Europe’s eeriest ghost towns



Slide 1 of 52: Silent streets, vacant houses and dilapidated buildings, Europe is riddled with eerie ghost towns. From depopulated military and mining towns and drowned villages to age-old enclaves destroyed by war and disasters or desolate modern developments abandoned due to economic decline. Read on to explore some of Europe's most haunting ghost towns...
Slide 2 of 52: A deserted old shepherds' village that dates back to the 17th century, Humac can be found in the thickly wooded hills of Hvar island, near Jelsa. With its simple stone houses, tiny courtyards, narrow streets and far-reaching views of the coast and beyond to the isle of Brac, it is an atmospheric place for a wander and to get an insight into what rural life was like in this part of Dalmatia. 
Slide 3 of 52: Dried up wells, weather-worn wooden barrels and collapsed stone walls lie scattered around Humac's overgrown lanes. As well as abandoned houses, there’s also the remains of a deserted village church, St John and Paul. The charm of this pastoral enclave has not escaped the notice of tourists and some of the Humac's houses have been restored as vacation accommodation. There is also a delightfully traditional konoba (tavern) just nearby that is open in the summer.
Slide 4 of 52: Sadness seems to tinge the air in this lonely remnant of a pre-war Britain. Tyneham was a typical sleepy little Dorset village up until December 1943 when it was commandeered by the army for military training and its residents forced to pack up and leave. They thought it would only be a temporary period but sadly even after the war ended, the villagers were not allowed to return. A compulsory purchase order was placed on the land keeping it in use for military training.

Slide 5 of 52: Today, the lifeless village, with its overgrown grass and vacant homes, is still a military zone although it is open for tours. Tyneham has become an unlikely tourist destination for people wanting to walk around a poignant time capsule. Fascinating relics of the village's past include an old phone box and a school room complete with kids' work and name tags above the coat hooks. There's also a note that was written and nailed on the church door by a resident asking the army to look after their beloved home. 
Slide 6 of 52: You may or may not get to see the spooky form of the sunken village of Sfentyli in the island of Crete, depending on the level of the water in the Aposelemis Dam that day. Heavy rainfall in winter sees the streets and buildings submerged while summer causes the water to recede.
Slide 7 of 52: The dam was constructed in this part of northeastern Crete in 2012 and the villagers forced to vacate their homes. Sometimes Sfentyli's hollow and decrepit buildings appear some distance from the reservoir while at others they teeter right on the water's edge. Then the red tiled roof and white cross of the chapel of Agios Theodoros can be seen emerging ominously from the lake's murky depths. Whatever the water levels, the stranded village of Sfentyli is an eerie sight. Now see the world's most perilous places.
Slide 8 of 52: Another village whose fate was sealed by the creation of a dam is Esco in the Zaragoza province of northeastern Spain. Today the deserted old village makes for a forlorn sight, perched on a hill near the Yesa Reservoir with the rugged Sierra de Leyre as a brooding backdrop. Inhabited since the 12th century, the villagers had to abandon their humble homes in 1960 after the surrounding farmland was flooded by the Yesa Dam.
Slide 9 of 52: A few hardy souls stayed on in the forsaken village but it lies mostly wrecked and neglected, explored by the occasional tourist. It's a bleak but compelling place to roam around: rubble lies strewn across winding alleyways; roofs have collapsed; and broken beams protrude from ramshackle buildings. Windows are shattered, wooden doors are broken and daubed in graffiti, and crumbling façades hint at once-happy homes. The village church of San Miguel still stands, just. 

