Lonely Planet Writer

New book shows the striking beauty of worlds left behind when we abandon them

Abandoned Places is a new book by Keiron Connolly that explores the haunting beauty of areas and buildings that have long been forgotten.

Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital in Brandenburg, Germany
. Not far from Berlin, the building was a military hospital during World War I. After World War II it served Soviet troops based in East Germany, many of its wings being abandoned after the Russian army left in 1994.
Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital in Brandenburg, Germany
. The building was a military hospital during World War I. After World War II it served Soviet troops based in East Germany, many of its wings being abandoned after the Russian army left in 1994. Image by Kre_geg/Depositphotos
Wola Gasworks, Warsaw in Poland. Opened in 1888, it was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt later before being closed in the early 1970s when the city switched to using natural gas supplies. Today, part of the gasworks is a museum, but other areas, such as the rotunda, remain dilapidated.
Wola Gasworks, Warsaw in Poland. Opened in 1888, it was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt later before being closed in the early 1970s when the city switched to using natural gas supplies. Image by Fotorince/Dreamstime
Uyuni Train Cemetery in Bolivia. In the late 19th century, the Andean town of Uyuni served as a distribution hub linking trains carrying minerals to Pacific Coast ports. After the mineral mining industry collapsed in the 1940s, the railways that served the mines fell into ruin, leaving the trains to the harsh winds blowing off the Uyuni flats, the world’s largest salt plain.
Uyuni Train Cemetery in Bolivia. After the mineral mining industry collapsed in the 1940s, the railways that served the mines fell into ruin. Image by Javarman/Dreamstime

Published by Amber Books, the collection features over 100 photographs of destinations all over the world, showcasing areas that have fallen into disrepair from lack of human maintenance. Images show children’s schoolbooks left open in former classrooms, trees entangled in rusted ferris wheels and grounded ships left stranded miles away from any water.

Hachijo Royal Hotel, Hachijojima in Japan. The Hachijo Royal opened in 1963 when Hachijojima, a volcanic island 178 miles off the coast of Japan was being promoted as the ‘Hawaii of Japan’. The hotel closed in 2003.
Hachijo Royal Hotel, Hachijojima in Japan. The Hachijo Royal opened in 1963 when Hachijojima, a volcanic island 178 miles off the coast of Japan was being promoted as the ‘Hawaii of Japan’. The hotel closed in 2003. Image by Sean Pavone/Dreamstime
Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Northern Jutland in Denmark. Situated on top of a cliff, the lighthouse was built in 1900 and ceased operating in 1968. With coastal erosion and continually shifting sands a major problem in the area, it is anticipated that by 2023 the cliff will have been eroded so far that the lighthouse will fall into the sea.
Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Northern Jutland in Denmark. Situated on top of a cliff, the lighthouse was built in 1900 and ceased operating in 1968. Due to coastal erosion it is anticipated that by 2023 the cliff will cause the lighthouse to fall into the sea. Image by Elisabeth Coalfen/Dreamstime
Bodie, Mono County in USA. After the California Gold Rush of 1848–55 had peaked, gold was discovered by a group of prospectors at Bodie, just east of the Sierra Nevada, in 1859. Quickly Bodie became a larger with many buildings springing up. The following year, however, word spread of new boomtowns in Tombstone, Arizona, and Butte, Montana, and Bodie’s decline began. With mining profits falling, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed in 1913, and four years later the Bodie Railway was abandoned. By 1940 the population was down to 40. The last mine closed in 1942, following a war order that all non- essential gold mines in the United States be shut down. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, today Bodie is maintained in a state of arrested decay as a visitor attraction.
Bodie, Mono County in USA. The remnants of the gold rush remain in the town. The last mine closed in 1942, following a war order that all non- essential gold mines in the United States be shut down. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, today Bodie is maintained in a state of arrested decay as a visitor attraction. Image by Eye35.pix/Alamy

The book explores 65 fascinating lost worlds in total, with images from a diverse range of countries and cultures. It is arranged thematically, featuring industrial sites, ghost towns, military zones and recreational areas.

