Atlas of Abandoned Places – Oliver Smith

To step into an abandoned place is to cross a kind of threshold into the past – to time travel from the present day to the instant that people departed.

I love abandoned places photography. I enjoy poring over the photos for evidence of the lives of the people who used to inhabit the spaces. There always seems to be a haunted beauty attached to these places, as they gradually erode and nature reclaims them.

I’ve come to expect books about abandoned places to showcase a photographer’s favourite sites. This is the first abandoned places book I’ve read that’s been written by a travel writer. The images are stock photos, which meant I didn’t get get to feel like I was tagging along with someone who may have had to climb fences and find ways to get into buildings undetected. However, it also meant that, rather than the purple prose I’m used to reading in abandoned places books, the information that’s presented here captured my attention just as much as the photography.

Separated into parts by geography – Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Caucasus, Asia, Oceania and Africa – this book explores fifty abandoned places, from trains, palaces and a theme park to entire towns. Each four page entry contains photos and a map, along with information about the history, current state and any future plans for the site.

I most want to explore:

  • The Paris Catacombs, not the 1.6km (1 mile) tourist attraction but the network an area of about 320km (200 miles) that haven’t been entirely mapped yet. I want to see the places that remain undiscovered and unmarked by graffiti.
  • City Hall Station, New York.

Two hundred policemen were called to hold back the curious crowds, and the Mayor of New York took the controls of the inaugural train. He had so much fun he refused to hand them back to the driver.

  • Ciudad Perdida (meaning ‘Lost City’), Colombia. You’ll need to hike for four days to get there but the journey sounds as amazing as the destination.

Organized tours see participants traversing rushing rivers on rope bridges, passing waterfalls where hummingbirds dart through the humid air, and sleeping in hammocks listening to the night-time symphony of the forest.

  • Aniva Lighthouse, at the tip of Sakhalin, Russia. It’s desolate and remote, the perfect place to get lost in a book.

There’s a lot of very interesting information in this book. I’m always on the lookout for fun facts and all things strange and unusual. I found those here too.

For £99, you can buy your very own knighthood. It’s for Sealand, a country that no others recognise, but it’s probably your only chance to be knighted.

Bodie in California is a typo. It’s named after W.S. Bodey, a prospector from New York. If you visit, fair warning: don’t souvenir any trinkets you come across.

‘The Curse of Bodie’ goes that objects stolen from the ghost town have brought tragedy and even death to their new homes. Items are still regularly returned to Bodie in the post, with notes of repentance from sorry thieves.

The grand opening of the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, Massachusetts happened the day the Titanic sank.

New York’s “City Hall Station provided the inspiration for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ lair.”

For places that seem lifeless, their lesson is that – in some form or other – life goes on.

Thank you so much to Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Explore the wonders that the world forgot with award-winning travel writer Oliver Smith – from breathtaking buildings with a dark past to decaying reminders of more troubled times.

The globe is littered with forgotten monuments, their beauty matched only by the secrets of their past.

A glorious palace lies abandoned by a fallen dictator. A grand monument to communism sits forgotten atop a mountain. Two never-launched space shuttles slowly crumble, left to rot in the middle of the desert. Explore these and many more of the world’s lost wonders in this atlas like no other.

With remarkable stories, bespoke maps and stunning photography of fifty forsaken sites, Atlas of Abandoned Places travels the world beneath the surface; the sites with stories to tell, the ones you won’t find in any guidebook.

Award-winning travel writer Oliver Smith is your guide on a long-lost path, shining a light on the places that the world forgot.

2 thoughts on “Atlas of Abandoned Places – Oliver Smith

  1. Really enjoyed your review! I’d like to visit the catacombs in Paris too, but not keen on exploring the chaos of underground tunnels or experiencing any of the claustrophobic crawl spaces described in Underland by Robert Macfarlane. That gave me nightmares!


    • I haven’t read Underland. I’ll need to add that to my TBR pile. Hmm… I hadn’t considered the potential for claustrophobia. Maybe some kind soul will photograph the entire tunnel system and publish them so we can visit vicariously instead. 😊


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s