Slide 10 of 52: It's quite a steep trek up to the old lost village of Sanguinho from Faial da Terra on São Miguel in the Azores. The tiny and remote settlement died a death in the 1970s when its population moved elsewhere on the island to be closer to public services such as schools. Others left the far-flung volcanic isles altogether and emigrated to America. Today the remains of around 20 houses and a farm can be seen along the rocky track that goes through the village and onto the waterfall of Salto do Prego. Some houses are being restored. 
Slide 11 of 52: With its stark mountainous backdrop, the form of this well-preserved Arctic outpost appears even more chilling. The abandoned coal mining town of Pyramiden was once the largest settlement on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. A busy and productive place for over 50 years, it was home to 1,000 people at its peak in the 80s before it closed. First established in 1910 by Sweden, the mine was sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, who built most of the distinctive buildings that remain today. Mining continued until 1998, when the last resources were extracted and Pyramiden abandoned.
Slide 12 of 52: Thanks to the amount of everyday artifacts left behind, Pyramiden offers a remarkable insight into what life was like for its workers and families. Inside the Brutalist block-style housing complexes lie discarded coffee cups and folded clothes. There are paperwork-strewn offices, a commandeering bust of Lenin, and a music hall with a run-down grand piano. Still swings sit forlornly in the silent playground. While Pyramiden has fallen into a state of disrepair, home to roosting seabirds and the occasional polar bear, the Arctic climate has kept it remarkably intact. 
Slide 13 of 52: Bathed in sunlight and lapped by the azure waters of the Aegean, this uninhabited craggy islet off the shores of Crete might look idyllic but it hides an ugly past. From the early 1900s, the 16th-century fortress of Spinalonga was used as a leper colony. Hundreds of sufferers were banished here to live out their lives with reports that there was only a single doctor who visited only sporadically. Shrouded in tales of neglect, the colony remained in operation until 1957 and was Europe’s last leper colony.
Slide 14 of 52: After a cure was found for leprosy and Spinalonga's last shunned residents returned to health, the decaying fortress was left to crumble and its dark history remained all but forgotten until the 1980s when Victoria Hislop set her popular novel The Island here. Now tourists come from far and wide to wander around the atmospheric ruins and imagine the suffering of the people who were stripped of their rights and exiled on this barren isle. 

