Top 10 Ghost Towns

With their silent streets, derelict buildings, and remnants of homes and workplaces, abandoned towns offer a haunting view into the lives of once thriving communities.

Here’s a look at our top ten from around the world:

1. St. Elmo, Colorado

Once a booming mining town and trading post along railroad routes running through central Colorado, St. Elmo was abandoned when the railroad shut down in 1922. Many of the buildings—including stores, houses, and the church—were left intact, filled with the belongings of their former residents.

Planning: St. Elmo is in Gunnison National Forest. Numerous trails for hiking and off-road driving are easily accessible from the town.

2. Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

The Chaco civilization thrived from roughly a.d. 800 to 1100. During this period, the canyon served as a ceremonial, civic, and commercial center. Residents built clusters of dwellings and circular ceremonial structures, called kivas, from mud brick, sandstone, and wood, many of which remain intact today.

Planning: A 9-mile (14 km) paved loop road runs through the canyon.

3. Bodie, California

In 1879, Bodie was a bustling gold-mining town and home to 8,500 residents known for gunfighting and brawling. Within a decade, the mines had been largely depleted and the population had begun a steady decline that ended in total abandonment. The 150 remaining buildings are much as their residents left them.

Planning: Bodie is a California Historic State Park, 7 miles (11 km) south of the town of Bridgeport.

4. Humberstone and Santa Laura, Atacama Desert, Chile

Home to saltpeter mines, these two company towns in northern Chile were abandoned in 1958. The well-reserved buildings include a theater with its original chairs, houses, a cast-iron swimming pool made from the hull of a ship, a hotel, and grocers’ shops complete with price lists.

Planning: Humberstone and Santa Laura are close to the town of Pozo Almonte, 30 miles (48 km) east of Iquique, which is the nearest city with places to stay and an airport.

5. Bhangarh, Rajasthan, India

When Bhangarh, a local capital in northwest India, was conquered by the raja of Jaipur in the 1720s, the city was quickly deserted. Dating from the 17th century and before, the ruins— including crumbling temples and pavilions, a fort, and a medieval bazaar—are said to be haunted, and eerie legends surround the city’s rise and rapid decline.

Planning: Bhangarh is situated 18 miles (29 km) northeast of Jaipur. Tours of the “haunted” city are available.

6. Kayaköy, Anatolia, Turkey

When the Greco-Turkish war ended in 1923, roughly a million Greeks living in Turkey were repatriated, and Kayaköy, a Greek village of roughly 2,000 residents in western Turkey, was abandoned. The remains of the village—including hundreds of ruined homes and two Greek Orthodox churches—are preserved as a historic site.

Planning: Fethiye, approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Kayaköy, is the closest town.

7. Pyramiden, Svalbard, Norway

This Arctic coal-mining town, owned by the U.S.S.R. since 1927, was an ideal Soviet settlement complete with workers’ barracks, a sports center, and a bust of Lenin. The mine is now exhausted, but the buildings, including a library full of books, a theater, and a music hall with the world’s northernmost grand piano, have been left as they were when the town was abandoned in 1998.

Planning: Stay in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest city, and take a day-long boat trip to Pyramiden. Guided tours are available.

8. Herculaneum, Naples, Italy

In the summer of a.d. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the small, wealthy Roman seaside resort of Herculaneum in searing ash and rock. Archaeological excavations have uncovered private villas, shops, bathhouses, and a fascinating range of everyday objects.

Planning: Herculaneum, 5 miles (8 km) south of Naples, can be reached from the city by bus or train (Ercolano station).

9. Belchite, Zaragoza Province, Spain

Belchite was the site of a particularly brutal battle during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Occupied by Franco’s forces in 1937, the town was attacked by the Republican Army. The siege destroyed Belchite, but its ruined buildings serve as a ghostly memento of the intense violence they witnessed.

Planning: The remains of the old town are 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from modern Belchite, southeast of Zaragoza city.

