1. Bannerman Castle near New York
The sign on the castle’s side (‘Bannerman’s Island Arsenal’) offers more than a hint at this sprawling ruin’s frankly bizarre backstory. The Bannerman Castle complex, around 50 miles north of New York, on Pollepel Island on the Hudson River, was initially built as a storage site for munitions merchant Francis Bannerman in 1900. A year later, the Bannerman family added the crowning Scottish estate-style castle. In 1920, some 200 pounds of shells exploded, destroying a huge section of the complex, while a fire in ’60s also contributed to the ruin. Tour groups are now a regular sight here – and for good reason.
Know before you go: The Bannerman Castle Trust hosts excellent weekend tours, which include a scenic boat ride followed by a walking tour of the island.
2. Beelitz-Heilstätten hospital in Berlin
A former nineteenth-century sanatorium for those with lung diseases, this derelict military hospital to the south-west of Berlin treated a young Adolf Hitler during World War I. It also served as a field hospital during WWII, before being occupied by the Russians and treating patients from across the Soviet Union for nearly 50 years. Since 1995, the surgery ward, psychiatric ward and much of the rest of the 60-building complex have been left to decay amid the lush surrounding woodland.
Know before you go: Many of the most striking buildings at Beelitz-Heilstätten are cordoned off, but you can take tours – and roam free – around some other sections of the hospital. A newly built ‘canopy pathway’ is ticketed and allows you to take a look inside the main buildings for male and female patients, plus the kitchens.
3.Church of San Juan Parangaricutiro in Mexico
The church of San Juan Parangaricutiro is all that remains of two villages in Mexico that were destroyed by the Parícutin volcano during the ’40s. Having emerged from a cornfield in 1943, it erupted and slowly covered the surrounding region in lava and ash over the next eight years. Lava eventually half-submerged the church, leaving only the altar and tower, which still stand to this day.
Know before you go: You’ll have to walk an hour from the nearest bus stop in Angahuan – and climb over a heck of a lot of volcanic rock – to get here. But the paths are well marked and the church is relatively accessible.
4.Kuk Po near Hong Kong
There are a number of abandoned villages in the northern borderlands of Hong Kong’s New Territories. Few, however, are quite as creepy as Kuk Po. This deserted strip of houses once had a population of around 1,000, who farmed rice and other crops in nearby fields. Now you’ll find only the odd vagrant inside the crumbling buildings. If you ever make a trip, make sure to visit the strangely moving empty village school, a section of which has been converted into a small temple.
Know before you go: The whole village is quite out of the way, but the buildings are easy to get in and out of once you’ve arrived. You’ll have to take a bus to Luk Keng, then hike for a couple of hours.
5.Presidio Modelo in Cuba
A series of five abandoned prisons in Cuba, built between 1926 and 1928 under president-turned-dictator Gerardo Machado and abandoned since 1966. Each ‘panopticon’-style building comprises a circle of cells around a central watchtower which would be blacked out so prisoners couldn’t tell whether they were being observed. Fidel and Raúl Castro were both imprisoned here in the ’50s.
Know before you go: The buildings are now a museum and national monument run by the Cuban government. There are guided tours, and more info available on the website.