Slide 15 of 52: Among its most poignant sights are the so-called Dante’s Gate, one of two fortress gates and the one that was used by leprosy sufferers as they started their new life within this hostile place. The imposing citadel was first built by the Venetians in the 16th century and later added to by the Ottomans in the 18th century. There is a small cemetery on the isle which contains some of the remains of the leprosy sufferers.
Slide 16 of 52: Nature put an abrupt end to everyday life in the ancient village of Poggioreale in southwest Sicily. The Belìce Valley was ravaged by a devastating earthquake in 1968 and Poggioreale was one of four towns that were violently shaken off the map. The inhabitants fled, leaving behind the shattered shell of beautiful old Poggioreale to crumble over the decades. In total, 231 people died in the valley, and 100,000 were left homeless. New towns were eventually built to rehouse the survivors of the disaster.
Slide 17 of 52: Today this relic of a bygone era has become a tourist attraction with curious visitors coming to stroll around its rubble-strewn alleys, peer in its cracked and collapsed houses and wander into crumbling courtyards as they contemplate the terror that the inhabitants must have felt as the earth shook. Poggioreale's wrecked theater, cathedral, and bell tower are still visible, along with post office complete with telegraph wires and school with pupils’ scribbles on the chalkboard.
Slide 18 of 52: The weather-worn ruins of this little village in the Limousin region of south-central France have been preserved to stand as a confronting reminder of the atrocities of the Second World War. The rural community was obliterated by SS troops in June 1944 after they stormed into Oradour-sur-Glane, rounded up residents into the church and barns and brutally murdered them. A total of 642 people were killed, many of them women and children.
Slide 19 of 52: Over three-quarters of a century later and the ghostly remains of the village stand as a moving memorial to those who perished. Rusted cars, including the Peugeot 202 the mayor drove before his brutal death, still sit on the roads. Sewing machines, pitchers and pans still lie scattered around. The desolate church still stands with its bullet-ridden altar while the charred shells of homes and shops remain as they were left. The emotive site has a museum containing some relics recovered from the rubble and offers a glimpse into life in Oradour-sur-Glane before the atrocities.
Slide 20 of 52: The lush Ionian island of Corfu is full of unexpected wonders, but few intrigue as much as Old Perithia, a ramshackle ruin of a mountain village in the north. It was built high in the mountains in the 14th century by a community seeking refuge from pirate attacks. Although, it's thought to be one of the oldest settlements on the island with evidence of human inhabitants since 700 BC. It became a relatively prosperous rural town and was home to around 1,200 people at its peak.
Slide 21 of 52: Set below Corfu's highest peak Mount Pantokrator, the remote and now heritage-protected village was largely abandoned in the 1960s when most residents moved away from the mountains to be closer to the coast as tourism became a major industry. Surrounded by vines, olive trees and oaks, its houses and churches lay hidden and have fallen into disrepair. However, after a British-Dutch couple fell in love with the forgotten village and opened a charming B&B in three old renovated houses, the ghost town has a new lease of life.
Slide 22 of 52: Tumbling down the slopes of the Taurus mountains in southwestern Turkey, Kayaköy has been deserted since the 1920s. In happier times, it was a flourishing town known as Levissi and home to some 10,000 Christians and Muslims. But in 1923 they were removed from their homes as part of a population exchange that took place in the aftermath of the brutal Greco-Turkish war. The Christians were exiled to Greece, many to Crete. In 1957, a huge earthquake wreaked further hardship on the largely abandoned town but around 350 derelict homes still stand.
Slide 23 of 52: Now known as Kayaköy, which translates as the Rock Village, the town has museum status ensuring its eerie ruins will be preserved as a reminder of a very recent and turbulent part of European history. It’s possible to walk around Kayaköy's steep and rocky streets and up to the top of the town where the remains of a monastery overlook the vacant shells of the houses and across to the vibrant blue waters of pretty Ölüdeniz bay.
Slide 24 of 52: Many of Kayaköy's homes, schools, shops, cafés, chapels and churches are still recognizable, albeit rundown and neglected. In Lower Church – one of the town's two remaining religious buildings – it's possible to make out faded murals and arched ceilings, which hint at the beautiful place Kayaköy once was. Eerily, there are also ancient human bones interred inside.
Slide 25 of 52: When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Adolf Hitler ordered the compulsory evacuation of Döllersheim. A large Nazi military training area was established in this small town in the north of Austria and its houses bombed in 1941 as a part of a training exercise. Intriguingly, the Nazi leader had ties to the town: his father Alois was born in the area and Döllersheim parish was where he had his birth registry altered to legitimize his birth, naming his stepfather Johann Georg Hiedler as his birth father and changing his surname to Hitler. The grave of Hitler’s paternal grandmother, Maria, is also in the village.
Slide 26 of 52: After Nazi Germany lost the war, the training ground was seized by the Soviet Army and has remained a military exclusion zone, now under the rule of Austrian Armed Forces, ever since. Visitors are permitted to visit the remains of the town’s main square, as well as the ghostly ruins of some of the churches and surrounding graveyards.