10. Kolmanskop, Namibia

Located among the sand dunes of the Namib Desert, Kolmanskop was built to house workers at a nearby diamond mine. The town was abandoned by the mid-1950s and since then the desert has consumed it, almost filling many once grand houses with sand. The interiors of a few buildings, however, are in good condition.

Planning: The nearby city of Lüderitz is a good base for exploring Kolmanskop and other abandoned mining towns in the area.

What did we miss? Clue us in to your favorite ghost town by leaving a comment below.

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Comments

  1. Jean Lemieux
    Québec Canada
    October 28, 2011, 12:54 pm

    I send you a link to a website about one of our most known ghost town. You could had it to your list. As you will see, it is thrue that there a lot of works to keep the village in good shape, reason we can’t probably call it a real “Ghost” town, but it is intersting to visit it as a time trip to our history.
    Here is the link :
    http://www.valjalbert.com/en/

    Thank you
    Jean Lemieux

  2. David McFarland
    Glenrock, Wyoming
    October 29, 2011, 7:27 am

    Pripiyat, Ukraine?! Chernobyl? HELLO!!!

  3. Daniel Asprusten
    Norge
    October 30, 2011, 4:18 pm

    Hi, I would say that Prypiat is quite the ghost town as well. A nice, successful Ukranian city, that suddenly got stroke by a nuclear accident? Sounds like a pretty place :)

  4. glendaflong
    U.S.A.
    October 31, 2011, 11:42 am

    about ghost towns (sceience)

  5. Jeff
    October 31, 2011, 11:51 am

    Great list of ghost towns.
    This is another great piece on Bodie – just posted today.
    http://ridebook.harley-davidson.com/#!/ghosttowns

  6. Randi Bodin
    Canet, France
    November 1, 2011, 3:53 am

    I visited Belchite, Spain last year. A fantastic and frightening place and a reminder of the spanish cicil war and the dictator Franco.

  7. Natalia
    November 1, 2011, 5:56 am

    How do they can forgott Chernobyl/ Pripjatj i Ukraina?!

  8. Isaac SChnipelson
    November 2, 2011, 1:31 am

    Yeah it’s strange they forgot #1, Pripyat. It wasn’t a simple mining town like 90% of the towns in the list…

  9. varnav
    November 2, 2011, 7:04 am

    Looks like they forgot number 0 – Pripyat, Ukraine

  10. Radu
    Timișoara, România
    November 3, 2011, 2:21 pm

    +1 for Pripyat, definitely!

  11. Adil
    Aghdam, Azerbaijan
    November 3, 2011, 8:16 pm

    I would definitely add the town of Aghdam in Azerbaijan to the list. After its occupation and destruction by Armenia in 1993, it has become a ghost town that terrifies any journalist or visitor with its sad and unbelievable state.

  12. Ali
    November 4, 2011, 9:03 am

    I liked your project concerning abandoned cities very much , and I`d like to recommend you to include another one in the list. The city named Agdam, located on the territory of Azerbaijan Republic.
    http://gulustan.ws/2010/11/армянская-мания-переименования/

  13. Alexander
    St.Petersburg, Russia
    November 4, 2011, 8:56 pm

    This list is nothing without Pripyat, Ukraine

  14. [...] [iv] National Geographic has rated Pyramiden as no 7 in their list of “Top 10 ghost towns”, with the legendary Herculaneum as no.  8, http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/27/top-10-ghost-towns/. [...]

  15. [...] :click here to read the entire article. [...]

  16. Cesar
    Spain
    October 23, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Hey, were did you leave Pripyat, Ukraine….??? Chernobyl’s ghost town?!!! Worst nuclear accident in history…so far…..!!!!!

  17. Laura
    Canadian in South Korea
    October 24, 2012, 3:21 am

    I would have thought Serjilla in Syria would be in the list. It’s an absolutely beautiful and amazing place to wander about (though definitely not the easiest to get to).

