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Inside a $200 million ghost town in Turkey filled with castles reminiscent of Disneyland — minus all the people

  • The Burj Al Babas is an abandoned ghost town in Turkey filled with Disney-like castles.
  • Construction of the luxury community began in 2014. When Turkey's economy fell, the project halted. 
  • Today, 587 castles remain empty, and tourists often visit to see the eerie ghost town in real life.

Near the small town of Mudurnu in Turkey's northwest region sits Burj Al Babas, a ghost town filled with Disney-like castles, according to The New York Times.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: The New York Times

According to Yes Theory, there are more than 500 vacant homes that all look identical. Their blue-grey steeples and Gothic fixtures call to mind the castles found in Disney parks, The New York Times reported in 2019.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source:  Yes Theory ,  The New York Times

Today, the villas sit empty, and Burj Al Babas stands as a symbol of the nation's economic plight, Yes Theory reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Yes Theory

And according to Yes Theory, the town has an eerie past.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

The project got its start in 2014 when the Yerdelen brothers and Bulent Yilmaz, construction entrepreneurs from Istanbul, Turkey, drafted plans for a $200 million luxury community, The New York Times reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Yes Theory , The New York Times

When creating the design, the trio pulled inspiration from their home city, The New York Times reported. The buildings mimic Istanbul's Galata Tower and Maiden's Tower, as well as British and American architecture, Mezher Yerdelen told The New York Times.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

They also picked a strategic location. Mudurnu is a Roman spa town, according to Conde Nasté Traveller. So the region's nearby hot springs would fill hot tubs in every home and provide warmth for underfloor heating, the same source reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Condé Nast Traveller

The original plan included 700 buildings that the group hoped would attract foreign buyers, who, according to The New York Times, vacation in Turkey for its Mediterranean climate.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Depending on the location, the homes were sold for $370,000 to $500,000 each — a price tag that catered to a wealthier Middle Eastern clientele, according to The New York Times.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

The group also planned for a shopping mall in the development's center along with gardens and lakes throughout the 250-acre property, The New York Times reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

The project was initially successful. Of the 732 planned villas, about 350 were sold to customers from Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Bloomberg

But as construction started in a valley outside of Mudurnu, not everyone was happy with the project, The New York Times reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Some locals were frustrated that the castles strayed away from Mudurnu's traditional Ottoman-style architecture, Condé Nast Traveller reported. Others worried that the development would damage nearby forests, the same source reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Then oil prices plunged, The New York Times reported. Potential buyers backed out of their agreements and others stopped making payments on their future vacation homes, the project's architect told The New York Times.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

That, coupled with Turkey's soaring inflation, political turmoil, and an economic downturn led the developers to file for bankruptcy, placing the project at a standstill in 2018, Newsweek reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Newsweek

What remained was 587 completed homes and $27 million in debt, Bloomberg reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

The following year, the brothers were granted permission to complete the construction of the contracted houses when their bankruptcy ruling was overturned, according to the Hurriyet Daily News. Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project again, Newsweek reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Hurriyet Daily News , Newsweek

According to Atlas Obscura, the entire project was then acquired by NOVA Group Holdings, a multinational American corporation, which may attempt to salvage the development.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Source: Atlas Obscura

But for the time being, rows of abandoned identical three-story castles remain, according to Yes Theory.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

And since the property's infrastructure was never completed, the development is currently unlivable, Condé Nast Traveller reported.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Today, the abandoned ghost town attracts curious visitors seeking to explore the eerie destination.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

And Burj Al Babas remains one of the world's largest ghost towns.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

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Tour Burj Al Babas, a Massive Abandoned Town of Disney-esque Castles

By Jessica Cherner and Katherine McLaughlin

Burj Al Babas Inside an Abandoned Town of Disneyesque Castles

If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns , it wasn’t supposed to be this way. In fact, Burj Al Babas was planned as a luxurious, stately urban development offering the look of royal living for anyone willing to shell out anywhere from $370,000 to $500,000 for their own little palace. 

Sarot Group, the project developer, probably had the right idea when they chose a community of castles for their latest endeavor. After all, though European monarchies’ power and influence over their respective country’s politics may have dwindled in recent years, their stately châteaus, castles , and palaces have endured. There’s something about the dwellings’ undeniable extravagance and opulence that makes them utterly timeless. 

