Without humans, nature would take over everything that civilization has built.
When organic growth and animals rule what was created by people, it makes for a fascinating juxtaposition. That’s why ghost towns are so alluring, both to the adventurous explorer and timid passerby. Empty buildings filled with shadows inspire a curiosity that’s difficult to quench.
The Weather Channel created a list of interesting ghost towns around the world, ones that deserve to be on bucket lists far and wide. From old tourist towns to cities emptied in fear of nuclear radiation, each of them are truly incredible — and unsettling.
1. Bodie, Calif.
Bodie was a hotspot during the gold rush in 1859. It eventually grew to 8,500 people and had more than 2,000 buildings. By 1881, however, the mines were depleted and people were leaving. In 1932, a fire destroyed almost everything that was left (an earlier fire had already claimed most of the buildings).
2. Kolmanskop, Namibia
In 1908, a railway worker discovered diamonds in the sand near Kolmanskop. Soon, a small town was built in the middle of the Namib Desert. However, after World War I, the demand for diamonds dropped off, and the 1,000 people living in the small town left.
3. Goldfield, Ariz.
This is one of the most popular, most iconic ghost towns in the Southwest. The mining town dates back to the 1890s and was formed during the gold rush. Nearly 4,000 people lived there during its heyday, but by 1920, it was dead.
4. Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott is yet another mining town, but this one focused on copper. It’s located in the United States’s largest national park, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. It was a bustling town until about 1940, when the mine was depleted and its residents soon left.
5. UFO Houses in Sanzhi, Taiwan
The UFO houses in this town were named after their odd shape…and no one ever lived in them. Before all the homes could be completed, the owner went bankrupt. The village was left unfinished, so the would-be tourist destination remained empty. There are rumors that it was haunted and there were skeletons found at the site, but they haven’t been proven.
6. Animas Forks, Colo.
This lonely town is in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. In the 1870s, it was a gold and silver mining town. However, it was abandoned in the 1920s and the cabins were left behind (but can still be visited if you have an off-road vehicle).
7. Craco, Italy
This medieval city dates back to 1000 A.D. During the 20th century, a series of earthquakes forced its residents to leave. It survived civilization and the elements until 1991, when a landslide destroyed most of it.
8. Rhyolite, Nev.
Rhyolite is a late-gold-rush-era town founded in 1904. By 1906, its quartz and gold mines attracted enough people to make it the largest settlement in the area. By 1920, the rush was over and the town was abandoned, although visitors can still make a trip to Rhyolite and visit a nearby museum.
9. Salton Riviera, Calif.
The Salton Riviera lies on the shore of the Salton Sea, an accidental lake in California created when the Colorado River swelled over its banks in 1905. In the 1950s, it was a major tourist attraction…but by 1970, the town began to collapse. As a result of the water becoming too salty, the fish in the sea died. The dead fish smell permeated the town and drove out residents and tourists (and still remains to this day).
10. Kayakoy, Turkey
Kayakoy, or Rock Village, can be found in the Kaya valley of the Taurus Mountains. It was originally built in the 1700s and was home to both Anatolian Muslims and Greek Orthodox Christians. However, after the conclusions of World War I and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, violence took over the town. By 1923, it was abandoned due to political peacekeeping reasons.
11. Holland Island, Chesapeake Bay, Md.
Holland Island had one of the largest populations of the islands scattered around Chesapeake Bay. There were more than 360 people living on it in 1910. Because the island was made of silt and clay, it eroded quickly. The last remaining house crumbled in 2010.
12. Deception Island, Antarctica
Deception Island is located in the caldera of an active volcano…but it is still a popular tourist destination. However, the volcano makes permanent residency tough. A Norwegian captain began whaling off Deception Island in 1906, creating Whalers Bay. The years after, small stations were built by the whaling industry, but in 1969, a volcanic eruption destroyed most of what was there.
13. St. Thomas, Nev.
This ghost town is located within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It was once a Mormon settlement. However, it was abandoned in the 1930s when the Hoover Dam construction caused the Colorado River to rise. The entire area was eventually completely submerged in water. It drained afterwards, but it was no longer a settlement.
14. Varosha, Cyprus
This was once a popular tourist destination, but the area has been fenced off and empty since 1974. That’s when the Turkish invasion of Cyprus occurred, and now, the resort area is overrun by pests and is falling apart.
15. Pripyat, Ukraine
Pripyat was once home to over 50,000 people, but it was evacuated on April 26, 1986, after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Fearing an out-of-control radiation leak, officials ordered the town and surrounding “exclusion zone” evacuated, and they remain abandoned to this day.
16. St. Elmo, Colo.
Located in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains, this ghost town is surprisingly well preserved. People settled there in 1880 after gold and silver were discovered in the area. The town shrank once the mining industry declined and the railroad was closed, but you can still visit it to this day.
17. Hashima Island, Japan
This small island was once the most densely populated town in the world. From the 1800s until 1974, it was home to countless coal workers. Once the mines were tapped, the workers quickly left, even leaving their belongings behind. The island is technically off limits, but there are people who are attempting to get it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some of these towns are not open to the public, so if you visit, you do so at your own risk!