400 Abandoned Islands off the Beaten Path in Shanghai

40 miles east of Shanghai lies a chain of 400 islands that looks like a shining necklace. Known as the Shengsi Houtouwan Islands, the village that was once home for more than 2,000 fishermen was abandoned by most in the early 1990s. Even though locals abandoned their village in search of better food and education, its properties have stood still in time.

Today the village is almost completely covered with green vegetation as if sleeping cozily under a green blanket. Many tourists visit the island for the chance to witness its unrivaled views and chat with the sparse residents that have continued to make this island their home.

Image by Damir Sagolj via The Atlantic

Houtouwan Overview

Until recently, most people were unaware that the Shengsi Houtouwan Islands existed. In 2015, photographs of the area went viral, becoming an internet sensation that took the world by storm. The few remaining island residents were surprised when their village suddenly became a travel hotspot, attracting mass amounts of tourists every day!

Once known for its quiet lifestyle, island officials capitalized on the island’s newfound fame by offering tourists special tours, bed and breakfast accommodations, and hiking guides. The island’s tourism has continued to flourish, with its mesmerizing views captured for a lifetime on social media.


  • Residents started vacating the village in the early 1990s because the island’s remoteness made it challenging for residents to receive a quality education and food supplies.
  • Reclaimed by nature, the abandoned village now looks like a fairytale scene blanketed with lush, overgrown green vegetation.
  • Some of the abandoned home furniture and objects remain completely intact.
  • The village’s remaining fishing port infrastructure is an eery reminder of the community’s commercial past life
  • Houtouwan is not completely deserted – approximately a dozen of the village citizens have continued to make the island their home.
  • A bridge connects Shanghai to the Shengsi Houtouwan Islands, which is approximately a four-hour journey. Learn more about traveling to the Houtouwan Islands.
  • Although tourists are discouraged from staying at the Houtouwan village during the night, you can stay in the nearby villages.
  • The remaining village residents are finding new employment opportunities through the islands’ newfound tourism.
  • Locals refer to the island as Wurencun, which translated means ‘no person village.’
  • During the Chinese fishing boom period, the village settlement peaked during 1980-1990. In the early 1990s when people started leaving the village, it had around 3,000 residents remaining
  • By 2002, Houtouwan was almost completely abandoned. Inhabitants either moved to other Shengsai islands or to Shanghai if they could afford it.

Even when a property or community has outlived its initial purpose, abandoned places like Houtouwan are a significant cultural and revenue opportunity. In Houtouwan’s case, it became a popular ghost town overnight. Have you had a chance to visit this enchanted land? Book your visit today!

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