Slide 27 of 52: One of Europe's most breathtakingly beautiful ghost towns, Craco is an abandoned village in southern Italy's Basilicata region with a far-reaching history. People first settled on this picturesque clifftop in the 8th century BC but most of the decaying buildings that remain date from the medieval period. Craco has had numerous run-ins with Mother Nature over the years: from pestilence to floods, landslides and earthquakes. Here are more places taken over by nature.
Slide 28 of 52: The hardy town survived the plague that swept through it in the 17th century and dramatically diminished its population. However, it was the landslides of the 1950s and 1970s that ultimately forced Craco's embattled citizens to leave once and for all. Now the eerie empty shell of a town is popular with guided tours. It has also been used as an atmospheric filming location – it most famously featured in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. 
Slide 29 of 52: Akarmara in Abkhazia is another Soviet-era ghost mining town oozing with decrepit atmosphere. The breakaway region on Georgia’s Black Sea coast was once a vacation destination for wealthy Russians, but in 1992 it entered a devastating 13-month civil war with Georgia and so, like many of its industrial towns, Akarmara was abandoned. Ever-more encroached on by the surrounding forest, the creepy coal mining town lies vacant and more or less forgotten.
Slide 30 of 52: In its prime Akarmara was home to around 5,000 residents, but the war and economic change led to its inevitable demise. Now its towering apartment blocks are cloaked in foliage, bridges are covered in moss and the shells of car wrecks and discarded baths lie rusting in the street alongside other debris. While it might look completely deserted, it's thought around 38 people still live in the decaying remnants of the run-down mining town.
Slide 31 of 52: The remains of battle ravaged Belchite stand solemnly in Spain's Zaragoza province, acting as a poignant reminder of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. The town was almost completely obliterated during a bloody battle over two weeks in 1937, that also claimed the lives of thousands of people. Rather than be demolished, its bullet-hole-ridden buildings, some still with intricately patterned walls and carvings, were left standing as a symbol of the past.
Slide 32 of 52: Today tourists take to Belchite's rubble-strewn streets on guided tours to learn about this devastating slice of Spanish history. The town was attacked by loyalist Republicans as part of their bid to stop General Franco's nationalists forces advancing further south. While they were successful in destroying the town, and most of its inhabitants, they were ultimately defeated as Franco won the war and continued to rule Spain until 1975.
Slide 33 of 52: As the Second World War raged on in 1943, the Ministry of Defence decided to evacuate the small community of Imber on Salisbury Plain, which had become the UK’s largest military training area, to use it as a training ground for the US army. The devastated village residents were given just 47 days to pack up and find new homes. It’s said the local blacksmith died from a broken heart. Despite public appeals, the village was never released by the military. 
Slide 34 of 52: Imber’s old abandoned houses are still used to train soldiers in urban warfare, but the Ministry of Defense occasionally opens it to the public. Then it’s possible to visit the 13th-century St Giles church, where many of Imber’s displaced residents were returned to be buried, and to catch a glimpse of village pub The Bell, the desolate Imber Court manor house and empty homes from the road. However, many parts of the village remain strictly out of bounds because of the danger of unexploded bombs.
Slide 35 of 52: Arguably the world’s most infamous ghost town, Pripyat is packed with poignant sights. Mundane artifacts litter its homes, schools, offices and parks, telling of a carefree time just before the devastating Chernobyl disaster turned the community (and the wider world) upside down. Built to house the plant’s scientists and workers, Pripyat has been abandoned since its residents were evacuated 36 hours after the catastrophic meltdown took place in the Soviet power plant in 1986. Due to the radiation all their possessions had to be left behind.
Slide 36 of 52: Set within the inner nuclear disaster zone, Pripyat's eerie buildings and empty streets were cordoned off from the world until recently. Nature has reclaimed much of the radioactive place: trees have grown unhindered, creeping through into the communist blocks, wildflowers bloom in the spring, and wild animals roam unhindered, including a team of horses that thrived after a few were released into the area to see if animals could survive.
Slide 37 of 52: The Ukrainian government designated Chernobyl an official tourist attraction in 2019 after the exclusion zone was deemed safe to visit for tourists. Access is still strictly regulated by the government and can only be explored on guided tours. Haunting sights include the deserted school, where books and paper lie scattered on the floor of the classrooms, and a decaying amusement park. The Ferris wheel is a moving symbol of joy extinguished – it was supposed to open four days after the explosion, but never welcomed any guests. See more eerie images of abandoned amusement parks around the world.
Slide 38 of 52: With its boarded-up shops, deserted homes and empty schools, the small riverside town of Doel near the port of Antwerp is a forlorn sight. The 400-year-old town was controversially targeted for redevelopment in the 1960s under plans to expand Antwerp’s port. But amidst these desolate scenes there are some splashes of creativity: elaborate and colorful murals decorate some of its buildings as the near-abandoned town has become a magnet for graffiti artists.
