8 dreamlike abandoned settings being reclaimed by nature

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Gonqi island
credit: Jane Qing

There's a strange and undeniable draw towards abandoned places. Ghost towns, urban movie palaces, grand shipwrecks, overgrown castles and the like; they lure in adventurers with their promise of poignancy and a special nostalgic brand of voyeurism. They offer visitors no small measure of irony, what with their juxtaposition of one-time splendor mixed with dilapidation. And they stand (or fall, perhaps more accurately) as a tangible example of human folly – as in, let's build a spectacular setting and then lose the interest or the means to ensure that it endures!

None of this is lost on the "ruin ____" (word that rhymes with corn that we can't use because of spam filters) fans, and there are legions of sites and publications dedicated to the subject. But for those of us nature lovers, the best part may be the simple beauty of the wild world reclaiming that which it once called its own. Eventually, abandoned structures become completely swallowed up by vegetation and the earth itself, leaving few traces of our human footprint. The following unusual locations are at the beginning of their journeys back to nature, offering the first few glimpses of what is yet to come.

1. Gouqi Island: Shengsi Archipelago, China

South of the mouth of China's famed Yangtze river, an archipelago of nearly 400 islands dots the water, 18 of the islands which are habitable. One of them, Gouqi Island, appears to be utterly forgotten by time. Once a bustling little fishing village, the development of new industries like shipbuilding and tourism meant fewer people sticking around to fish ... and the abandonment of villages like this one now bustling with a new kind of life.

Next, the beautiful Hotel del Salto by the falls >>

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