Lonely Planet Writer

Travellers are flocking to these ghost towns and abandoned places

There’s a certain allure in heading to abandoned places – one that has turned many famous ghost towns into tourist attractions that now see more visitors each year than their original population.

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Stamp mill building and wooden buildings at Bodie State Historic Park, Gold Mining Ghost Town, Mono county, California, USA. Image by ©Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo/Getty Images

A desire to explore these types of locations is on the rise – a trend that’s been explored in series like Vice’s “Abandoned” and Netflix’s “Dark Tourist”. And while there are plenty of abandoned sites that may be dangerous to explore, there are many that are now tourist attractions offering more structured visits and guided tours.

According to Travel Insurance Explained, Google data shows that the topic of “urban exploration” has increased around the world over the past six years. To mark that, the company looked at some of the most popular ghost towns and abandoned places around the world for travellers, based on factors like cost, online reviews and the number of Instagram posts from the site.

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Pompeii city destroyed in 79BC by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Image by ©S-F/Shutterstock

One of the most iconic abandoned cities of all time, Pompeii, is the most visited “ghost town” according to the research. Each year, millions of visitors head through the Italian town that was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, with more than half a million Instagram posts tagging the site. Among travellers, it also has a high satisfaction rating in online reviews. But a visit may cost you, as tours can be about £52 (US$68) per person.

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Exterior of the Eastern State Penitentiary. Image by ©Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock

Pennsylvania’s Eastern State Penitentiary is the second-highest ranking site on the list. Once holding criminals like Al Capone, the prison is now a US National Historic Landmark and open to tours. The famous spot does draw in plenty of visitors who want to see where the modern prison system originated, so it has also seen a surge in visitors since its days as a prison.

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Destroyed village of Oradour sur Glane left as permanent reminder of war atrocity committed there in June 1944, France. Image by ©ricochet64/Shutterstock

The third-highest ranked on the list – and one of the more budget-friendly destinations – is the town of Oradour-Sur Glane in France. The village was the site of one of the worst atrocities of the Second World War, when Nazi soldiers entered the town and massacred 642 people, including 193 children. The village was left untouched, and is now home to the Centre de La Memoire. While the town had less than 700 residents, it now attracts more than 300,000 people each year who come to learn about the horrible war crimes committed there.

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Dorm of a preschool in Pripyat ghost town, Chernobyl, Ukraine. Abandoned in 1986 after a nuclear disaster in Chernobyl power plant. Image by ©tunart/Getty Images

Tied for fourth place is Pripyat, a town devastated by the Chernobyl Disaster, and Kolmanskop, Namibia, an abandoned mining town.

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Abandoned building filled with sand in derelict diamond mining ghost town of Kolmanskop, Namibia. Image by ©Mark Read/Lonely Planet

While Pripyat still holds allure for many travellers, an average visit costs £62 (US$81) per person, according to Travel Insurance Explained, while visiting Kolmanskop is only £5 (US$6.55) entry for adults and £3 (US$3.93) for children. Find out more here.