Slide 39 of 52: During a prolonged battle most residents were forced to vacate their homes but a determined few stayed put. The village was eventually saved from being demolished in 2016 but it remains largely deserted – it’s thought less than 20 people now live in Doel. Today the down-at-heel village attracts tourists to stalk its eerie end-of-the-world streets and graffiti artists wanting to leave their mark on this slice of decaying urbanity.
Slide 40 of 52: There’s always something unnerving about an out-of-season seaside resort let alone an entirely abandoned one. Varosha, a once lively tourist resort in Cyprus that attracted the likes of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot with its chi-chi hotels and golden sands, is now more like a post-apocalyptic nightmare than dreamy Mediterranean vacation destination.
Slide 41 of 52: Varosha lies inside the “forbidden zone” of Famagusta in Cyprus and was sealed off by the Turkish military after the city's 39,000 inhabitants were forced to leave when Turkish forces invaded. After that the island was divided between Greece and Turkey and Varosha was left to its ruin.
Slide 42 of 52: Set behind barbed wire, empty apartment blocks and hotels line the beachfront in varying states of disrepair. Sun loungers lie strewn on the sands, a sad reminder of the fun times once had. Vegetation invades desolate houses, churches sit empty, piles of rubble and smashed glass lie in the silent streets and swimming pools sit cracked and empty among overgrown gardens. There are calls to rebuild and restore the spooky resort but for now Varosha remains uninhabited and off-limits to non-military personnel.
Slide 43 of 52: A lack of water forced the people of Occi, a pretty little hilltop village in Corsica, to leave and set up home elsewhere on the island. Occi was established in the middle ages when people retreated inland to hide away from the dangers of attack on the coastline. However, when the village's source of water dried up the villagers also began to trickle away – it’s said that the last resident left in 1927.
Slide 44 of 52: Whipped by the wind, the hilltop hamlet has wasted away but in a bleakly beautiful way. Its collapsed stone buildings and remnants of its uneven streets lie on some of Corsica's most popular hiking trails, rewarding walkers with a glimpse into a bygone age. Occi's little chapel has been renovated and holds occasional services. With its elevated position on a rocky promontory, it’s a prime place to take in the old village's spectacular ocean views.
Slide 45 of 52: Clambering up a wooded hill in the Préjano mountain range of La Rioja, the rickety ruins of the little medieval village Turruncún are simultaneously beautiful and melancholy. With no electricity or running water, the isolated village fell into decline in the 1960s and has been uninhabited since the 1970s. Among its atmospheric wrecks, lie the remains of a chapel and cemetery.
Slide 46 of 52: Skundra-1 has been shrouded in mystery since it was first built in 1963. It was one of several secret cities constructed by the Soviet Union for military use during the cold war. Around 93 miles (150km) from Latvia’s capital Riga, Skundra-1 once bustled with its community of around 5,000 military and scientific personnel and civilians. Its early-warning radar systems were there to detect incoming nuclear warheads.
Slide 47 of 52: The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to the eventual disintegration of these secret cities, including Skrunda-1 which was abandoned and left unguarded for several years. Today the radar defense settlement is a spooky shell of its former self. Surrounded by dense birch forests, its neglected remains include a network of underground bunkers, schools, factories, accommodation blocks, hospital and nightclub.
Slide 48 of 52: After years of neglect and failed sales, the Latvian government officially bought the site in 2015. Plans for tourism and manufacturing were mooted but so far the eerie Soviet site is only being used for military training.
Slide 49 of 52: The lonely isle of Hirta is the largest island in the remote St Kilda archipelago, a string of Scottish isles at the far edge of the Outer Hebrides. It’s thought it was settled for some 2,000 years before it was finally abandoned in the 1930s. The hardy community of Hirta, the only island of the four to ever be inhabited, had survived in this harsh place for many hundreds of years but by the late 1800s, increased tourism posed a threat to the islanders’ traditional way of life. 
Slide 50 of 52: Attempts to modernize the island were futile and flimsy houses built at the end of the 19th century could not withstand St Kilda’s merciless weather. Residents began to leave the island and by the 1930s, the last inhabitants left Hirta behind. Now this far-flung ghost town is a heritage site where tourists can wander among its weather-beaten stone houses, old school room and church (pictured) to imagine what life was like on the inhospitable isle. The only signs of life now are the gannets and puffins that line the cliffs, it has the largest seabird colony in this part of the Atlantic, and the hardy Soay breed of sheep that appear in its abandoned cleits (huts).
Slide 51 of 52: Like a dystopian Disney movie, images of Turkey’s ghost housing development Burj Al Babas are enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. Hundreds of abandoned princess-castle-like villas line the foot of the Mudurnu hills in a doomed housing development in northwest Turkey. The stricken developers filed for bankruptcy a few years ago after buyers and investors pulled out of purchases due to the economic downturn. Take a look at more eerie places where time stands still.
Slide 52 of 52: Work began on this strange kingdom of faux-castles in 2014 with the chateaux designed as luxury-end vacation homes for wealthy Gulf tourists and foreign buyers looking to invest in the Turkish property market. The resort was also slated to include an entertainment complex, shopping center, mosque and Turkish baths. But instead, work stalled, building materials lie abandoned on the unfinished streets, and the villas, in varying states of completion, remain unsold and unoccupied.