So it made sense: Rich foreigners uninterested in the south of France or the northeastern tip of Spain could enjoy the Mediterranean climate on Gothic-style rooftop terraces overlooking the lush Turkish forest. Not to mention, the spot for the little kingdom had an additional draw. Located in the Roman spa town of Mudurnu, which is well-known and well-loved for its hot springs and putative healing waters, each villa would boast underfloor heating and Jacuzzis on every level. Even in it’s current state, the vision for Burj Al Babas is still obvious: European luxury in the Middle East.

Why was the Disney castle village abandoned?

Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy . As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news , many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a $27 million debt. A combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.

Will Burj Al Babas ever be finished?

Even as investors and buyers pulled their money out of the $200 million project in 2019, Sarot Group was confident that it was just a bump in the road and the project would still be completed, according to a report in The New York Times . Of course, the pandemic soon changed life as many knew it and the project was left abandoned. Though it’s not impossible to say the project could ever resume, it appears unlikely at this point. Architectural Digest did reach out to Sarot Group for comment, but has not received a reply at the time of publication. 

Can you live in Burj Al Babas?

For now, the manor-dotted valley has become a neighborhood of empty, half-finished shells. With many of the villas started but not one finished, the town remains unlivable. From afar, the gray-roofed neighborhood looks like something out of a Disney movie —perhaps Beauty and the Beast —but, upon closer inspection, Burj Al Babas boasts an eerie postapocalyptic feel with rows of partially completed castles, patchy landscaping, and zero signs of life. The empty village is chilling, to say the least—like a sparkling city ravaged by war.

aerial view of buildings at Burj Al Babas

Burj Al Babas consists of more than 700 multi-story castles, half of which were already sold by 2019. After a series of unfortunate world events, Turkey’s economy dried up, leaving the sweeping village’s fate uncertain.

outside of a building

With ornate Gothic-inspired architectural details, including flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting, the nearly identical castles line the winding roads just outside the Roman spa town of Mudurnu. Hardly any of the gardens made it to the landscaping phase of the project, giving the neighborhood a cold postwar feel.

exterior of buildings

The project’s developers chose a massive valley at the base of Turkey’s northwestern mountains to draw in Arabs from the Gulf. Every castle boasts magnificent natural vistas.

snow on buildings

Veiled in a light layer of crisp white snow, Burj Al Babas takes on a more fairy-tale-like appearance.

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Inside a massive abandoned town of Disney-esque castles

By Jessica Cherner and Katherine McLaughlin

Burj Al Babas Inside an abandoned town of Disneyesque castles

If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns , it wasn’t supposed to be this way. In fact, Burj Al Babas was planned as a luxurious, stately urban development offering the look of royal living for anyone willing to shell out anywhere from £330,000 to £440,000 for their own little palace. 

Sarot Group, the project developer, probably had the right idea when they chose a community of castles for their latest endeavour. After all, though European monarchies’ power and influence over their respective country’s politics may have dwindled in recent years, their stately châteaus, castles , and palaces have endured. There’s something about the dwellings’ undeniable extravagance and opulence that makes them utterly timeless. 

So it made sense: Rich foreigners uninterested in the south of France or the northeastern tip of Spain could enjoy the Mediterranean climate on Gothic-style rooftop terraces overlooking the lush Turkish forest. Not to mention, the spot for the little kingdom had an additional draw. Located in the Roman spa town of Mudurnu, which is well-known and well-loved for its hot springs and putative healing waters, each villa would boast underfloor heating and Jacuzzis on every level. Even in its current state, the vision for Burj Al Babas is still obvious: European luxury in the Middle East .

Why was the Disney castle village abandoned?

Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy . As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news , many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a £24 million debt. With a combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.

Will Burj Al Babas ever be finished?

Even as investors and buyers pulled their money out of the £200 million project in 2019, Sarot Group was confident that it was just a bump in the road and the project would still be completed, according to a report in The New York Times . Of course, the pandemic soon changed life as many knew it and the project was left abandoned. Though it’s not impossible to say the project could ever resume, it appears unlikely at this point. 

Can you live in Burj Al Babas?

For now, the manor-dotted valley has become a neighbourhood of empty, half-finished shells. With many of the villas started but not one finished, the town remains unlivable. From afar, the grey-roofed neighbourhood looks like something out of a Disney movie – perhaps Beauty and the Beast – but, upon closer inspection, Burj Al Babas boasts an eerie postapocalyptic feel with rows of partially completed castles, patchy landscaping, and zero signs of life. The empty village is chilling, to say the least – like a sparkling city ravaged by war.

