Photos That Prove Nature Will Outlast Us All
It’s a dark thought, but many of us have wondered what the world would look like without humans. How would our beloved landmarks look without humans treading around them and maintaining them?
These photos prove that it doesn’t take long before nature reclaims any man-made monument.
The New World Mall – Bangkok, Thailand
In the short 15 years the New World Mall was open, it was plagued with all kinds of problems. The poorly engineered mall eventually collapsed after a suspected arson claimed several lives. Since this incident occurred in 1999, the site has been abandoned.
The lack of a roof and crew to maintain the area led to the ground floor flooding. No one knows who brought in the fish, but it’s suspected they did so to combat the mosquito problem introduced by so much standing water. The fish were removed and released into nearby waterways when the water was pumped out in 2015, but little else has been done to restore the abandoned mall.
Tree overcomes brick sidewalk
Even a sidewalk made from brick is no match for the tenacious power of nature, as demonstrated here by this tree expanding its roots in a unique pattern. It’s a good example of how nature often takes the path of least resistance.
In this case, the roots are following the pattern of the space between the brick. It’s equal parts beautiful and unsettling — and probably enough to trigger someone with trypophobia — but it’s only natural, even if it is unusual.
Russkaya Bay – Kamchatka Territory, Russia
These abandoned ships in Russkaya Bay have been largely undisturbed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Kamchatka was once a secret Soviet submarine base. Where once missiles and weapons were stored, little remains besides the wreckage of ships and buildings.
Nature has all but consumed the ghost town, giving it a sense of haunting beauty that has turned the area into a tourist destination.
Most come to gape in awe at the creepy abandoned ships and buildings. Others have begun to flock to the region for a different purpose: To surf the uncrowded waves, braving the water that many suspect still contains dangerous levels of radioactive material.
Once a thriving fishing community, Houtouwan on Shengshan island in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, is now a ghost town. Growth has taken over the brick homes which sprawl along the region’s hillside. Villagers left the region in the 1990s seeking better education for their children and easier access to food than the isolated area could provide.
Now, it’s a popular tourist destination for people to walk the narrow pathways and observe the way nature has reclaimed the area. Leaves and vines climb the walls of the houses no longer inhabited by people.
Hotel Angst, Italian Riviera
The Hotel Angst was once a world-class luxury hotel that hosted many of the world’s wealthiest socialites. Erected by Swiss businessman Adolf Angst in 1914, the swanky hotel was quickly converted into a wartime hospital during World War I.
The hotel slipped into disrepair shortly after Angst’s death in 1924 — and when Nazis occupied the region during World War II, they stripped the hotel of all its valuables. Though many proposals have been made to restore the area to its former glory, it remains closed to the public. Despite its crumbling facade, the derelict hotel remains an impressive and beautiful sight.
Chemin de Fer de Petite Ceinture – Paris, France
At its busiest, this railway transported around six trains going each direction every hour. Built between 1852-1869, passenger travel ceased on the railway in 1934, shortly after the development of the Parisian Metro. Freight traffic gradually declined until it eventually ceased completely in the 1970s.
Since then, grass has grown over the unused tracks and vines and weeds sprawl up the sides of the walls leading to the tunnel. The result is both eerie and sublime. Above, some brave hikers approach the pitch-black tunnel.
Sugar factory – Mayotte
This former sugar factory is located in the French territory of Mayotte off the southeastern coast of Africa. Several trees have grown from the roof, as the tree roots stretch all the way down to the earth at the base of the structure.
The French Ministry of Culture has plans to renovate many of the heritage buildings in Mayotte that have fallen into disrepair. Clearly, the workers will have their work cut out for them when renovating this particular building.
Ta Prohm Temple – Angkor, Cambodia
The temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia, such as the Ta Prohm Temple shown below, were all built between the 9th and 14th centuries. After the area was largely abandoned in the 15th century, it fell into a state of disrepair and was largely untouched until the late 1900s due to civil unrest in the region.
Recent restoration efforts have been successful, recovering much of the area’s former beauty. They’ve also left some areas intentionally untouched — like this Tetrameles nudiflora tree, which has spider web-like roots sprawling along the stone temple.
Ta Prohm Temple – Angkor, Cambodia
Here’s another example from the same temple complex — this time, a silk cotton tree demonstrates the power in its roots, crumbling the stone beneath its weight as it stretches for nutrients on the other side of the wall.
It’s remarkable the way the tree is able to both conform to and change its surrounding environment to ensure its survival. The Angkor Archaeological Park has many more examples of nature reclaiming man-made ruins.
Preah Khan Temple – Angkor, Cambodia
The Preah Khan Temple complex was built in the 12th century. The name translates to “Royal Sword” in Khmer. The temple was built by the great King Jayavarman VII in 1191, as a tribute to his father. Preah Khan spans 138 acres, surrounded by a moat and walls decorated with stone garudas — a birdlike creature that represents birth and heaven in Hindu mythology.
Like many of the other temples in Angkor Archaeological Park, parts of the temples have intentionally not been restored. Here, giant gnarled tree roots stretch over one such part of the stone, adding an element of natural beauty to the temple.
