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Zhoushan Shi, China

Houtouwan

This abandoned fishing settlement may well be the greenest village in the world.  

This fishing village in the Shengsi Islands of China has been abandoned for years, but it is anything but decrepit. On the contrary, Houtouwan may well be the most verdant and stunningly green village the world over, as nearly every building is overgrown with ivy and other lush vegetation.

This green gem, situated about 40 miles from Shanghai, was once an active settlement, inhabited by around 2,000 fishermen and their families. In the early 1990s, when the small bay became increasingly unable to meet the growing fish industry, residents began migrating to the mainland in search of other employment and a better life—a pattern that was common in many small Chinese villages.

Slowly, nearly every house was abandoned, and only a handful of residents now remain. Over the past two decades, the forces of green took over, plastering nearly every surface of the settlement with dense overgrown foliage. Adding to the otherworldliness, a peek inside the deserted houses reveals decaying household items and pieces of furniture frozen exactly as they were placed years ago before the inhabitants left.

Ironically, now some villagers who used to live in Houtouwan have found another form of income, showing around an ever-increasing stream of visitors who come to see the lush landscape, and selling them water, the only item on offer on the island. The scenery is green as far as the eye can see, making it a wondrous sight, and a photographer’s paradise.