  18. robert
    sichuan china
    October 31, 2012, 10:29 pm

    it is a good list of ghost town thanks to the writer through i did not go there never i may will do

  19. Alberto
    Madrid
    November 4, 2012, 6:53 am

    Belchite (Zaragoza, Spain) link no longer works.
    More info here:
    http://www.uniquespain.com/belchite.html

    • Leslie Trew Magraw
      November 5, 2012, 10:06 am

      Thanks, Alberto! I’ve gone in and updated the links :)

  20. Catherine
    My House - USA
    November 13, 2012, 12:53 am

    Considering this article is posted in the “Travel” section under “Intelligent Traveler”, giving “planing” information for those who may want to travel to these locations…

    Of course they haven’t listed Pripiyat, Ukraine. They place is highly poisonous, and will be till the end of our time, and our children’s children’s children’s time. It’s a place to know about, but is isn’t a place for a NG travel blog to be recommending people to go. At least not in writing.

  21. hakan erenler
    fethiye turkey
    December 12, 2012, 1:20 pm

    a great place, kayakoy ghost town, its a magical place, peaceful quite and amazing especially with some wood in the fireplace and red wine at winter nights. gotta see it to believe it.
    also daily trips are running in the town. http://www.fethiye-tours.com great information.

  22. Mehmet Mercan
    Fethiye Turkey
    March 11, 2013, 8:17 am

    You should see this place
    Kaya Villas http://kayavillas.com

  23. [...] سایت معتبر National Geographic اقدام به انتشار ده مورد از معروف ترین این شهرها کرده [...]

  24. [...] منبع : نشنال جئوگرافیک  [...]

  25. Stavros
    Cyprus
    July 19, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Famagusta – Cyprus. The city remains a ghost city till today, since the invasion – illegal occupation of Turkish troops in northern part of Cyprus. The buildings, houses, hotels remain inhabited empty memories of a quiet recent brutal invasion.

  26. Top 10 Ghost Towns | allithere
    July 25, 2013, 9:42 am

    [...] Top 10 Ghost Towns. [...]

  27. Phyllis Ross
    U.S.A.
    September 18, 2013, 9:42 am

    After the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster the city of Pripyat was evacuated in two days. Visitors (if they are still allowed) have to carry radiation detectors when touring . It would be amazing to see how “Mother Earth” and the elements of the weather have been reclaiming the area. Watch the video called the Wolves in Chernobyl…amazing the wildlife that thrives in their own “city” now.

  28. Ayaz
    Santiago, Chile
    October 10, 2013, 8:50 pm
  29. Bianca
    Port arthur,tasmania.
    October 11, 2013, 12:14 am

    Tthere are tours bow running through the abandon area, fire gutted aome of the buildings in 1980′s but mostly all intact with original furniture and wares. Wirth a look when visiting australia

  30. Ekta
    India
    October 11, 2013, 12:48 am

    We visited Kuldhara near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. It was deserted some 300 years ago….and its totally spooky out there.
    Here is the story of our visit –
    http://www.shadowsgalore.com/2013/09/kuldhara-ghost-village-jaisalmer/

  31. Kathy
    Goldfield, Nevada
    October 11, 2013, 2:21 am

    Abandoned gold mining town.

  32. Europeforfree.travel
    Europe
    October 11, 2013, 2:38 am

    This list is not complete without Varosha in North Cyprus, next to Famagusta. Peoople left it within one day and even decades after it is a ghost resort with empty luxury hotels and villas. As it is a military zone you can’t visit it, just watch from the beach side of Famagusta. Famagusta itself is a nice historical town still inhabited and live.

  33. Sarah Elliott
    Syria
    October 11, 2013, 8:50 am

    700 abandoned settlements in Northwest Syria known as the Dead Cities:

    http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2011/11/magnificent-dead-cities-ancient-syria/

  34. Glenda Boone
    Calico Ghost Town
    October 13, 2013, 7:00 am

    Calico is near Barstow CA. It’s an old Ore Mining town.

