Although long forgotten, some places never truly lose their significance in history. From walking down the dust-covered ghost town in the middle of the Namib Desert to seeing the bare skeleton of an industrial complex floating off the coast of Nagasaki, some of the world’s most haunting abandoned places once shaped the lives of an entire population to a whole country.
Here are the most incredible abandoned places you can tour in 2019:
Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire
Built during the golden age of the Elizabethan era in 1570, Kirby Hall was once the stately English country house and estate of Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. Based on French architectural designs, the mansion has evolved to include several different classical style decorations up until the 17th and 18th century. Although it has fallen into disrepair, with many sections roofless, the Great Hall and staterooms are well preserved. The main garden is carefully manicured with a ‘cutwork’ design, accompanied by fully restored statues and urns. Both the mansion and the courtyard can be toured. They are also frequently used as movie and television sets, including Antiques Roadshow.
Kolmanskop, Southern Namibia
The very definition of a desert ghost town, this abandoned mining community in the Namibian desert once beaconed riches and the promise of diamonds. When a railway employee stumbled upon a hidden diamond deposit in 1908, this desolate part of German South West Africa quickly boomed into a thriving settlement, complete with European-style houses, green lawns, power station, hospital, casino, and the first tram in Africa. But when the diamond fields dried up after World War II, families flocked to other deposits in the south, leaving Kolmanskop to decay in the sandstorms.
The town, with houses partially submerged in sand dunes, is eerily photogenic. Within the detached homes, the rooms and windows are buried waist-deep in sand, backed by faded walls and decrepit, sunken rooftops, perfect for abandoned photography.
Pripyat, Northern Ukraine
The name might not ring any bells at first, but a radioactive fallout made this Ukranian industrial city infamous. Home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, this abandoned city is a grim reminder of the meltdown that displaced the entire population of 50,000 people overnight in 1986. More than 30 years later, the radioactivity in Pripyat has fallen sharply since the incident but there are still pockets of higher than normal radiation found throughout the city. Several local tour operators offer guided tours around Pripyat and Chernobyl’s fallout zone. Most of them pay visits to the derelict sports centre with an empty pool, the barren amusement park with a rusted and creaking Ferris wheel, and the reactors at the power plant.
Hashima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture
Also known as Battleship Island due to its shape, this 16-acre floating city was first built as an undersea coal mining facility in 1887 and evolved into a settlement for miners and their families. The Mitsubishi Group bought the island in 1890, and its mining operation continued until 1974. At its peak, the island had more than 5,000 residents in one densely populated concrete block. The sprawl had apartment buildings, a hospital, school, shops, cinemas, and a pachinko parlour. Now, a portion of the deserted island can be visited with ferry tours departing from Nagasaki City. Hashima was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2015 for the significant role it played throughout the Meiji Industrial Revolution, along with its still standing Taiho period and Showa Period buildings.
Craco, Southern Italy
Perched on a rocky hill in Basilicata Region of Matera, Italy, Craco was first settled by the Greeks in 540 AD. Over the centuries this ancient medieval village oversaw a population boom followed by a decline from plagues to bloody conflicts. Eventually, it became a fortress for notorious brigands throughout the 1800s. When law and order were finally restored to the village, it faced other environmental and geological challenges, such as poor agricultural conditions, frequent landslides and earthquakes. In 1963, the combination of deteriorating soil conditions and natural disasters finally forced residents to leave their beloved hilltop home. Today, guided tours can take you up to this picturesque ghost town filled with historic buildings, cracked stone walls, and worn frescos that remind visitors of its storied past.
Known as the “Pompeii of the Caribbean”, the island Montserrat was once a resort paradise famous for its tropical wildlife and the star-studded recording studio AIR Montserrat, where Elton John, Sting, and The Rolling Stones recorded some of their best hits. But in 1995, the Soufrière Hills volcano finally erupted after centuries of lying dormant. The ensuing pyroclastic flows buried the island’s capital Plymouth under more than 50-ft of molten ash and lava. By 1997, the town became permanently abandoned by its more than 5,000 residents. Some never returned to the island.
Now a ghost town caked in hard volcanic matter, Plymouth is still Montserrat’s official capital. Tour operators offer guided tours to this historic British colonial town and to see the remains of its many once prominent churches and mansions, some only have rooftops still above ground. You can also get a complete look at the volcano’s total path of destruction by taking an Exclusion Zone Helicopter tour and sweep above the ash-covered Plymouth.