What is urbexing? It’s a kind of photography that involves sneaking around an abandoned amusement park or exploring the dilapidated charm of an abandoned hotel with some mates to get cool and eerie photographs. If that sounds like your kind of thing, here is a list of the best abandoned places around the world for urbexing that are just the right amount of scary…
1. Hồ Thuỷ Tiên – Hué, Vietnam
This abandoned theme park in Vietnam is one of the coolest places you’ll ever visit. Climb inside the crumpling dragon, crawl up the twisting, now waterless slides, and navigate your way through the woods to find the swampy swimming pools. This magnificent water-wonderland was never completed due to financial issues, but it’s reached cult status amongst urbexers in Southeast Asia. A word of warning though: although the local government recently removed the resident alligators, it’s probably still a good idea to be alert and stay out of the water.
To get here, simply type “Hồ Thuỷ Tiên” into Google Maps and ride your motorbike up to the entrance – it’s about 15 minutes from the town of Hué. If you get lost, just ask the locals – everyone in town knows the place.
2. Teufelsberg – Berlin, Germany
Built by the US to spy on East Germany during the Cold War, this abandoned listening station is perched on a hill of WW2 rubble that buries a Nazi military school. Aside from all the history, you’ll find some great graffiti, a swing inside one of the giant golf ball domes, amazing accoustics and panoramic views across the forest towards Berlin.
It’s fast and easy to get here from the centre – just hop on the S-Bahn to Grunewald and walk through the forest in the general direction of Devil’s Lake (“Teufelsee”). After about 20 minutes, you’ll spot the domes above the trees, and then you’ll need to walk round the perimeter until you find a hole in the fence to squeeze through. Don’t bother paying for the official tour: if you get caught, just act dumb and pretend you don’t speak German. You’ll probably be escorted off the property and they might try to make you delete your pictures, so always carry a spare SD card!
Where to stay in Berlin: Circus Hostel
3. Train graveyard – Uyuni, Bolivia
Not far from the famous Salar de Uyuni salt flats, this collection of old trains rusting under the Bolivian sun has got to be one of the most photogenic abandoned places on earth. The mass train graveyard, known as Cementerio de Trenes, is about a 15 minute drive from the town of Uyuni and although it’s become quite popular with travellers to the area, it’s still well worth a visit.
4. Dreamland – Nara, Japan
Dreamland’s crumbling fairy-tale castle and skeletal remains of the helter skelter will make all your urbexing dreams come true. This massive abandoned theme park near Nara is Japan’s answer to Disneyland, and it’s one of the best preserved abandoned theme parks in the world, since the owners didn’t sell any of the rides off after closure. There’s so much to see you’ll need a couple of hours minimum.
If you’re thinking of going, make sure you read Time Travel Turtle’s excellent blogpost beforehand about how to get in and the best time to visit in order to avoid getting caught and fined by the security.
Where to stay in Nara: Guest House Tamura
5. Abandoned plane wreckage – Sólheimasandur Beach, Iceland
The surreal black sand of Sólheimasandur Beach, and Northern lights in the sky above, make the skeletal remains of the US plane that crash landed here all the more stunning.
This spot is a little bit more difficult to reach than other attractions in Iceland, as you can’t drive all the way there, bad weather sometimes blocks access completely and you won’t see any signposts from the road. But this means if you do manage to get there, you’ll likely have the whole place to yourself. It’s about an hour’s walk from the nearest car park, and the easiest way to find it is by typing the following coordinates into Google maps: 63.459523,-19.364618.
Where to stay in Iceland: Kex Hostel
6. Spreepark – Berlin, Germany
Berlin is without a doubt the best city in Europe for urbexers – so much history, and so many amazing abandoned spots that are easy to get to on public transport. This GDR-era amusement park known as “Spreepark” features fallen dinosaur statues, a Ferris wheel that creeks in the wind, and a roller coaster tunnel in the shape of a psychedelic cat.
To get there just hop on the S-Bahn to Treptow and walk along the river into the Plänterwald forest until you get to the fence. Plans for developing the site are gathering steam, so make sure you get there before it’s too late. This has also resulted in heightened security – it’s a little harder to scale the fence and there are more guards/dogs than there used to be. However as with Teufelsberg, there’s not an awful lot they can do if they catch you – just have a story ready and try to back up your pictures to a spare dropbox or SD card to avoid losing them all.
Where to stay in Berlin: Wallyard Concept Hostel
7. Maunsell Sea Forts – Red Sands, UK
A number of sea forts were built during WW2 to defend Britain’s coast, including these futuristic forts located at Red Sands in the mouth of the Thames Estuary. They’ve been officially abandoned since the ‘50s, but you can still visit by boat – the easiest and safest way is to hop on one of the regular tours that run from nearby Whitstable.
8. Soviet statue graveyard – Tallinn, Estonia
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the newly independent Estonian capital had a fair bit of Soviet clutter they needed to get rid of fast. Many of the statues were dumped on a forgotten plot of land on the outskirts of the city, where they remain today – including this giant Lenin head. Hidden away on a plot of land behind the Museum of Estonian History (though this is pure coincidence; the statues are not part of the exhibits) this impromptu Soviet statue graveyard is one of the lesser known abandoned places on this list but definitely worth a visit if you’re in Tallinn. Check out Time Travel Turtle’s blogpost for more info.
Where to stay: Tallinn Backpackers
9. Gavea Tourist Hotel – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Just outside Rio de Janeiro, this magnificent hotel has lain abandoned for over 44 years. Local street artists have continued to add to the building’s charm, and it was once one of the best urbexing spots in South America. Alas due to safety concerns, it’s now difficult and dangerous to get inside the building itself, though you can still get close enough to admire from the outside. Just don’t think too much about The Shining.
Where to stay in Rio: Books Hostel
10. Former Communist Party Headquarters – Buzludzha, Bulgaria
Shaped like a flying saucer, this brutalist beauty was built to commemorate the birthplace of communist Bulgaria in the Central Balkans of Bulgaria. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the building was forgotten and left to decay, but has a cult following amongst adventurous travellers to the area. As with all of the abandoned places on this list, make sure you take the necessary precautions and always go with other people.
11. Abandoned mining town – Sewell, Chile
Built for the workers and families of the world’s largest copper mine, the town of Sewell was once home to over 15,000 people. But in the ‘70s, the residents were relocated to fancy new homes further down the hill, and the town has lain abandoned ever since. The ghost town is now a UNESCO world heritage site, thanks to its cultural and historical importance, and the only way to visit is with an authorised guide. If you’re thinking of going make sure you take a look at Time Travel Turtle’s excellent blogpost about his trip here.
Last but not least: the poster city for urban decay. In its heyday, Detroit was a wealthy car manufacturing city with a population of nearly two million. However, due to globalisation and the decline of the US manufacturing industries, the city fell on hard times, eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2013. It’s now arguably the best city in the world for urbexers, with a treasure trove of amazing abandoned buildings. Highlights include the imposing Michigan Central Station, the delicately beautiful United Artists Theatre and aptly named Vanity Ballroom.
Where to stay in Detroit: Hostel Detroit
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