Human beings are capable of so much beauty. We have created wonders of industry, art and architecture. We have overcome the most extreme conditions on the planet, and built our homes and temples everywhere around the globe. And sometimes, despite all of our hard work, we move on – leaving our creations behind.
And while our cities and monuments are certainly impressive when in their prime, there is a haunting kind of beauty that is unique to those places that have been deserted, and left to the elements.
Nowhere is this melancholy beauty more evident than in these, the 10 most incredible abandoned places in the world:
10. Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California
Built in 1850, Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the first U.S. naval base on the Pacific ocean. The base was closed in 1996, leaving acres of barracks and bunkers, homes, offices, warehouses and factories standing empty and abandoned. Today, parts of Mare Island are undergoing renovations, but most of the base is still desolate, and open to tourists and site seers. Besides dilapidated buildings, there is also a museum, parks and walking trails, a nature preserve, and the oldest military cemetery on the west coast.
9. Miranda Castle, Belgium
This once gorgeous castle was built in 1866, near the city Celles, Belgium. It was the home of the Liedekerke-Beaufort family, aristocrats exiled from France during the revolution. It was taken over by the National Railway Company of Belgium after World War II, and was used as an orphanage until 1980. It has stood empty since 1991, and has become a favorite destination for tourists and photographers, drawn by the sad and crumbling beauty of this once magnificent estate.
8. Hashima Island
Often called Gunkanjima, or “battleship island,” for it’s resemblance to a Japanese battleship, Hashima Island was built as a coal mining facility in 1887. It was once a thriving community of more than 5,000 people, but the entire population left upon the closing of the mine in 1974. Now the island is empty, the apartment buildings and concrete walls slowly collapsing. The site has been featured on programs such as Life After People and Forgotten Planet, and also inspired the abandoned island complex in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall.
7. Teotihuacan, Mexico
Built between 100 BC – 250 AD, the ruins of this ancient Mesoamerican city are located about 25 miles northeast of Mexico City. It is thought that Teotihuacan was home to as many as 150,000 people in it’s prime, but in the 6th century it fell into decline due to droughts, famine, war and unrest. By the 9th century AD, all that remained of the once great city were the ruins of it’s mighty temples and pyramids. But even the crumbling remnants of Teotihuacan inspire awe in all who see them, and the site draws thousands of tourists and archaeologists every year.
6. Ross Island
Ross Island is part of the Andaman island chain, located between India and Myanmar. In the 18th – 19th century, it was the administrative headquarters of the British empire in the islands. But the island was devastated by an earthquake in 1941, occupied by the Japanese in 1942, taken back by Allied forces in 1945 and finally abandoned. Now the island hosts a small Indian naval base, but the old colonial British buildings remain, in various states of disrepair.
5. Nara Dreamland, Japan
Inspired by Disneyland in California, this amusement park was built in 1961, near the town of Nara, Japan. It was closed permanently in 2006, due to low attendance. Now the grounds are abandoned and forgotten, except by daring urban explorers and lovers of decaying ruins. It is a haunting and desolate scene, with all the old rides covered with rust, and weeds growing unchecked between the rails.
4. Plymouth, Montserrat, West Indies
Plymouth was once the capital city of the island of Montserrat, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the West Indies. It was the center of commerce and government, with a population of 4,000 people, and the only sea port on the island. In 1995, a volcanic eruption forced the evacuation of the entire town. Much of the city was burned or covered in ash. Today, the remaining buildings stand empty and half submerged by mud and lava flows, and the whole southern half of the island is considered off-limits due to continuing volcanic activity.
3. Craco, Italy
First settled by Greeks in the 8th century, the town of Craco, Italy boasted a population of 2,500 in the middle of the 16th century. It was built upon a steep hillside for defensive reasons, alongside a sheer cliff that overlooks the Cavonne River valley. The town was abandoned after a series of natural disasters: a landslide in 1963, a flood in 1972, and finally an earthquake in 1980. It has been empty ever since, except for the occasional film or television crew that decides to shoot on the location.
2. Pripyat, Ukraine
Built around the ill-fated Chernobyl plant in 1970, the city of Pripyat was once home to 50,000 people. But the nuclear meltdown of the power plant in 1986 blanketed the region with fatal levels of radiation and forced the evacuation of the entire city. Radiation levels have since fallen to relatively safe levels, but Pripyat and the surrounding area is still considered an “exclusion zone.” Today the streets are crumbling, the schools and hospitals, shopping malls and high-rises stand deserted, as Mother Nature slowly but surely reclaims the town.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Located 8,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu means “old peak” in the native Quechua tongue. Built by the Inca in the 15th century, the site was abandoned soon after due to the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors. It was virtually unknown to the world at large until 1911, when it was discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then it has undergone extensive restoration, and become the region’s most popular tourist destination.