Atlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners

Atlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World's Most Unusual Corners

by Travis Elborough


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Inspiring urban explorers and armchair travellers alike to consider a new way of understanding the world we live in, this unique atlas shows you the modern world from surprising new vantage points.

Hidden lairs beneath layers of rock, forgotten cities rising out of deserted lands and even mankind's own feats of engineering eccentricity lie in the most unusual of destinations. Go in search of the obscure and bizarre, the beautiful and estranged, taking in the defiant relics of ancient cities such as Ani, a once thriving metropolis lost to conquered lands, and the church tower of San Juan Parangaricuto, that miraculously stands as the sole survivor of a town sunk by lava. Through the labyrinths of Berlin and Beijing — underground realms dug for refuge, espionage and even, as Canada's Moose Jaw, used as the playground for gangsters trading liquor and money over cards — never forgetting the freaks and wonders of nature's own unusual masterpieces: the magical underground river shaped like a dragon's mouth in the Philippines and the floating world of Palmerston.

With beautiful maps and stunning photography illustrating each destination, Atlas of Improbable Places is a fascinating voyage to the world's most incredible destinations. As the Island of Dolls and the hauntingly titled Door to Hell — an inextinguishable fire pit - attest, mystery is never far away. The truths and myths behind their creation are as varied as the destinations themselves. Standing as symbols of worship, testaments to kingships or even the strange and wonderful traditions of old and new, these curious places are not just extraordinary sights but reflections on man's own relationship with the world around us.

Also in the Unexpected Atlas series: Atlas of Untamed Places,Atlas of the Unexpected, Atlas of Vanishing Places.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781317631
Publisher: Aurum Press
Publication date: 03/08/2018
Series: Unexpected Atlases Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 645,766
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 6.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Travis Elborough has been a freelance writer, author and cultural commentator for more than a decade now. His book include The Bus We Loved, a history of the Routemaster bus;The Long Player Goodbye, a hymn to vinyl records; and Wish You Were Here, a survey of the British beside the seaside. Elborough is a regular contributor to the Observer and the Guardian but has written for the Times, Sunday Times, New Statesman, the Oldie, TATE etc., BBC History magazine and Kinfolk among others and frequently appears on BBC Radio 4 and Five Live.

Table of Contents

Introduction 8

Dream Creations

Flevopolder 12

The region reclaimed from the sea

Zheleznogorsk 16

Former closed Soviet city

Free Christiania 20


Auroville 24

1960s utopian city

Slab City 28

The squatter metropolis

Portmeirion 32

The Village

Zvyozdny Gorodok 36

Star City

Hearst Castle 40

Randolph Hearst's Xanadu-esque home

Deserted Destinations

Teufelsberg 46

Abandoned U.S. spy station

Presidio Modelo 50

Cuba's most notorious former penitentiary

Battleship Island 54

Deserted mining settlement

No Man's Land Fort 58

A long shunned coastal bulwark

The Lost City of San Juan Parangaricutiro 60

Abandoned after the eruption of 1943

Humberstone and Santa Laura 64

Redundant saltpetre works

Wonderland 68

Abandoned Disneyland-style theme park

Oradour-Sur-Glane 72

Village left abandoned since the Second World War

Muynak 76

Drained port

Wittenoom 80

Asbestos-ridden industrial town

Ani, Kars 84

Ruins of one-time capital of the Armenian Empire

Concrete City 88

Garden city of the anthracite region

Varosha 92

Abandoned tourist resort

Architectural Oddities

Maryhill Stonehenge 96

Concrete Stonehenge

Spijkenisse 100

The 'real' fictional euro bridges

Kabayan 104

The Ibaloi mummy caves

Santurio Madonna Della Corona 106

Chapel hangs midway down a sheer cliffside

London Bridge, Lake Havasu 110

The 1831 London Bridge

The African Renaissance Monument 114

Controversial symbol of independence

Ten Commandments Mountain 118

The Fields of the Wood

Floating worlds

The Palm 124

An artificial island paradise

The Kingdom of Redonda 128

Uninhabited Caribbean island

Poveglia Island 132

Former plague quarantine island

Great Blasket 136

Uninhabited since 1954

Holland Island 140

Island slowly being eroded by the water

Palmerston 144

A community formed in its founder's image

Wrangel Island 148

A place frozen in time

Mount Roraima 152

The Lost World

Ross Island 156

British Indian penal settlement

Hirta 160

The Edge of the World

Otherworldly Spaces

Aokigahara 166

The Demon Forest

Colma 170

City of the dead

Leap Castle 174

The World's most haunted residence

Darvaza Crater 178

Door to Hell

The Hill of Crosses 182

Home to some 100,000 crosses

The Island of Dolls 186

A terrifying attraction

Subterranean Realms

The Underground Postal Railway 192

Rail Mail

Cold War Spy Tunnel 196

The telephone tapping centre

Beijing Underground 200

Bunkers to beat the bomb

Moose Jaw 204

Illicit tunnels

Cincinnati 208

Abandoned subway

ZKP Tagansky, Aka Bunker 42 212

Cold War communications bunker

Puerto Princesa 216

Subterranean river

Select Bibliography 220

Acknowledgements 222

Index 223

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