Kolmanskop ghost town – Namibia
Kolmanskop was once a small, yet rich mining town established in 1908 by German miners who discovered a cache of diamonds in the area. By the end of World War II, however, the area was near depleted.
The nearby discovery of a richer deposit of diamonds in 1928 also hastened the departure of the inhabitants. By 1956, everyone had left, leaving most of their homes and possessions behind. It’s now a popular tourist destination. However, the desert sand is so fine that it’s difficult to trudge through and often rises to the knees with each step.
Transport wagon – Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
In the late 19th century, the French began railway construction in Lebanon under the Ottoman Empire. The projects were largely abandoned in the 1970s due to civil war. Opposing factions would damage the rails by shelling or digging up the tracks to use the scrap metal.
The remaining trains proved to be ineffective economically due to their use of obsolete technology. By the late 1990s, practically all rail travel and commerce ceased. There have been numerous plans to restore the tracks and stations, but so far the efforts have proved fruitless.
Above, trees grow through the windows of an abandoned transport wagon in Bekaa Valley.
Kota Tua – Jakarta, Indonesia
Abandoned buildings in Kota Tua contain history from the country’s brutal colonial past. Parts of the region are teeming with tourists and locals, but other buildings have been left alone for decades. Kota Tua in Jakarta (then called Batavia) was once the hub of the Dutch East India Company, dubbed “Queen of the East” and the “Jewel of Asia.”
Perhaps in an escape to forget the painful reminders of the past, many of the dutch buildings were abandoned and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair after Indonesia gained its independence in 1945. Above, branches, vines, and roots twist and spread along the walls and foundation of a crumbling ruin.
Nuclear reactors – Chernobyl, Ukraine
The site of the worst nuclear accident in history is still considered too dangerous for human habitation. The exclusion zone, which encompasses Chernobyl and its surrounding worker village of Pripyat, have been off limits for decades — save for guided tours through areas where radioactivity is deemed to be at an acceptable level for non-prolonged times.
Trees and animals have since taken over the region. Despite the high levels of radioactive particles in the air and soil, the wildlife appears to be thriving. Sadly, this leads many researchers to believe that humans inhabiting an area is worse for wildlife than nuclear fallout.
Stray dogs play in Chernobyl
You may have heard of the radioactive puppies of Chernobyl. With all the humans gone, generations of the pets left behind have bred among each other and now rule the exclusion zone.
Despite a shortened lifespan due to radiation, food shortage, and the return of natural predators like bears and wolves, the pups have adapted well to a life largely unaided by humans.
Well, mostly unaided…
Some brave volunteers have set up shop in the area, spaying and neutering, feeding, vaccinating, and providing medical attention to the dogs. Some of the dogs have even been adopted and taken to new homes across the world!
Pripyat amusement park – Chernobyl, Ukraine
One of the most haunting places you can visit when taking a tour of Chernobyl is the abandoned amusement park in Pripyat. The Ferris wheel and bumper cars, which at one point must have echoed with children’s laughter, are now dead silent.
Tree branches, vines, and leaves now litter the ground where the little cars have remained still for decades. Though humans may be afraid to tread these areas, animals and plants have thrived despite the poisoned soil and air.
Spreepark Plänterwald – Germany
Another abandoned relic from the Eastern Bloc, Spreepark stands in what was once known as East Berlin, when it was controlled by the German Democratic Republic. The park remained open until the turn of the millennium, when the owner, Norbert Witte, ran out of money to keep it operating.
Witte left the country (and his mounting debt) with several of the park’s attractions, in hopes to start again in Peru. He and his son were later arrested in Peru for attempting to smuggle contraband back to Germany in the masts of the “Flying Carpet” ride. Legal red tape and bureaucracy have scared away any potential investors and buyers from renovating or gutting the park.
Birnbeck Pier – England
Once a popular tourist destination, Birnbeck Pier in North Somerset, England has been closed since 1994. The Gothic toll house, pier, and pierhead buildings drew crowds of admirers. But after constant beatings from storms, damage during engineering accidents, and stonemason strikes, the area fell into a derelict state.
Now, the local buildings have become overgrown with weeds, including this toilet, which has likely not been used in at least a decade. Even concrete pipes and brick prove insufficient to keep out the tenacious plants.
The famed ‘bicycle tree’ – Vashon, Washington
According to legend, this bicycle was left chained to a small tree by a young soldier, who went off to war in 1914. When he never returned, the tree gradually consumed the bike until it became the way it looks now. Naturally, this story is met with a fair amount of skepticism.
The truth is that the bike is not nearly that old — it belonged to by a young child named Don Puz, who forgot the bike in the woods after playing with his friends in 1954. Whether or not the tree grew through the bicycle or was placed there by mischievous prankster is a mystery we may never know.
I.M. Cooling Tower – Belgium
Like Chernobyl, this abandoned power plant has been reclaimed by nature — except this one once burned coal for energy. Originally erected in 1921, this structure once provided energy to the entire Charleroi area. It’s estimated that this single plant was responsible for 10% of Belgium’s CO2 emissions.
