Urban exploration offers some of the most hauntingly beautiful photography, but it seems all the good places are strictly off-limits. But for those of us who want to travel off the beaten path and not be charged with trespassing, there are other options.
The Government of Ukraine offers tours of this crumbling Soviet-era town that fell victim to the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station. They’re careful to monitor the radiation levels at all times, and the radiation you will acquire from the day tour is less than you would during a transatlantic flight. See the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station and the faulty Reactor 4 as well as walk through the ghost town with an abandoned amusement park.
Once home to a small village of Irish-speaking islanders, the Great Blasket is just a couple miles off the mainland but becomes completely invisible when mist settles over the Sound. The islanders petitioned the government to relocate the remaining residents after a villager died of meningitis because they were cut off from medical help during a storm. The island has been uninhabited since 1953, but this tour allows you to spend four hours roaming the island and you’ll get to see Fungi the Dingle Dolphin!
These golf ball-like radar domes were built on Teufelsberg, “Devil’s Mountain”, in the 1960s by the American NSA to spy on Soviet and East Germany military communications. You can take a short guided tour or a more in-depth history tour that let you see the towers and the largest graffiti gallery in Germany.
Opened in 1836 and closed in 2004, this was the holding prison for Missouri’s death row inmates. Infamous inmates include a former Union General, the first train robber, 1930s gangsters, world champion athletes and the assassin that killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The penitentiary offers regular and in-depth history tours as well as ghost tours, ghost hunts, ghost hunting classes and public and private overnight investigations. The prison has its own ghost hunting equipment for you to use, so you know they’re serious about their ghosts.
Known as “Battleship Island” because of its shape, this former coal mining facility owned by Mitsubishi functioned from 1887 to 1974. The island was abandoned when petroleum began to replace the use of coal. A portion of the island was reopened in 2009 for tours, and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015 to bear testimony to Japan’s Industrial Revolution. On this tour you can cruise the Nagasaki Harbor and around the island, learning about other parts of Japan’s industrialization, before taking a one-hour guided tour on the island.
The Soufriere Hills Volcano lay inactive for at least a century before erupting violently in 1995 and has continued to be active until the present day. Called the “Pompeii in the Caribbean”, the eruption of superheated waves of gas and rock covered the capitol city of Plymouth, resulting in 19 deaths and the closure of the southern two-thirds of the island. You can view the volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory or the Jack Boy Hill Viewing Facility, but to get a good luck at the damage that was done, take a helicopter tour over the exclusion zone.
St. Elmo is one of Colorado’s best-preserved ghost towns and an icon of the gold rush. The town with its dilapidated wooden buildings neatly lined up on Main Street was founded in 1880 and was populated until 1922, when, legend says, everyone took the last train out of town. The General Store opens in the summer for tourists, and you can rent a cabin and stay a 2 night minimum with the ghosts that are left.
This rocky islet has been home to a Venetian fortress protecting against Arab pirates, Ottoman refugees fleeing Christian Cretan insurgents, and lepers from Crete and the rest of Greece. The priest was the last to leave the island in 1962. You can take an annual charity trek on the island, or you can take a day tour of the island, boat cruise and a swim in the Gulf of Mirabello.
The hotel made famous by Elvis Presley in 1961’s Blue Hawaii was damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Then in 2014 what remained of the main building was ruined in a fire. Hyatt plans to restore the iconic hotel, but in the mean time you can tour it along with eight other Hollywood movie locations on a 6-hour guided tour.
When the first diamond was found in 1908, the town boomed with modern amenities: a ballroom, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere. But as the diamond supply diminished, so did the town. This tour will give you the history of Kolmanskop and the diamond industry and a guided tour to the most important buildings, and then you are left to explore the rest of the now-sand-filled town on your own.
On June 10, 1944, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in Nazi-occupied France was destroyed and a total of 642 men, women and children were massacred by the Nazi Waffen-SS. Only about 80 residents of Oradour-sur-Glane managed to survive. A new village was rebuilt nearby, but the old village remains a memorial and museum. The entry into the ruins is free through the visitor’s center.
The Kennecott Copper Corporation left a ghost town in the middle of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the biggest national park in the United States. The town was abruptly abandoned in 1938, and residents left behind their buildings, equipment and personal belongings, most of which has been left whe1re it was found. This tour takes you inside the mill and other important mining buildings.
Dubbed “the village that died for England,” Tyneham was a small fishing community on the Dorset coast until 1943, when the area was evacuated by the British government in order to make a training area in preparation for the D-day landings. The village’s residents were never allowed to return after the war. Entry is free, and you can explore the remains of cottages, a church, a school, a farm, and a K1 telephone kiosk. The area is a live firing range, so you are warned to stick to the footpaths.