A version of this article originally appeared on Architectural Digest .

aerial view of buildings at Burj Al Babas

Burj Al Babas consists of more than 700 multi-story castles, half of which were already sold by 2019. After a series of unfortunate world events, Turkey’s economy dried up, leaving the sweeping village’s fate uncertain.

outside of a building

With ornate Gothic-inspired architectural details, including flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting, the nearly identical castles line the winding roads just outside the Roman spa town of Mudurnu. Hardly any of the gardens made it to the landscaping phase of the project, giving the neighborhood a cold postwar feel.

exterior of buildings

The project’s developers chose a massive valley at the base of Turkey’s northwestern mountains to draw in Arabs from the Gulf. Every castle boasts magnificent natural vistas.

snow on buildings

Veiled in a light layer of crisp white snow, Burj Al Babas takes on a more fairy-tale-like appearance.

exterior of building

What was supposed to be a European-inspired haven in the Middle East is now littered with abandoned construction materials, making it a proper ghost town.

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Burj Al Babas ghost town near Mudurnu, Turkey

There’s an entire ghost town of Disney castle houses in Turkey

Burj Al Babas is a real estate project gone really, really wrong – here’s its story

Ed Cunningham

Drive a few kilometres south from the northwest Turkish spa town of Mudurnu and you’ll come across an exceptionally strange sight indeed. Here you’ll find an entire town of hundreds of Disney-style mini-palaces, complete with turrets and OTT-glamorous towers. Only there’s no people in sight – and not even any roads.

The place is called Burj Al Babas and it’s a ghost town consisting of half-completed mini-castles that were apparently inspired by French châteaux. There are currently nearly 600 of the palaces, though there were supposed to be more than 700. 

So why on Earth are all these palaces just sitting there, completely empty? Well, Burj Al Babas was initially a luxury real estate project. Construction began in 2014 but was soon halted by complaints from conservationists and environmentalists, while the company that was responsible for it got burdened with loads of debt and went bankrupt. The pandemic appears to have been the final nail in the project’s coffin.

The idea behind the town was to create hundreds of palaces and put them up for sale, each one with its own pool, jacuzzi and underfloor heating. The town itself was intended to also have its own shopping centre, restaurants, spas, Turkish baths and golf course. Each pad could apparently have sold for up to £440,000 ($542,000).

As it stands, all the palaces of Burj Al Babas are unfinished and the town is totally un-landscaped – meaning that it doesn’t even have any roads. Here are a few more pics of the place.

Burj Al Babas ghost town near Mudurnu, Turkey

As you can see, not only are the palaces empty: they’re pretty ugly, too. Even if they’d been completed, one imagines that the town would have looked exceptionally weird and out-of-place in the surrounding landscapes of Bolu province.

Thanks to project funding issues, conservation efforts and the pandemic, it looks extremely unlikely that work on Burj Al Babas will ever resume. It’s likely to remain an odd ghost town for the foreseeable – and it’s certainly not the only strange abandoned town in Europe. Have you heard of Craco, Italy’s incredible abandoned ‘ghost village’ ?

Now discover more cool abandoned places you can visit around the world .

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Inside Burj al Babas, Turkey's ghost-town made up of 700 abandoned Disney-esque castles

By Tal Dekel-Daks

Image may contain Spire Architecture Tower Steeple Building Housing Mansion and House

The Burj Al Babas housing development started life with a rather unusual concept - more than 700 identical chateaux (on a small scale, of course) to be built in the countryside of central Turkey, with prices starting from around £280,000. Now the dream of owning your own Turkish chateau is in jeopardy since its developer filed for bankruptcy.

The estate began construction in 2014, and the houses are all at different stages of completion. The developer, Sarot Group, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 with debts of $27 million, according to Bloomberg. Now it's one of the world's most unique ghost towns.

Image may contain: Nature, Ruins, Outdoors, and Promontory

The development in the lush woodlands of northwestern Turkey would have been quite something, with a central complex including Turkish baths, fitness facilities, sports pitches, a cinema and shops.

Image may contain Landscape Outdoors Nature Scenery Aerial View Spire Architecture Tower Steeple and Building

All 732 castles are sitting empty. Quite a few of the grand villas were started but not finished, with only about 583 actually completely built.

Yes, the abandoned town is now an eerie attraction in its own right. Watch the extraordinary drone footage of the ghost town below.

Image may contain: Human, Person, Banister, Handrail, Outdoors, Road, and Nature

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This Abandoned Town Looks Like It Came Straight out of a Fairytale

The small town of town of Burj Al Babas in Turkey is filled with 700 abandoned castle homes.

