Top choice in Nagasaki

From afar, the Unesco World Heritage island of Hashima resembles a battleship, hence its nickname Gunkanjima ('battleship island'). Up close, this long-abandoned coal mine looks as though it's straight out of an apocalyptic manga (even appearing as the villain's lair in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall). Once earth's most densely populated place, it became a ghost island when the mines were closed in 1974, and it's been left to nature since, now accessible only by guided tour.

Access is restricted because so many structures have collapsed or been damaged that much of the island is unsafe. Guided tours allow visitors to ramble on walkways among the long-disused skyscrapers. Some of the architecture (such as the iconic 'X' stairways – alas, not visible on the tour) was considered remarkable for its time, as engineers tackled the challenges of designing for such cramped living.

While most of the spoken guiding is in Japanese, English info is available. Three-hour cruises from Nagasaki run twice daily from April to October; there are fewer departures November to March. Contact Gunkanjima Concierge for reservations.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Nagasaki attractions

1. Alt House

10.51 MILES

Built in 1865, this is the largest of the several historic houses in the hillside Glover Garden and one of the few still in its original location.

2. Ringer House

10.53 MILES

A historic house in the hillside Glover Garden, this important cultural property has been in its original location since the 1860s. The first owner was a…

3. Madame Butterfly Statue

10.55 MILES

Inside Glover Garden, this statue memorialises Japanese opera singer Tamaki Miura, who performed as Cio-Cio-san in Puccini's famous opera Madame Butterfly…

4. Mitsubishi No 2 Dock Building

10.56 MILES

This former dock house has been moved to the top of Glover Garden and offers great views, especially from the 2nd floor. Inside are displays about the…

6. Walker House

10.57 MILES

Walker House in Glover Garden is filled with artefacts donated by the Glover and Walker families. Look for both Japanese and Western design touches.

7. Glover House

10.59 MILES

A Unesco World Heritage site and Japan's oldest wooden Western-style building, this house, and the garden around it, are named for Thomas Glover (1838…

8. Glover Garden

10.62 MILES

Some two dozen former homes of the city's Meiji-period European residents and other important buildings have been reassembled in this beautifully…