6 Ghost Towns in Asia You Should Visit

6 Ghost Towns in Asia You Should Visit

These amazing historical sites are mostly in ruins and sometimes creepy, but totally worth a visit.

What’s a holiday without a little adventure? Take the road less travelled and check out these unpopulated spots! From ivy-covered houses in China to Cambodia’s creepy resort that’s on the verge of collapse, these are the best places to visit in Asia if you want to escape throngs of people in the city or at the beach. We really mean escape people.

1. Hashima Island, Japan

ghost towns in asia

Image credit: Ronald Woan

With its high seawall and wide, disintegrating buildings, this spooky island looks like a besieged ancient city that rose abruptly out of the depths in the middle of nowhere. As a matter of fact, it was acquired by Mitsubishi in 1890 to mine deep-sea coal and was in use up until the late 20th century.

ghost towns in asia

Image credit: Ronald Woan

Plagued by rumours of forced labour and the replacement of coal with petroleum as fuel in the 1960s, the mine was closed in 1974 and the mining population on the island abandoned it completely. The island is still a tourist attraction though access is limited due to the dilapidation of the buildings which makes them dangerous. Many visitors flock to nearby Nagasaki, which has its own cross to bear instead.

2. Kayakoy, Turkey

Just next to the bustling beaches and harbour of Olu Deniz lie 350 empty homes, mostly roofless, and slowly crumbling against the Taurus Mountains. This is Kayakoy, once a thriving metropolis that was home to as many as 20,000 Greeks in the final years of the flourishing Ottoman Empire. Though its residents left in 1922, under the terms of an exchange in the Greco-Turkish War, harsh coastal winds have sped up its erosion and made it look centuries old. A private museum tells the story of the town’s rise and fall.

Image credit: Pavel Rybin

Though weathered and worn, Kayakoy is still worth checking out! It can be explored via a 2.5-hour walk along a marked mountain path.

3. Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia

Image credit: Matthew Klein

Bokor Hill Station used to be a popular retreat for the French elite, with an ostentatious hotel and grand casino. It’s still popular among tourists, but for an entirely different reason. People trek an overgrown dirt road to an elevation of 3000 feet (~914.5m) just to see the eerie ruins of the station, which was abandoned when the Japanese invaded the country. Bokor Hill Station flourished again after World War II but was subsequently abandoned again for the second time in the 1970s.

Image credit: Exotissimo Travel

If you squint, you can imagine what the resort must have looked like in its golden age. But now, it retains only a shell of its former opulence and bears scars from the countless bullets that have struck its walls. Visiting this place will surely give you the chills.

4. Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong

Image credit: Forgemind ArchiMedia

This deserted complex containing 300 tightly packed, interconnected buildings has an intriguing backstory. From the 1950s to 1994, about 33,000 people lived and worked in Kowloon Walled City, making it the most densely populated place in the world at that time. It was officially a military base for the Chinese government, but the land belonged to Hong Kong (then run by the British). As a result, neither government took charge of order on the island and it descended into lawlessness – rife with opium dens, gambling dens, and illegal medical practices.

Image credit: ystsoi

In 1994, the two governments unanimously decided the city was an eyesore and should be torn down. The residents were evicted and the land was turned into what is now Kowloon Walled City Park, a gorgeous garden that features an exhibition on the history of the Walled City.

5. Houtou Wan Village, China

Image credit: Work and Travel China

Once home to thousands of fishermen, only a handful of people still reside in this verdant village on Shengshan, part of the Shengsi island cluster east of Shanghai. Majority of the residents moved away in the early 1990s, frustrated by problems with education, utilities (the houses still lack running water and electricity) and food delivery. The island has since become quite a popular tourist destination – some former residents still return to assist the tourists and sell bottled water.

Image credit: Michael Rubio

Trek along the narrow footpaths and you’ll see that many houses and walls are curtained by thick, trailing layers of ivy. It’s really very pretty, especially if you climb to the peak of the hilly island to admire the view of the shining sea.

6. Mandu, India

Image credit: Andrea Kirkby

Can you imagine that the design of the glorious Taj Mahal was inspired by this hilltop town, built as a fortress? You’ll be surprised to learn that back in its heyday, Mandu was a resplendent city known as the “city of joy”, acting as the centre of Afghan Dilawar Khan’s kingdom. It supposedly celebrated the love between Baz Bahadur (a poet-prince) and his consort, Rani Roopmati, who remain integral characters in local folklore even four centuries after the site was abandoned.

Image credit: Andrea Kirkby

Mandu is hailed as an important example of Afghan architecture. History and architecture aficionados would be wise to check it out!

Although ghost towns are a popular setting for horror stories, more often than not they’re really just enchanting places with a rich history, incredible and sturdy architecture, and make for some pretty good photo spots too. They can be as charming as Houtou Wan, or a sombre relic of a bygone era, like Bokor Hill Station. The next time you’re in one of these countries, be sure to drop by and explore these abandoned cities for yourself! It’s sure to be an intriguing experience.

About Author

Rachel Lee
Rachel Lee

Rachel loves to write, travel, and of course, write about travel. She believes that you can find beauty and wonder in the little things, in any little corner of the world. If you can't find her at a desk with her head stuck in a book or up in the clouds, she is probably dancing or even more probably checking the fridge.

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