1. Maya Hotel, Japan
1929’s Maya Hotel clings to the side of Mount Maya above Kobe. Once a jewel of pre World War II Japan’s love affair with Art Deco style, the Maya Hotel has since been thrice repurposed: as a wartime anti-aircraft gun site, a hotel again in 1967, and, following a mudslide and more renovations, a student centre. Sadly it was damaged yet again in the Great Awaji Earthquake of 1995 and has been boarded up ever since, the hiking trails that lead to it overgrown and hard to find. There’s a cable car running nearby but if you want to get a closer look at this haikyu (abandoned place), you’ll have to join a group hike with locals who’ve campaigned for it to be opened up, or walk from Hankyu Rokko rail station towards Nadamaruyama Park and find the trail running uphill behind a fence.
2. Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
On Kangaroo Island’s southwest Hanson Bay, the Southern Ocean Lodge was and will be again the last outpost between Australia and Antarctica. The Lodge once sat low on the cliffs above a beach, where sea lions, seals are your neighbours, as well as wallabies and kangaroos. Tragically, Australia’s answer to the Galápagos Islands was caught up in January 2020’s devastating wildfires but the resort is being completely rebuilt with a re-opening planned for 2022 or 2023, to give you a chance to save up! This moving clip tells some of the story.
3. Chacaltaya Ski Resort, Bolivia
Built in the 1930s and beloved of La Paz’s wealthy classes, the Chacaltaya resort 16km north of the city was once the world’s highest ski centre and restaurant, situated more than 100 metres higher than the peak of Mont Blanc. The restaurant still holds the world record for altitude dining and although you can visit and eat there, as a ski resort, Chacaltaya is no more. The glacier had melted away by 2009. Taxis and tours can be booked in La Paz and taxi drivers will wait while you explore.
4. Creag Bhalg, Scotland
If you’re walking the Deeside woods and come across a strange concrete block, you’d be forgiven for not immediately realising it was once the base for a ski-lift. At the height of the ski boom in the early 1960s, the hilariously named Swiss brothers John and Gerald John Panchaud brought in the snow-guns and opened Mar Lodge, the former home of the Duke of Fife, as a ski resort. The venture was an initial success and boasted the longest schuss (downhill straight) in the UK (admittedly, not that hard a record to beat). Unfortunately for the Panchauds, a ‘warm hollow’ near the pistes proved problematic for maintaining conditions. Worse, the snow guns didn’t work in anything other than sub-zero temperatures and in 1964 the mildest winter for nearly 30 years caused a 300-competitor ski competition to be cancelled. These days the estate is managed by the National Trust and the lodge is available for venue hire.
5. Futuro House, Texas
Sticking with skiing for a moment, Finnish architect Matti Suuronen created the fibre-glass-reinforced-plastic Futuro House as an easy-to-construct, easy-to-heat, all-terrain structure for ski resorts. Resembling a 1950s alien spacecraft, the pod could be quickly put together on or off-site from 16 elements to be mounted on piers sunk into the ground at the destination. Fewer than 100 exist around the world and many have been sold-off as private dwellings but you can sleep in one – with its 8-metre open-plan interior – in a field just off Highway 276 in Royse City, Texas, if you like. See this full list of to work out if any of the other remaining pods are near you.
6. Dome Houses, Cape Romano, Florida
Bob Lee, a retired oil-producer, designed and built this vacation home in the 1980s. Like something that’s dropped to Earth from Tatooine, six domed off-shore modules stand on stilts in the water in the Ten Thousand Islands of Collier County. Lee conceived of the home as self-sustaining, using sand from the islands and gutters and a central tank to purify run-off rainwater for all the home’s needs. (He also invented an automated log-fetcher for the fire). Damaged by erosion, the home was commandeered by the State in 2018 after years of wrangling.
7. Tianducheng, Hangzhou, China
Would you go all the way to China to see Paris? China’s Tianducheng district is a Paris of the East, a miniature replica of France’s capital, about 40 minutes away from Hangzhou. Where the resemblance to Actual Paris falls down is in the experience of its empty streets. Intended for a population of 10,000, only 2000 live in this City of Lights. Nonetheless, thanks to its very own Eiffel Tower (a third of the size of the real thing) and Champs Elysees, Tianducheng provides some fairly convincing Instagram fodder – and at least there won’t be any other tourists accidentally wandering into your pics.
8. Castellnou Swimming Pool, Barcelona
Coldplay have been spotted recently recording in an abandoned 1980s swimming complex in Rubí near Barcelona. Sometimes used for commercials, the place offers striking vistas of spiral staircases to diving platforms, the old ticket office and tiers of concrete seating around the empty basins. Nature is taking over, weeds and wildflowers growing through the old shower stalls and in between the tiling. Graffiti is king too, with artists making their work seen even though the pool is private property.
9. Haludovo Hotel, Croatia
Another eerie pool can be found on the island of Krk in the northern Adriatic. In 1971, the founder of Penthouse magazine invested $45 million into a hotel and casino complex here. It went bankrupt just a year later and its Brutalist stylings were closed to the public. After becoming a refuge for those fleeing the Yugoslav wars, it was refurbished as a hotel in the 1990s, but has been shut again since 2001 with plans to re-open it meaning controversial privatisation of the nearby beach.
10. Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort, United Arab Emirates
You know you’re in an isolated spot when it’s called the Empty Quarter or Rub’ al Khali. In fact, this desert region of the Arabian peninsula is the vastest expanse of unbroken sand sea in the world with an area of 650,000 sq km. The Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort is a 206-room, 5-star hotel in the middle of it all. If you’re in the area, don’t miss the world’s tallest sand dune. At over 300 metres high, Tel Moreeb, earns its name which means Terrifying Mountain. Ready to get away for 1001 nights? Just one in their smallest room will cost you €220 while your own villa within their castellated walls will set you back nearly €3000.