Abandoned places might be our favourite subject matter here at PIXEO. One of the main reasons we made PIXEO in the first place was to make it easier to find abandoned beauties. These empty shells serve as monuments to times past. Where once people loved, laughed or ruled, today they are mere echoes of the past. As photographers, we flock to these locations, and there are whole communities dedicated to capturing them for one fleeting moment in time.

We think there is a uniqueness to abandoned photography. Whether its #URBEX city exploration or just the slow succumbing of a long-neglected barn in a farmer’s field, there is something that compels us to capture it. Likewise, there is also something intangible about the photos we make that separates abandoned photographs from almost all other forms.

Photography is quite literally about capturing a moment in time. But in abandoned place photography, we are documenting a moment in time, already forgotten. Sure, these decaying relics serve up faint echoes of times long past, but they are just glimmers born of our imaginations. Abandoned photography is not about capturing an abandoned building as they are, or to serve as a stage for ghosts of our invention. Instead, abandoned place photography is about capturing the absence of something; the lack of life, people, and who we once were. Perhaps it is the vacancy that we photograph, something non-visual. Maybe we are capturing metaphors visually, metaphors of neglect, mourning and departure.

Or perhaps they serve as open-air mausoleums to ourselves. To our parents and our parents’ parents. To times now long past. As photographers, we capture the nostalgia, often for a time we never knew.

Whatever the case, we love shooting abandoned places. So it should come as no surprise that here at PIXEO we are going to make a list of our favourite neglected, forgotten and forlorn spots from around the world. Abandoned buildings, cars, castles and asylums all have top billing on our bucket list of places to go to and take pictures. So without further adieu, here are the top 13 best abandoned places to photograph from around the world, as chosen by the PIXEO crew.

1. Pripyat Ghost City of the Ukraine

Stunning Soviet Mural in Abandoned Room at Pripyat - Photo by Денис Резник

Pripyat, Ukraine is one hauntingly beautiful photography destination. A must-visit place on any dark tourist bucket list, this city was once the home of a bustling community of families, scientists, engineers and technicians. The majority of the city residents worked at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant, and if you haven’t put it together yet, there was an infamous meltdown in 1986.

The city was evacuated entirely and left as it is today, slowly succumbing to the forests and fauna of Ukraine. This slow decay makes the whole town a stunning place to photograph if a little dangerous. Nuclear fallout still contaminates the region, and the only way to visit is with a guide.

We’ve written a whole photography guide about Pripyat, so if you’re interested in this amazing abandoned place, be sure to check it out here:

➤ Photographing a Nuclear Apocalypse – Pripyat Ukraine

2. Eastern State Penitentiary Abandoned Prison

Eastern State Penitentiary - Photo by Dan Fleury

When it comes to Abandoned Places, some of the most haunting and powerful photographs are those of places where people once suffered. Our imaginations run wild with the possibilities, and a macabre fascination with imagined and real torture compels us. Nowhere is that more real than in the imagined world of turn of the century prisons. Eastern State Penitentiary is a perfect representative of this dark stain on western history.

The reformative effects of penance define this penal period. Penance is a belief that to make reparations for a misdeed; the criminal should inflict all manner of self-punishment. Prisons built in this era sought to offer the prisoners a cornucopia of self-punishing options—everything from brutally isolating solitary confinement, to the pure torture of flogging and water torture. Perhaps no abandoned prison from this era best typifies this than the Eastern State Penititnetairy in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania.

We have a fascination with this abandoned place, and the photography taken within its walls seem to echo with the cries of the former prisoners. Eastern State Penitentiary is a must-visit for the wayward photographer, and you can read more about this photography destination in our feature article here:

➤ Eastern State Penitentiary Photography Guide

3. Abandoned Port Richmond Power Generating Station

Abandoned Port Richmond Power Generating Station - Photo by Stuart McAlpine

Okay, before we even talk about this photo location, let us be clear, this location is No Trespassing. If you want to shoot here, you will need to get a permit. But, if you can and do get a license, it may well be worth it. This long-abandoned power station is often the site of film sets. Notable recent films shot here include 12 Monkeys, Transformers 2, and most recently, The Last Airbender.

Part of what draws cinematographers and photographers alike to this abandoned place is the one of a kind, massive Victorian-era steampunk aesthetic. The interiors of this place are the height of technology from a time when we were only just becoming aware of technology. Perhaps nowhere else on earth can you find such a mishmash of Victorian-era architecture and massive power generating machinery.

4. Abandoned Halcyon Hall at Bennett College, New York

Halcyon Hall, Bennett College - Photo by Elisa.rolle

Halcyon Hall is the main building of the now-defunct Bennett College for Women. Constructed in 1893, this building was abandoned when the school fell into bankruptcy and closed in 1978. Successive damage caused by pipes bursting, roof collapses, and more have rendered this stunning abandoned place irreparable. It is now a ruin that is undergoing demolition by decay. The ruins are easily photographed from the side of the road, and this remains one of the most photogenic abandoned places in all of North America.

5. Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha Monument - Photo by olafpictures

Like a flying saucer that landed on top of a mountain, the abandoned Buzludzha Monument sits atop Buzludzha peak. Constructed of concrete this now abandoned monument stands testament to a communist government that has since been abandoned.  It was built to commemorate the events of 1891 when a group of socialists assembled secretly in the area to form an organized socialist movement that led to the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a forerunner of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The monument was abandoned after the fall of Communism in 1989 and has been sitting empty ever since. Save for the odd visitor and photographer, here to capture the surreal monument that has the appearance of a forgotten retro view of the future.

6. Kolmanskop Ghost Town

Sand Overtaking a Room in Kolmanskop - Photo by Damien du Toit

Desert sands slowly consume the long-abandoned houses and buildings of this former German-African mining town. Kolmanskop has become famouse for its stunning photography opportunities. With birght desert sun casting in through long shattered windows, into rooms drowning in sand. This harsh surreal reality draws from photographers from around the world, and as a result this abandoned town is a mecca for shutterbugs.

Check out our feature article on this amazing abandoned photo location: Kolmanskop Photography Guide

7. Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town - Photo by Eniko Polgar

Speaking of abandoned ghost towns, check out Bodie, California. Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. It is located 12 mi (19 km) east-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 8379 feet (2554 m). As Bodie Historic District, the U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes it as a National Historic Landmark. Also registered as a California Historical Landmark, the ghost town officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962 and receives about 200,000 visitors yearly. Since 2012, Bodie has been administered by the Bodie Foundation, which uses the tagline Protecting Bodie’s Future by Preserving Its Past. It’s a great place for some abandoned photography for the cowpoke in all of us.

8. Battleship Island (Gunkanjima)

Battleship Island Aerial View - Photo by kntrty

Few abandoned places have as much of a post-apocalyptic feel as Gunkanjima (a.k.a. Battleship Island). This island was once the most populated place on earth, a bustling mining community that defined compact urban living. But, with the closure of the mine in 1974, the island quickly became an empty shell. Thousands of apartments, shops and more became empty concrete shells, slowly decaying. The result is one of the most photogenic and fascinating abandoned places on earth. Be sure to check out our feature article on Gunkanjima below:

Battleship Island (Gunkanjima) Photo Guide

9. Great Train Graveyard

Great Train Graveyard - Photo by Jerzy Andrzej Kucia

If abandoned trains are your thing, then there is no better photography destination than the Great Train Graveyard in Bolivia. This sprawling area is home to hundreds of abandoned locomotives left to rot long ago in the hot South American desert. Located near the famed Bolivian salt flats, these trains of varying styles and designs came to rest at this location due to a failed transportation project. Backers abandoned the plans to build a transportation hub in Uyuni, and the trains they purchased for the project were just left here to rot. Today photographers flock to photograph these beached iron skeletons and capture post-apocalyptic scenes.

10. Abandoned City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana

City Methodist Church - Photo by Rick Harris

City Methodist Church is a former church in Gary. Once the largest Methodist church in the Midwest, it ceased as a place of worship in 1975 after a relatively brief life of just over 50 years. This abandoned church has been used many times as a film location, including for A Nightmare on Elm Street, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and parts of Pearl Harbor and Sense8. And for good reason, this place is wonderful place to photograph.

11. Oradour-sur-Glane

Oradour-sur-Glane - Photo by Keith Ellwood

A relic of World War II, Oradour-sur-Glane was the sight of a massacre where 642 of the villages inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company on 10 June 1944. The village was left as a historic monument to the people who perished and stands today testament to the atrocity. This is probably the best preserved relic of World War II in Europe and a must visit for any photographer that is travelling in the Limoges area.

12. Abandoned Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts - Photo by Russ Garrett

Another relic of World War II, the Maunsell Sea Forts are a fantastic abandoned photo spot. Accessible by boat only, these defensive structures stand sentinel like insects in the waters off the coast of England. They were built to defend England from a German invasion during the war. Once fully staffed and armed, these forts have since been left to rot. They achieved some notoriety in the years since the war as the site of pirate radio stations and as a site of the infamous Principality of Sealand. Today they only sit there, waiting for some adventurous photographer to capture them.

13. The Island of the Dolls (La Isla de las Muñecas)

The Island of the Dolls (La Isla de las Muñecas) - Photo by Derek Simeone

It seems only fitting we finish off with what we think may be the creepiest abandoned place on the planet. This is The Island of the Dolls (La Isla de las Muñecas), and abandoned plot on an island in the canals south of Mexico City. The Island of the Dolls has a strange and somewhat macabre history. The work of Don Julian Santana, he created this bizarre outdoor space to honour the memory of a girl who he believed (there is debate as to the veracity of his claim) drowned in the lake where this island sits. Don dedicated his life to decorating this small island with hundreds of dolls of every type, size and description. The result is a haunting, unnerving tribute to a lost soul. In an equally strange turn of events, in 2001 Don drowned in the lake himself near where he believed the girl had drowned. Today the island has become a dark tourist attraction and the now-abandoned tribute to a lost little girl remains a willing subject for the abandoned place photographer.

Abandoned Beauties

Well, that wraps up our picks for the 13 best abandoned places in the world. Do you agree with our picks? Are there any we forgot? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to share with us your favourite abandoned spots by uploading a pic today. We give away prizes to the best shots we receive every month!

Add Your Favorite Abandoned Place Today!