10 Unique Abandoned Cities
Abandoned cities have their own fascinating charm, and many of them have attracted people for years and decades with their unique atmosphere. Though some of the abandoned cities are very special, or have a breathtaking history, others are just frozen in time, giving the visitors an idea of what the life could look like decades or even centuries ago.
1. Mystras, Greece
Mystras was originally built in the 13th century by William of Villehardouin, the prince of Achaia. The city was conquered and reconquered several times, changing its rulers and being under the control of the Byzantines, Turks, and Venetians during different parts of its history. Mystras was one of the most important cities during the time of the Byzantine Empire, becoming a center of science, politics, arts, and religion and having about 20,000 inhabitants at its better times. The city of Mystras was abandoned in the 19th century, although the ruins and abandoned buildings still serve as a great example of medieval architecture, regular architecture of the past centuries, and classical Byzantine art. In the 20th century the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is often referred as one of the best preserved medieval archeological sites in Greece.
2. Wharram Percy, United Kingdom
Wharram Percy is an abandoned medieval village located in North Yorkshire, England. The settlement was abandoned in the 16th century, and though historians still discuss the reasons why people were leaving, the most common opinion is that the village was abandoned during the financial changes of the century, and the changes in farming which took place those years. Wharram Percy is not the only village of its kind in the United Kingdom; in fact the country is very rich in these deserted medieval villages, having about 3,000 of them located in different areas, some of them in the same state as Wharram Percy. Nevertheless, this village is still considered the most well-known and is the one tourists prefer to visit the most. The site has the well-preserved ruins of a medieval church, and the foundations where the houses were standing can be seen. Archeological works still take place in the village, in hopes to understand medieval life better.
3. Kayaköy, Turkey
Kayaköy was built in the 18th century at the place of an ancient Greek settlement, and originally was known as Livissi. In its better times it was inhabited by about 10,000-20,000 people, both Greek Orthodox Christians and Turkish Muslims living in peace near each other. The city had about 350 houses, all of them becoming abandoned after the Greco-Turkish War because of the political tensions between the two nations in the beginning of the 20th century. These days the houses, schools, churches, fountains and other public buildings are still standing in the empty village, which was officially turned into the museum by the Turkish government. Kayaköy also became a UNESCO World Friendship and Peace Village and its unique history and amazing architecture still attracts a lot of tourists. The buildings, despite some of them were damaged during the 1957 earthquake, are rather well-preserved, what makes it a very attractive place to visit.
4. Craco, Italy
One more amazing historical site in Italy is Craco. Craco is a former town located in the Southern Italy. The city started to develop during medieval times, becoming an important center of cultural and religious life for centuries, and was abandoned in the 20th century due to the natural disasters. Among other things Craco has very well-preserved medieval architecture and churches, along with some other examples of historical architecture of different times and epochs. It lately became a popular touristic destination and hundreds of people visit the town every year. Aside from being a popular place for tourism and photography, the place has had several movies filmed on its ruins. The officials do their best job trying to save Craco’s unique architecture, for the city is definitely a special place.
5. Spinalonga, Greece
Spinalonga was originally a part of Crete, although, in the 16th century the Venetians, who used to rule the territory in those days, cut down the land connecting it to Crete, creating the island of Spinalonga as we can see it these days. Spinalonga went through many interesting and fascinating historical events and periods, starting its medieval history as a Venetian fortress, and going through the Ottoman occupation to end up as a Greek leper colony in the 20th century. The island still has well-preserved remains of the medieval fortifications, along with sad-looking buildings left from the later years while the island was accepting lepers from Crete and Greece. Aside from its history, the island has amazing views which makes it one of the most visited touristic places in Crete, giving it thousands of visitors every day.
6. Kolmanskop, Namibia
Kolmanskop is a fascinating town located in Namib Desert, which attracts tourists from all around the world because of its unusual location and uniquely preserved architecture. Kolmanskop used to be a German mining settlement, for the area was known as one rich with diamonds in earlier times before it was abandoned in 1954 after the miners exhausted the diamond supply completely. The unique thing about the town of Kolmanskop is that it was built in the traditional German style of its times, which, added to the unique landscape the settlement is standing on, creates a great atmosphere for a visit. Many of the buildings are very well-preserved and some of them are even restored, which adds to the great views of this desert city.
