. The Turkish Cypriot government has made preparations to renovate the community and allow renters to reoccupy it public in recent years. Given that it incites international tensions between Greece and Turkey, the countries that support either side of the unresolved Cyprus conflict, it is unclear how far that idea will advance.
11. Hashima Island, Japan
Japan’s Hashima Island is located a short distance off the coast of Nagasaki. The seawall and many of the concrete buildings on the island are progressively collapsing under the weight of nature. Because coal could be mined from its underwater seams, the area became industrialised in 1887. Sadly, forced labour took place there both before and during World War II. When the coal ran out in 1974, the people on Hashima Island left. Travellers started expressing interest in seeing the island’s remains in the 2000s. Because of its importance to Japan’s industrialization, it is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.