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Largest Abandoned Cities Around the World

Pripyat, Ukraine

While most people may think that Chernobyl was the main casualty of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the city of Pripyat was actually located closer to the plant and had a population of nearly 50,000 residents (compared to Chernobyl's 14,000). Following the disaster, inhabitants were moved to the purpose-built city of Slavutych. For over 30 years, the area has sat vacant and still remains one of the most contaminated places on earth.

(image via jenniferboyer, CC)

Hashima Island, Japan

Recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the industrialized island of Hashima is a former undersea coal mine. During its peak in the 1950s, the island housed over 5,000 workers in concrete apartment buildings created to withstand the salty sea spray and strong typhoon winds. Abandoned since the mines closed in 1974, the setting may seem familiar to those who have seen the James Bond film Skyfall.

(image via ajari, CC)

Kayaköy, Turkey

Home of the ancient Lycian region, humans have lived in this area since 1400s BCE. People lived here, that is, until the Greco-Turkish War of 1919 to 1922. During the conflict, Greeks who lived in the area were subject to persecution and war atrocities, leading to mass exoduses from the city. By the end of the campaign in 1922, the city was abandoned. Today it serves as a museum.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Coal mining was Centralia's largest economic output throughout the early 1900s; however, it ended up becoming the city's downfall. In 1962, a fire began in the underground mines that have been burning ever since. Toxic amounts of carbon monoxide have since forced the evacuation of the towns 2,700 residents, except for 7 lonely holdouts. 

(image via Navy2004, CC)

Bodie, California

Founded during the late 1800s, Bodie boomed with the discovery of ore that contained traces of gold. Within a decade, the city's population had ballooned to 8,000. Everything quickly went bust, however, and by 1910, the recorded population had fallen below 700. Now a National Historic Landmark and state park, Bodie is the quintessential old-West ghost town.

Kadykchan, Russia

Founded as a mining town to support the nearby electric power station, this far eastern Russian city collapsed along with the Soviet Union when coal lost its profitability. Around half of the population moved elsewhere, though after a 1996 mine explosion that killed six workers, the rest of Kadykchan's citizens quickly resettled following the closing of the mine.

(image via globaloverland)

Nova Cidade de Kilamba, Angola

Current Population: 40,000
Built for 500,000

Unlike previous cities on the list, Kilamba New City is a completely new residential area hoping to draw in residents. The investment hasn't quite paid off yet. Colorful new apartment complexes sit empty, waiting for new occupants. An aerial view of the city looks like a picture of a lego town. There's a long way to go to reach the 500,000 people for which the area was built.

(image via Santa Martha, CC)

Varosha, Cyprus

Varosha was the top vacation destination in Cyprus, hosting famous visitors like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, residents fled the military campaigns waged in the street. After the skirmishes, Varosha was placed on the northern side of the United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus where Turkey forbids any entry to the area to this day. Lavish high-rises now sit crumbling after 40 years of nonuse.

(image via Julienbzh35, CC)

Ordos, China

Current Population: 30,000
Built for 1,000,000

Like Kilamba, Angola, the Chinese government spent incredible amounts of money to build the Kangbashi New Area real estate development within Ordos. Projected to accommodate 1 million inhabitants, today only around 30,000 people have made the move to the overly ambitious area. At least rush hour isn't so bad.

(image via jakob_boerner)

Chernobyl, Ukraine

Chernobyl was home to one of the biggest and most famous nuclear meltdowns the world has ever seen. In 1986, Reactor No. 4 began to leak, and the city was evacuated as soon as possible. Today, only a small number of people reside in the town with signs that say, “Owner of this house lives here.”

(Image via Flickr)

Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

While Oradour-Sur-Glane didn’t have a large population, it suffered a tragic fate. In 1944, Nazi Soldiers invaded the town, mistaking it for Oradour-Sur-Vayres. Once they arrived, they massacred 642 of its inhabitants. Another town was built close by and the original stands as a memorial.

(Image via Flickr)

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop was a huge diamond mine in the early 1900s. After realizing how rich the area was in diamonds, the residents quickly built a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theater, casino, ice factory, and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere. Once the diamonds were depleted, the town was abandoned.

(Image via Flickr)

Humberstone, Chile

Humberstone was a mining town in the Atacama Desert. The miners sought the nitrate-rich dirt, which was used to make fertilizer. The “white gold” (as it was called) was immensely expensive and needed to grow food quickly. Unfortunately, the fertilizer wasn’t needed by WWI, and the industry collapsed.