  35. Dorothy
    Canada
    October 20, 2013, 11:09 pm

    Rowley, Alberta …

  36. James
    Alberta, Canada.
    October 21, 2013, 12:33 am

    A coal town at Bankhead, Alberta is fascinating to walk around, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankhead,_Alberta
    As is Nordegg, Alberta, http://www.ghosttowns.com/canada/alberta/nordegg.html, and Rowley, Alberta,
    http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/rowley.html
    This is a young area, but there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate other peoples pasts.

  37. jacob hudson
    united states
    October 25, 2013, 11:27 pm

    Dudley town, connecticut the home of the damned

  38. Aziz Spydus
    Singapore
    October 26, 2013, 6:50 am

    Plz include Southeast Asia

  39. PAFFENDORF
    OTTAWA on
    October 31, 2013, 4:28 pm

    You did nt see anything… come and check OTTAWA Canada ..a real gost town 4 season ZOMBY walking ..

  40. Leonardo Tricarico
    Italy
    October 31, 2013, 4:40 pm

    Old Craco, near Matera, Basilicata, Italy
    From:
    notizie.comuni-italiani.it/foto/33551
    Old Craco, built on a cliff at 391 m. above sea level, with its ravines and olive trees, is known throughout the world thanks to its picturesque charm, its history and scenery of the film to be shot there.

    In 1963, due to the landslide and mudslides that brought down many buildings, Crachesi were forced to leave the village and start all over again with great courage and moved to Craco-Peschiera and Craco-Sant’Angelo.
    In 1975 Old Craco was completely abandoned, ending its history and became one of the most beautiful abandoned places of Basilicata and Italy.

  41. Nalini
    Lisbon
    October 31, 2013, 4:59 pm

    Chicken, Alaska

  42. ozde dereboylular
    Cyprus
    October 31, 2013, 5:14 pm

  43. Winoc Lemmens-Smet
    Sint-Niklaas, East Flanders, Belgium, Europe
    October 31, 2013, 5:15 pm

    you should definitely add Oradour-sur-Glane (Haute-Vienne, Limousin, France) to your list. The town’s population was massacred by the Waffen-SS on June 10th 1944. Only 45 survived the attack, mostly by luck. 642 were killed that day. After setting the town on fire, the remaining residents rebuilt the village 100 meters further in 1953.

  44. Bec
    Australia
    October 31, 2013, 5:41 pm

    Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia.

  45. Randy Ratchet
    October 31, 2013, 5:42 pm

    You forgot Detroit

  46. […] published our list of the Top 10 Ghost Towns in the World, then asked our readers to fill us in on what we missed the first go […]

  47. atanasio
    October 31, 2013, 6:00 pm

    craco,italy.very scary…

  48. Paul
    Netherlands
    October 31, 2013, 6:09 pm

    You forgot Oradour-sur-Glane in France. Ghost town and a monument to what may never be forgotten.

  49. dolores boroni
    Italia
    October 31, 2013, 6:14 pm

    I was fascinated by Kolmaskop. While I was wandering among the abandoned houses devoured by sand I tried to imagine the lives of miners when they lived on this site, one of the roughest on earth.

  50. Joy Townsend
    United States
    October 31, 2013, 6:47 pm

    Macetown, Otago, New Zealand

  51. Manon
    Canada
    October 31, 2013, 7:47 pm

    Went to Val-Jalbert in Québec Province (East Canada).
    Really nice abandoned village. Built in 1901 and abandoned in 1927 where the pulp company closed. Abandoned for more than 60 years, some houses felt down, other remained. Old houses can be visited, the mill, waterfalls and the school.
    You can even overnight either in some houses transformed in “hotel” rooms or in the General Store of the village.
    I walked in the village at night, it is creepy and silent.
    Experience I recommend to everyone. Apparently the now have a geocaching activity and a multimedia presentation during the day.
    http://www.valjalbert.com

  52. Jack Borno
    Canada
    October 31, 2013, 7:50 pm

    Ocean Falls’ population numbered 250 in 1912 and grew to 3,500 by 1950. By 1970, the number of inhabitants had dropped to 1,500. By 1990, only about 70 people, mostly loggers, remained, today less than 30.