Headshot of Jada Jackson

Back in the early 2000s, Turkey was riding on the wave of an economic boom. This is when the Yerdelen brothers beganthe construction of 700 castle-style homes in the city of Mudurnu. It cost a whopping $200 million to build the town that would be known as Burj Al Babas. But following growing economic instability and political unrest in the region, this fairytale construction story would turn grim.

the burj al babas

Now, over 20- years later, only 300 of the 700 homes built have been sold. After multiple investors backed out, the construction company was forced to file for bankruptcy. As a result, the planned luxury community looks more like an eerie ghost town with design cues taken from a Disney park.

turkey's abandoned 'castle' community

Rumor has it that the brothers are still holding out hope for the village, which sits atop a thermal spring, whose healing benefits they once touted to press. The brothers are reportedly looking to make the unsold castles into vacation homes that can be rented out through the year. So if your idea of paradise is Disney meets Truman Show, this just may be your chance to secure your dream home.

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The Story Behind This Ghost Estate Of Abandoned Castles In Turkey

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

  • Destinations
  • Middle East
  • Turkiye (Turkey)

Picture this: hundreds of elegant, identical, Gothic-style castles, complete with turrets and balconies and arranged in semicircles against a backdrop of rolling hills and dense green woods — but no living soul in sight. That’s exactly what Burj Al Babas in northwestern Turkey looks like. It’s the world’s largest and most expensive ghost town, and here is the story of how it came about.

Burj Al Babas in the snow.

The History Of Turkey’s Largest Ghost Town

Located halfway between Istanbul and Ankara in the Black Sea Region of Turkey, near the historic village of Mudurnu, Burj Al Babas isn’t very old. In 2014, the Turkish property developer Sarot Property Group began an ambitious project: the construction of a total of 732 luxurious Disneyland-style castles, plus leisure centers, shops, and Turkish baths. The company spent some $200 million on the project, and it planned for each castle to sell for between $400,000 and $500,000. The developers hoped to attract wealthy Middle Eastern buyers who’d be interested in owning their own castles in a romantic setting. They also wanted to attract visitors, financial gain, and attention to this part of the country. Ultimately, 583 castles were completed, and a few were actually sold, although many buyers pulled out. 

But the Turkish lira plummeted in value when the economy went downhill. Unable to repay its heavy loans, Sarot went bankrupt in 2018, and the project was abandoned, resulting in the world’s largest and most expensive ghost town. Visitors say that although many of the castles look complete from the outside, they are unfinished on the inside. You’d think that the workmen just dropped their tools and walked out. Work on the entertainment venues was never started.

Burj Al Babas construction equipment.

The residents of Mudurnu were opposed to the project from the beginning. They felt that the Disneyland-style castles would clash with the history and culture of their village. Mudurnu is known for its black-and-white Ottoman houses, 600-year-old Yildirim Beyazid mosque, Ahi Museum, and idyllic Lake Suluklu. It is even a contender for UNESCO World Heritage site status. 

The Turkish government, however, was and is a great backer of Burj Al Babas. New residency laws might induce foreigners to buy these substantial properties in Turkey. Although it has declared bankruptcy, Sarot is still hopeful that it will be able to revive the ghost town.

Burj Al Babas in Modurnu, Turkey.

If you are in the region, visit Mudurnu, but don’t miss a stroll through the eerie village of Burj Al Babas. The sight of row upon row of castles, all totally abandoned, will fascinate you. In fact, the site is turning into a tourist attraction.

Given the enormous amount of money that has already been spent on the project, one can only hope that these beautiful castles don’t fall into ruin over the years.

Other Ghostly Structures In Turkey

Burj Al Babas is not the only ghost town in Turkey. There is also the abandoned village of Kayakoy , not far from the popular seaside resort of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey. 

Historical Lycian village of Kayakoy, Mugla, Turkey.

Dating to the 14th century, Kayakoy, then called Levissi, was once a thriving community where Christians and Muslims lived in harmony. With the end of the Greco–Turkish War in October of 1922, a forced population exchange took place. The Greek Christans who lived in Kayakoy were forced to resettle in Greece (mostly around Athens) and abandon their pretty houses and churches. The Turks who lived in Greece were required to return to Turkey, but they didn’t want to settle in Kayakoy because they found it too remote. So they went elsewhere.

As a result, since 1923, the buildings of Kayakoy have been abandoned. Broken doors and windows, fallen-in roofs, and empty churches make for a sad and eerie sight. If you visit Fethiye, you shouldn’t miss a peek at this captivating ghost town.

Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage, Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkey is also home to the ruins of one of Europe’s largest wooden buildings, the Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage, which has been abandoned since 1964. Located on a hilltop on Buyukada, one of the Princes’ Islands, the huge wooden structure was built in 1823 as a luxury hotel and casino. But the Sultan Abdul Hamid II was a very religious man and forbade the opening of the casino. It was then acquired by a Greek philanthropist who converted the building into an orphanage. It operated as such until 1964, when it closed and was abandoned. 

If you visit the Princes’ Islands, make a detour to Buyukada and look at the doorless and windowless wooden palace. You’ll find yourself wondering if it might be haunted!

Image of Inka Piegsa Quischotte

For the past eleven years, blogger and traveler Inka Piegsa Quischotte has been documenting her adventures over at her blog GlamourGranny Travels . Inka loves to write about luxury and solo travel, mostly to places where the sun shines. She has lived in London, Miami, and Istanbul for several years, and now makes her home in Spain's Costa Blanca.

Unusual Places

Burj al babas: an abandoned town of disney-inspired castles.

Burj Al Babas , located near the Black Sea, is a ghost town filled with 587 half-finished, abandoned mini-castles. Initially, it was planned as a luxurious urban development offering the appearance of royalty for those willing to pay from $370,000 to $500,000 for their own palace. The project developer, Sarot Group, envisioned rich foreigners enjoying the Mediterranean climate and hot springs in Gothic-style castles in the Roman spa town of Mudurnu, Turkey .

Chateau houses, Burj Al Babas

Chateau houses, Burj Al Babas Photo by depositphotos.com

Chateau houses, Burj Al Babas

However, the construction of the Disney-inspired castle village was halted due to bankruptcy, lawsuits against the developers, and the struggling economy in Turkey . Despite confidence from the Sarot Group in 2019 that the $200 million project would resume, it has been left abandoned due to the pandemic. Currently, the town is not livable with only half-finished shells remaining. From a distance, the gray-roofed neighborhood appears enchanting, but closer inspection reveals an eerie postapocalyptic feel. The empty village is a chilling sight, with rows of partially completed castles, patchy landscaping, and no signs of life.

Address: Burj Al Babas Villa Büyükcami Mudurnu, 14800 Turkey

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Hundreds of Disney castle style homes built as part of the Burj al Babas development close to Mudurnu in north-western Turkey.

Fate of castles in the air in Turkey’s £151m ghost town

Drone footage of 300 chateaux in abandoned development lays bare challenges facing Turkish economy

Drone footage of an eerie abandoned urban development of mini castles in Turkey has shone a light on the troubles facing the country’s economy.

Burj al Babas, billed as a luxury housing development near Mudurnu, a village roughly halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, was left unfinished last year after its developers Sarot Property Group went bankrupt.

The future of the 300 closely packed chateaux – which cost an estimated £151m to build – is now uncertain and the project has become a cautionary tale for other developers in Turkey’s debt-laden construction sector.

Work began in 2014 on units primarily designed as holiday homes for wealthy Gulf tourists. The plans also included Turkish baths and an entertainment complex.

Only a handful of the £379,000 Disney-style homes were sold, however, and several investors have since pulled out, Mezher Yerdelen, deputy chair of the Sarot Property Group, told Agence France-Presse.

Of 732 planned buildings, 587 were completed, and the company is now £20m in debt.

Empty homes in the Burj al Babas development.

The construction project has long been hated by Mudurnu locals, who say it is not in keeping with the area’s traditional architecture, characterised by Byzantine buildings, traditional Ottoman wooden houses and a 600-year-old mosque.

Since Burj al Babas got the go-ahead, the Turkish government has introduced new building regulations designed to preserve local character and heritage. In several places, housing developments must now be low-rise and fit in with existing neighbourhoods.

But it may be too late to undo some of the damage, said Yaşar Adnan Adanalı, an Istanbul-based urban development researcher. “I worry that projects like Burj al Babas opened Pandora’s box, in some respects,” he said. “Developments without proper planning that do not contextualise the geography and history of their surroundings have exploded in Turkey since.”

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , has encouraged a construction boom during his time in office, hailing large, job-heavy infrastructure projects as the engine of the Turkish economy.

However, the weakening Turkish lira has left many companies struggling to pay off the foreign currency debt borrowed to finance projects, stalling work and bankrupting companies. The collapsing construction bubble has resulted in half-finished high-rises and ghost towns all over the country.

A row of empty homes in the development.