Frozen in time

Humac, Croatia

A deserted old shepherds’ village that dates back to the 17th century, Humac can be found in the thickly wooded hills of Hvar island, near Jelsa. With its simple stone houses, tiny courtyards, narrow streets and far-reaching views of the coast and beyond to the isle of Brac, it is an atmospheric place for a wander and to get an insight into what rural life was like in this part of Dalmatia. 

Humac, Croatia

Tyneham, England

Tyneham, England

Today, the lifeless village, with its overgrown grass and vacant homes, is still a military zone although it is open for tours. Tyneham has become an unlikely tourist destination for people wanting to walk around a poignant time capsule. Fascinating relics of the village’s past include an old phone box and a school room complete with kids’ work and name tags above the coat hooks. There’s also a note that was written and nailed on the church door by a resident asking the army to look after their beloved home. 

Sfentyli, Greece

Sfentyli, Greece

The dam was constructed in this part of northeastern Crete in 2012 and the villagers forced to vacate their homes. Sometimes Sfentyli’s hollow and decrepit buildings appear some distance from the reservoir while at others they teeter right on the water’s edge. Then the red tiled roof and white cross of the chapel of Agios Theodoros can be seen emerging ominously from the lake’s murky depths. Whatever the water levels, the stranded village of Sfentyli is an eerie sight. Now see the world’s most perilous places.

Esco, Spain

Esco, Spain

A few hardy souls stayed on in the forsaken village but it lies mostly wrecked and neglected, explored by the occasional tourist. It’s a bleak but compelling place to roam around: rubble lies strewn across winding alleyways; roofs have collapsed; and broken beams protrude from ramshackle buildings. Windows are shattered, wooden doors are broken and daubed in graffiti, and crumbling façades hint at once-happy homes. The village church of San Miguel still stands, just. 

Sanguinho, Portugal

It’s quite a steep trek up to the old lost village of Sanguinho from Faial da Terra on São Miguel in the Azores. The tiny and remote settlement died a death in the 1970s when its population moved elsewhere on the island to be closer to public services such as schools. Others left the far-flung volcanic isles altogether and emigrated to America. Today the remains of around 20 houses and a farm can be seen along the rocky track that goes through the village and onto the waterfall of Salto do Prego. Some houses are being restored. 

Pyramiden, Norway

With its stark mountainous backdrop, the form of this well-preserved Arctic outpost appears even more chilling. The abandoned coal mining town of Pyramiden was once the largest settlement on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. A busy and productive place for over 50 years, it was home to 1,000 people at its peak in the 80s before it closed. First established in 1910 by Sweden, the mine was sold to the Soviet Union in 1927, who built most of the distinctive buildings that remain today. Mining continued until 1998, when the last resources were extracted and Pyramiden abandoned.

Pyramiden, Norway

Thanks to the amount of everyday artifacts left behind, Pyramiden offers a remarkable insight into what life was like for its workers and families. Inside the Brutalist block-style housing complexes lie discarded coffee cups and folded clothes. There are paperwork-strewn offices, a commandeering bust of Lenin, and a music hall with a run-down grand piano. Still swings sit forlornly in the silent playground. While Pyramiden has fallen into a state of disrepair, home to roosting seabirds and the occasional polar bear, the Arctic climate has kept it remarkably intact. 

Spinalonga, Greece

Bathed in sunlight and lapped by the azure waters of the Aegean, this uninhabited craggy islet off the shores of Crete might look idyllic but it hides an ugly past. From the early 1900s, the 16th-century fortress of Spinalonga was used as a leper colony. Hundreds of sufferers were banished here to live out their lives with reports that there was only a single doctor who visited only sporadically. Shrouded in tales of neglect, the colony remained in operation until 1957 and was Europe’s last leper colony.

