For a long time I thought it was a developer’s folly; a never completed resort beside a quiet bay on Tenerife’s breezy east coast. From a distance the buildings look like bare breeze block. It’s only when you spot the naked structure of a church – not a normal resort ingredient – that you suspect all is not what it seems.

Church, Leper Village, Abades, Tenerife

When you get closer to the curious town and notice the breeze blocks are jablé you realise that this ghost town has stood empty for a lot longer than it might at first seem. This is a jilted bride waiting for a groom that is never coming.

Leper Village, Abades, Tenerife

The town with no name exudes a slightly disturbing air; probably thanks to an imagination fed by films about abandoned towns where no good lurks and computer games where you know at any moment some mutant creature is going to leap from a shadowy doorway and go for your throat.

Abades from the Leper Village, Tenerife

The other strange thing about the ghost town is that it sits like a shadow beside what actually is a newish development at Abades on Arico’s coast. If anything, with its church, the ghost town looks more like a real town than the small settlement below it, which has more of the appearance of an out of place housing scheme.

Despite the presence of the nearby resort (or whatever people want to call it) and sandy coves that are about as nice as any you’ll find on Tenerife, few people walk these empty streets.

Guardia Civil building, Abades, Tenerife

Maybe that’s got something to do with the ghost town’s past. To call it an abandoned town is probably not technically correct as it was never fully populated. Maybe it retains a stigma as potent as that which affected the people who were meant to exist there.

This is a leper colony that never was.

The idea was conceived toward the end of the Spanish Civil War. This part of Tenerife’s arid, windswept east coast was considered ideal as a location for housing Spain’s lepers at a time when the disease was rampant; there were just under 200 cases on Tenerife alone. Nobody lived here; the big centres of population lay to the north. It was conveniently out of the way.

Inside the Leper Village, Abades, Tenerife

The plan was that a village colony be constructed, to be managed by Franco’s military. Everything was almost in place… just as scientists discovered Dapsone, a drug that revolutionised treatment and changed the world for those people suffering from leprosy. The leper colony was no longer needed.

Now it sits impassively above Abades; a Mary Celeste of a town with houses, barracks and buildings that look as though they were designed to house shops. There are broken beds in box rooms, exposed wires and bad graffiti everywhere.

Exploring its empty streets and maze of interlinking corridors really does feel like you’ve stumbled across a ‘The Walking Dead’ scenario. What it’s like after dark I can’t say. And what’s more I don’t have any plans to find out, even though it gets used for raves; so not all spooky.

Inside the Church, Leper Village, Abades, Tenerife

Walk into the church and the urge to rapidly exit the ghost town is ramped up. Empty the town may be, but there is no question that somebody worships in this place. There is enough evidence to convince of that.

Who, or what, they worship there is another matter.

 

Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+

13 Responses to The Abandoned Leper Village of Tenerife

  1. Linda says:

    Lovely writing, Jack. Really enjoyed this, even though it was a story I knew :)

  2. Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing. That’s my education done for today :)
    Elle x

  3. tricia says:

    thanks for the pics and story

  4. [...] via The Abandoned Leper Village of Tenerife | therealtenerife.com. [...]

  5. Mike says:

    Fascinating information together with excellent photos, a part of Tenerife I would have loved to see.

  6. Brilliant article! I wondered about the San Lazaro for a moment, then realized it wasn’t the Lazarus that always springs first to our mind, but the beggar leper Lazarus (Luke 16, 19ff) … a story of someone speaking from hell …

    I think I’d be getting the hell out of there quickly too! :D

    • Jack says:

      Thanks Janet. And then there’s the upside down triangle within a triangle, which could represent all sorts of things… although I suspect not the Legend of Zelda nintendo computer game as suggested by Yahoo answers :)

  7. [...] summer months. It is a complete contrast to the immaculately designed resort beaches. And it has a mysterious abandoned town behind it that adds interest. The development beside it is bland and not particularly aesthetically [...]

  8. Jill says:

    thanks for sharing. I lived and painted in Tenerife, didn’t know about this place.
    Very interesting.
    Thanks again Jill

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