Part 2 of our series on the most beutiful deserted places in the world. Part 1 can be found by Clicking Here.
Snuggled between the tourism hubs of Morocco and Senegal, its a wonder that Mauritania doesn’t at least get a few cross-border backpacking types eager to explore the foreign territory. With less than 30,000 visitors per year, this forgotten land on the edge of the Sahara is one of the least visited entities in the Western part of Africa – despite being 29th largest in the world by land mass. Like its neighbours, Mauritania is a predominantly dry, sandy country, with over three quarters of the land mass comprising the Sahara Desert. What most people aren’t aware of is the fact that much of this desert stretches right down to the sea, making the beaches prime locations for dune buggying and boarding. As one of the world’s largest breeding sites for flamingoes, pelicans and terns, the Banc d’Arguin National Park between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou is also worth a visit!
Kalavantin Durg, Panvel, India
Amid the Sahyadri Mountains between Matheran and Panvel rises a mythical conical structure that looks just like the fabled Tower of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies. Unlike the fictional tower, there is no all-seeing eye atop Kalavantin Durg – a 2,300 metre “hill” rising up from the verdant valley just outside of Machi-Prabal – but an ancient fort, allegedly built for a former queen of the Adivasi people native to the area. Covered in lush greenery and wild flowers, the conical monument strikes a majestic presence over the surrounding landscape, yet the views are equally as breathtaking from the ruinous fortress at the top – that is, if you’re prepared to make the 2 hour trek up the meandering rock steps to the summit. Little remains of the structure itself, save for a few supporting walls, however, the monument affords impressive views of the other fortresses in the vicinity, including those at Prabalgarh and Panvel.
It seems an unlikely place for tourism given the preceding circumstances for its abandonment in 1986, yet that doesn’t stop nearly 10,000 urban explorers a year from booking a place on the limited capacity tours into the ghost town. Founded in 1970, the youthful town of Pripyat was one of several settlements that grew up around the greater area of Chernobyl, and for many Ukrainians, represented a turning point in their fortunes. Over the course of 16 years, the tiny settlement burgeoned and flourished, investing in the expansion of its educational facilities, building new industrial parks, and even boosting its touristic appeal with the development of a theme park. At its height, the town was home to more than 49,000 people.
But, that all changed on the morning of Saturday 26th April 1986, when routine systems testing at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant led to a fatal power surge, in turn causing a series of explosions that spewed radioactive matter into the atmosphere. The resultant fallout led to the temporary evacuation of all towns within a 10 mile radius of the plant – an order which would later become permanent. With no-one to tend the overgrown foliage creeping into the city, nature has staked her claim on the concrete jungle, compromising the safety of many of the buildings. That being said, radiation levels are now safe enough that visitors can wander the streets of the town (accompanied by guides) without fear of contamination. Among the most iconic images of the abandoned city include the motionless Ferris wheel at the theme park, the soaring Hotel Polissya and the crumbling public swimming baths next to the council buildings.
Hirsau Abbey, Calw, Germany
Bounded by alpine forests and formidable peaks, the Black Forest of Germany’s enchantingly beautiful Baden-Württemberg State is an exciting destination for would-be explorers. From the Brothers Grimm town of Triberg in Schwarzwald with its stunning cascading waterfalls, to the impressive 13th Century castle overlooking the Baroque Old Town of Heidelberg, you could easily lose two weeks of your holiday exploring this hilly backcountry. Among the state’s lesser known architectural accomplishments are its Benedictine monasteries, scores of which still litter the countryside around the Black Forest.
Located in the foothills of Calw on the slopes of the Black Forest mountains, Hirsau Abbey stands as one of Germany’s oldest surviving Benedictine complexes from the period of the Cluniac Reforms in the 11th Century. Legend tells of a Christian chapel having existed at Hirsau since the 8th Century, however it is the current, Gothic-esque ruins of the cloisters and hunting lodge that continue to attract the most interest to the area. The Bell Tower, still relatively intact despite its age, features several beautiful carved friezes above the arched windows: one side depicting a robed monk flanked by his goats, and the other a series of goats being chased by beasts. Other examples of artwork from the abbey can now be found within the restored Lady Chapel, which dates to around the 15th Century.
Dominica, Lesser Antilles
Often confused with the larger island nation of the Dominican Republic, Dominica, part of the Lesser Antilles, is a completely separate island nation situated just Northwest of Martinique in the Caribbean. Like the Republic, it boasts no end of pristine white beaches for sun-seekers, and the hinterland largely comprises dense jungle and mountains teeming with Sisserou and Jaco parrots. It may be known as the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”, but Dominica boasts more than its fair share of natural wonders, including Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park – the world’s second largest hot spring lake at just over 60 metres in length. The park is also home to the spectacular Trafalgar Falls; two separate waterfalls that spill down the 200 foot cliff-face from Tritou Gorge, and into the hot sulphur springs below.
In terms of popularity, Dominica draws nowhere near the same number of visitors to its shores as the Republic; largely due to the Government’s There are several reasons for this: the island has no tourist infrastructure to speak of, and getting here can be challenging since the airport isn’t big enough to accommodate passenger jets. To get here, you’ll either have to chart a small plane from St. Lucia to Roseau, or catch a ferry from Martinique or Guadeloupe to the small port town of Portsmouth. On the plus side, you won’t have to hire a car whilst on the island; at less than 21 km in length, it would take less than 3-4 hours to cover the island on foot!
