15 Largest Abandoned Cities in the World

11 min

When you’re waiting in a long grocery store line, you probably think it would be quite refreshing to live in an abandoned city. After all, you get to avoid being stuck in traffic! That could be a reality sooner than you think. From a Californian town frozen in time to a ghost town in a forbidden zone, here are 15 of the largest abandoned cities in the world. 

15. Ordos City 

Think about the last time you drove through your town or city in the dead of night. The streets were quiet, no one was around, and shops lacked the hive of activity they usually see during the day. Now, imagine that during the day. That’s what people can expect when they visit Kangbashi, a town south of Ordos in Inner Mongolia.

The quiet, nearly-empty town spanned 137 miles and was built in the early 2000s to house over one million residents. Even though it cost over $1 billion to accommodate a significant number of people, it’s home to just one-tenth of the population it is supposed to cater to. 

According to those who visit Kangbashi, the town has a post-apocalyptic feel. Vacant high-rise buildings, half-finished projects, and empty streets are what face those who wander through the township. 

However, you can’t help but wonder if the people who do live there find it to be a breath of fresh air compared to the overcrowded, noisy cities and towns nearby. Is it abandoned, or merely a paradise for those who want to escape? 

14. Hashima 

Hashima, or Battleship Island, sits off the coast of Nagasaki and has been a ghost town for more than 40 years. With its ten-story apartment buildings, courtyards, corridors, restaurants, and schools, it might seem strange to think that no one lives there. But no one probably should have lived there in the first place. 

In the early 1900s, the Mitsubishi Corporation believed that the island was sitting on top of a coal deposit. For the next century, workers harvested coal under the sea bed, with around 400,000 tonnes leaving the area every year. 

Most of the workers in the mine were forced laborers from Korea. While they worked on Nagasaki, which was around 0.3 square miles, they created a city around the mine site to live. The apartments were built on rocks and were linked together with corridors and stairs. 

By the 1950s, around 6,000 people called it home until the coal ran out. Once Mitsubishi closed the mine, the city was left abandoned. It was closed to visitors from 1974 until 2009 but was approved for organized tours since then. 

13. Bodie 

Bodie is a dusty, decrepit old town around 13 miles off State Highway 395 in California. To look at it today, you would think it’s ripe for demolition, but this township looks exactly as it did in the 1800s and 1900s, and that’s how the California state wants to keep it. 

Bodie is a State Historic Park that is preserved in its current condition by California State Parks. The goal is to maintain the buildings in their 1880s condition, but not improve them. 

So, why is Bodie abandoned and now only kept busy by tourists passing through? In 1859, gold was discovered nearby, and a mill was established just two years later. Before long, the township grew from a population of 20 miners, to 10,000 people by 1880. 

Saloons, brothels, gambling halls, opium dens, houses, and more, all popped up in a short space of time, all catering to the gold miners who flooded the area in search of that mega haul of gold. Families, store owners, prostitutes, and people from all walks of life and all different countries decided to call Bodie home. 

However, when the gold dried up, so did the industry. As quickly as they arrived, everyone left in search of the next “sure” thing. 

Now, anyone can drive to Bodie and get a feel for what life was like back in the 1800s. A slow, bumpy, and dusty road leads to the township, with equally dusty homesteads and structures positioned along the main stretch. While it’s abandoned, Bodie is still worth a visit. 

12. Pyramiden 

Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian mining village on an island that’s only accessible by sea or snowmobile. It’s positioned on the archipelago of Svalbard, which sits above the arctic circle of Norway. While its location is reason enough not to want to live there, it’s hard to believe that people once did. 

Pyramiden was a thriving community back in the early 1900s when Swedes founded it in 1910. The Soviet Union purchased it in 1927 and it was mined for the next seven decades for its coal deposits. 

Towering apartment blocks and public buildings sit facing each other in a neat circle, and there is even a statue of Vladimir Lenin looking over the town’s structures. 

While once thriving, Pyramiden fell silent in the late 1990s. In just a few months, once whispers of closure became more than just rumors, everyone had left. Now, Pyramiden is owned and operated by seals, seabirds, wildlife, and, now and again, a rogue polar bear. 

Fortunately, keen explorers are still able to visit Pyramiden if they wish. Organized tours for day trips and overnight stays are available. 

11. Akarmara 

Around 40,000 people used to live in Akarmara, Georgia, but if you happen to visit the township, you’ll only find visitors like yourself and few actual residents. 

Akarmara used to be a mining town, but the unprofitability of the coal industry took its toll. With the end of the USSR around the same time, resident numbers dwindled, and mines shut down. 

By the 1990s, the siege of Tkvarcheli caused Akarmara to be cut off from the rest of Abkhazia for over 400 days, which meant supplies had to be helicoptered in. That spelled the beginning of the end for the once-thriving township. 

While tens of thousands of people used to live here, now mere hundreds do. Four and five-story apartments now only have one or two families living in them, and the town is slowly disintegrating.  