7. Poveglia, Italy
The island of Poveglia had been in use for centuries, its first recorded mention being in 421, although one can easily guess that it had been in use before then. But since that year its importance grew until it was given a Podesta—a chief magistrate—to govern over it, before it eventually became abandoned after the 14th century. The island has swung from being uninhabited to habit multiple times, being empty for centuries and then having a fort built on it to protect the entrance to the Venetian Lagoon in 1645, before becoming even larger in importance. In 1776 Poveglia was turned into a checkpoint for people and good coming in and out of Venice by ship, checking for disease and making sure nothing harmful could come into the city. Following this vein the island in 1793 was then converted into a quarantine station for the plague victims they found, much like Ellis Island was for America. Eventually this closed yet again, before being reopened and populated again in the 20th century, and later it was converted into a mental asylum for decades until it was finally abandoned for good. This is what mostly remains today and why most people go to visit Poveglia, to see the ruins of the abandoned asylum and experience the creepy atmosphere of the whole place.
8. Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
Pompeii and Herculaneum are probably one of the most well-known ruins in the world, both cities were buried under the volcanic ash which made them completely frozen in time and so well-preserved that people can still see very minute details of ancient Roman life while visiting them. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are one of the most important archeological finds of all times. The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius happened in 79 AD, destroying the two Roman cities which originally were very popular resorts. The excavations began in the 18th century and the archeological works still take place in both sites even in modern days. Visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum is a unique experience, for you cannot only walk the ancient Roman streets as they were thousands of years ago, but also to enter the little houses and public places, imagining the little details about the life in Ancient Rome.
9. Ani, Turkey
Ani was originally a city belonging to the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, and was nicknamed “City of 1001 Churches” during its golden days. The settlement was a very important cultural, trade, and religious center and historians say it might have had about 100,000 citizens living there during the times of its prosperity. Aside from that the city was well-known for its beautiful architecture and by the 9th century it became the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom. After that Ani had a very complicated history, being conquered and reconquered many times by different nations and belonging to different rulers and kingdoms, with the kingdom of Georgia and the Ottoman Empire among them. Multiple wars led to the degradation of the great city, though it restored its former power during the 13th century, though suffering from war and political conflicts and an earthquake, it fell into despair again, being completely abandoned in the 18th century while it was under Turkish control. The territory Ani is standing on was involved in certain military and political conflicts in modern days, though later the city ruins were proclaimed a museum and the Turkish government promised to continue the excavation and conservation of the historical site. Even more, Turkey is going to nominate Ani as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of the city is very unique, containing many churches and mosques, very beautiful frescoes found in some of them. Its history is impressive, and even though many buildings are not very well-preserved they give a great impression about the city’s complicated and amazing history.
10. Centralia, Pennsylvania, United States
Centralia is a very fascinating and rather disturbing place. Starting its history in the middle of the 18th century the settlement became a coal-mining town, which brought the place its wealth and led to its prosperity. In its best days Centralia had a population of almost 3,000 citizens, being a well-developed city with hotels, theaters, and stores. The coal mining stopped in the middle of the 20th century, when all of the mines were closed. In 1962 a fire started in the mines under the city which led to the city being slowly abandoned after some incidents happened to the local citizens, including the earth cracking under their feet. It is argued about what exactly caused the fire under Centralia, but it spread across the coal mine tunnels and is still burning under the city to this day. The roads are now full of cracks and holes with burning carbon monoxide gas rising from them. In the 1980s most of the residents were relocated to the nearest areas with the help of officials, though some preferred to stay in Centralia, despite the obvious dangers. By the year 2013, 8 people were still living in Centralia, with the local church still holding services, although there is no doubt the city will be completely abandoned in the nearest time, especially with the fact that the mine fire under the area is spreading, causing the nearby town of Byrnesville to be abandoned as well. Despite its dangers the city still attracts tourists and urban explorers, and its unique history and location inspired the design of the town Silent Hill as it was portrayed in the 2006 movie.