Pompeii, Chernobyl, Angkor Wat: Abandoned places that captivate and intrigue

By Debra Killalea

Buried family in the walled garden at Pompeii. Photo / File
Buried family in the walled garden at Pompeii. Photo / File

Some have been destroyed by man, others the ravages of nature.

And while once thriving hubs, the world's ghost cities continue to captivate, inspire and in some cases creep us out a little bit.

It may be hard to believe but these ghost towns once teemed with life and in some cases were at the forefront of modern civilisation.

And while cities such as Pompeii remain a major tourist drawcard, other such as Chernobyl remain out of bounds with few people able to get up close.

Such cities are the focus of a new book The Atlas of Lost Cities by Aude de Tocqueville.

The tourist town of  Epecuen in Argentina was swallowed up by water. Photo / iStock
The tourist town of Epecuen in Argentina was swallowed up by water. Photo / iStock

The French writer details 44 of the world's best known sites and reveals how like us, "cities are mortal".

While Pompeii, Teotihuacan, and Angkor get a mention she also details the less well known places, such Centralia, an abandoned Pennsylvania town which was destroyed by an underground fire.

There's also Nova Citas de Kilamba in Angola, which was built for 500,000 people who never came and Epecuen, a tourist town in Argentina that was swallowed up by water.

She told National Geographic, cities were abandoned for four main reasons - natural disaster, economic problems, human folly or death of a civilisation.

Here are just some of the abandoned places around the world which continue to captivate and intrigue travellers and history buffs.

POMPEII

Now a major aerological site, Pompeii's ruin began after it buried in a spectacular volcanic eruption.

The ancient Roman city was frozen in time after Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24 79AD.

The view over Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in the background.
Photo / Supplied
The view over Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in the background. Photo / Supplied

With 2.7 million visitors in 2014 it is the second most visited attraction in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome.

Visitors can still see much of how the city still looks with many artefacts still preserved and plaster casts of people trapped as they desperately tried to flee.

LOTHAL INDUS VALLEY, INDIA

The ancient port town of Lothal was built and designed to withstand repeated tidal flood, but according to UNESCO this is what probably brought the city to an end.

Located along the Bhogava river, a tributary of Sabarmati, in the Gulf of Khambat, the excavated site of Lothal is the only port-town of the Indus Valley Civilisation.

Once a thriving port city, it consisted of an upper and lower end of town and was heavily fortified. A warehouse and platform have already been identified as a tidal dockyard.

Today the city remains a treasure trove for archaeologists.

CHERNOBYL

Chernobyl became a household name after an explosion took place at its nuclear reactor on April 26, 1986.

But Soviet authorities did not reported it for two whole days, and then only after winds had carried the fallout across Europe and Swedish experts had gone public with their concerns.

The abandoned village of Krasnoselie,  north of Chernobyl. Photo / AP
The abandoned village of Krasnoselie, north of Chernobyl. Photo / AP

More than 600,000 people, often referred to as Chernobyl's "liquidators," were sent in to fight the fire at the nuclear plant and clean up the worst of its contamination.

Thirty workers died either from the explosion or from acute radiation sickness within several months and the accident exposed millions in the region to dangerous levels of radiation.

It also forced a wide-scale, permanent evacuation of hundreds of towns and villages in Ukraine and Belarus and today a permanent exclusion zone remains around the site.

CENTRALIA, PENNSYLVANIA

This once-thriving town was almost completely destroyed by a spectacular underground fire in 1962.

Once home to more than a thousand people, only a few people live in Centralia today. Photo / iStock
Once home to more than a thousand people, only a few people live in Centralia today. Photo / iStock

A huge pile of rubbish in the town dump, near a coal mine, caught on fire and has burned beneath the town for more than half a century.

Once home to more than a thousand people, only a few people remain behind today.

ANGKOR WAT, CAMBODIA

Discovered in 1860 by missionaries, the lost city of Angkor Wat is around twice the size of Manhattan.

The ancient site was once a holy archaeological complex in Cambodia's Siem Reap province but now remains only visited by tourists.

The sacred site of Angkor Wat is visited by 800,000 people a year. Photo / Supplied
The sacred site of Angkor Wat is visited by 800,000 people a year. Photo / Supplied

While a popular attraction today, the ruins of Cambodia's majestic temple complex have suffered over the years with 800,000 people visiting the sacred site annually.

The ancient site is being strained by influx of foot traffic with restoration efforts ongoing.

Last year, China stepped in with satellite technology to monitor environmental factors that are contributing to the site's degradation.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 26 Sep 2016 13:50:56 Processing Time: 558ms