There has been talk of Akarmara becoming a resort town, but the chances of getting funding to make it happen are low. Therefore, tourists visit to take a look around, view the mines, then head back to Abkhazia. For now, it remains a unique location for tourists, but not somewhere you’d be likely to lay down roots. 

10. Houtouwan

It’s amazing how quickly things can change in a short space of time. Just think how long your lawns grow when you head away on vacation. Then imagine what can change with a ten or 20-year gap in maintenance. Houtouwan is proof of just how quickly nature can take over.

Houtouwan was once a thriving fishing village on Shengshan Island, off China’s east coast. It used to be home to around 3,000 people, but it was always quite hard to access and exceptionally remote. These two factors meant that more and more people started leaving. By 2002, it was completely depopulated and merged with a neighboring village.

Within decades, the empty houses within the village started to be taken over by nature. Climbing plants covered facades, and blankets of bushes swallowed fully-furnished homes. Most people would remain oblivious to this island’s existence if it weren’t for photos taken in 2015. Once those photos hit the internet, people were chomping at the bit to pay a visit. 

A Shanshan Island representative, Chen Bo, said telephone lines were jammed, and Houtouwan wasn’t equipped to open to tourists. Chen said: we urge visitors to preserve its tranquillity for now. So, it looks like you won’t get to see this village any time soon. 

9. Kolmanskop

The name Zacharias Lewala may not mean much to most people, but he’s the reason why the township of Kolmanskop in southern Africa’s Namib Desert came to exist. Even if it no longer does.

Zacharias was a railway worker who was clearing sand from the railroad tracks in 1908 when he stumbled across diamonds. His employer didn’t reward him for the find, but the discovery set off a massive diamond mining operation. 

By 1912, Kolmanskop had produced millions of carats annually, which equated to a little under 12 percent of the world’s diamond production. Before long, this barren desert became a thriving town. It had a post office, ice factory, a butcher and baker, and families were moving to the area in search of riches. 

However, German authorities wanted more control over the diamonds and reserved rights for prospecting to one company. Laborers were employed and forced to live in cramped conditions for months. 

By the 1930s, however, the area was nearly depleted of diamonds. As quickly as it had been established, the town was left abandoned. By 1956, once pristine homes were lying in ruins, covered in sand and waiting for nature to claim them. 

8. Goldfield 

While Goldfield in Nevada is not entirely abandoned, it’s pretty close. It was established in the early 1900s as a gold mining town (like a kazillion others) and was home to thousands of people who were on the hunt for that big payday. Within two years, the local mines were producing $2 million worth of ore or 30 percent of all ore produced in California at the time. 

Once the gold rush was over, most of those who called Goldfield home left. Today, around 200 people remain, catering for the many thousands of visitors who want to see what an abandoned gold mining town looks like.

Goldmining is, oddly enough, still ongoing in the area, but not to the same extent. Most of the buildings lie abandoned, and there isn’t even a gas station. Given the state of the abandoned cars, there’s likely no need for one either.

But if you do happen to visit Goldfield, there will be somewhere for you to stay. The Santa Fe Motel and Saloon underwent a complete renovation to provide accommodation for anyone passing through. Some people have also been thinking about renovating their buildings and opening up shop. For now, though, it remains a near-completely abandoned town. 

7. Calico 

Calico was a once-thriving town in California with 500 silver mines. It roared to life in 1881 with California’s silver strike and produced around $20 million of silver ore in just 12 years. However, just a few short years later, the value of silver plummeted, and Calico became a ghost town. After all, there was no reason for its residents to hang around when their livelihood had been destroyed.

In the 1950s, a man called Walter Knott purchased the township, because that’s what you do when you’re rich, you buy towns. Schitt’s Creek, anyone? He restored the majority of the buildings to look as they did back in the 1880s and created a tourist attraction in the process. Calico then became a State Historical Landmark. 

Now, it forms part of the San Bernadino County Regional Parks system and sees thousands of tourists annually. It has shops, camping and outdoor facilities, and restaurants, too. If you happen to be passing through, it’s well worth paying a visit to this abandoned town. Its natural beauty and historical significance will blow you away. 

6. Craco

If you’ve seen James Bond Quantum of Solace, Passion of the Christ with Mel Gibson, and Saving Grace, then you will have likely seen Craco. Craco is a town in Southern Italy that has been abandoned for over five decades.

Craco has been a town since as early as 1060 AD, with many of its buildings dating back to medieval times. In 1277, it was home to about 2,500 people and maintained a consistent population of about 1,500 for every century since. 

However, a plague in 1656 saw the population drop dramatically, before poor agricultural conditions saw it plummet even further. By the 1950s, natural disasters, poor soil, and unstable terrain meant that Craco was no longer fit for people to live there. 

By 1963, the remaining 1,800 people who called Craco home were relocated to a new town called Craco Peschiera nearby. They lived in barracks and tent cities until more suitable housing options were arranged. 

Today, Craco is abandoned, overgrown, and only accessible by tourists on an organized tour. However, tourism has seen funding become available to maintain the site and make it available for festivals and cultural events. It has also been the set for many films and TV shows. 