Spinalonga, Greece

After a cure was found for leprosy and Spinalonga’s last shunned residents returned to health, the decaying fortress was left to crumble and its dark history remained all but forgotten until the 1980s when Victoria Hislop set her popular novel The Island here. Now tourists come from far and wide to wander around the atmospheric ruins and imagine the suffering of the people who were stripped of their rights and exiled on this barren isle. 

Spinalonga, Greece

Poggioreale, Italy

Nature put an abrupt end to everyday life in the ancient village of Poggioreale in southwest Sicily. The Belìce Valley was ravaged by a devastating earthquake in 1968 and Poggioreale was one of four towns that were violently shaken off the map. The inhabitants fled, leaving behind the shattered shell of beautiful old Poggioreale to crumble over the decades. In total, 231 people died in the valley, and 100,000 were left homeless. New towns were eventually built to rehouse the survivors of the disaster.

Poggioreale, Italy

Today this relic of a bygone era has become a tourist attraction with curious visitors coming to stroll around its rubble-strewn alleys, peer in its cracked and collapsed houses and wander into crumbling courtyards as they contemplate the terror that the inhabitants must have felt as the earth shook. Poggioreale’s wrecked theater, cathedral, and bell tower are still visible, along with post office complete with telegraph wires and school with pupils’ scribbles on the chalkboard.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

Oradour-sur-Glane, France

Over three-quarters of a century later and the ghostly remains of the village stand as a moving memorial to those who perished. Rusted cars, including the Peugeot 202 the mayor drove before his brutal death, still sit on the roads. Sewing machines, pitchers and pans still lie scattered around. The desolate church still stands with its bullet-ridden altar while the charred shells of homes and shops remain as they were left. The emotive site has a museum containing some relics recovered from the rubble and offers a glimpse into life in Oradour-sur-Glane before the atrocities.

Old Perithia, Greece

Old Perithia, Greece

Set below Corfu’s highest peak Mount Pantokrator, the remote and now heritage-protected village was largely abandoned in the 1960s when most residents moved away from the mountains to be closer to the coast as tourism became a major industry. Surrounded by vines, olive trees and oaks, its houses and churches lay hidden and have fallen into disrepair. However, after a British-Dutch couple fell in love with the forgotten village and opened a charming B&B in three old renovated houses, the ghost town has a new lease of life.

Kayaköy, Turkey

Tumbling down the slopes of the Taurus mountains in southwestern Turkey, Kayaköy has been deserted since the 1920s. In happier times, it was a flourishing town known as Levissi and home to some 10,000 Christians and Muslims. But in 1923 they were removed from their homes as part of a population exchange that took place in the aftermath of the brutal Greco-Turkish war. The Christians were exiled to Greece, many to Crete. In 1957, a huge earthquake wreaked further hardship on the largely abandoned town but around 350 derelict homes still stand.

Kayaköy, Turkey

Kayaköy, Turkey

Döllersheim, Austria

When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Adolf Hitler ordered the compulsory evacuation of Döllersheim. A large Nazi military training area was established in this small town in the north of Austria and its houses bombed in 1941 as a part of a training exercise. Intriguingly, the Nazi leader had ties to the town: his father Alois was born in the area and Döllersheim parish was where he had his birth registry altered to legitimize his birth, naming his stepfather Johann Georg Hiedler as his birth father and changing his surname to Hitler. The grave of Hitler’s paternal grandmother, Maria, is also in the village.

Döllersheim, Austria

Craco, Italy

One of Europe’s most breathtakingly beautiful ghost towns, Craco is an abandoned village in southern Italy’s Basilicata region with a far-reaching history. People first settled on this picturesque clifftop in the 8th century BC but most of the decaying buildings that remain date from the medieval period. Craco has had numerous run-ins with Mother Nature over the years: from pestilence to floods, landslides and earthquakes. Here are more places taken over by nature.