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England
With its impressive broad moat and stunning architectural symmetry, the huge fortress near Robertsbridge, East Sussex is the living embodiment of a fairytale castle. Its setting amid the old hunting forests and rolling green hills that formed Bodiam Manor, affords it a character quite unique from other strongholds of Richard III’s time, many of which were built to keep out the French during the Hundred Years’ War. The castle itself is notably distinct from other fortresses, not only due to its quadrangular shape, but also due to the absence of an inner keep wherein the nobility would usually reside. Instead, the castle was built around a courtyard, and two crenellated towers built either side to house the Dalyngrigge family.
Bodiam Castle’s elaborate design has long divided scholars over its intended usage, however, recent studies of the building suggest it probably was constructed as a defence fortress. This is further highlighted by a unique characteristic of the building’s design, modernly referred to as “forced perspective”. Forced perspective is an optical illusion, created by making the uppermost features of a building – the upper windows and battlements – far smaller than normal to create the illusion of greater height from a distance. If you study the upper windows of the castle up close, you’ll notice they’re extremely narrow – far too small for an arrow to be shot through with any great accuracy. Whether this canny illusion was employed to make enemies think twice about invading the fortress (due to its size) remains a subject of debate among historians, but its a pretty cool factoid to impress your friends with if you ever drop by for a visit.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
To die-hard gaming fans, the ruinous temple of Angkor Wat is undoubtedly familiar. It has been used as the backdrop for fight scenes in numerous high profile console releases, as well as the filming location for Simon West’s acclaimed film adaptation of “Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie. Yet, despite its theatrical setting, and its prominence as one of the largest religious monuments in the world, Angkor Wat’s touristic appeal has declined somewhat in recent years owing to a period of brief civil unrest in Siem Reap.
Extending across an area over 400 square kilometres, Angkor Wat encompasses hundreds of smaller temples, hydraulic structures and settlements, the largest of which can take several hours to get around in their entirety. Built in the 12th Century by Khmer leader Suryavaram II, the largest temple, Angkor Wat, houses one of the most important collections of Khmer art anywhere in the world. The huge ogival towers crowning the building are one of its defining and most photographed assets, and its now possible to ascend the upper floors for a closer look. Overgrown with tangled creepers, ivy and plant life, the temple of Ta Prohm is well worth a visit for a more authentic Tomb Raider experience!
Buzludzha Monument, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
To Bulgarians, the behemoth concrete flying saucer atop Mount Buzludzha is a stark reminder of an oppressive Communist regime they’d rather forget; it being the headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. But, to urban explorers, this disc shaped amphitheatre overlooking the metropolitan city of Stara Zagora in Thrace has become yet another must-see building on Europe’s trail of abandoned wonders. Suspended from the concrete dome within, the rusting framework of the auditorium’s ceiling strikes a bold contrast against the grey concrete, spiralling inward to the Communist party’s emblem at its core. Of the walls that haven’t been defaced, colourful mosaic friezes depicting Marx, Engels and Lenin, can still be made out, along with effigies of Bulgaria’s great communist leaders, Georgi Dimitrov and Todor Zhivkov, and philosopher Dimitar Blagoev. Should you step into one of the wings flanking the main auditorium, you’ll also find the remnants of other artwork depicting Soviet astronauts and ancient gods, along with impressive views of the sprawling city below.
The Domed Houses of Cape Romano, Florida
Florida is no stranger to the bizarre and beautiful. From the wacky “napping monster” AmerTec building in Hialeah, to the wall-less parking lot at Miami Beach, it seems every architect in Florida is intent on pushing the boundaries of modern design. But weird as they are, these bizarre buildings don’t receive anywhere near as much attention as the futuristic domed houses of Cape Romano. With their bleached white domes and arched windows, the igloo-like structures look completely out of place on this vast swathe of white sanded shoreline.
Originally built in Naples in 1981, the domes were shipped over to the US sometime during the latter half of the decade, and constructed on the seafront at Cape Romano. The story of their abandonment dates back to 2005 when they were sold to John Tosto for an undisclosed sum. Locals say Tosto had designs on restoring the domes to their former glory, perhaps in the hope of creating a seaside home. Unfortunately his plans for redevelopment were rejected by local authorities, and despite shelling out over $185,000 in fines and legal fees, Tosto still hasn’t received planning permission to restore the decaying domes. The domes are almost inaccessible when the tide is up, but if you get here in the early evening, it is still possible to walk right beneath the retro structures.
North Brother Island, New York
Situated on the tranquil East River between Riker’s Island and the Bronx, the leafy character of North Brother Island belies little of its harrowing past as a place of illness and tragedy. Unsettled until 1885, when the Riverside Hospital was moved from Roosevelt Island, the islet became a place of quarantine for sufferers of small pox and typhoid during the early 20th Century – including “Typhoid Mary”, a well known carrier exiled to the island after infecting 49 people. Despite its size, the hospital quickly became overcrowded, and many patients had to be treated in tents set up on the front lawns. Officials also criticised the manner by which patients were transferred by boat from the mainland; that point of the river being so prone to strong currents, it was nicknamed “Hell Gate”.
On June 15th, 1904, North Brother Island once again hit local headlines when the passenger steamer PS General Slocum caught fire en route to Eaton’s Neck, Long Island, killing 1,021 of the 1,342 passengers aboard. Many of the dead were found on the shores of North Brother Island, which later served as a temporary mortuary for relatives to come and identify loved ones. Riverside Hospital found various uses after its closure as a quarantine facility, including a brief stint as an educational facility for soldiers after the Second World War, and a drug rehabilitation centre during the 1950s. Following its closure in 1962, the island was abandoned and nature began to encroach on the buildings. Visitors are no longer permitted access to the island owing to its proximity to a nearby high security prison, however, you can still see the hospital from the opposite shore, along with the gantry crane and ferry slip.