Cities Lost to Nature

Although humanity has built magnificent and important cities in the course of history, there are many examples of cities lost to nature. For various reasons, humans left the towns they spent a lot of effort building, and nature reclaimed what it is its after some time. Consequently, empty buildings covered in greenery, sand, or water fill these cities.

Houtouwan / China

Houtouwan is one of the recent cities lost to nature. In the 1950s, it was a fishing village with a population of more than 2000 people. However, the town’s connection to the mainland decreased as time passed. Since education and job opportunities lessened, people started to leave Houtouwan in search of better places. The town was completely abandoned in 2002 and since then, greenery has taken over Houtouwan and is continuing to do so still.

houtouwan of cities lost to nature
Haus of T
houtouwan houses covered in green

Kolmanskop / Namibia

At the beginning of the 20th century, Namibia was famous for its diamond mines. During those times, Kolmanskop was one of the busiest mining towns in the country. Yet, after WWI, the diamond started to deplete. Moreover, Namibians found another diamond mine, the richest one at the time, which made people leave Kolmanskop as well. Around the second half of the 20th century, desert sand replaced people and buildings.

kolmanskop of cities lost to nature
kolsmankop house filled with sand
Genna Martin

Valle dei Mulini / Italy

Valle dei Mulini or the Valley of the Mills is a medieval valley consisting of flour mills. Historians estimate that the earliest mill dates back to the 13th century. People mostly abandoned the mills by the 20th century and plants have taken over them. However, the most interesting aspect of the town is the valley itself. The valley is probably more than 35,000 years old which was caused by a volcanic eruption.

valle dei mulini of cities lost to nature
Andrea Ciampolillo
valle dei mulini house

San Juan Parangaricutiro / Mexico

What many call the modern Pompeii, the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro experienced an event that people thought was not possible anymore. 80 years ago, Paricutin Volcano erupted and engulfed the town in volcanic lava. Fortunately, people knew that the volcano was going to erupt so they left the town and no one died. The volcanic lava destroyed every building and only the town church half-survived because of its towers’ height.

san juan parangaricutiro of cities lost to nature
san juan parangaricutiro hill
Miguel Angel Arcos

Okunoshima / Japan

At first glance, Okunoshima is just a small island in the Sea of Japan which is full of rabbits. However, the story behind the rabbits cannot be more sinister. Starting in 1925 and continuing during WWII, Japanese scientists conducted experiments on rabbits to develop chemical weapons of mass destruction. After the war ended, they left the island and burnt all their files of the experiments. Many believe that the rabbits today are the descendants of the rabbits on which the scientists experimented.

okunoshima building
okunoshima rabbits

Ross Island / India

In 1857, Indians mutinied against the British rule in their country. While they lit the first torch of independence effort, the British sought to disrupt their work immediately. Therefore, they started to imprison anyone who had connections with the mutiny. However, the numbers increased so much that prisons overflow. As a result, the British turned an entire island into a prison. Until its closure in 1937, many Indians died because of torture, diseases, and even medical experiments on Ross Island.

ross island ruins of cities lost to nature
ross island roots
Majestic Getaways

Calakmul / Mexico

One of the biggest mysteries belonging to the Mayan civilization, the ancient city of Calakmul is a magnificent site. It was once the symbol of the kingdom’s power but in time it lost its appeal. Droughts, diseases, and defeats at wars contributed to the city’s eventual abandonment. Since the year 1000, the forest has almost covered the entire city except for one pyramid-like building. The forest is so dense that archeologists cannot even conduct studies or excavations.

calakmul of cities lost to nature
Mexico Travel Channel
calakmul pyramid like structure
Alfredo Matus