10 Eerie Abandoned Cities You Can Visit

Pyramiden, Norway
Alexander Romanovskiy stands guard at the abandoned Russian mining settlement of Pyramiden. It is now a tourist attraction. DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Situated 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) from the North Pole, Pyramiden is the northernmost abandoned city you can visit. It's tucked on an archipelago between Norway and the North Pole. In 1936, the Soviet Union was granted the right to use the city's pyramidal-shaped coal fields (their shape inspired the city's name of Pyramiden). But it wasn't until after World War II that the Soviets began developing a city there, building a hospital, cafeteria, residential halls, swimming pool and even cemeteries for both residents and cats. It was meant to showcase the best of Soviet life and so was better equipped than other places in Russia. At the height of its popularity in the 1980s, more than 1,000 people lived there [source: Nuwer].

But the coal mines weren't profitable. Once the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Pyramiden's days were numbered. Over a six-month period in 1998, the last 300 residents shipped out, leaving plants on the windowsills, dishes in the cafeteria cupboards and linens on the beds [source: Nuwer].

Today several tour companies offer the chance to inspect this northern ghost town and Soviet-era specimen during mid-May to early October, depending on the sea ice. Overnight trips via snowmobile are also available in winter. Those staying overnight have the option of camping or staying either in the renovated Pyramiden Hotel or some repurposed shipping containers. One caution: Polar bears are occasional visitors, too. So one company recommends a guide or a visitor brings a rifle along [source: Terra polaris].