(Image via Flickr)

Santa Laura, Chile

Santa Laura was the second mine owned by Saltpeter Works. It was mined until the nitrate-bust, and then promptly abandoned like Humberstone. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that visitors can tour with its original structures still intact.

(Image via Flickr)

Wittenoom, Australia

Wittenoom is home to a blue asbestos mine, and it didn’t take long for the town to boom when asbestos was needed during WWII. However, that didn’t last, as you might suspect. The danger became apparent in 1944 when a mine inspector decided the dust levels were too high. By 1966, the town was closed for good. Today, only three people live in Wittenoom.

(Image via Flickr)

Craco, Italy

This once beautiful city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea offered magnificent views from its location along the cliffside. Throughout the centuries, however, underground sewage infrastructure led to landslides, endangering building foundations. Floods and earthquakes damaged the area further, and by 1980, the site was completely abandoned for safety reasons.

(image via Idéfix~commonswiki, CC)

Gary, Indiana

Gary, Indiana had a tough reputation throughout the 1900s thanks to political violence, racial violence, labor unrest, and industrial pollution. The city once boasted over 200,000 people, but now that has fallen to 76,000 (a 2016 census recording) because of the reasons it became a “tough” town. Now, it’s estimated that one-third of the homes are unoccupied.

(Image via Flickr)

Picher, Oklahoma

Picher, Oklahoma is one of the saddest examples of what happens when mining goes bad. This town mined zinc and iron, but the waters became polluted when the debris created run-off. The waste, also known as chat, was left in giant piles all over Picher, and left large amounts of toxins to blow in the wind.

(Image via Flickr)

Agdam, Azerbaijan

Agdam grew to a massive population very quickly, but it didn’t last long. There was substantial fighting during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which caused the citizens to flee eastward due to displacement. The city was the biggest military zone in Azerbaijani, and officials considered it a military necessity. Now, it’s off limits to sightseeing and is completely desolate. 

(Image via Flickr)

Times Beach, Missouri

Times Beach is a ghost town that’s 17 miles southwest of St. Louis. Everyone that lived in Times Beach was evacuated in 1983 due to dioxin contamination. The toxin was caused by chemical waste disposal by the Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, Inc – a facility that was owned by the same company that created Agent Orange.  

(Image via Flickr)

Cahokia

Cahokia is an ancient Native American city that was one of the biggest cities north of Mexico (at the time). Many archaeologists think the city was once a trading hub that attracted people from all over the area. Today it’s in modern-day Illinois. The mysterious thing about Cahokia is that no one knows what happened. The decline is unknown, and no one is sure where everyone went or why.

(Image via Flickr)

Tawergha, Libya

Tawergha, Libya has a dark history. The settlement was pro-Gaddafi and was decimated in 2011 by rebel forces. They had 30 days to leave, and those that didn’t were killed or detained. It’s estimated that 40,000 people were displaced from Tawergha after the war ended.

(Image via Facebook)

Ross Island, India

Ross Island was a British settlement in India that was designed to be the residential headquarters for the British Administration of the Indian Penal Settlement. However, the weather was far too much for the island, and the settlers promptly abandoned it.

(Image via Facebook)

Cahaba, Alabama

Cahaba (or Cahawba) was originally the capital city of Alabama, which is pretty surprising for anyone that doesn’t know the history of Alabama. The town was located between two rivers and frequently flooded, which led to its abandonment. The capital was later moved to nearby Selma after major flooding in 1865.

(Image via Facebook)

Kennecott, Alaska

Kennecott was a mining town in Alaska, but it wasn’t easy to get to. Because of this, it provided substantial salaries to the living circumstances. It wasn’t unusual for workers to work all seven days and send their wages back to their loved ones. By 1938, it was a ghost town once the resources dried up.

(Image via Flickr)

Virginia City, Montana

Virginia City was another mining town that attracted anyone that was searching for gold. Like with any other mining town, the resources depleted. Charles and Sue Bovey attempted to restore the town, but there was nothing they could do. Everyone left, and the city became a historical landmark in 1961.

(Image via Flickr)

Boston Mills, Ohio

Boston Mills is a strange town, and there are tons of rumors about it. Those who know the town refer to it as Hell Town. The mysterious part was that it was taken over by the government in 1974. The houses were promptly boarded up, and the civilians had to leave. There’s a rumor that the government was simply trying to cover up a chemical spill.

