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24 Cities You Learned About in School That No Longer Exist

From the tragic to the mysterious, you won't believe these fascinating tales of cities that no longer exist.

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Vanishing cities

Looking around your city, it may be hard to imagine that there might be a time when it no longer exists. But that’s exactly what happened to these communities. Read on to learn all about the fires, floods, disasters, and unsolved mysteries that led to these cities no longer existing. It’s not just cities—these 15 countries no longer exist, too.

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East Berlin, Germany

The Soviet sector of Berlin was established in 1945 and existed until 1990. The Wall that divided it from West Berlin became a symbol of the evils of communism to the rest of the world until it finally fell in 1989. Today, a united Berlin is the largest city and capital of Germany. Berlin has also earned the distinction of being deemed one of the most honest cities in the world.

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Hashima Island, Japan

Hashima Island was formerly one of the most populated cities in the world. The 16-acre island provided jobs to more than 5,000 people, many of whom made their living at the island’s underwater coal mines. When the mines were closed, Hashima Island was abandoned. Today it is nothing but dilapidated high rises and forgotten buildings as evidenced in these pictures of Hashima Island and other abandoned places throughout the world.

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Consonno, Italy

Consonno was a tiny town with a population of less than 300 and roots dating back to the middle ages. The residents made their living harvesting crops like chestnuts and celery. Then Mario Bagno came along and decided to turn the area into the Las Vegas of Italy and planned on calling it the City of Toys. He demolished nearly every building and set to work on building his masterpiece. The disaster struck: in 1976 a landslide buried the access road and the project was never finished. Today, Consonno has been abandoned. Check out Consonno and other abandoned amusement parks that will give you the creeps.

little america, antarctica Schenectady Museum Association/Getty Images

Little America, Antarctica

Little America was the name of not one, but five different postal outposts in Antarctica. The first was established in 1933 and the last, in 1958. Where did they go? The answer is as unique as Antarctica itself. One by one, they floated out to sea. If the glaciers continue to melt, that could spell disaster for Antarctica.

Eastern Settlement, Greenland Viking SettlementRUBEN RAMOS/Getty Images

Eastern Settlement, Greenland

Eastern Settlement in Greenland isn’t just an abandoned city, it’s also a mystery. Once the most populated area in Greenland, the area was abandoned and no one knows why. The last known writings from the area pertained to a wedding in 1408 and offered no clues. It remains one of many ancient mysteries researchers can’t explain.

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Ordos Kangbashi, China

Ordos Kangbashi boasts some of the most stunning architecture in the world. It’s also one of the world’s largest ghost towns. In the early part of the 2,000’s the Chinese government invested over a billion-dollar into the city, which was a planned utopia with cutting edge buildings and technology. Unfortunately, a downturn in the economy made the city unaffordable and there weren’t enough residents to sustain the city. Those that did move in eventually moved away. For another example of amazing Chinese architecture, check out these pictures of one of the world’s most complicated overpasses.

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Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii was once a resort town in Italy where wealthy Romans spent their vacations. In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city under ash. It was all but forgotten until 1800 years later when archeologists found the city that remained intact beneath the rubble. Here’s a list of the volcanoes that could erupt next—or already are.

Machu Picchu peruJacques Haillot/Sygma/Getty Images

Machu Picchu, Peru

Today Machu Picchu is on the bucket list of dream trips for many travelers, but there was a time it was an Incan city spanning over five miles. Historians believe it was a religious or royal site but the city’s origins are largely mysterious. Machu Picchu was abandoned in the early 1500s around the time the Spanish Conquistadors. Since archeologists haven’t discovered evidence the area was attacked, many speculate the population could have been wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.

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Troy, Turkey

Troy was rendered immortal in Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad. For many years, the Troy of Ancient Greece was merely the stuff of legend but in the 1800s its location was discovered in what is now Turkey. The site contains layers of ruins archeologists are still studying. Find out some of the weirdest discoveries archeologists have ever made.

 Bannack Montana gold rushCorbis/Getty Images

Bannack, Montana

Gold was discovered at the site that became Bannack in 1862 and the city that sprung up around the ensuing boom briefly served as the capital of the Montana territory. Like many cities built during the gold rush, Bannack is now a ghost town. The location and old buildings have been preserved as a state park for visitors who want to experience a little bit of history. Check out this list of the best state parks in every state for more places to explore.

Kolmanskop Namibia diamond mining town 2630ben/Getty Images

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Komanskop was once an affluent mining village that owed its riches to the world’s never-ending need for diamond engagement rings. After World War II, the diamonds became increasingly scarce and by the 1950s the mine was depleted. With no way to earn a living, the residents eventually moved away and the abandoned city is now a tourist attraction.

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Hallsands, United Kingdom

The people in the small town of Hallsands were minding their business one evening in 1917 when the entire village—save for one house—collapsed and fell into the sea. The residents were left homeless and rebuilt elsewhere. Today the remains of the village of Hallasands are under the sea. If sea levels consider rising, these 13 islands will likely disappear before the end of the century.