Craco, Italy

The hardy town survived the plague that swept through it in the 17th century and dramatically diminished its population. However, it was the landslides of the 1950s and 1970s that ultimately forced Craco’s embattled citizens to leave once and for all. Now the eerie empty shell of a town is popular with guided tours. It has also been used as an atmospheric filming location – it most famously featured in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace

Akarmara, Abkhazia

Akarmara, Abkhazia

Belchite, Spain

Belchite, Spain

Imber Village, England

As the Second World War raged on in 1943, the Ministry of Defence decided to evacuate the small community of Imber on Salisbury Plain, which had become the UK’s largest military training area, to use it as a training ground for the US army. The devastated village residents were given just 47 days to pack up and find new homes. It’s said the local blacksmith died from a broken heart. Despite public appeals, the village was never released by the military. 

Imber Village, England

Imber’s old abandoned houses are still used to train soldiers in urban warfare, but the Ministry of Defense occasionally opens it to the public. Then it’s possible to visit the 13th-century St Giles church, where many of Imber’s displaced residents were returned to be buried, and to catch a glimpse of village pub The Bell, the desolate Imber Court manor house and empty homes from the road. However, many parts of the village remain strictly out of bounds because of the danger of unexploded bombs.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Arguably the world’s most infamous ghost town, Pripyat is packed with poignant sights. Mundane artifacts litter its homes, schools, offices and parks, telling of a carefree time just before the devastating Chernobyl disaster turned the community (and the wider world) upside down. Built to house the plant’s scientists and workers, Pripyat has been abandoned since its residents were evacuated 36 hours after the catastrophic meltdown took place in the Soviet power plant in 1986. Due to the radiation all their possessions had to be left behind.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat, Ukraine

The Ukrainian government designated Chernobyl an official tourist attraction in 2019 after the exclusion zone was deemed safe to visit for tourists. Access is still strictly regulated by the government and can only be explored on guided tours. Haunting sights include the deserted school, where books and paper lie scattered on the floor of the classrooms, and a decaying amusement park. The Ferris wheel is a moving symbol of joy extinguished – it was supposed to open four days after the explosion, but never welcomed any guests. See more eerie images of abandoned amusement parks around the world.

Doel, Belgium

Doel, Belgium

Varosha, Cyprus

Varosha, Cyprus

Varosha, Cyprus

Set behind barbed wire, empty apartment blocks and hotels line the beachfront in varying states of disrepair. Sun loungers lie strewn on the sands, a sad reminder of the fun times once had. Vegetation invades desolate houses, churches sit empty, piles of rubble and smashed glass lie in the silent streets and swimming pools sit cracked and empty among overgrown gardens. There are calls to rebuild and restore the spooky resort but for now Varosha remains uninhabited and off-limits to non-military personnel.

Occi, Corsica

Occi, Corsica

Turruncún, Spain

Skrunda-1, Latvia

Skrunda-1, Latvia

Skrunda-1, Latvia

Hirta, Scotland

The lonely isle of Hirta is the largest island in the remote St Kilda archipelago, a string of Scottish isles at the far edge of the Outer Hebrides. It’s thought it was settled for some 2,000 years before it was finally abandoned in the 1930s. The hardy community of Hirta, the only island of the four to ever be inhabited, had survived in this harsh place for many hundreds of years but by the late 1800s, increased tourism posed a threat to the islanders’ traditional way of life. 

Hirta, Scotland

Attempts to modernize the island were futile and flimsy houses built at the end of the 19th century could not withstand St Kilda’s merciless weather. Residents began to leave the island and by the 1930s, the last inhabitants left Hirta behind. Now this far-flung ghost town is a heritage site where tourists can wander among its weather-beaten stone houses, old school room and church (pictured) to imagine what life was like on the inhospitable isle. The only signs of life now are the gannets and puffins that line the cliffs, it has the largest seabird colony in this part of the Atlantic, and the hardy Soay breed of sheep that appear in its abandoned cleits (huts).

Burj Al Babas, Turkey

Like a dystopian Disney movie, images of Turkey’s ghost housing development Burj Al Babas are enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. Hundreds of abandoned princess-castle-like villas line the foot of the Mudurnu hills in a doomed housing development in northwest Turkey. The stricken developers filed for bankruptcy a few years ago after buyers and investors pulled out of purchases due to the economic downturn. Take a look at more eerie places where time stands still.

Burj Al Babas, Turkey

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