The World's Most Bizarre Abandoned Towns

Ghosts aren't the half of what you'll find in these strange (former) settlements

From ghost towns in the American desert and the Canadian Rockies, to creepy Chinese shopping malls and housing developments that never could entice permanent populations to settle there, these are the world's most bizarre abandoned towns.

  • 01 of 10

    Tombstone, Arizona, USA

    Tombstone, AZ
     Powerofforever/Getty Images

    Tombstone is probably the most popular "ghost town" in America, or maybe even the world. To be sure, while it is abandoned in the sense that none of its original residents live there any longer, it's a popular tourist destination. If you're planning a trip to Arizona, do keep in mind that while Tombstone is close to Tucson and Phoenix (about 70 and 130 minutes, respectively), it'll take you nearly six hours to reach from the Grand Canyon.

  • 02 of 10

    Bankhead, Alberta, Canada

    Bankhead, Alberta
    Ben Lavrinoff/Getty Images

    It might be difficult upon arriving in Banff, a bustling town (a city, really) in the Canadian Rockies, to think that one of the world's weirdest abandoned towns sits only a short drive away. However, if you decide to visit the Bankhead Ghost Town (which you might not — have you seen the scenery on offer in Banff?), that's exactly what you'll find. A prosperous coal mining town during the early part of the 20th century, Bankhead is nothing more than an artifact of this period these days, though who knows? With tourism to Alberta soaring, it might just find a second life.

  • 03 of 10

    Ordos, China

    Ordos, China
    Xinzheng/Getty Images 

    China is full of strange places, from fake stores, to "replica parks," to...well, we could go on forever. At any rate, one of the weirdest things about modern China is the extent to which the government is willing to invest in construction and infrastructure, even when no apparent demand exists. This usually takes the form of shopping malls, but in the case of Ordos in Inner Mongolia province, the result is more dramatic. This is a completely abandoned city, and is perhaps the largest of any of the (former) settlements on this list.

  • 04 of 10

    Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy

    Ercolano, Italy
    Artherng/Getty Images

    Like many of the other abandoned towns on this list, Pompeii and Herculaneum are only abandoned when you're talking about their original residents. In the case of these towns, which are located near the modern city of Naples in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, it was in the year 79 AD when a volcanic eruption ushered in near-apocalypse conditions. One big reason to choose Herculaneum over its more famous cousin Pompeii, the fact that Herculaneum has intact two-story buildings notwithstanding, is that fewer tourists come here. This means it's more "abandoned" in a technical sense, in addition to the lack of any locals, for all intents and purposes.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Dallol, Ethiopia

    Dallol, Ethiopia
    Robert Schrader

    Some people might argue with the inclusion of Dallol, Ethiopia on this list of abandoned towns. It's not really a town, in the traditional sense, as there are few permanent structures here. Even tourists who visit to see the nearby sulfur fields sleep in what are essentially tents; there are no locals, not really. However, even if you don't consider Dallol to be abandoned, whether because you don't believe anyone ever lived here or otherwise, it's still a fascinating place to visit. In addition to the sulfur fields and the salt mines that sit nearby (the camel caravans are really something else!), it's not far from Erta Ale volcano, which locals often refer to as the "Door to Hell."

  • 06 of 10

    Walhalla, Victoria, Australia

    Walhalla, Victoria, Australia
    Radius Images/Getty Images

    The abandoned Australia town of Walhalla might have a name that evokes Viking lore, but there's not much else triumphant here. Originally founded during the Australian Gold Rush, which like America's took place during the mid-19th century, Walhalla is completely abandoned these days, apart from curious tourists who come here on day trips from Melbourne. It's definitely not as beautiful as more popular Melbourne excursions like the Great Ocean Road, but could be a compelling place for a photo shoot, or if you have an interest in precious-metal mining.

  • 07 of 10

    San Antonio del Nuevo Mundo, Uyuni, Bolivia

    Uyuni, Bolivia
    Veeravong Komalamena/Getty Images

    Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni might be one of the worst's most hauntingly beautiful landscapes, but it doesn't take long for visitors to realize how inhospitable the region is to human life. It's one of the highest, driest deserts in the world, after all; the main town of Uyuni wouldn't exist were it not for tourism and the limited amount of salt mining still done here. Fortune didn't smile as favorably upon San Antonio del Nuevo Mundo, a small and now-abandoned settlement outside the tourist center of Uyuni, though it's definitely interesting to visit on a tour, along with the "train graveyard" you'll see en route to the main salt fields.

  • 08 of 10

    Pripyat, Ukraine (Formerly USSR)

    Pripyat, Ukraine
    Michal Dziekanski/Getty Images

    Colloquially, most people think of Chernobyl as not only the Soviet nuclear power plant that melted down in 1986, but also as the abandoned town that resulted from it. In fact, this sparse settlement is known as Pripyat. Though not quite as scary as the critically-panned "Chernobyl Diaries" might have you believe, this Ukrainian ghost town is nonetheless creepy, as you'll see if you go on one of the many tours you can take here from the national capital of Kiev.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Mandu, India

    Mandu, India
    Naveen0301/Getty Images

    The citadel of Mandu, in India's Madhya Pradesh state, is not "abandoned" in the sense of many of the other towns on this list. However, it currently serves as a tourist attraction, rather than a home for thousands of people as it did during the 11th century, when the now-deposed Taranga Kingdom ruled over this part of India. Indeed, unless you are extremely lucky, you'll find this place anything but abandoned, as it's become an increasingly popular stop along India's tourist trail.

  • 10 of 10

    Kleinzee, South Africa

    Kleinzee
    Lee Frost/Getty Images

    Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but the changing fortunes of the diamond industry have put many a South African miner out of work. For evidence of this look no farther than Kleinzee, a formerly prosperous mining town in the country's Northern Cape province. Kleinzee's abandonment has generated interest throughout the media, most notably a 2016 Vice profile.