There’s often an eerie silence that surrounds abandoned places, as well as a unique energy that speaks to something deep within us, playing on our curious nature. From former industrial islands to idiosyncratic monuments left forgotten to time, these places continue to intrigue and excite. Here’s seven incredible abandoned places around the world.
1. Gunkanjima in Nagasaki, Japan
Known as Battleship Island (Gunkanjima in Japanese), thanks to its distinctive shape that resembles a war vessel from the side angle of approach, Hashima Island is a former deep sea coal-mining settlement off the coast of Nagasaki set up in the late 1800’s. The 16-acre island was once home to over 5000 workers and their families before being closed for good, and today is full of crumbling facades of weather-beaten buildings, overgrown grass and Japanese hawks circling overhead. You may recognise some of it, as it was featured in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall as the headquarters of Raoul Silva. Although it is in a state of compete ruin, tours are available from Nagasaki harbour, with metal railings and walkways being installed along a safe-to-walk area.
2. Pripyat in northern Ukraine
26 April 1986 is etched into global memory as the day the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a devastating accident that resulted in the evacuation of nearly 50,000 people from the immediate area and the nearby town of Pripyat, which served as a base for many workers and families. Today the exclusion zone is like a ghost town, with fairground rides, hospitals, houses and schools lying as they were left when the devastation occurred. Despite the fact that radiation levels are still higher than normal, authorised tours are available around the exclusions zone. Last year’s hit show 'Chernobyl' proved to be a catalyst in sparking renewed interest in tourists visiting the site to discover the history and background of what happened there. As is the case with any “dark tourism” (a growing trend in recent years), visitors should be respectful and mindful if they do choose to visit.
3. President’s Heads in Virginia, USA
In the middle of a seemingly regular field in Croaker, Virginia, stands something completely unexpected: 43 busts of U.S Presidents, each one standing at nearly 20 feet high. These statues were once on display at the now-closed Presidents Park in Colonial Williamsburg, but were taken in by property owner Howard Hankins, who couldn’t bear to see them become lost to the annals of history. The abandoned heads have since gained a new lease of life, thanks to Howard and photographer John Plashal, who runs tours and photo walks to the site throughout the year.
4. Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, USA
Once one of the most famous prisons in the world that kept notorious criminal Al Capone in a luxury cell, Eastern State Penitentiary now stands in a state of ruin, with dilapidated wings and abandoned guard towers. Despite that however, tours are possible, and the penitentiary is open every day from 10am to 5pm. The site also includes information on the current American prison system and art installations, and tickets can be purchased online. From mid-September to Halloween the prison transforms into a delightfully terrifying haunted house.
5. Oradour-Sur Glane in France
This small town approximately 20 kilometres from Limoges was the site of one of the worst war crimes committed by the Nazis in France, when German troops entered and massacred 642 people, including 193 children. Only one woman and five men who were in the town that day survived. The town was left untouched, with pre-war tram tracks and electricity lines still in place alongside the rusted bodies of cars. Today the site is accessed via the Centre de la Mémoire, which uses multimedia displays and the testimonies of survivors to give context and pay tribute to the victims. It’s stands as an eerie but important lesson in history.
6. Dorasan Station in South Korea
While it’s true that Dorasan is indeed a train station, you may be waiting some time to board. Completed in 2002, the building stands a few hundred metres from the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and is symbolic of a future that may one day see the Korean peninsula once again reunited. The year 2015 saw the addition of the Dorasan Unification Platform, which has an exhibition on the German reunification housed in an old train carriage, while a clock counts the hours since the country became divided. The station is usually included in a DMZ tour run by different companies in the area.
7. The fishing village of Houtouwan in China
Located approximately 40 miles from Shanghai, Houtouwan was once a flourishing fishing village, with local communities building impressive homes on top of a mountain slope overlooking a bay. The economic boom of the 1980s led to better wages and opportunities further away however, and the village was eventually abandoned by its 3,000 residents. Today the village is a popular spot for tourists, photographers and day trippers who venture there to see the lush greenery and vegetation that has completely taken over the area.
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