(Image via Flickr)

Merv

Merv once sat along one of the most prosperous routes of the Silk Road. It was a capital of the Seljuk Sultanate and had a massive population. It was the biggest city in the world circa 1,200 A.D., but it was razed to the ground by the armies of Genghis Khan. The deaths were in the hundreds of thousands.

(Image via Flickr)

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is considered to be one of the oldest civilizations in the United States. The Puebloan people once lived there, and many Native American tribes consider the place home of their ancestors. It supported a large population with Pueblo Bonito supporting around 1,200 at its height. Like Cahokia, the people there just left one day and never looked back.

(Image via Flickr)

Pyramiden, Norway

Pyramiden, Norway was a Russian settlement that was founded in 1927 to mine coal. However, the owner abandoned it in 1991, and the settlers followed. The buildings still stand today, but tourists can only access it by snowmobile or boat. 

(Image via Facebook)

Döllersheim, Austria

After the area of Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, the town was slated to be turned into a military training area. It was evacuated, but the training area never came to fruition. After WWII ended, the town was never officially repopulated. Now empty churches and houses stand in ruins, though there is a very small population of people who live in the area.

(image via Wikipedia)

Copehill Down, England

Technically the area of Copehill Down was never intended to house people. It was used by the British military during WWII as a mock German village for training exercises. But the degree to which the military made Copehill Down is impressive. There is actual landscaping and the windows of the houses actually have curtains in them. It looks as if people actually DID live there even though no one has. Its size would make it a pretty sizeable small town that could hold hundreds.

(image via Flickr)

Tianducheng, China

Yes, that's the right picture. This isn't Paris, but the Chinese government modeled the city after Parisian architecture. It even has its own Champs-Élysées avenue and Eiffel Tower replica. Though it is built to hold around 10,000 residents, entire buildings remain empty as only 2,000 residents live in the city. Most of these people work at the nearby French-themed amusement park.

(image via Wikipedia)

Pegrema, Russia

Abandoned since the Russian Revolution, Pegrema has not seen residents for over 100 years even though it is in a picturesque location on Lake Onega near Finland. Now the wooden buildings of this village are decomposing and collapsing while surrounded by a beautiful nature setting.

(image via Wikipedia)

Belmont, Nevada

This mining boom town was home to silver, copper lead, and antimony production. At its peak, it had around 9,000 residents, four stores, two saloons, five restaurants, and its own post office. Ruined buildings still remain, and the brick courthouse has been renovated for historical preservation.

(image via Wikipedia)

Pomona, Namibia

Pomona was another mining town, though it was known as particularly fertile in diamonds, so much so that you could pick them up out of the ground with your bare hands. Even though it was in a remote area that needed constant resupplying via train, the town grew to around 1,000 residents. When WWI disrupted mining activity, the population left to never return.

(image via Wikipedia)

Kitsault, British Columbia

This is the second time Kitsault has become a ghost town. SECOND! It was a mining community way back in the 1910s, but once silver ore mining ceased, the population left. It was later reestablished in 1979 as a mining community for molybdenum. Designed to hold up to 1,500 residents, the neighborhood houses (complete with streets and streetlights) have been completely abandoned since 1982. It's easily the most recent abandoned city on our list.

(image via Facebook)

St. Elmo, Colorado

Located deep in the heart of Colorado, St. Elmo's mining industry started to decline in the 1920s. By 1922, the railroad discontinued service and what once was a town of around 2,000 residents quickly became abandoned. The buildings are actually fairly well-preserved thanks to historic funding.

(image via Wikipedia)

Calico, California

Located in San Bernardino County in the Mojave Desert, Calico had around 3,500 people at its peak in the late 1800s. Now, it operates as a county park after being purchased in the 1950s, and the buildings were restored to their original glory.

(image via Flickr)

"Ghost Neighborhoods" of Detroit, Michigan

Detroit isn't an abandoned city in technicality, but so many people are leaving the area that there are large "ghost neighborhoods" of abandoned homes and commercial areas. In 1950, the area had just under 1.9 million residents! Now, it has well under 700,000. That's a loss of around 64% of the population within 50 years!

