Some of the strangest places in the world have become tourist attractions. More often than not, it’s the abandoned and neglected towns that become magnets for those of us who can’t resist taking a peek into the past.
If you are looking at walking holidays this year and want to add a stroll through some slightly different tourist attractions, be sure to take a look at some of these – if you’re in the area of course:
This now desolate place was once a booming mining town in the 1920s. Also famous for processing nitrate (saltpetre) it hit its decline when synthetic saltpetre was invented and its unemployed residents gradually left. No, I’m not sure what it is either but it certainly caused problems in the town of Humberstone. The contents of the buildings have long since been coated in desert sand blowing through the streets like a scene from a Western. Despite this, Humberstone has now been named a World Heritage Site and will probably be preserved as a historical monument – and tourist attraction. I bet you can’t wait!
Bodie Ghost Town, California
This former gold mining town in the American west was once home to 10,000 residents in the glorious days of the gold rush. Sadly, that’s all gone now and it’s been largely uninhabited since the 1960s. What’s left of this once booming town was designated a National Historic Site in 1962 and everything remains preserved in a state of ‘arrested decay’, whatever that means. Although attracting many intrigued tourists, it takes its identity as a ghost town seriously – there are limited facilities and it’s not a great place to visit once the snow arrives. Don’t get stranded, there be ghosts in them there mines.
Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong
When the Japanese occupation of China ended after World War Two, Kowloon was abandoned by both the British and the Chinese. Rife with brothels, casinos, opium dens and cocaine parlours, the city was quite literally left to rot. Eventually there was so much filth that fluorescent lights were erected to illuminate the darkest areas. Was that a good idea, really? In 1993, both Britain and the Chinese agreed to tear this once thriving city down. Two years’ later Kowloon Walled City Park was opened, housing some of the artefacts from the once infamous town. Today you can take a sedate stroll around this now pristine place and admire the pretty flowers.
Once the dazzling capital city of a north Indian Muslim state, Mandu is now occupied only by gypsies who have taken up residence on the nearby hilltops. Deserted for over 400 years, it houses a variety of ruins including a mosque and the Nil Kanth Palace, a destination for pilgrims worshipping the Hindu goddess Shiva. Tinged with a sense of romance and sacred ruins it’s worth a visit for any traveller wishing to explore relatively unknown parts of India and avoid westerners doing exactly the same thing!
Not one to include in your options for family holidays and not one for the faint-hearted. On 10th June 1944, 642 residents of the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane were massacred by German soldiers intending to punish the French Resistance. They’d originally targeted the neighbouring village of Oradour-sur-Vayes and got it wrong. The ruins of this poignant site remain as a memorial to all those who died.
Deception Island, South Shetland Islands
On a lighter note is one place you’re not likely to be strolling past during your holidays. Found amid the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island was quite rightly abandoned after a volcano erupted in 1969. Still a tourist attraction for walking holidays and a scientific outpost, the island boasts one of the safest harbours in America – until the next volcanic eruption at least.
From remote islands to once booming mine towns it’s amazing how things turn out. All I can say is that if you live in a thriving part of the world take heed. One day those delightful looking ornaments on your mantelpiece may form part of a historic attraction. Better get polishing your garden gnomes.