Solo female guide to exploring abandoned places

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When I sent pictures of abandoned hotels in Kupari, Croatia to one of my good friends (who happens to be my boss too) he asked me why I keep exploring abandoned places, what is so exciting about them. And to be honest, I didn’t really know how to answer him.

exploring abandoned places - Kupari

Bay of abandoned hotels in Kupari, Croatia

Abandoned places fascinate me. There is usually some interesting or dark history behind, simple “not enough money” is never the only answer. I’m intrigued by how fast the vibe of the old times and the place can decay and how quickly those spaces become the attraction. Because let’s face it, I’m not the only one who enjoys such “alternative” tourism and, the community is pretty big.

After receiving so many answers to my Insta Stories from Tskaltubo and Kupari I know there are other women who travel solo and would like to visit abandoned places too but are not confident enough to do so on their own. If you are one of them – this post is for you. I’m not an expert at urbex, but maybe I will encourage you to do some exploring as well. Perhaps you can learn from my experience.

visiting abandoned places - Tskaltubo

Tskaltubo, Georgia

My thoughts when visiting Kupari, Croatia

This post is the result of my recent visit to Kupari – the famous bay of abandoned hotels just south of Dubrovnik. It wasn’t my first time – last year I was exploring the area with a friend but since the weather wasn’t the best I’ve decided to return there when I had the opportunity.

For most of the time, my heart was beating fast, and all sorts of weird thoughts were racing through my mind. And don’t get me started how I freaked out when the cat has scared me in the remnants of the restaurant. I was also 100% sure that the people who I could hear around want to harm me (they didn’t, they were just locals out on the walk, enjoying the beautiful weather).

I kept telling myself how stupid I am for being in that very place yet I couldn’t stop going higher and higher, checking yet another floor and another former room of abandoned hotels. And even when it was complete darkness on the staircase I didn’t turn back, I just took out my mobile phone, turned on the flashlight and kept going, not knowing what I might see in a second or two.

But the feeling of accomplishment afterward and the breathtaking sunset I could admire from the rooftop of one of the hotels in Kupari was the best reward. And no matter if I’m in Kupari, Sarajevo, Kotor or Tskaltubo – the feelings are the same.

exploring abandoned places - Kupari

Former restaurant in one of the hotels

visiting abandoned places - Kupari

Going up to the rooftop, you can see some war remnants too

exploring abandoned places - Kupari

Spectacular view from the rooftop

Women visiting abandoned places

This might sound stupid or crazy, but these are all sorts of thoughts that I deal with when exploring abandoned places. I can only guess I’m not the only one who has all these feeling, after all, we women are known for overthinking and overanalyzing everything. And now I really hope someone who reads this can node the head and relates to my words and not thinks I’m just crazy.

What I’m trying to say – traveling solo isn’t easy, and visiting abandoned places on your own can be even more challenging. But it’s doable and doesn’t let the fear stop you. After all, who knows what kind of hidden gems you might find inside.

exploring abandoned places - Tskaltubo

One of the beautiful rooms inside the abandoned hotel in Tskaltubo

But at the same time, I don’t want to encourage you too much. Not everyone has the need to explore abandoned places so if you don’t feel it just don’t go for it or you would most likely hate it. You would focus too much on all your thoughts, and that’s never good.

visiting abandoned places - Tskaltubo

In Tskaltubo, Georgia

Tips on exploring abandoned places

So anyway, below are some of the tips I have for exploring abandoned places. Some of them are obvious, some are universal regardless of the sex, altogether they might be a good checklist to prepare for yourself for some urban exploration.

Wear comfortable and loose clothes

You don’t know what kind of conditions you will find. You might have to do big steps or go through holes in the wall or empty windows (been there, done that) and wearing jeans will limit you greatly.

When, during my Chernobyl tour, we had a chance to go to the rooftop of the block of flats in Pripyat I run to the top excited and then my enthusiasm was killed when I had to go up on the ladder and eventually do a big step over the wall. I’m sure I would never be able to do it if I had jeans but with loose cotton pants all was good, and I could enjoy views over Pripyat from the top of the 10th story apartment building.

exploring abandoned places - Pripyat

View from the rooftop in Pripyat

Backpack, not a bag

Before setting off for the day of urban exploration, pack your belonging in the backpack, not a bag. Again, you don’t know what conditions you might find, and it’s better to have both hands free, even to keep the balance. Having a bag with you will only annoy you.

Comfortable and covered shoes

For your own safety, don’t wear a sandal or flip flops when exploring abandoned places. You should go inside only when you have covered shoes as you might have to walk on the broken glass, jump over rubble or trash and you don’t want to touch these with your bare feet, not to mention you might get hurt easily. Wear comfortable shoes, so you avoid an injury of some sort.

visiting abandoned places - Kupari

Floor in one of the hotels in Kupari

Be careful where you walk

When exploring abandoned places, you need to be focused and pay attention to all the details. And sometimes you might not look carefully where you step, after all there are so many distractions around. This is when you might hurt yourself again, so be careful where you walk. If the surface doesn’t look very solid, try to avoid it and choose another way.

exploring abandoned places - Tskaltubo

No handrails on the stairs. Tskaltubo, Georgia

visiting abandoned places - Sarajevo

Old Observatory in Sarajevo

Trust your guts

This one is obvious, I think. If you feel something is wrong, don’t push yourself to go any further. Better safe than sorry. But at the same time see the difference between the fear and the intuition and don’ t let the fear stop you.