By 2007, worldwide pressure from environmental activists and researchers led the company to close the power plant for good. Moss now grows in what stood as the plant’s cooling tower, which provided around 48,000 gallons of water to the plant. Supposedly, the structure is scheduled for demolition. Until then, it stands as a creepy, dystopian tourist attraction.
Ballycarbery Castle – Cahersiveen, Ireland
This abandoned castle is listed as a historic building, little else has been done to preserve this once-magnificent castle, which served as home to the McCarthy Clan in the 15th century. The building was damaged during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and has hardly been used since.
The exposed side of the castle is covered in green leaves and shrubbery, and the broken steps are covered in moss and vines. Visitors were allowed to enter the castle until 2017, when the land owner restricted access to the area.
Forgotten boats – Bowling Harbour, Scotland
It’s unclear how long this boat has been abandoned in Bowling Harbour, but clearly it’s slowly becoming part of the harbor itself. Moss lacks any true roots, which makes it able to grow on practically anything, including stone, wood, and concrete.
Once considered a boat graveyard, recent renovation efforts have attempted to reestablish Bowling Harbour as a tourist destination. The city cleared many of the wrecks in the harbour canals, including a torpedo boat, minesweeper, and steam trawler from World War II, yet some abandoned boats like the one shown above still remain.
Ruins of Inle Lake – Myanmar
Indein, Myanmar has many ruins along its Inle Lake. The earliest of these structures are stupas — dome-shaped Buddhist shrines that were built in the 17th century. Many stupas, like the one shown below, have been reclaimed by a biologically diverse selection of plants and trees.
While many of the pagodas remain in ruins, some have been restored to shimmering gold. The area is only accessible during certain parts of the year, as it is only reachable by boat. The creek becomes too shallow for boats to pass along during the summer months.
Mrauk U – Myanmar
Other Buddhist temples in Myanmar have become similarly smothered by nature, like this stupa in the Min-kha-maung Temple shown below.
Mrauk U is located along the west coast of Myanmar in the Rakhine State — an area known for tropical monsoons and its rainforest climate. The heavy rains are great for plant-life and biodiversity, but not so much for preserving ruins.
The area is growing into a major tourist destination, as it has only recently become accessible to foreigners. While regions like Rakhine are largely safe to tourists, it should be advised that parts of Myanmar are off limits due to ongoing internal conflicts currently ravaging parts of the country.
Car graveyard – Belgium
When World War II finally ended in 1945, many Americans stationed in Belgium left behind the temporary lives they’d made during and after liberating Belgium from Nazi occupation. When it was time to come home, they found shipping their belongings to the USA too expensive. What they couldn’t sell, they left behind.
These cars were driven to the top of a hill in a forest in Châtillon. The soldiers were told that they could have their cars back if they’d pay the shipping costs to bring the cars to the United States. None did, and the forest slowly began to claim the classic cars for itself.
Combine harvester – Sprockhoevel, Germany
This piece of agricultural machinery in Sprockhoevel has clearly not seen any work in a long time. Because of economic strain, many farmers have to hold down a job in addition to tending to their farm, leaving some of their equipment neglected.
The result of neglect leaves this combine harvester looking like it is being gradually consumed by some kind of plant monster. It won’t be long before the entire vehicle is completely unrecognizable underneath all the leaves and twigs.
Abandoned building – Cornwall, England
If you don’t look closely, you might not know that there’s a building beneath all these leaves, vines, and branches. Cornwall has a rich history as evidenced by its old buildings — though sadly many have slipped into a derelict state.
While many of the buildings are simply rotting or crumbling, others — like the one shown above — are being swallowed by weeds and ivy.
Balamkú archaeological site – Campeche, Mexico
The Maya pyramids in Balamku date back to between the 4th and 7th centuries. Trees have sprouted up all over the steps. It’s remarkable how the roots are able to gather nutrients through the stone — but it proves that all monuments of civilization would eventually be overcome by nature.
In Mayan, Balamkú, means “Jaguar’s Temple,” and this is represented through many carvings around the site. Many of the jaguar gods and deities worshiped by the ancient Maya are represented on these pyramids and temples.
Bagni di Lucca ruins – Tuscany, Italy
Ivy and leaves climb along all the walls of these old ruins of an ancient spa, while trees and weeds sprout from cracks in the foundation. Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany, Italy is a popular tourist destination, both because of the natural thermal springs and architectural buildings.
The thermal springs reached the peak of their popularity during the 19th century during French occupation. Bagni di Lucca is home to a rich history, dating back the the 3rd century BC, when Etruscans settled the area.
Abandoned Land Rover – Cameroon
This vehicle left on the side of the road was no match for the tenacious lush plant life of the botanical gardens in Cameroon. The Republic of Cameroon is unique in that parts of the county exhibit all the major climate and vegetation types in Africa — savanna, rainforest, mountain, desert and coastal environments can all be found in Cameroon.
The remarkable biodiversity is perhaps most pronounced in Cameroon’s Limbe Botanic Garden, where visitors can expect to see a diverse selection of endangered primates, as well as both native and imported plants from all over the world.