5 abandoned places around the world that you can visit

Siobháin Spear
Apr 2, 2020

Curious travellers and photographers will be in awe of the way that time stands still at these remote destinations.

While photographs of the world’s busiest cities in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic are circulating online, we know that it is only a matter of time before each popular metropolis comes alive once again. However, there are a number of destinations all over the globe that have been frozen in time for decades. For the explorer who likes to take the road less travelled, the hushed secrets, forgotten histories and frozen-in-time facades of these five destinations will take you to places that you may not have even known existed.

1. The diamond town of Kolmanskop

Inside the sand buildings of Kolmanskop, a former diamond mining town

Driving through the shifting sand dunes of the Namib Desert is an adventure in itself, but when you eventually reach the ghost town of Kolmanskop, you’ll discover the unique history of days gone by.

Apparently, in 1908, a worker named Zacharias Lewala found a diamond and showed it to his supervisor, the German railway inspector August Stauch; this prompted the settlement of German miners who realized the area was rich in diamonds. Exploiting the opportunity, Kolmanskop was built to resemble a traditional German town and quickly became one of the richest towns in Africa during the diamond boom of 1910. After World War II, the diamond industry started to deplete and inhabitants started to move on, so within decades, Kolmanskop was left lifeless and abandoned.

2. The abandoned train cemetery

An abandoned train in the Uyuni desert of Bolivia

‘Cemeterio de Trenes’ is an abandoned train cemetery that sits in the Uyuni desert of Bolivia in South America. In the early 20th century, Uyuni was destined to become a major train hub, connecting a number of cities in neighboring countries.

It was British engineers and laborers who brought Uyuni to life, with the aim of industrialising the sleeping city. However, when mining hit a decline in the 1940s, the project was abandoned, leaving scattered trains to rust in the harsh climates. With tens of locomotives sitting in the area, the Great Train Cemetery has become a visually captivating playground for photographers and travellers who have made their way to Uyuni to discover its nearby salt flats.

3. The hilltop town of Craco

The abandoned town of Craco wrapped in foliage and shrubbery against the grey sky
The ghost town of Craco sits in the southern Italian region of Basilicata

In the Italian province of Matera, the hill town of Craco is now a memory of a once thriving community. The old town, perched on a 400-metre cliff, was abandoned towards the end of the 20th century after surviving multiple natural disasters that included a plague, a famine and a number of landslides.

In the 1950s, the soil conditions of the town deteriorated rapidly, causing even more landslides and making the town and the buildings dangerous to live in. Eventually, the medieval town had to be abandoned; however, it has since become a popular filming location.

4. Sharjah’s abandoned village

An abandoned mosque in the golden Sharjah desert in the UAE
This abandoned mosque sits on the outskirts of Al Madam village | Via James Kerwin

Abandoned a few decades back, this forgotten village on the outskirts of Al Mudam, in the United Arab Emirates, is now buried in sand, but nobody is really sure why. Washed out by deep golden dunes, the stunning little ghost town is made up of a mosque and a couple of nearby rows of houses, all of which have succumbed to the harsh desert climate.

The area, which sits in Sharjah, emanates an eerie silence as the forgotten houses stand empty after local inhabitants decided to leave. While there is no clarity as to why people left, there are indications that inhabitants may have left in a hurry, with rumours that inhabitants fled from supernatural forces.

5. Houtouwan’s green history

Abandoned houses covered in green foliage in the old city of Houtouwan in China
The abandoned houses on Shengshan Island in China | Via Instagram: @laowaiza

Houtouwan is a forgotten fishing village in the Shengsi Islands. Possibly the greenest village in the world, Houtouwan exudes a fairytale-like character with abandoned houses that glimmer with green foliage.

In the 1980s, the Chinese village had a population of more than 3,000 residents; however, its remote location made it difficult for workers who eventually started to move away from it in the 1990s. The ocean-facing village, which sits along a cliff, was completely deserted from 2002  —  and nature seemed to swallow it up soon after.

Intrigued by new cultures, unusual destinations and stories from travellers around the world? Take some time out from movies, and watch ten of the best travel documentaries instead.

Keep that wanderlust alive with more travel tips and inspiration from World Traveller Middle East. For the latest health updates regarding coronavirus, ensure that the information you are consuming is from an official source