If you've seen any zombie movies, you know how haunting an abandoned, once-thriving city can be. But despite the ruin and overgrowth, there's also a flicker of beauty that shines through the silent emptiness.
Over the course of the past few hundreds years, these 16 metropolitan areas have fallen victim to mass exoduses thanks to everything from disaster to dried up industry, leaving behind some damn fine fodder for photographers.
The World's 16 Most Beautiful Abandoned Cities
1. Centralia, Pennsylvania
A raging 400-acre fire has been burning inside the coal mine underneath this rural town since 1962. Residents were initially bitterly divided over whether it posed an immediate threat, but most took buyout offers from the government to relocate, and it’s now a ghost town save for a few holdouts and a church that still offers weekly services.
2. Wittenoom, Australia
Once a relatively booming small town, Wittenoom was the site of an enormous asbestos mine, and became the country’s only supplier of blue asbestos during the 1950s and ‘60s. However, the whole place was essentially shuttered when residents started to get sick and officials raised concerns over the area’s air quality.
3. Ordos, China
Originally built to accommodate 1 million residents, this rapidly developed city in Inner Mongolia was doomed from the start due to unpaid loans, skiddish investors, and missed deadlines. Today, it looks more like an enormous empty movie backlot slowly crumbling before your eyes than a bustling metropolis.
4. Hashima Island, Japan
Established in the late 1800s, the island was a booming population center thanks to its undersea coal mines. However, the mines were closed in 1974, and shortly after everyone left. Look familiar? It served as Javier Bardem’s evil island lair in Skyfall.
5. Shi Cheng, China
Often referred to as the “Atlantis of the East,” this 600-year-old underwater city was purposefully flooded in 1959 to make way for a dam.
6. Ross Island, India
During Britain’s rule, this island served as the headquarters of the Indian Penal Settlement, and was a thriving community with an extensive infrastructure. Then after an earthquake hit in 1941, most residents fled and never returned.
7. Pripyat, Ukraine
Officially proclaimed a city in 1979, Pripyat’s population grew to nearly 50,000 by the time it was evacuated a few days after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
8. Craco, Italy
Dating back to the 8th Century, this picturesque mountaintop was once a bustling population center, but after some devastating landslides and a major earthquake in 1980, the place was abandoned. However, it remains an incredibly popular filming location, and can be seen in everything from The Passion Of The Christ to Quantum of Solace.
9. Garnet, Montana
During the Gold Rush, Garnet was home to nearly 1,000 residents, but once the gold ran out, everyone took off, and the whole place was abandoned before 1920.
10. Simacem, Indonesia
This rural town was completely evacuated following the eruption of the volcano pictured in the background.
11. San Juan Parangaricutiro, Mexico
Built right next to the Parícutin volcano, it was destroyed when the volcano erupted in 1942.
12. Renaissance Island, Uzbekistan
Set up as a biological weapons test site in 1954, it was abandoned by the staff in 1992. They left behind many of the containers holding the toxic chemicals (including anthrax and the bubonic plague), which were not sealed correctly and have developed leaks. Whoops!
13. Bodie, California
Another town that had its heyday during the Gold Rush, Bodie was considered a ghost town as early as 1915 once the mines dried up.
14. Humberstone, Chile
Once a flourishing nitrate mining community, Humberstone and the neighboring town of Santa Laura were essentially put out of business once scientists discovered how to synthesize ammonia.
15. Villa Epecuén, Argentina
Once a thriving resort town, Epecuén was hit by a massive flood in 1985 after a nearby dam broke and never recovered.
16. Dhanushkodi, India
Still considered a sacred Hindu site, this seaside town was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He'd love to experience an entirely empty NYC, but not at night.
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