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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+
Lovely writing, Jack. Really enjoyed this, even though it was a story I knew 🙂
Thanks Linda, it’s a curious place for sure.
Fascinating stuff! Thanks for sharing. That’s my education done for today 🙂
LOL – Cheers Elle.
thanks for the pics and story
Fascinating information together with excellent photos, a part of Tenerife I would have loved to see.
Hopefully it will still be there next visit Mike.
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! 😀
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 🙂
thanks for sharing. I lived and painted in Tenerife, didn’t know about this place.
Thanks again Jill
You’re very welcome – it’s a fascinating place.
Really interesting, had heard the story and seen the church from a distance but nothing up close like your photos. Is it really difficult to get to the colony? Thanks
It’s very easy to reach from Abades Celia. The terrain is flat and there are rough paths.
Wow interest earring read! we saw this yesterday from the nearby lighthouse and wondered what it was. Will defiantly try and go to see it up close on our next visit. Thanks for sharing.
Is this place safe to visit? Going to Tenerife in a few weeks and my daughter wants to go here for her photography A level homework.
Sorry for being slow to approve and respond, we’ve been away. I guess as it’s old buildings which have been abandoned then common sense needs to be applied when exploring the place. Apart from that it’s perfectly fine and should provide her with some interesting subject matter.
This place starred in the final episodes of Silent Witness over the last couple of nights – as a former leper colony, supposedly in Mexico.
I’d heard about that. What a cracking location for filming.
Hola Jake, fabulous article. I’m going to explore there tomorrow with a two of my amigas. We live close by in Golf Del Sur I’ll let you know how we get on.??
This site was used as a film set on the 2017 BBC TV series Silent Witness. This story episode was set Mexico.