Atilla Yesilada, Turkey analyst for GlobalSource Partners, an emerging markets analysis firm, said Burj al Babas’s fate was a snapshot of the wider malaise plaguing the Turkish construction sector. “It’s not just the homebuilders who go bankrupt. The people who supply goods to those industries – the architects, the technicians, the glass makers – those people suffer too,” he said.

Last year, Turkey slashed the financial and investment criteria for foreigners to become Turkish citizens, in a move it is hoped will double annual property investment by foreigners to around £7.6bn.

Despite no sure indications that the country’s economic woes will reverse in the near future, Sarot Group is still hopeful Gulf investors, lured by the prospect of Turkish passports, will return and Burj al Babas will be finished.

“We only need to sell 100 villas to pay off our debt,” said Yerdelen. “I believe we can get over this crisis in four to five months and partially inaugurate the project in 2019.”

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Check out this ghost estate of abandoned castles in Turkey

Sasha Brady

Feb 7, 2019 • 1 min read

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

It might look like fairytale accommodation from afar, but look closer and you'll find that this village of identical chateaux in the hilltops of northwest Turkey is an abandoned ghost town. Intended as a residential resort for wealthy tourists, the lofty project has yet to be realised.

Travel News - Burj al Babas

Burj al Babas was marketed as a luxury housing development near the rural village of Mudurnu in the Bolu region, halfway between two of Turkey's biggest cities: Istanbul and Ankara . Work began on the luxury residential retreat in 2014 with plans to build 587 French-style chateaux homes in the area, along with entertainment facilities such as shops, cinemas, restaurants, concert and conference halls. Plans also included Turkish baths , saunas, steam rooms, a water park and space for tennis, basketball and football games.

Travel News - Burj al Babas

The project has been put on hold after its developers, Sarot Property Group, applied for bankruptcy protection last year. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the developer had completed 587 houses of the US$200m (€175m/£154m) project before it went bankrupt, with 350 of the chateaux sold. The villas are worth between US$400,000 (€351,000/£309,000) to US$500,000 (€439,000/£386,000) each.

Travel News - Burj al Babas

Reports in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet claim the development has caused “public outcry on social media, especially because of its contrast with the Ottoman-style historical mansions of Mudurnu.” The town was added to the Unesco World Heritage Tentative List in 2015 and is known for its pine forests, thermal springs and historic landscape which includes ‘Sultan mosques’ built in the 14th-16th centuries, a Byzantine Citadel and a colourful city-centre Bazaar.

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  • Smart Living

There's a Community of Abandoned Homes in Turkey, and They All Look Like Disney Castles

Published on 9/29/2021 at 6:03 PM

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

Disneyland , is that you? If you blink your eyes a few times, you can almost see it. A ghost town in Turkey called Burj Al Babas is filled with more than 500 abandoned Disney-like castles, and sadly, their story is no fairy tale. The luxury community was created to attract tourists from the West and Middle East, but after a slump in oil prices and a decline in Turkey's economy, the project has been delayed. The Yerdelen brothers — who oversaw the construction that began in 2014 — had plans to build more than 700 of these mini castles with rooftop terraces and turrets. Now, the unfinished site sits eerily empty.

The 250-acre land of abandoned chateaus is now a destination for travelers like "urban explorer" @bigbankz on TikTok , who recently posted a viral video at Burj Al Babas and told Newsweek , "It was a surreal experience; it was like a dream." If you want to see an abandoned Disney-like ghost town, have a look at this village of mini castles ahead.

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

  • Architecture
  • Home Shopping

Love Exploring

Love Exploring

Inside The Eerie Fairytale Ghost Town That's Been Left To Rot

Posted: January 10, 2024 | Last updated: January 10, 2024

<p>The Burj Al Babas resort promised high-end European-inspired châteaux and lavish amenities for its well-to-do buyers, but what should have been a dream development soon turned into a nightmare. Twelve years on, the site is still languishing with no hope of rescue.</p>  <p>Let's explore Turkey's eerie abandoned town, where Disney-inspired fairytale mansions sit empty in a sea of construction debris. Click or scroll on to discover the strange story behind the deserted development...</p>

Inside the ghost town of abandoned fairytale castles

The Burj Al Babas resort promised high-end European-inspired châteaux and lavish amenities for its well-to-do buyers, but what should have been a dream development soon turned into a nightmare. Twelve years on, the site is still languishing with no hope of rescue.

Let's explore Turkey's eerie abandoned town, where Disney-inspired fairytale mansions sit empty in a sea of construction debris. Click or scroll on to discover the strange story behind the deserted development...

