Abandoned villages and derelict chapels: 12 places spectacularly reclaimed by nature

The abandoned village of Houtouwan is covered in greenery.
The abandoned village of Houtouwan is covered in greenery. Copyright @w.n__t via Instagram
Copyright @w.n__t via Instagram
By Amber Ahmad
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From a swimming pool turned urban jungle, to a church carpeted with green, these are some of the most spectacular spots that nature has taken over.


Mother Nature has a remarkable knack for cleaning up after humans. For centuries, all over the world, she has been working her magic, transforming decrepit man-made structures into something naturally beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that urban explorers flock from far and wide to experience these reclaimed gems.

When nature takes back control over urban areas, breathtaking scenes are created. There’s something so serene about the way vines weave into the cracks of old brickwork, and trees nestle themselves into the gaps where windows once were.

From an abandoned swimming pool turned urban jungle, to a dilapidated church carpeted with green, these are some of the most spectacular spots that nature has taken over.

12. Nature takes over this chapel in the south of France

It’s a bit of a mystery why the 19th century Chapelle de l'Ange au Violon was abandoned decades ago, and nature has added to the allure by giving the crumbling church a green facelift.

Situated in the south of France, the old chapel has tiles carpeted with foliage, while the sunlight streams through what remains of the stained glass windows.

11. The abandoned village of Houtouwan, China, is shrouded in green

Houtouwan is an abandoned fishing village on Shengshan Island, just east of Shanghai, China.

When residents of the remote village moved away in the 1990s due to difficulties accessing proper education and food, it didn’t take long for emerald green vegetation to engulf the entire island.

10. A 19th century steamship wreck sprouts mangrove trees in Australia

It’s magical how nature creates more opportunities to thrive off the back of catastrophe. The SS City of Adelaide wreck caught fire and ran aground on the shores just off Australia’s Magnetic Island in 1912.

Over 100 years on, mangroves thrive in the 19th century steamship wreck, creating an artificial reef that local marine life now calls home.

9. Nature adds a rooftop pool to an abandoned building

It’s not just the sea that nature takes to the water for. Atop an abandoned industrial building, a natural pool has formed in the most, well, unnatural of places.

Although this skyscraper was once a hive of human activity, very few people are brave enough to swim in this rather unique rooftop infinity pool. Fancy a sky high dip?

8. This cabin in Norway blends into the landscape

The builders of this Norwegian cabin probably didn’t intend for its residents to be birds. But that’s exactly who lives there now that trees have taken root on its roof.

Though it may be Scandi-chic to have a green roof for insulation, when they’re not maintained, the power of nature wins.

7. Nature turns abandoned Italian swimming pool into a conservatory

Once home to splashing children and front crawlers in goggles, this Italian swimming pool is no longer visited by punters in their cozzies.

After more than 40 years of disrepair, the pool has swapped its former blue waters for an oasis of green, and now looks more like a conservatory than a swimming spot.

6. Nature has reclaimed Japan's Hashima Island

Nagasaki residents have nicknamed the once coal rich Hashima ‘Battleship Island’, due to its distinctive boat-like shape.

After more than 5,000 residents abandoned the island when the coal ran out in 1959, it resembled a floating concrete jungle. Over 60 years on, the site looks more like a real jungle, with trees sprouting from the deserted metropolis.

5. Gwrych Castle in Wales is overrun by trees

What’s more enchanting than an abandoned castle? One that’s overrun by trees and foliage from its surrounding forest of course.


This might look like the setting for a fairytale movie, but it was actually the location of 2021’s UK season of 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!'.

4. Alaska's former naval airbase is carpeted in green

This Alaskan naval airbase was closed in 1997, despite being a key launch point in World War II. In the 24 years since, nature has taken on an interior design role, adding some soft (mossy) furnishings to the floors and walls.

These are in keeping with the island’s vegetation, which is mostly tundra including grasses, mosses and low-lying flowering plants.

3. A 19th Century Welsh sea fort gets a natural makeover

Do you have £60 to spare and fancy moving into a derelict sea fort off the Welsh Pembrokeshire coast?

These wild and remote digs aren’t most peoples' style, but someone did buy the private island in 1932 for that bargain price, but it seems it wasn’t as habitable as they were hoping. Since the sale, the isolated monolith has been empty, allowing nature to do its thing and adorn its roof with a blanket of greenery.


2. Nature moves in on the abandoned Sri Lankan city ofSigiriya

Sitting pretty, at a massive 200 metres tall, the ancient fortress city of Sigiriya has been the site of Sri Lanka’s capital and a Buddhist monastery over its lifetime.

Now the abandoned rock city stands sentinel, filled with grasses and a natural pool, watching over the island nation.

1. Nature has crept in on this abandoned Russian church

Although very little worship takes place these days in the church in Znamenskoye-Sadki, its orthodox murals still line the walls amidst the crumbling ruins.

The church is part of one of the oldest country estates of Moscow, and sits in the southwest of the city, but it fell to ruin in 1929. While the Trubetskoy family who once owned the estate never returned, nature was quick to take their place and add her own natural decor to the church.

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