(image via Flickr)

Rhyolite, Nevada

This town started out as a mining camp in 1905. A gold rush caused thousands of people to flock to Rhyolite to try and find their fortune, eventually building up a population of almost 5,000. Charles M. Schwab invested heavily in the town’s infrastructure so that it eventually had a hospital, a school, an opera house, and a stock exchange. By 1920, Rhyolite had become a ghost town after the gold rush ended, and a series of natural and financial disasters ruined the town.

Ilha dos Tigres, Angola

This island used to be connected to the mainland and was once a well-established fishing village, which more than 1,500 people called home. By 1960, this town had established a pumping station to get fresh water, so it no longer had to be brought in by ship. In 1962, a heavy storm destroyed the pipeline and cut the inhabitants off from the mainland, making it an island overnight. The island has since been abandoned and is now a popular attraction for adventurous tourists and vandals.

Image via Instagram

Lukangol, South Sudan

Due to the ethnic wars of 2011 in Southern Sudan, many cities were abandoned as villagers fled for their lives. Lukangol had a population of almost 20,000 people before the fateful attack in 2011, which led to the town’s abandonment. The city was burnt to the ground, and 30 people lost their lives when a rival village attacked because of an on-going struggle over pasture land and water. The city has since become a ghost town. 

Image via Wikipedia

La Güera, Western Sahara

After negotiating with local tribal chiefs, La Güera was founded in 1920 when Spanish colonizer Francisco Bens established a fort and an air base in Western Sahara. It was a Spanish fishing port and military base up until 1975 when the town changed ownership three times. Officially claimed by Morocco, the population got up to about 1,200 until the town was abandoned. Today, only a few fishermen occupy the empty town. 

Image via Facebook

Grytviken, United Kingdom

Grytviken was founded in 1904 and used to be the largest whaling station in South Georgia. In its prime, around 300 men worked at this whaling station during the summer months. Once considered the best harbor on South Georgia Island, Grytviken was closed in 1966 because dwindling populations made it uneconomical to keep this town open. Today, the South Georgia Museum is the only thing left in Grytviken to commemorate the town’s whaling history.

Image via Facebook

Sonargaon, Bangladesh

Sonargaon used to be a historic administrative, commercial, and maritime center, made famous by the mentions of many travelers as a busy center for trade and commerce. In the late 1800s, this city became the home to upper-middle class Bengali businessmen and around 1,400 families due to the thriving economy. The flooding, vandalism, and deteriorating structures caused officials to place Sonargaon on the Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in 2008, forcing people out of their homes. Today, the town is in ruins as efforts continue to repair the city with the country’s minimal budget.

Image via Flickr

Ochamchire, Georgia

Ochamchire was a seaside city in Georgia, a country in Eurasia. In 1978, the city was home to some 18,700 people of various ethnic groups. After the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict of 1992, Ochamchire the city lost a significant portion of its population due to the ethnic cleansing of Georgians. Most of the people who weren’t killed left the town and never came back, leaving a small population behind with crumbling infrastructure and entire city blocks abandoned. 

Image via Instagram

Vijayanagara, India

Translated to “City of Victory,” Vijayanagara was the capital city of the historic Vijayanagara Empire in the early 14th century. The city was founded by people of Hindu faith but opened its doors to people from all faiths, leading to multi-religious monuments and influences from the many different cultures. This prosperous city was home to around 500,000 people before wars between two rival religious groups ended with the Vijayanagara leader being beheaded. The city was then looted and destroyed, so now all that remains are ruins.

Image via Flickr

Quneitra, Syria

Quneitra was the capital city of the Quneitra Governorate in southwestern Syria. This city was abandoned until the late 1800s when groups of Circassians settled in the area. The city was repopulated and infrastructure started growing, with about 20,000 people inhabiting the city at its peak. After a series of wars and occupations, the city was destroyed by settlers in 1974. After the total destruction of the city, Syria never rebuilt, and Quneitra was abandoned once again.

Image via Flickr

Belchite, Spain

Belchite is a municipality and village in the province of Zaragoza, Spain and is the capital of the administrative region. This city had a population of almost 2,000 people before the Battle of Maria from the Peninsular War was fought in and near the city, which ended up destroying Belchite in 1937. The ruins of this ghost town remain as a memorial to the war. In 1939, a new Belchite village was built right next to the ruins. You might have seen some of Belchite’s ruins without even knowing it. Several directors shot scenes at this historic location, including Guillermo del Toro for his film Pan’s Labyrinth. 

Image via Flickr