Belchite was the site of a particularly brutal battle during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Occupied by Franco’s forces in 1937, the town was attacked by the Republican Army. The siege destroyed Belchite, but its ruined buildings serve as a ghostly memento of the intense violence they witnessed. Travel tip: The remains of the old town are half a mile from modern Belchite, southeast of Zaragoza city.

Belchite, Spain

Belchite was the site of a particularly brutal battle during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Occupied by Franco’s forces in 1937, the town was attacked by the Republican Army. The siege destroyed Belchite, but its ruined buildings serve as a ghostly memento of the intense violence they witnessed. Travel tip: The remains of the old town are half a mile from modern Belchite, southeast of Zaragoza city.
Photograph by Arturo Rosas, VWPics/Redux

The world’s best ghost towns will surprise you

Silent streets and derelict buildings offer a glimpse into the lives of once thriving communities.

With their silent streets and derelict buildings, abandoned towns offer a haunting view into the lives of once thriving communities. “Ruin gazing,” a term coined to describe people’s fascination with empty places, has been something of a tourist phenomenon for millennia: Visitors are drawn to broken cities and toppled monuments in search of reminders of our own hubris and of the power of time.

Thóra Pétursdóttir and Bjørnar Olsen, editors of the book Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past, describe our interest in ruins. “Masked objects are unveiled, inside is turned out,” they write. “Collapsed walls, broken windows and open drawers expose intimacy and privacy, recalling to light the previously hidden, forgotten or unknown.” (See pictures of abandoned villages in Italy.)

From a former mining outpost in Namibia to an abandoned indigenous complex in New Mexico, explore these top ten ghost towns from around the world.

Updated on October 17, 2019, this article was partially adapted from the National Geographic book, Secret Journeys of a Lifetime.
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