<p>Despite the fairytale façades, the story of this decaying settlement doesn't have a happy ending – at least not yet. </p>  <p>Sequestered in the hills of northwestern Turkey, Burj Al Babas, once the next big thing in luxury housing, is now a thoroughly eerie sight. Looking at the crumbling enclave, it's hard to imagine the crowds of wealthy Middle Eastern buyers that flocked to the development in its early days. </p>

Frozen in time

Despite the fairytale façades, the story of this decaying settlement doesn't have a happy ending – at least not yet. 

Sequestered in the hills of northwestern Turkey, Burj Al Babas, once the next big thing in luxury housing, is now a thoroughly eerie sight. Looking at the crumbling enclave, it's hard to imagine the crowds of wealthy Middle Eastern buyers that flocked to the development in its early days. 

<p>Row upon row of hundreds of turreted, identikit houses meet and part in orderly lines. What was intended to be a bustling new community filled with affluent residents is now a surreal ghost town, abandoned to the whims of Mother Nature. </p>  <p>The downfall of Burj Al Babas is a gripping tale of grand ambitions, controversy and devastating losses, leaving its future hanging precariously in the balance.</p>  <p>Read on as we go back to the very beginning to uncover the origins of this unfortunate development and discover how the dream became a disaster.</p>

From dream to financial disaster

Row upon row of hundreds of turreted, identikit houses meet and part in orderly lines. What was intended to be a bustling new community filled with affluent residents is now a surreal ghost town, abandoned to the whims of Mother Nature. 

The downfall of Burj Al Babas is a gripping tale of grand ambitions, controversy and devastating losses, leaving its future hanging precariously in the balance.

Read on as we go back to the very beginning to uncover the origins of this unfortunate development and discover how the dream became a disaster.

<p>Buoyed on by a booming property market, Sarot Group, the developer of the project, envisaged a whimsical and romantic spa resort with 732 villas reportedly inspired among other things by the Château de Chenonceau in France's Loire Valley (pictured) and Istanbul's conical Galata Tower. The firm plumped for an idyllic 250-acre site just outside the historic town of Mudurnu in the hills of northwestern Turkey, and construction on the fanciful $200 million development began around 2014.</p>

French inspiration

The Sarot Group, the masterminds behind the project, splashed out on an idyllic 250-acre site just outside the historic town of Mudurnu in northwestern Turkey. 

Buoyed on by a booming property market, they envisaged a whimsical and romantic spa resort with 732 villas, reportedly inspired by the Château de Chenonceau in France's Loire Valley (pictured) and Istanbul's conical Galata Tower.

Construction on the fanciful $200 million development began around 2011.

<p>Sarot Group, which is headed by brothers Mezher and Mehmet Yerdelen together with business partner Bulent Yilmaz, wasted no time putting together a <a href="https://www.burjalbabas.com/">killer brochure</a> to woo their target market: wealthy Gulf tourists. They opted for an Arabic name for the project – 'Burj' means 'tower' or 'turret' in the language, while 'Al Babas' refers to a renowned spa in the region.</p>

Swish brochure

Headed by brothers Mezher and Mehmet Yerdelen, together with business partner Bulent Yilmaz, the Sarot Group wasted no time putting together a killer brochure to woo their target market: wealthy Gulf tourists. 

This particular part of Turkey has long been popular with visitors from the Gulf, who are drawn to its pleasant climate, verdant scenery and tranquil spa towns.

The company opted for an Arabic name for the project – 'Burj' means 'tower' or 'turret' in the language, while 'Al Babas' refers to a renowned spa in the region.

<p>This particular part of Turkey has long been popular with visitors from the Gulf, who are drawn to its pleasant climate, verdant scenery and tranquil spa towns. At the center of the development was to have been a sprawling leisure complex housed in a neo-classical building, featuring architecture nods to the US Capitol, St Peter's Basilica in Rome and London's St Paul's Cathedral.</p>

Tourist attraction

At the center of the development was to have been a sprawling leisure complex housed in a neoclassical building, featuring architectural nods to the US Capitol, St Peter's Basilica in Rome and London's St Paul's Cathedral.

The thermal springs that bubble beneath the development are famed for their restorative properties, and the Sarot Group planned to make the most of this remarkable resource.

They intended to deck out the central complex with a number of jaw-dropping features, including an aqua park complete with water slides and streams, indoor pools, Turkish baths, saunas and steam rooms. A sustainable resource, the waters would have been used to heat the complex too.

