Hashima Island (also called Gunkanjima) off the coast of Nagasaki Port in Japan.
GUNKANJIMA Japan National Tourism Organizat Virtual Tourist
Halloween is synonymous with costumes, an abundance of bite-sized candy and adorable photos of children dressed as cartoon characters, superheroes and monstrous 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 by people, making them spooky and eerie. From an abandoned Greek village in Turkey to a former disaster site in the Ukraine, here are VirtualTourist's "Top 5 Ghost Towns."
HASHIMA ISLAND, JAPAN
Hashima Island, located 12.4 miles off the port of Nagasaki, Japan, once had the highest population density in history, with more than 5,000 full-time residents, despite the island being only 1,575 feet long and 492 feet wide. The island served as a coal mine and was built with housing to accommodate workers and their families. Because it resembled a battleship, the island was nicknamed "Gunkanjima," which in Japanese means "battleship island."
When the mine was closed in April 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 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.
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 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. The passes can be easily obtained, however, 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 powerfully photographs from the region.
KAYAKOY, ANATOLIA, TURKEY
Nestled into the hills of the Taurus Mountains, the village of Kayakoy is approximately five miles south of the larger and coastal city of Fethiye. At one time, the village was primarily known as Levissi or Karmylissos, the names given to the town by the 2,000-plus Greek Christian citizens who inhabited the area. In 1923, following World War I and the Greco-Turkish War, Greece and Turkey agreed to a population exchange, allowing refugees to return home to their countries. The citizens of Kayakoy were forced to abandon their village and were repatriated to Greece. Today, the village serves as a museum and historical monument, illustrating fallout from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The American West is scattered with abandoned mining towns, but Jerome, Ariz., is unique in that it is a quick stop from some of Arizona's most popular tourist destinations and 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 on their own 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
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 3.72 miles from the Kilauea volcano's vent. By March 1983, the first house in the subdivision was destroyed by a lava flow, but a few inhabitants remained until the final house was destroyed 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 Hawai`i 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!
(c) 2013 Virtualtourist.com, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
This was printed in the October 20, 2013 - November 2, 2013 Edition