Geamana, Apuseni Mountains in Romania. When copper was discovered in the hills above the village of Geamana in the 1970s, its residents probably didn’t think that it would mean the destruction of their pretty valley. But, with the engineers needing somewhere to dump waste water from the new copper mine, dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ordered that Geamana’s 400 families be resettled and the village flooded.
Geamana, Apuseni Mountains in Romania. Following the discovery of  copper above the village in the 1970s, waste water was dumped in the valley and 400 families were resetled. Image by Salajean/Fotolia
Orpheum Theatre, New Bedford in Massachusetts USA. Owned by the French Sharpshooter’s Club of New Bedford, this theatre was leased to the Orpheum Circuit of vaudeville theatres and cinemas. In 1928, Orpheum became part of Radio- Keith-Orpheum, better known as RKO, the Hollywood movie studio and distribution company. The Sharpshooter’s sold the building in 1962.
Orpheum Theatre, New Bedford in Massachusetts USA. Owned by the French Sharpshooter’s Club of New Bedford, this theatre was leased to the Orpheum Circuit of vaudeville theatres and cinemasbefore being sold in 1962. Image by Frank C. Grace
Plymouth Courthouse Building in Montserrat. When the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in July 1995, Plymouth was completely buried by ash. Following further eruptions, two-thirds of the population left as half of the island became uninhabitable. In theory, Plymouth is still the capital of Montserrat, giving it the unusual distinction of being the only ghost town that is also a capital city.
Plymouth Courthouse Building in Montserrat. When the Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in July 1995, Plymouth was completely buried by ash. Following further eruptions, two-thirds of the population left as half of the island became uninhabitable. In theory, Plymouth is still the capital of Montserrat, giving it the unusual distinction of being the only ghost town that is also a capital city. Image by Richard Roscoe/Stocktrek Images/Alamy

As well as showcasing the aesthetically pleasing collection of photographs, the book offers snippets of history and insight, with explanatory notes on each site featured. It includes spaces such as Bodie, California, where a gold rush town that expanded quickly was abandoned after running out of the precious metal and the Saltpeter works in Humberstone and Santa Laura, Chile that was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2005.

Hashima, Japan. Used as the villain’s base in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall and situated 9 miles off the coast from Nagasaki, the island was developed in 1887 as a mine to access undersea coal reserves. By 1959, more than 5,000 people were living and working there, but with coal supplies nearing depletion, the mine was closed in 1974, after which the residents soon left the island.
Hashima, Japan. Used as the villain’s base in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall and situated nine miles off the coast from Nagasaki. It was abandoned following the mine’s closure in 1974. Image by AP/Press Association Images
Jungle tree covering the stones of the temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Jungle tree covering the stones of the temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Image by Vicnt2815/Depositphotos
Maunsell Forts, Thames Estuary in England. Though not all remain standing today, the World War II Maunsell Forts at Red Sands were arranged in groups of seven – six armed and in a semi-circle and a look-out tower set slightly apart. After being abandoned in 1958, some of the Maunsell Forts were later used as pirate radio stations.
Maunsell Forts, Thames Estuary in England. After being abandoned in 1958, some of the Maunsell Forts were later used as pirate radio stations. Image by Howard Kingsnorth/Getty Images

The author of the book, Kieron Connolly is a history graduate from Edinburgh University. As a journalist and editor, he has worked for a variety of different publications over the past few years. The Abandoned Places book is a compilation of work from different talented photographers who have explored the areas.

 Cape Romano, USA. Built in the early 1980s, these solar- powered homes were occupied for ten years before 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and 2005’s Hurricane Wilma damaged the houses and tore away part of the coastline. Today, the houses can only be reached by boat.
Cape Romano, USA. Built in the early 1980s, these solar- powered homes were occupied for ten years before 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and 2005’s Hurricane Wilma damaged the houses. Image by Florida Images/Alamy
Unfinished hotel, near Fengdu Ghost City, China. Fengdu isn’t called a ghost city because it’s an abandoned place, but because its complex of shrines, temples and monasteries are all dedicated to the afterlife in Chinese mythology and Buddhism. The Ghost King is one of the world’s largest stone sculptures; the carving of his body covers the rest of the mountainside. However, the hotel that was to be built behind his head was never completed when financing fell through.
Unfinished hotel, near Fengdu Ghost City, China. Image by John Henshall/Alamy
Abandoned Places is available to purchase on Amazon now.
Abandoned Places is available to purchase on Amazon now. Image by Abandoned Places

More information on Abandoned Places is available at the Amber Books website.