6 Abandoned Towns of the World

spinlonga greece

Tyneham, Dorset

Tyneham Church
Tyneham’s catchphrase is “where time stopped in 1943”, which is when it was seized by the government to prepare for D-Day landings. The unlucky residents were given a mere 28 days to pack up their stuff and shift it, and unlike residents from other requisitioned areas, they were never allowed to return.

For travellers who enjoy a bit of doom and gloom, the abandoned houses are open to the public, although most of the time the area is being used by the military. (Note: they don’t like it when you get in the way of their training sessions).

Spinalonga, Greece

spinlonga greece
Victoria Hislop’s novelThe Island gives a fantastic overview of this spooky, ex-leper colony. Before a cure for the disease was discovered, those suffering from leprosy were shipped over to this tiny island to fend for themselves.

The ruins of the city show the isolation of the island, and also give an insight into the ways the lepers would have lived out their last days. The easiest way to get there now is by boat trip from Crete.

Pripyat Ukraine

The disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine is taught to children across the globe, haunting them with the pictures of radiation damage. For those that lived closed, the reality was flee or die. Up to 100,000 residents from nearby areas were forced to evacuate after the reactor exploded. Pripyat, the closest town to No.4 suffered the most, and 50,000 residents fled en masse the next day, leaving their houses completely as they were.

Nowadays, visits can be booked through TourKiev or other operators, and keen photographers will revel in the chance to snap this living-monument to history that hasn’t – or more rightly cannot – be touched.

Gilman, Colorado

Abandoned towns are hardly few and far between in the American west, but Gilman in Colorado is particularly spectacular. Cars still sit in drive ways, the tools of mining days gone by are still in sheds, and the buildings are still intact (although tagged with graffiti). This one is difficult to visit, as it’s been a no-go zone for the public since 1984 due to poisonous substances in the ground, but might be worth a drive-by for the curious.

Varosha Cyprus

During the Turkish invasions in Cyprus, the areas of Varosha was eventually seized by the UN – meaning that neither side could take control. To this very day, this once lively sea-side resort town has been untouched and is off limits to the public.

This is a particular shame considering the splendour of the resort – it was once the go-to place for celebrities such as Bridget Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The closest you can get now to re-living the experience of the celebs is the neighbouring resort of Magosa, – which still has year-round sun and stunning beaches (check out the closestplaces you can stay near Varosha here).

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

Nazi invaders seized control of this small town during WW2 and made punishment dolls of the inhabitants. Shooting them in the legs, machine gunning those who attempted to escape, and other heinous methods were used to show the Nazi distaste for the French resistance.

When the war was finally over, Charles de Gaulle ordered that the town remain untouched – to be left to stand as a monument to those who suffered there. For visitors today, this living museum is 5 hours’ drive from Paris.

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