5. Roghudi Vecchio

In the hills of the Calabria region in Southern Italy lies the remains of a once-thriving town called Roghudi Vecchio. Roghudi Vecchio used to be home to one of the last Greek-speaking communities in Italy. 

The Greeks colonized the area in the eighth century BC, and the town in the 12th century, and all that remains today are a few Coke bottles and a pizza oven. There are no urns, relics, or century-old pieces of pottery to be found. 

The region of Calabria in which Roghudi Vecchio sits is in the toe tip of the boot of Italy. It was largely home to displaced Hellenic immigrants, which meant a revival in the Greek language at the time. Today, a few thousand Greek speakers remain.

But even though there were plenty of people moving into the area, why did Roghudi become a ghost town? The weather and a few mistakes by humans along the way. Overharvesting of timber caused terrible erosion, which the area’s winter rainstorms did nothing to help. 

Flooding in the 1970s left it uninhabitable, and most people left. Even though the village had been there for thousands of years, it was no longer fit for habitation by anyone. 

4. Burj Al Babas 

Many people have dreamed about living in a Disney-style castle, so why are 399 if them sitting empty in Turkey? A luxury housing development near Mudurnu in Turkey, called Burj al Babas, was half completed in January 2019, when the developers, Sarot Property Group, went bankrupt. 

The construction of the chateaux was underway in 2014, aimed at wealthy holidaymakers who wanted to set up a home away from home. While a handful of them were sold, the majority weren’t, and several investors pulled out. 

The company that built the properties is around $25 million in debt, and the construction was halted. Since then, the Turkish government has developed new building regulations, which means that these castles may no longer comply. In some areas, housing developments must fit into existing neighborhoods and must be low-rise. These castles don’t tick either of those boxes. 

Still, the developers are hopeful that if they sell just 100 castles, they can clear their debt. The houses are not all that feature in Burj Al Babas, either. Alongside holiday homes, there is an entertainment complex and Turkish baths. For the average wealthy Gulf tourist, this town could have been the epitome of luxury. Who knows, it still might be one day. 

3. Centralia 

It’s hard to believe that Centralia, Pennsylvania, used to be a thriving mining town. Today, most of its buildings are gone, the streets are empty, and graffiti has taken over. It’s not hard to notice the elephant in the room either: the smoke wafting from one end of the town to the other. See, it wasn’t a lack of industry that drove people away from Centralia. It was a mine fire that has been burning for over five decades. 

Before the fire in 1962, around 1,200 people lived and worked in Centralia. When the city council decided to clean up unregulated dumps, they started with an abandoned mine pit in Centralia that was used as a rubbish dump. The council decided they wanted it cleaned up before Memorial Day, but they thought the best way to do that was to set it on fire. 

Before long, a giant mine fire began, and the local mines were closed. Attempts were made to put out the fire, but all failed. Some areas reached over 900 degrees-Fahrenheit, so Congress paid people to leave, and Centralia was no longer a town where anyone could live. Even today, it still burns. 

2. Kelso 

Technology has killed many things. We already know that video called the radio star… but technology also destroyed towns. Kelso was a railroad stop that was built in 1905 between Los Angeles to Salt Lake. 

Locomotives pulling trains along the 2,000-foot grade, 18-mile road to Cima needed to stop and fill up their boiler water supplies. Union Pacific Railroad then bought the line and built a depot with a roundhouse and maintenance facilities there in 1924.  

During that time, 2,000 people worked in or near Kelso, California, in the mines and in iron processing for the war efforts. However, after the war, diesel engines took over steam engines, and there was no longer any need for trains to stop in Kelso. The population slowly diminished until the depot closed in 1985. The railroad stop has been a ghost town ever since. 

However, if you do happen to be passing through, it’s well worth a visit to see what a ghost town looks like up close and personal. There’s a boarded-up post office, old shops and houses, and a few structures reminding tourists that people used to call this area home.

1. UFO City

Towns become abandoned for many reasons but rarely is it because anything paranormal or supernatural is thought to be going on. That might be the case with this development, however.

The Sanzhi Pod City in New Taipei City, Taiwan, underwent construction in 1978, with plans for it to become a seaside holiday resort for Taiwanese people of affluence and US military officers. The homes were all in the shape of pods, which was a popular home design of the time. 

Even though this city had all the makings of something great, a series of events meant it was entirely abandoned just two years later. A strange spate of unexplained suicides involving seemingly happy construction workers, random car crashes, and supposed hauntings were thought to be to blame. 

There were rumours that the Sanzhi Pod City was built on a Dutch graveyard, and they weren’t happy about their remains being disturbed. Others thought that the destruction of an ornament dragon caused chaos and carnage. 

But others simply believe that the high price tag meant no one wanted to buy the pods, and that’s why they ultimately went to wrack and ruin. Today, no trace of them remains. 

Before you start cursing that grocery store line or the miles of traffic backed up on the freeway, decide if any of these abandoned cities are worth trading that for. Surely you’ll change your mind! Have you visited any of these places?

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