Know your limits

If you know you can’t make it to that rooftop, then don’t go to that rooftop. If you can’t squeeze through that hole in the wall, then don’t try to squeeze through that hole in the wall. It’s as easy as that. No one knows your limits better than you, so don’t force yourself to go somewhere you are not able or comfortable to get to.

exploring abandoned places - Kupari

Getting through that hole wasn’t very easy…

Let someone know where you are

Always let someone know your plans and how long you are planning to spend there. That actually applies to all the travel plans you have but knowing that someone is aware of your urban exploration helps you focus on the place itself.

When I was about to enter the bay of abandoned hotels in Kupari I told one of my best friends where I am so he knew if I don’t talk to him in next 2-3 hours something might be wrong.

Have something to protect yourself

It’s always good to have something to defend yourself, just in case. The best would be of course pepper spray, but if you don’t have it, the spray deodorant will do as well.

Or, like my friend Kinga who went on her own to Sniper’s Tower in Mostar (I skipped the inside as I would never be able to jump over the high fence) – have the key in your hand so you can always use it as a weapon. Such a simple yet smart idea, isn’t it?

exploring abandoned places - Mostar

Sniper’s Tower in Mostar

Do the research before

Before you leave to explore the abandoned places, try to find as much information online as possible. You will know which spots to avoid and which to find as sometimes the highlights are hidden somewhere inside the building.

In Kotor I missed the swimming pool in the Hotel Fjord (that sadly was demolished recently) only because I didn’t know it is located in the basement and in Tskaltubo I missed one of the old sanatoriums because it wasn’t on my map and in fact, it was only a few minutes walk from where I was.

visiting abandoned places - Kotor

Former Hotel Fjord in Kotor, unfortunately it was demolished recently

What if you stumble across someone?

Well, what do you do when you meet people on the hiking trail or any other place? You say “hello”, don’t you? That’s also what you should do in the abandoned or semi-abandoned places, especially if you stumble across people living there. This is the only polite thing to do really, and it might lead you to some interesting conversations.

But if you feel something is wrong try not to show it, say “hello” or nod but then casually exit the building, like you are done with visiting the place. Or just scream and run – it’s up to you.

By the way, if you visit places that are inhabited (like some of the old sanatoriums in Tskaltubo, Georgia) respect the locals and avoid the areas where they live. See only the parts of the buildings that are empty or just skip the place altogether. Always be respectful to locals.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Semi-abandoned hotel in Tskaltubo, Georgia

Visiting abandoned places with tours or independently?

There are places like Chernobyl zone that are forbidden to visit independently, and you need special permission to enter the area. Some of the spots became so popular that you can visit them with organized tours or guides.

If you don’t feel confident enough but would love to visit the abandoned place, then go for the tour by all means. It will help you focus on the site itself, and you won’t have to deal with all the dark “what if” thoughts.

If, however, you are fine wandering on your own – go for it! You will have the freedom to see all the corner and spend as much as you like in the place. Just be careful everywhere, and trust your instincts.

exploring abandoned places - Pripyat

Abandoned swimming pool in Pripyat

My favorite abandoned spaces to explore

I’ve explored quite a bit of abandoned places in my life and some of my favorites include (in no particular order):

  • Kupari – the bay of abandoned hotels just south of Dubrovnik. Five big hotels were severely destroyed during the 90s Balkan War
  • visiting abandoned places - Kupari

  • Tskaltubo, Georgia – a former famous spa town where even Stalin used to spend his holidays, now most of the fancy hotels are abandoned or inhabited by IDPs from Abkhazia
  • exploring abandoned places - Tskaltubo

  • Old Tbilisi, Georgia – the beautiful part of the capital of Georgia that is going through a significant restoration these days but you can still find some abandoned or semi-abandoned places in here, like the old Armenian church
  • exploring abandoned places - Tbilisi

  • Chiatura, Georgia – not abandoned as such but the old, rusty cable cars really look like they might fall down anytime
  • visiting abandoned places - Chiatura

  • Beirut, Lebanon – in the downtown and Gemmayzeh areas you can find a lot of beautiful abandoned houses, a sad reminder of the civil war that took place here in the second half of the 20th century
  • Beirut street art

  • Yerevan (Armenia) cable car – that’s a very random place, but when you find an old cable car station in downtown Yerevan and get through the rubbish you will find the old rusty cable car carriage
  • visiting abandoned places - Yerevan

  • Kotor, Montenegro – the iconic Hotel Fjord might be gone now, but there are a few abandoned villas along the Bay
  • visiting abandoned places - Kotor

  • Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina – the capital has been through a lot at the end of the 20th century due to the longest siege in the modern history, now most of the city has recovered, but you can still find some interesting places around like the abandoned bobsled track or partly destroyed observatory
    visiting abandoned places - Sarajevo

    visiting abandoned places - Sarajevo

  • Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina – everyone visits Mostar to see the famous Old Bridge, but when you venture a bit outside the touristic center you will find lots of abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings, including the famous Sniper Tower
  • exploring abandoned places - Mostar

    exploring abandoned places - Mostar

  • Chernobyl exclusion zone, Ukraine – home to the infamous nuclear accident, now the most famous abandoned place in the world, a real treat for all fans of urbex
  • exploring abandoned places - Chernobyl

  • Bitola, Macedonia – it was a big surprise to find so many abandoned buildings around. Most of them were in good shape and looked like they used to belong to the military and were left behind only recently. The highlights, however, were the two abandoned places on the hill above the city.
  • exploring abandoned places - Bitola

These are only a few places that I visited and really enjoyed. If you have more recommendations of abandoned spaces to explore, please share them in the comments below, I would love to hear about them (and possibly check myself in the future!).

I hope this article encouraged you a bit to explore abandoned places. If you still have some questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

exploring abandoned places - Kupari

For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:


exploring abandoned places

love, kami 2

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