Seven of the world’s most eerie destinations

It’s spooky season and a desolate mountain resort, city centre graveyard and desert-bound ghost town have made our list of the world’s most haunting destinations.

Kolmanskop, in the Namib Desert, is a diamond mining town that has been drowned in sand dunes.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Nora Wallaya
Published 20 Oct 2021, 06:00 BST, Updated 9 Dec 2021, 16:52 GMT

1. Kolmanskop, Namibia

With the infamous diamond rushes of southwestern Africa came waves of fortune-seeking workers and their families, leading to the creation of problematic coastal outposts from where they could scour the earth for its riches. But as resources were exhausted, so too was the need for such remote residences. Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the Namib Desert, is one of the diamond mining towns that now sits in ruins, and whose houses and shops have drowned in sand dunes. Painfully abandoned in the 1930s, its heyday saw the town producing around a million carats of diamonds every year — making it one of the wealthiest communities in the world at the time. 

The Stanley Hotel, Colorado

The Stanley Hotel in Colorado was famously the inspiration and film set for the 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining.

Photograph by Alamy

2. The Stanley Hotel, Colorado, USA

When Stephen King and his wife Tabitha checked into this deserted mountain resort in the winter of 1974 during its seasonal closure, the renowned horror author was bewitched. The hotel’s wild and windswept location amid the frozen Rocky Mountains in Colorado; its long, empty corridors and fading, old-world grandeur; the music tinkling in the empty halls and dining room as if from a disembodied orchestra — the building concealed a story just biding its time until a writer crossed the threshold. Sure enough, the hotel provided the framework for one of the most famous horror novels of all time, The Shining, and later became the setting for the 1980 film adaptation of the book.

Catacombs, Palermo

The Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Sicily's capital city, Palermo.

Photograph by Alamy

3. Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo, Sicily, Italy

The foreboding tunnels of the catacombs in Paris are an infamous ossuary below the beautiful city, bulging with the bones of some six million people, but in the catacombs of Palermo, established in the 16th century, the setup is terrifyingly different. Here, the deceased are pulled from the shadows and cast into the light — the mummified human remains of Sicilian clergy and nobles are nailed to the walls or set in chairs or on beds, their palms pinned together in prayer or holding holy scriptures or dangling rosary beads. Several babies and children of nobles who succumbed to sickness are displayed too in carry cots and pushchairs; of particular note is the body of two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo, who died of pneumonia. The infant’s body is immaculately preserved — so well that a small fault in her eyelids reveals her preserved eye beneath. The slip-up has inspired local lore, which suggests she awakens at certain times of day.

 Akarmara, Abkhazia, Georgia

The abandoned town of Akarmara in Abkhazia, Georgia.

Photograph by Getty Images

4. Akarmara, Abkhazia

Once a thriving coal mining town, home to some 5,000 residents, the post-apocalyptic, Soviet-era town of Akarmara, in the Abkhazia region on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, now lies abandoned. As war ravaged the region in the 1990s, the townspeople fled, abandoning their homes. The town — a sprawling network of schools, shops, apartment blocks and offices — is one of several abandoned towns and villages in the region, on the fringes of the Caucasus Mountains, that’s now been consumed by trees and shrubs.

Island of the Dolls, Mexico

In Mexico, the Island of the Dolls is a place steeped in superstition.

Photograph by Alamy

5. Island of the Dolls, Mexico

Don Julián Santana Barrera, the owner of this island sat in the Xochimilco channels just south of Mexico City, believed a girl had drowned while caught in the twisted gnarly roots that entwine the island’s banks. To chase her spirit away, he hung hundreds of dolls around the island. Some 70 years on and the story and superstition has spread, and today, more than 2,000 dolls dangle loosely from trees and huts. Whether the story is fact or fiction is yet to be resolved, but it makes for an eerie encounter for those visiting.

Houtouwan, China

The former fishing village of Houtouwan is now carpeted in thick green vegetation.

Photograph by Alamy

6. Houtouwan, China

This abandoned village on the northern side of Shengshan Island is anything but ramshackle. Almost completely carpeted in a thick green cloak of creeping and climbing plants, the ghostly yet oddly beautiful village seems as if it has risen from the earth itself. Until the early 1990s, Houtouwan was a bustling fishing village home to more than 3,000 people in the Shengsi archipelago of 400 islets. But its remoteness ultimately led to its demise, and by the early 2000s, it was left for good. Today, the island of Shengshan is a popular getaway for city dwellers in Shanghai, situated just 40 miles east.

Edinburgh's city graveyard is associated with countless local legends.

Edinburgh's city graveyard is associated with countless local legends.

Photograph by Getty Images

7. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh’s municipal graveyard is both a scenic spot for a stroll and a hotbed of paranormal activity — so local belief goes. One such figure said to haunt its grounds is the Mackenzie poltergeist, the spirit of Sir George Mackenzie, a controversial 17th-century lawyer who earned notoriety through his numerous prosecutions of Presbyterian Covenanters. The legend is said to have been the inspiration for the mischievous Harry Potter character, Peeves — and the graveyard’s Potter-lure doesn’t end there. Edinburgh was the stomping ground of the series’ author JK Rowling, who famously sought inspiration from the city. In the graveyard, you’ll also find a tombstone marked with ‘Thomas Riddell’, echoing the name of the troubled youth who grew up to be Lord Voldemort. Ghost tours of the graveyard unveil many more of its mysteries.

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