Abandoned Cities

Fascinating and mysterious, abandoned settlements offer a glimpse at how people lived in the past. See how time similarly stands still in five haunting—and visitable—abandoned cities in a variety of countries.

Kadykchan, Russia

Kadykchan—located near the Avan-Yurvakh River, 40 miles northwest of Susuman, Russia—used to be a work settlement built by gulag prisoners in World War II for coal extraction purposes. The coal mining in the area grew less lucrative throughout the years, and people eventually had to move out in order to access basic services like school and medical care. People left in a hurry—leaving a lot of their belongings behind. By 2010, the city that once housed over 10,000 people had been completely abandoned. Now you can find crumbling relics such as old toys and other belongings scattered throughout this silent city.

Craco, Italy

Craco is a commune that sits atop a hillside, overlooking a valley of hills. The ghost town is located in the region of Basilicata and the province of Matera about 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Taranto at the instep of the “boot” of Italy. Around ad 540, the town was first inhabited by the Greeks who called it “Montedoro.” Its residents slowly started leaving in 1892 because of harsh environmental issues. It was eventually completely abandoned in 1980. However, because of its beautiful medieval architecture, it remains a tourist attraction as well as a popular filming location.

Hashima Island, Japan

Hashima Island, nicknamed “Battleship Island,” is located nine miles outside of Nagasaki. It served as a coal mining facility from 1887 to 1974. It featured concrete apartment buildings and a sea wall that surrounded the island. Coal helped fuel the Japanese colonies during Japan’s industrialization age. In 1890, Mitsubishi bought the island, intending to tap the underwater coal mines. However, as petroleum replaced coal, coal mines in Japan started to close down. Hashima Island was officially closed by Mitsubishi in 1974. The island has been open to the public for tours since April 2009.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat, Ukraine—a ghost city that suffered from a nuclear disaster—was the ninth nuclear city of the Soviet Union that helped serve the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. The city, unlike cities of military importance in the Soviet Union, was not restricted before the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. The city had a population of 49,400 people with an average age of 26. It was declared an official city in 1979 but was abandoned shortly thereafter, with the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986. Radiation levels have dropped since then, and guided tours are now offered in and around the city.

Pyramiden, Norway

Pyramiden, Norway, was a Russian settlement once occupied by over 1,000 people. Perhaps what is most interesting about Pyramiden is its low-rate decay—which can be attributed to the frigid local climate. Buildings and other relics have remained almost exactly as when they were still in use. Today tourists can access Pyramiden by boat or by snowmobile, either independently or as part of a guided tour.

—Rachel Rubio

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