Anyone can plan a jam-packed vacation to a massive metropolis. But what about venturing to a ghost town? A destination where Mother Nature, the economy, or a combination of the two has dwindled the population to nothing.
While visiting these empty, under-the-radar places may not currently be possible in person, no time is a wrong time to start dreaming. Here are some of our favorite abandoned cities around the world that you can start planning a visit to in the (hopefully near) future. They are totally out of the norm and entirely awesome. Ready to get off the beaten path? Let’s go.
1. Plymouth, Montserrat
Folks going to the Lesser Antilles may fly right past Plymouth, Montserrat, and with good reason. This capital city was vacated in 1995 because of a looming volcanic eruption. Two years later, Soufrière Hills volcano blew its top, covering Plymouth in 40 feet of ash. Visits to the area are possible, but it depends on safety levels since the volcano is still active. If the alerts are too high, you can still take a boat tour.
2. Kolmanskop, Namibia
Back in 1908, Kolmanskop was a happening town. That’s when the first diamond was found in the area. And not long after, there was a casino, movie theater, school, ice factory, and other modern goodies. But the city started to see its population shrink as the diamond supply was depleted. Now, most of the buildings have sand tall enough to cover your knees. Tours are typically available, but you do need a permit to enter the area.
3. Bodie, California
The Gold Rush giveth, and the Gold Rush taketh away. During the late 1800s, Bodie was hopping with a reported 65 saloons at the height of the money grab. But it drew its last breath when the post office finally closed in 1942. The state of California turned the old ghost town into a historic park in the early 1960s. It’s a perfect excursion for people looking to take some time away from nearby Yosemite National Park.
4. Pripyat, Ukraine
Welcome to arguably the worst nuclear power disaster ever. Reactor No. 4’s core at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant exploded in late April of 1986. And Pripyat’s nearly 50,000 residents were forced to leave from the nuclear fallout in the days immediately following the explosion. Nature has since taken back the city, but it’s still contaminated. The radiation has fallen enough for us to take guided tours through the apartments, amusement parks, and more.
5. Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima Island was the place for coal in Japan. At the height of production, there were 5,000 coal miners living on this island east of mainland Japan. But when petrol became the country’s choice for fuel, the island was abandoned in the mid-1970s. You cannot visit on your own but you can find tours of portions of the island. In lieu of visiting in person, you can take this virtual experience through the abandoned city.
6. North Brother Island, New York
An abandoned island near New York City? You betcha. This 20-acre island in the East River was built up because of its isolation. Riverside Hospital was built here in the late 1800s to quarantine people with smallpox. It was even the home of Typhoid Mary during her final years. By the 60s it was abandoned, leaving the trees to take over the buildings. The city has restricted access to the island, and potential visitors have to apply and be accepted before attempting to set foot on the island.
7. Kennecott, Alaska
You’re going to have to really want it to visit this abandoned city. Kennecott produced $200 million worth of copper ore from 1911 to 1938. When the copper ran out, so did the residents. You can find out why as you drive down the 60-mile dirt road to see this Alaskan ghost town in the middle of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve — the biggest national park in the United States. When the time is right, we suggest visiting the town with a guide from the National Park Service to get views like the one in the photo below.
8. Glenrio, New Mexico/Texas
When Route 66 was up and running, Glenrio was one of the more popular stops to get gas on the New Mexico/Texas border. But things went downhill fast with the completion of Interstate 40, which literally passed by Glenrio. The town is mostly intact and it’s on the US National Register of Historic Places. Perfect spot to get a picture of during your next road trip.
9. Oradour-su-Glane, France
This town in Western France has one heck of a history. The original Oradour-sur-Glane — along with 642 residents including women and children — was razed by a German Waffen-SS company on June 10, 1944. Only a few survivors remained, and a new village of the same name was built not too far away. The original site now serves as a museum and permanent memorial.
10. Texola, Oklahoma
This small town on the plains couldn’t figure out where it existed. Texola’s located near both Route 66 and the 100th meridian, which forms the border between Oklahoma and Texas. Surveyors couldn’t decide which state Texola belonged to. Couple that with the Dust Bowl and the construction of I-40, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The 2010 census says there are 36 people that still live in town, but you’re more apt to see tumbleweeds roll by than a human resident.
11. Fordlândia, Brazil
Fordlândia was a project of Henry Ford’s that never came to be. The American industrialist envisioned a city located in the middle of the Amazonian jungle where cheap rubber would be produced for his automobile operations, but due to a poor understanding of the ecological challenges, Fordlândia was unsuccessful and eventually abandoned it in 1934.