Cities seem eternal, massive masses of humanity. But sometimes, due to nature or human hubris, they are abandoned, creating evocative displays.
Built as a huge luxury housing estate, Tianducheng emulates the City of Light in everything, from period architecture to a 91-metre-high miniature Eiffel Tower. There is even a replica of the fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens. With room for more than 10,000 residents, the city has remained mostly abandoned, except for employees of a nearby French-themed park, according to City Lab.
Ruby, Arizona, USA, is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the American Southwest and is reminiscent of the Wild West. With a mine founded in the 1870s that produced gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper, Ruby officially became a town when it opened its first post office in 1910.
The mines are now home to a huge colony of Mexican bats. Sometimes their giant swarm can be seen scurrying from the mine entrances at sunset during the summer. Officially abandoned in 1940, the remains of Ruby are now on private land and it remains one of the best preserved western towns in the United States.
Founded in 1946, Wittenoom began as a mining town in Western Australia. The nearby gorges were full of blue asbestos, an important raw building material in the early 20th century. By the early 1950s, Wittenoom was the largest town in the Pilbara region.
Amid growing health concerns, declining demand for asbestos led to the mine's closure in 1966, with most residents leaving to find other work, according to ABC. Wittenoom was officially closed in 2007 and the Australian government took steps to limit access to the former mining town and removed it from all official maps.
Due to the nature of the mining operation, asbestos fibres are still found in the topsoil and air around Wittenoom, making the entire town unsafe. According to a documentary released in December 2019, only one resident remains.
In the early 1970s, Varosha was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, according to the BBC. In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. As Turkish and Greek armies clashed and invaded the Varosha area, residents fled for their lives.
According to the BBC, Varosha has remained abandoned and under the control of the Turkish army since 1974. It has been fenced off and no one except military and UN personnel are allowed to enter the once beautiful tourist destination. After several attempts, no agreement has yet been reached to open the city. The skyscrapers and beaches of Varosha are now overgrown with weeds on the other side of the military fence.
Turkmenistan is a former Soviet Union country whose leader has been compared to Kim Jong-Un, the despot of North Korea. President Saparmurat Niyazov planned to create a "Golden Age of Turkmenistan" in 1991 with the construction of Ashgabat. He achieved this by erecting buildings that broke records, such as the city with the most marble in the world.
The city has 543 buildings made of this luxury material. Ashgabat also has the largest Ferris wheel in the world. Today, the city is nicknamed 'the city of the dead' because it seems empty. This is partly due to the country's isolated culture: Turkmenistan is one of the least visited countries in the world.
Throughout its history, it has seen many conflicts between monarchs, armies and political ideologies. In 1963, the last 1,800 inhabitants were forced to leave Craco for their own safety and were relocated to Craco Peschiera, a new town in the valley below, according to Ancient Origins.
Films such as 'Quantum of Solace' and 'The Passion of the Christ' have used the Italian ghost town to provide a dramatic and authentic setting for their stories. Despite its derelict state, Craco remains one of Italy's most popular tourist destinations and was added to the World Monuments Fund Watch List in 2010.
Like in a nightmare scenario, the coal fire under the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania (USA), has been raging since 1962 and could still burn for another 250 years. How did it happen? An attempt to clean up the local landfill ignited the coal deposits beneath the surface of this small Pennsylvania town. For years the fires burned, as residents slowly abandoned their homes, fearing the hell beneath their feet, with not only the blazing inferno beneath, but also landslides and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Expropriation was used to take control of most of the houses in Centralia and the remaining dozen or so residents agreed to hand over their property to the government upon their death. The state government condemned Centralia in 1992.
Pripyat was founded in 1970 as a 'nuclear town,' i.e. a town specially built to house workers from a nearby nuclear power plant. It was home to more than 13,000 flats, schools for 5,000 children, two dozen shops and cafes, a cinema, a sports hall, a cultural centre, several factories and a hospital when the disaster struck the Chernobyl plant, according to USA Today.
After the reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, releasing toxic radiation into the surrounding area, the town was completely evacuated. The residents of Pripyat were relocated and the town of Slavutych was built as their new home. Radiation levels dropped considerably in the years following the disaster. Its inhabitants were therefore allowed to return to the 'nuclear exclusion zone.'
Hashima Island, better known as Gunkanjima (meaning 'ironclad island'), is an abandoned island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.
It was home to underwater coal mine workers in 1887. Since then, Hashima Island has quickly become an island of concrete skyscrapers housing over 5,000 people. In addition to the usual community buildings, this island fortress included a clubhouse, a cinema, a community bath, a swimming pool, rooftops, shops and even a pachinko (a Japanese game) parlour.
The mine eventually closed in 1974, when Japan lost interest in coal and the jobs disappeared with the residents. As interest in Hashima grew due to its interesting history and remarkable architecture, trips to the island resumed in 2009. Hashima Island was also featured as a villain's lair in the James Bond film 'Skyfall.'
Although only a small part of the island is open to the public, it offers a unique insight into Japan's rapid industrialisation and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Oradour-sur-Glane was a small French farming village in the occupied zone during the Second World War.
On 10 June 1944, it was destroyed by the Nazis. The soldiers killed 642 people and left few survivors. After the war, the hamlet became a symbol of German crimes against civilians and was declared a memorial and museum.
It remains preserved in its ruined state and every year on 10 June a ceremony is held to mark the anniversary of the massacre.
Vorkuta in Russia was originally a Gulag labour camp built during the Stalin era. Later, as coal production increased, Russians arrived in the area offering well-paid jobs. Towns and villages quickly sprang up as a result. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, most of the mines closed. With few job opportunities nearby, people left, leaving behind deserted buildings.
Since then, over a million people have left the Arctic. Today, the town of Vorkuta still has 50,000 inhabitants, but the surrounding small towns have been abandoned.
A few remaining residents remain in flats in the villages. They cannot sell their homes and many do not have enough savings to relocate, so they wait in sub-zero temperatures for the government to come to their aid.