  53. mongilardi fabian
    BS. AS. LA PLATA
    October 31, 2013, 8:04 pm

    UN LUGAR QUE TEALEGRA LOS OJOS Y EL ALMA, ES UN LUGAR BELLISIMO, NO IMPORTA DONDE SE ENCUENTRE.

  54. kumarie
    guyana
    October 31, 2013, 10:35 pm

    Jonestown in Guyana South America certainly is a ghost town

  55. kseniia
    USA
    October 31, 2013, 11:23 pm

    There is a big “ghost area” in Ukraine, which called Chernobyl. There was a big explosion at the nuclear station in 1986. People avoid this area since then.

  56. Esther
    Canada
    October 31, 2013, 11:31 pm
  57. Augusto del Castillo
    Brownsville, TX
    November 1, 2013, 1:07 am

    Real de Catorce in the high plains North of the state capital, San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico

  58. Zia
    Switzerland
    November 1, 2013, 2:00 am

    The monastery Villers-la-ville, Belgium, is missing too.

  59. Saba Tecle Medhin
    Norway Moss
    November 1, 2013, 3:00 am

    Pls explore Africa too.

  60. Frédéric COPPIETERS
    Belgium
    November 1, 2013, 4:33 am

    Bodie is indeed great.
    Also divert to Chloride (50 miles from Las Vegas) and Superior (Arizona) where U-Turn (the movie) was filmed… Ghost towns and real americans!

  61. David
    leeds
    November 1, 2013, 5:47 am

    Leeds city centre on a monday night

  62. Shabbir Sheikh
    South Africa
    November 1, 2013, 6:10 am

    No Pripyat? Whyyyy

  63. Vinod Nalla
    london, uk
    November 1, 2013, 8:12 am

    I think Chernobyl should be in top 10

  64. anna mo
    Germany, Berlin
    November 1, 2013, 9:54 am

    Vogelsang is abandoned city in Eastgermany. You walk for hours through the forest and when you think you are on the wrong way finaly you see the first buildings. UdSSR army lived here. They build scools and hospitals and cinemas-the whole infrastructure. As the cold war was over the people moved with their familys back to their motherland, which happened between 1992-1994.
    You can feel the communistic past and the spirit of the Socialism times.
    Check my blog for pictures:
    http://www.tumblr.com/blog/thatgirlinspace

  65. Paula
    Bannock Montana
    November 1, 2013, 12:56 pm

    Bannock was once the capital of Montana and is now a ghost town. It is beautiful on a sunny day. Oradour-sur-Glane is a haunting place.

  66. Eric Masterman
    November 1, 2013, 10:36 pm

    Randsburg, California in the Mojave desert. Formerly a mining town off of old highway 395

  67. Prabha
    Dhanushkodi, Tamilnadu, India
    November 2, 2013, 12:54 am
  68. Tithy
    India
    November 2, 2013, 3:44 am

    Fatehpur Sikri, India

  69. joe
    December 28, 2013, 12:57 pm

    You forgot the greatest and the biggest on the planet – Teotihuacan

  70. Emily
    Centralia,PA
    January 29, 1:03 am

    Centralia is a ghost town and its really interesting. a mine caught on fire and is still burning today, many houses sunk in sinkholes and there are sinkholes everywhere. it was by law to be evacuated.

  71. andres tibaquira
    bogota col.
    February 16, 2:34 am

    Colombia has its own ghost city, its name is Armero. That city used to be one of the greatest cities in colombia before the tragedy, we lost almost 30000 people over there and we still have there old buildings, house parts and is the biggest grave yard in colombia…its not a good idea, to visit it at night lol…

  72. Ghost Towns » Top OOps
    February 26, 5:28 am

    […] via […]

  73. […] is an abandoned Russian mining town in Svalbard located at 78° 41´N. It is on National Geographic´s list of top 10 ghost towns. It was abandoned in 1998 and when the people left they left in a hurry, […]