From movie locations in the Sahara desert to Cold War listening stations, the planet’s most remarkable deserted wonders feature in Oliver Smith’s fascinating new book.
Some of these abandoned places dotted across the world, such as theme parks, would – in their heyday – be usually be filled to the brim with people.
But, although with not much sign of human activity apart from graffiti artists and explorers, the eerie charms of these derelict and dilapidated structures serve another purpose – rocket fuel for the imagination.
It would be hard not to think about the mysteries behind why they got to those time and weather-worn states in the first place, especially when their existence is laden with myths and urban legends.
Then there’s also the questions of how much longer they will survive, and what wild creatures lurk about there in the night.
From South America to the Far East, here we take a peek at some of the places that time forgot.
Ho Thuy Tien Waterpark – Hue, Vietnam
On the outskirts of Hue lies a dragon – its scales swathed in graffiti, its upper lip moustachioed with foliage – rearing up to breathe fire over an algae-strewn lake. It forms the centrepiece of the abandoned Ho Thuy Tien Waterpark, which is a mythical beast among visitors to Vietnam.
The waterpark opened in 2004 but mysteriously closed two years later. Since then, its post-apocalyptic allure has made it more popular than it was when open.
Legend has it that three crocodiles lived here after it shut, surviving on live chickens fed to them by backpackers. The tales of crocodiles and dragons have led many visitors to refer to Ho Thuy Tien as a real-life Jurassic Park.
What to look out for: Tube slides swooping through the jungle, children’s pools with elephants and fairy toadstools in fetid water, a graffiti-swathed simulator called Thrillrider and a little blue car for children to climb on.
How to explore: Hire a scooter or take a taxi from Hue. A ‘security guard’ may ask for a small fee at the entrance. Visit maps.me for directions.
Mos Espa – Tunisia
A long time ago in a desert far away, George Lucas began filming his first Star Wars movie in Tunisia – at a place that would inspire the architecture and even the name of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet.
In 1997 Lucas returned and the town of Mos Espa was built in the desert, serving as a filming location for Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones.
Since the cameras left two decades ago, Tunisia has been through turbulent times: the Jasmine Revolution – against corruption and poverty – and terrorist attacks caused a once-thriving tourism industry to collapse.
Despite tourists slowly returning, the future of Mos Espa now faces another threat to its existence: shifting sand dunes.
In 2014, Star Wars fans raised $75,000 (£63,000) for the Tunisian government to save the site, though local guides say that some parts of the set are already buried under the Sahara.
What to look out for: Star Wars fans will recognise Watto’s junkshop, where the enslaved Anakin Skywalker worked, and the marketplace, where (in the absence of droids and scrap metal from spacecraft) traders sell trinkets and animal rides.
How to explore: Lying close to the seasonal salt lake of Chott el Gharsa, Mos Espa can be reached by 4×4 or as part of a guided tour.
Find out more by visiting Discover Tunisia.
Teufelsberg – Berlin, Germany
Teufelsberg, meaning ‘devil’s mountain’, is a 360ft artificial hill that commands a sweeping panorama that takes in the German capital, including views of the spike of the Fernsehturm TV tower and the leafy expanse of the Tiergarten park.
Built from the rubble of buildings destroyed in World War II, it was chosen as the site of a US and British listening station during the Cold War – a place from which to snoop on transmissions from the far side of the Iron Curtain.
Little has been disclosed of the station’s military career, which ended shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall – all sensitive technology has been stripped from the site.
But far from being a secretive, sinister silhouette of the Cold War, Teufelsberg offers a popular day trip for families, people flying kites and model planes, and – during winter – tobogganers. At night, wild boar have been known to patrol its forested slopes.
What to look out for: The street-art gallery, where a cast of astronauts, tigers, 1970s footballers and others watch down from every surface. Murals adorn its radomes – the vast, spherical structures that once protected antennae. The panels are slowly falling off to reveal the Berlin skyline beyond.
How to explore: Teufelsberg is a 30-minute walk from S-Bahn stations Grunewald and Heerstrasse, and parking is available on site.
Find out more by visiting Teufelsberg Berlin.
Uyuni Train Cemetery – Uyuni, Bolivia
Beyond the little town of Uyuni lies Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flat. It’s a white expanse that becomes a mirror to the Andean sky when it rains. Almost as dreamlike is Uyuni’s Cementerio de Trenes – the train cemetery on its border.
Here engines, carriages and wagons decay in the sidings – relics of the mineral industry of the early 20th century. In this harsh landscape, the trains decay because the saline winds have accelerated corrosion – so much so that what remains are the frames of the machines.
What to look out for: Faces have been painted on the engines, and someone installed a rope swing where a boiler used to be. The oldest locomotives identified are Alco-Rogers 2-8-0s imported from New Jersey and dating to 1906. The most powerful are the UK’s Beyer Garratts – mighty engines that tackled steep gradients.
How to explore: A short walk from the centre of Uyuni, the cemetery is free to enter and open 24/7.
Find out more by visiting Salar de Uyuni.
The Atlas Of Abandoned Places by Oliver Smith (Mitchell Beazley, £20) is out now