Castles & Controversy: Inside Turkey's $200m Abandoned Town

A few hours drive from Istanbul is a remote valley with soft rolling slopes that is surrounded by woodland. What sets it apart from other valleys in the area, is the hundreds of identical chateaus. More than 500 palatial homes sit abandoned on a 250 acre site. I have a deep interest in the Soviet Union and abandoned places. While this town isn’t Soviet, it’s too bizarre to not write about.

Almost a decade ago, two brothers with an audacious vision set out to build a luxury town in Turkey’s northern Bolu province. In 2014, they broke ground on the $200 million town named Burj Al Babas. Hours drive from any international airport and poorly connected to other popular holiday destinations, the villas were built for Gulf buyers to use as holiday homes. Drawing inspiration from the Loire Valley castles with their blue-grey steeples and Gothic fixtures, 350 villas were initially sold. The brothers also had plans to build a shopping centre, Turkish baths, a cinema and more.

Of the 500 villas that were built, none were finished. As time passed, some buyers backed out, and in 2019, the developers abandoned the project and filed for bankruptcy. Today the town stands at an impasse, with hundreds of eerie empty villas stretching out across the Anatolian hillside.

Hordubal | Czechoslovakia | 1979 - Comrade Kiev

Hordubal | Czechoslovakia | 1979

International Ultrasound Exhibition | Lithuania | 1981 - Comrade Kiev

International Ultrasound Exhibition | Lithuania | 1981

12 April - Cosmonauts Day | Russia | 1989 - Comrade Kiev

12 April - Cosmonauts Day | Russia | 1989