Halloween is synonymous with costumes, an abundance of bite-sized candy, and adorable photos of children dressed as cartoon characters, super heroes, and creatures. However, the spirit of Halloween can also influence your travels. Rather than focusing on haunted destinations, the members and editors of VirtualTourist.com have compiled a list of those places that have been abruptly abandoned, their emptiness and the signs of people up and disappearing making them spooky and eerie. From an abandoned Greek village in Turkey to a former disaster site in the Ukraine, here are VirtualTourist.com's "Top 5 Ghost Towns."
Hashima Island, Japan
Hashima Island (also called Gunkanjima) off the coast of Nagasaki Port in Japan. Photo courtesy of the Japan National Tourism Organization; www.japantravelinfo.com
Hashima Island, located 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) off the port of Nagasaki, once had the highest population density in history, with more than 5,000 full-time residents, despite the island being only 480 meters (1,575 ft.) long and 150 meters (492 ft.) wide. The island served as a coal mine and was built with housing to accommodate workers and their families, making it resemble a battleship and earning the location the nickname Gunkanjima, or "battleship island" in Japanese. When the mine was closed in April of 1974, residents had to vacate and the island remained closed to the public for many years, slowly deteriorating from typhoons and lack of upkeep. In April 2009, a newly constructed boat dock made it possible for tour boats to land at Gunkanjima, and the 45 minute tours of the island are becoming more and more popular. In addition to visiting the ruins, the 50 minute boat ride between Nagasaki and Gunkanjima provides great views of the city of Nagasaki and its port from the water.
The abandoned gymnasium in Prypiat, Ukraine in 2011 courtesy of VirtualTourist member smirnofforiginal
While the name Prypiat isn't particularly well-known to many travelers, the catalyst for it being abandoned is a name few citizens will soon forget: Chernobyl. Prypiat falls within the "zone of alienation" in northern Ukraine, the area within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The city was originally founded to house workers of the power plant and was only three miles from the plant. On April 26, 1986, the entire city was evacuated due to an explosion and subsequent radiation leak at Chernobyl. Today, it requires a day pass issued by the Ukrainian government to visit Pripyat, Chernobyl, and the surrounding villages, but it can be easily obtained and tours of the region are growing in popularity, particularly among European travelers. The abandoned buildings, classrooms, and structures are a living museum to the late Soviet era, with photographs from the region being particularly powerful.
Kayakoy, Anatolia, Turkey
The village of Kayakoy by VT member June.b
Nestled into the hills of the Taurus Mountains, the village of Kayakoy is approximately eight kilometers (five miles) south of the larger and coastal city of Fethiye. At one time, the village was inhabited by 2,000 plus Greek Orthodox citizens, who referred to the town as Levissi or Karmylissos, despite its location in Turkey. In 1923, following World War I and the GrecoTurkish War, Greece and Turkey agreed to a compulsory population exchange based on religious ideology, forcing Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece to move. The citizens of Kayakoy were forced to move and were repatriated to Greece. When they left, the village was subsequently abandoned. Today, the village serves as a museum and historical monument, illustrating fallout from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that many travelers were not even aware of.
The American West is scattered with abandoned mining towns, but Jerome, Arizona is unique in that it is both a quick stop from some of Arizona's most popular tourist destinations and historically haunted. Once a booming copper camp, it was the fourth largest city in Arizona in the late 1920s. When the mines closed in the mid-1950s, the population plummeted to only 42 residents, and it became well-known for its paranormal activity, such as items inexplicably moving and glasses sliding off tables on their own. Now, the destination is widely-regarded for its great photographic setting and quaint artist studios and galleries. Only a 40 minute drive from Sedona, it's a great historic destination to add to any jaunt to Arizona.
Royal Gardens Subdivision in Kilauea, Hawaii
Lava slowly progressing towards the sea on Hawaii's Big Island, courtesy of VirtualTourist member hat53
Along the Big Island's southeastern shore and in the shadow of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the site of the former Royal Gardens Subdivision can barely be made out. In the early 1980s, the land was seen as highly valuable, with its beautiful view of the volcano and the ocean. Few seemed to worry that it was a short six km (3.72 miles) from the Kilauea Volcano's vent. By March of 1983, the first house in the subdivision was destroyed by a lava flow, but a few inhabitants remained until the final house was destroyed almost 30 years later in 2012. Under favorable weather conditions and when active flows are present, visitors can see them at the end of the Chain of Craters Road within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana. The Lava Viewing Area at Kalapana is free to the public and accessible from Route 130.
Whether you want to visit an abandoned island or a former disaster zone, these five "ghost towns" will definitely add some variety and Halloween-inspired spookiness to your next getaway. No matter what destination you are planning to visit this season, don't forget to visit VirtualTourist.com for reviews, tips, and feedback from travelers who've been there and done it all!