Eerily beautiful places around the world that have been abandoned by humans – and they're all the better for it
A millennium ago this was the capital city of an empire that stretched for hundreds of kilometres across Eurasia. It survived violent centuries of clashing kings, only to be forgotten when those empires themselves faded. Now it lives on in ruins, far from the tourist attractions of Turkey, a gilded shadow of its former power and glory.
Caught on the wrong side of a shifting border disputed by Turkey and Greece, the population of kayaköy was evicted wholesale and against their wishes in an act of ethnic cleansing.
Lost in the mountain mists is a hilltop refuge of Indochina’s colonial overlords. Its ruined casino, ballroom and apartments offer a glimpse back in time to a very different era of South-East Asia’s history.
Facing down the Saharan sands is a medieval trading town with a fascinating secret. Hidden among its deserted mud-brick huts is a once-great ancient realm of scholarship and wisdom.
Perched high in the Pyrenees is a miracle of glass and metal – the largest railway station in the world. Alas, this magnificent dream of international exchange was undone by a simple accident and political stagnation.
It was once a gathering place for influential communist figures, an ambitious symbol of nationalism and revolution that stood sentinel above the slopes where thousands of Bulgarians died for their country’s freedom. Now its creed and concrete are alike in ruins and the monument has become an unlikely tourist hotspot.
It was a lakeside holiday town blessed with warm summers and an idyllic setting, until a catastrophic flood wiped it from the map. Then, after a quarter of a century spent slumbering in the depths, a dry spell saw its abandoned ruins revealed.
This bizarre camp in the Russian woods was designed to entertain, house and indoctrinate children in the ideals of communist life. It was one of thousands of such institutions that now stand abandoned – yet surely not forgotten by the youngsters who went there.
Poking above the Cuban treetops are the concrete stumps of an atomic dream. From here was to flow limitless power to fuel the model communist society. Now it will never be finished, as the island leaves its Soviet era further and further behind.
It was the island holiday home of one of the richest men on the planet – who also happened to be a most notorious criminal. From here Pablo Escobar controlled a smuggling empire that shipped hundreds of tonnes of cocaine, murdered thousands of people and earned him uncountable billions of dollars.
Only sand whips down these waterslides now – the swimming pool itself hasn’t seen a drop in years. Welcome to the beach resort that’s being devoured by the very beach it was built on.
It was to be a Chinese Dubai: a brand new city with government offices, thriving businesses, schools, theatres and a million inhabitants deep in the arid Mongolian desert. But nearly ten years after the first structures rose from the sands, 98 per cent of Kangbashi stands empty. Welcome to the largest ghost city in the world.