Resorts are the destination of millions of holidaymakers every year, but many have their moment in the sun and are then abandoned to the elements – becoming ghost resorts in varying stages of ruin.
Whether due to the ravages of war, environmental disaster, changes in generations, or simple lack of money, many resorts that were once places to escape to for fun and relaxation have been left abandoned, desolate and overrun by nature.
10. Sanzhi UFO City, New Taipei City, Taiwan
These colorful flying saucer-style buildings – located in the Sanzhi district of New Taipei City – were built in 1978 but forsaken before anyone ever stayed in them. They were targeted towards US military officers stationed in East Asia who were on leave, but investment losses and deaths due to accidents that occurred during construction meant the project was abandoned.
For decades, these strange pod-like structures were left to crack, crumble and decay – victims of the forces of nature, and perhaps vandalism, too. It looks as if a gigantic wrecking ball was taken to the windows.
Sanzhi’s UFO houses were finally demolished in 2008. Looking just like popular depictions of alien space pods in fiction, they certainly added some interest to the landscape – despite never serving their intended purpose – and there was a petition to try and save one of the buildings.
Smashed and broken buildings were all that remained around the swimming pool, with its solitary slide, in so-called Pod City. This favorite of urban explorers and travelers is now no more – though apparently a new beach resort and water park is being developed in its place.
9. Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus
This lovely beachside resort in Famagusta, Cyprus once catered to members of high society. The jet set, and celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, stayed in the Varosha quarter of this city.
However, when the Turkish army invaded in 1974, the buildings were abandoned as civilians, fearing a bloodbath, fled for their lives, leaving beaches deserted.
After the invasion, the Turkish military sealed off this lavish quarter, barring anyone except the UN and their own personnel from access. With people no longer inhabiting the place, the cracks soon showed – literally, as plant roots worked their way into sidewalks. Buildings began to crumble, and windows shattered.
Image: Yolanda Demetriou
Nothing is left today but the ruins of high-rise buildings and hotels, with nature doing its best to reclaim even those. Long gone are the days of flowing champagne and beach parties in this now-decaying city.
8. Gagra, Abkhazia
Nestled on the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, the town of Gagra became a popular health resort in Imperial Russian and Soviet times. It is located in Abkhazia, the republic that broke away from Georgia.
Established as a Greek colony, at different points in history this beautiful spot was in the hands of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. After the Russian Empire was overthrown, the town became a resort in the new Soviet Union and, during World War II, was used for the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.
In the early 1990s, Gagra was at the center of full-blown war between Georgian and Abkhazian people in the region and after their government forces were defeated, thousands of Georgian citizens were slaughtered. Gagra was badly damaged during the fighting.
This chair stands as lonely witness to the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians who were thrown out of their homes during the eruption of ethnic cleansing that was visited upon them.
The conflict goes on to this day, with no end in sight; but even though the clashes have moved away from the town, many of the buildings in the resort remain deserted, while nature slowly encroaches on the statues still standing.
7. Colonia Varese, Milano Marittima, Cervia, Italy
Colonia Varese in an abandoned resort complex on the Adriatic Sea. When photographer Paolo Martini went to visit this enormous derelict building, he found someone living there who had set up house in one corner of the complex; otherwise, though, it was deserted.
Situated in Milano Marittima, a beach resort in the town of Cervia, Colonia Varese dates back to the 1930s, when the tourism development that had been growing in the area since the end of the nineteenth century really began to intensify. Yet, for whatever reason, it hasn’t stood the test of time.
Once, fishing boats used to arrive here with their catches of the day; now there is no one to greet them.
6. Unknown Resort Ruins, Koh Ngai, Thailand
This once busy beach resort on the Thai island of Koh Ngai has now been almost totally reclaimed by nature. Vegetation has smothered the remains of buildings – which have been practically razed to the ground – and trees grow inside its very walls, half-destroyed though they are.
Like many parts of Thailand, this location looks to have been devastated by the 2004 Tsunami, which engulfed and flattened so much of what stood in its path. This image is called the ‘Front Desk’; this may be poetic license on the photographer’s part or, more likely, it is a literal reference to the structure’s former purpose.
The rodents and insects have taken over the shower area of this resort, whose floor is now covered in a blanket of leaves.
Image: Kimberly Taylor
5. River Queen Motel, Arizona, USA
Did you ever wonder what a motel looked like after you left, during long periods when no guests were staying? Bleak and desolate, with a drained pool as its centerpiece, this motor inn in Bullhead City, AZ shows the atmosphere that can creep through a place once it has been deserted. Tourism generated by nearby Lake Mohave and the casino town of Laughlin – on the other side of the Colorado River – has ensured thousands of visitors flock to Bullhead City each year, but this motel clearly couldn’t keep its head above water. Maybe the economic downturn played its part.
4. Unnamed Hot Springs Resort, Niland, California, USA
Formerly a hot springs resort, there is very little left now of this tourism hotspot in Niland, California. The bricks and mortar are returning to the earth now. Just two miles from Niland is the Salton Sea, which has had some success as a resort area, but has been in environmental decline – its increasing salt content combined with agricultural runoff meaning many species can no longer survive there. Abandoned buildings and vehicles are a common sight in the area.
3. Grossinger’s Hotel, Borscht Belt, NY, USA
Grossinger’s Hotel was a famous resort situated in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Part of the so-called Borscht Belt, it grew dramatically through the mid-twentieth century, expanding in size to encompass 35 buildings and 1,200 acres of land while welcoming 150,000 guests each year. In the 1950s, it became the first resort in the world to use artificial snow.
Grossinger’s was so huge, it even had its own post office and private landing strip, and it is said that the great boxer Rocky Marciano used to train here. However, by the late 1980s and early 70s, Grossinger’s and other neighboring resort hotels could no longer attract younger guests, and it closed its doors for good in 1986. Since then, after years of neglect, decay has set in, such that layers of rust, mildew and grime cover its every surface.
Image: Walter Arnold
Grossinger’s Hotel now lies derelict and vacant, with mosses, ferns and grasses growing in its once pristine interiors. The giant indoor pool, for example, was once lavish and resplendently lit; now it is crumbling away under a mass of vegetation.
2. Unnamed Hotel, Borscht Belt, NY, USA
The Borscht Belt was the name given to the summer resorts located in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York (among them Grossinger’s Hotel, see entry 3). Used extensively by Jewish people from New York City, it was named after the Ukrainian soup made from beets, called borscht.
Most of the hotels, bungalows and summer camps are dead and abandoned now, as air travel has offered new horizons to holidaymakers, and younger generations have found different travel destinations to visit for their entertainment. At least two of the old hotels were burned to the ground, but many others have been left to rack and ruin – as these images testify.
1. Koshkol’, Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Koshkol’ is a village in the Issyk Kul district of the province of the same name in Kyrgyzstan. One half of the village is the residential part, a mile or so from the waters of Lake Issyk Kul, but the other built-up section is a resort strip which runs along the shore of the lake. At least some of the Soviet-era resort buildings now lie in a state of abandonment.
Overlooked by mountains on the horizon, unused umbrellas litter the beach underneath the lifeguard tower, likely no longer in use.