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Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia was a tiny town whose residents relied on coal mining to make their living. Then in 1962, a fire made its way into a coal seam—and has continued to burn for 50 years. In 1981 a young boy was almost killed falling through a sinkhole caused by the fire, prompting congress to buy out the remaining residents to give them the means to relocate. There were a few holdouts, leading the state of Pennsylvania to condemn all the remaining buildings and strip Centralia of its zip code in 1992 to encourage the remaining residents to move. Despite this, a church still stands in Centralia and is open to all who seek a place to worship.

San Juan Parangaricutiro Mexico agcuesta/Getty Images

San Juan Parangaricutiro, Mexico

San Juan Parangaricutiro was a thriving community until the Paricutin volcano erupted in 1943, covering the city in lava and ash. The volcano continued to erupt for eight years, completely decimating all except the tower and altar of the city’s church. Today, the half-buried church is a major tourist attraction. These photos of abandoned churches are eerily gorgeous.

Pripyat, Ukraine chernobylMartin Godwin/Getty Images

Pripyat, Ukraine

The nuclear disaster in Chernobyl led to the downfall of the once vibrant city of Pripyat when tens of thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes, never to return. Today, Pripyat is an abandoned city full of overgrown vegetation and crumbling high rises. This is what the Chernobyl disaster site looks like now.

Cahokia Mounds Illinois JByard/Getty Images

Cahokia, Illinois

Today Cahokia is the name of a village in Illinois but there was a time when the area was the site of an industrious indigenous community and the biggest city north of Mexico. It was abandoned around 1350, although no one knows why. They did, however, leave behind the famous Cahokia Mounds, which you can still go and visit today. Here are more facts about Native Americans you didn’t learn about in history class.

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Lukangol, Sudan

Lukangol was a bustling city until ethnic clashes led to a horrifying massacre in 2011. Fortunately, nearly 20,000 people were able to flee before the attack, but there was nevertheless a severe loss of life. The city itself was burnt to ashes and the citizens of Kukangol were unable to return.

Taxila ruins, Pakistan HomoCosmicos/Getty Images

Taxila, Pakistan

The ancient city of Taxila, Pakistan flourished from 5th century BC until the 2nd century AD. It was an important site for the scholarship and practice of Buddhism and the architecture reflected the influence of Persian, Greek, and Central Asian cultures. Unfortunately, the Epthlatites invaded and destroyed most of the city. It was never rebuilt and subsequently abandoned by its people. Its awe-inspiring ruins still remain today. Here are facts about Buddhism you probably didn’t know.

Nan MadolDouglas Peebles/Corbis/Getty Images

Nan Madol, Federated States of Micronesia

Ancient architects pulled off some pretty amazing feats, but perhaps none were more mind-boggling than Nan Madol, a city built on top of coral reefs. The columns and stones are so heavy and imposing that even today, scientists have yet to figure out how it was built. The city was the center of the Saudeleur Dynasty until the first part of the 1600s when the Saudeleur were overthrown and the site was abandoned. Here are more science mysteries no one has figured out.

Easter Island RachelKramer/Getty Images

Easter Island

Easter Island is one of the seven wonders of the world, and for good reason. Originally known as Rapa Nui, the island is about as remote as you can get. It’s located 2,300 miles from South America and 1,100 miles from the next nearest island. To this day, scientists can’t explain when Easter Island was populated, how the citizens built its heavy stone statues, or why and how everyone left. Easter Island is one of 14 of the most remote places on Earth.

dead cities syria Epics/Getty Images

Dead Cities, Syria

The Dead Cities of Syria was actually a group of 40 villages dating from the 1st to 20th Centuries CE. Long enough to transition from the pagan religions of the Roman Empire to Christianity. Although no one is sure why they were abandoned, most researchers theorize it was due to unfavorable trade routes or a series of invasions. The cities still stand and remain an architectural wonder today. Learn about some of the oldest artifacts ever discovered.

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Fort Mose, Florida

Fort Mose has a fascinating and important history. More than a quarter-century ago, escaped slaves from the Carolinas found refuge in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. From there, they established America’s original underground railroad and toiled to free the people left behind. Eventually, they were granted their own town by Florida’s Spanish governor. The community of Fort Mose has been long since abandoned but it will go down in the history books as the first legally sanctioned free black town in what is now the United States.

Akrotiri, GreeceDmitry_Chulov/Getty Images

Akrotiri, Greece

The picture-perfect city of Santorini is built on top of the ancient city of Akrotiri. Akrotiri was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Thera during the 16th century and covered in ash and lava. Many believe it was the origin story for the mythology of the Lost City of Atlantis. Scientists have been working to preserve and excavate what they can of ancient Akrotiri since 1967 so we can learn more about the lives of the people who once lived there. If you’re interested in traveling there, you’ll want to know the cheapest times to visit Santorini and some of the world’s other top tourist destinations.

Humberstone ChileAlex Lupu/Getty Images

Humberstone, Chile

Humberstone was once known as La Palma. It was renamed after James Humberstone, a chemical engineer who emigrated to South America in the late 1800s and a fortune mining saltpeter. At its peak, Humberstone was a mining town that provided a home to approximately 3,500 people. However, saltpeter was no longer needed after synthetic fertilizers were invented after World War I and the city was abandoned. The city is still remarkably well preserved due to the area’s arid climate. Read on to learn about tiny countries you never knew existed.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane