Almost every major city has at least one "ghost tour" these days, and some of them are truly top-notch. But for a more up-close-and-personal spooky experience, put a ghost town rather than a ghost tour on your itinerary. Fascinating and often poignant, ghost towns offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the past. The eight we've listed here are particular favorites of TripAdvisor travelers.
Multiple TripAdvisor reviewers insist you need a four-wheel-drive, high-clearance vehicle to get to Animas Forks (as one wrote, it "really makes you wonder how in the heck the miners got in there with all their equipment!"). Another traveler warns, "Do not expect to find anything touristy—no food or facilities of any type." But those intrepid travelers who do make the trek to Animas Forks are rewarded with the chance to explore a small town with beautifully preserved buildings in a breathtaking mountain setting.
"The building are all so well preserved, and you really feel like you have stepped back in time, maybe right into an old Western," wrote a TripAdvisor traveler who loved Bannack State Park. Visitors can enter the majority of buildings, which is a rare treat (just do follow the advice of the reviewer who said, "remember to close the door on your way out").
In the words of one TripAdvisor traveler, Bodie is a "brilliant snapshot of American gold-rush history." Many reviewers consider it the best ghost town in the United States—well worth the difficult drive to get there. While buildings are not open, you can see a great deal by peering through windows. As one traveler marveled, "The school had jack-o-lanterns, an old globe, furniture and more. The morgue still had caskets. Houses had beds, chairs, dishes and tables."
Karmylassos / Kayakoy is "eerily awesome" according to one TripAdvisor traveler. In 1923, following the population exchange agreement between Greece and Turkey, this village's 2,000+ Greek Christian citizens were repatriated to Greece, leaving behind homes, schools, shops and churches. Reviewers agree it's "a fantastic place to explore and a photographer's heaven," but recommend good walking shoes and visiting in the morning or late afternoon to escape the sometimes-brutal heat.
You'll find "long-deserted houses with the sand moving in" in Kolmanskop, a former diamond-mining town in Namibia. In the early 20th century, Kolmanskop boasted astonishingly cutting-edge technology, including, in the words of one reviewer, "ice machines, a 10-pin bowling alley, a banquet hall and a theatre. In the middle of a desert!" TripAdvisor traveler photos of sand reclaiming abandoned buildings are simply striking.
Not only can you explore this ghost town—you can stay here overnight in a small boutique hotel. "Amid stone ruins of once-grand homes, bull rings, theatres, and magical mine complexes, we found elegant colonial hotels, restaurants, and truly friendly, arts-and-crafts oriented citizens," wrote one TripAdvisor traveler.
St. Elmo might not be a true ghost town (a few people still live here, and some buildings, such as the general store, have been restored). But as one TripAdvisor traveler wrote, this old mining village is "the most exciting ghost town you'll ever see." Another wrote, "You can almost hear the bustling of the little town when you stand on the doorstep of the town hall, or peer in the windows of the dilapidated bed and breakfast."
Tin Cup was the epitome of the Wild West when it was settled in 1860 during the Colorado Gold Rush. As one TripAdvisor traveler wrote, "Of the eight sheriffs it had during its first eight years, only two lived though the end of their service. Some quit without pay, some were shot, others went insane." After the town's mine closed in 1917, it was abandoned. Today, great photo ops abound.