From hotels and amusement parks that have fallen into disrepair to entire towns reclaimed by nature, here are some of the most stunning and unnerving abandoned places around the world, many of which you can still visit.
Ryugyong Hotel, North Korea
This enormous, seemingly biblical tower-turned-hotel in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was meant to reopen several times, only for a series of setbacks to prevent this from happening. While the exterior has been updated, the interior, rumour has it, remains derelict. At 105-storeys high, it dominates the city skyline.
Hashima Island, Japan
About 15 kilometres off the coast of Nagasaki, Hashima Island – nicknamed ‘Battleship Island’ – was once home to 5,000 coal miners and a forced labour camp during the Second World War, but was abandoned after the coal reserves disappeared. Its concrete buildings have been reclaimed by nature and it is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, open for tourists to explore.
Holy Land, Connecticut, USA
This former Christian theme park would attract up to 40,000 visitors a year during the 1960s and 70s. Created by John Baptist Greco, an attorney based in the city of Waterbury, the theme park died with its founder and soon its attractions, including a miniature replica of Bethlehem village, fell into disrepair. Attempts from the local community to repair the park failed and it is now jointly owned by the mayor of Waterbury and a local car dealership.
The Wreck of the SS America
This former cruise liner ran aground during a storm while it was being towed to Thailand, where it was going to be turned into a luxury hotel ship. Within 48 hours of grounding on the coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, the hull was split in two, making it unsalvageable. Today the wreck is still visible during low tide and is a popular marine exhibition for scuba divers.
El Hotel del Salto, Colombia
Thousands of tourists each year travel 30 kilometres southwest of Colombia’s capital Bogotá to see the incredible Tequendama Falls and the hotel, believed to be haunted, that overlooks this breathtaking natural feature. This once thriving resort was forced to close after the local river became contaminated by industrial waste.
IM Cooling Tower, Belgium
The sounds from the industrial power station once echoed throughout the neighbourhood of Monceau-sur-Sambre. In 2007, after a series of environmental protests, the site was closed and today the cooling tower sits empty, like a relic straight out of a sci-fi movie. Despite being secured by guards, many urban explorers have found ways to get inside this cavernous structure.
Floating Forest, Sydney, Australia
From a distance this looks like a ship carrying a rather unusual cargo, but get up close and you’ll find a rusty liner whose metal hull is bursting from the amount of lush vegetation that has colonised its surface. Homebush Bay is home to a 102-year-old, 1,140-tonne former supply ship. Nicknamed the Floating Forest by locals, it is a popular site with photographers visiting the nearby Olympic Stadium.
Château Miranda, Belgium
Originally built for the Liedekerke-De Beaufort family, this castle has had many different uses over the years, having been occupied by the German military during the Second World War and being turned into an orphanage and holiday camp for sickly children. Abandoned in 1991 after maintaining the property proved to be too costly, the castle began crumbling from the inside out, making it a popular spot for urban explorers.
Kolmanskop, Namib Desert
The discovery of diamonds in what was once German southwest Africa lead to an influx of miners and wealth to the area. The town of Kolmanskop was created as a result of this diamond boom and the homes were completely different from the Namibian architecture of nearby settlements. With dwindling resources and the discovery of larger diamond reserves elsewhere, the slowly diminished, and now the sands which sweep across the desert have reclaimed the opulent structures.
Wonderland amusement park, China
Situated 20 miles outside of Beijing, Wonderland was had the potential of being the largest amusement park in all of Asia, but construction was abandoned in 1998 after a dispute over land prices. Now farmers have taken over the land, growing cops between the fantastical buildings and faux castles that were meant to house rides, and parking their tractors in alleys that would have been home to carnival games and food stalls. A creepy reminder of unfulfilled dreams.
Interested in abandoned and forbidden destinations? Check out this Mediterranean town on a sought-after stretch of coast that is totally off-limits, or discover how Pantheon’s roof once offered the best views over Rome before it was made unavailable to tourists.