No expense was to have been spared on the interiors, which judging by this render of an indoor covered pool under one of the building's domes, would have been dripping in expensive marble. As well as housing the spa facilities, the hub of the resort was slated to feature a whole host of other lavish amenities.

Luxe interiors

No expense was to have been spared on the interiors of Burj Al Babas, which, judging by this render of an indoor covered pool under one of the building's domes, would have been dripping in expensive marble. 

As well as housing the spa facilities, the hub of the resort was slated to feature a whole host of other lavish amenities. These included boutiques, restaurants, cinemas, children's play areas, conference halls and meeting rooms, not to mention fitness and beauty centers, tennis and basketball courts and covered football pitches.

<p>Each of the proposed 732 castles was designed in the same whimsical architectural style, <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/108173/fairytale-homes-for-sale-straight-out-of-a-storybook">as though straight out of a storybook</a>. <a href="https://www.arabianbusiness.com/construction/408793-turkish-firm-behind-faux-chateaux-for-gulf-investors-goes-bust">Consultant Architect Naci Yoruk</a> has said that it was the clients who insisted on the distinctive château design. Needless to say, he went all-out, throwing in Disneyesque turrets, mansard roofs, dormers, balconies with stone balustrades, and copious decoration.</p>

Fairytale estate

Meanwhile, each of the proposed 732 residences was designed in the same whimsical architectural style, as though straight out of a storybook.

Consultant Architect Naci Yoruk has revealed that it was the clients who insisted on the distinctive château design. Needless to say, he went all-out, throwing in Disneyesque turrets, mansard roofs, dormers, balconies with stone balustrades and copious decoration.

<p>The <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/54833/incredible-fairy-tale-homes-that-people-can-actually-live-in">fairytale homes</a> were to have been equally if not more impressive on the inside, with rooms boasting high ceilings, ornate plasterwork, parquet flooring and other fine finishes, and a sweeping spiral staircase leading to the upper floor and stunning rooftop terrace. </p>

Sumptuous rooms

The fairytale homes were initially designed to be equally if not more impressive on the inside. Rooms were to boast high ceilings, ornate plasterwork, parquet flooring and other fine finishes, including a sweeping spiral staircase leading to the upper floor and a stunning rooftop terrace. 

<p>A Jacuzzi where homeowners could bathe in healing spa waters was to have been installed on each floor, and buyers were given the option of an indoor pool and elevator. With construction off the ground, Sarot Group opened an office in Kuwait and set about marketing their utopian vision, with the villas priced between a relatively affordable $370,000 and $500,000.</p>

High-end touches

A Jacuzzi where homeowners could bathe in healing spa waters was to have been installed on each floor, and buyers were given the option of an indoor pool and elevator.

With construction off the ground, the Sarot Group opened an office in Kuwait and set about marketing their utopian vision, with the villas priced between a relatively affordable $370,000 and $500,000.

<p>Meanwhile, local opposition to the <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/101653/the-worlds-most-controversial-homes">controversial project</a> was mounting. While the mayor of Mudurnu Mehmet İnegöl is said to be 100% behind the development, other members of the community have <a href="https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/photo-grotesque-villas-in-turkeys-west-back-on-market-after-official-permission-139185#photo-13">reportedly criticized it</a>, arguing that the mini chateaux are completely out of place and would end up blighting the landscape. A potential UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mudurnu dates back to Roman times and is celebrated for its distinctive Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.</p>

Local opposition

Meanwhile, local opposition to the controversial project was mounting. While the mayor of Mudurnu at that time, Mehmet İnegöl, is said to have been 100% behind the development, other members of the community  reportedly criticized it , arguing that the mini châteaux were completely out of place and would end up blighting the landscape.

A potential UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mudurnu dates back to Roman times and is celebrated for its distinctive Byzantine and Ottoman architecture.

<p>The Turkish government has since introduced regulations designed to preserve the historical integrity of the nation's cities, towns and villages, and prevent similar projects from making it off the drawing board. However, the rules came in after work had begun on Burj Al Babas, and construction continued unabated, with a peak workforce of 8,000 toiling away on the development.</p>

Tougher rules

The Turkish government has since introduced regulations designed to preserve the historical integrity of the nation's cities, towns and villages, and prevent similar projects from making it off the drawing board.

However, the rules came in after work had begun on Burj Al Babas, and construction continued unabated, with a peak workforce of 8,000 toiling away on the development.

<p>The mayor attempted to assuage locals' concerns, assuring them that the development would be hidden away in a valley outside the town. But <a href="https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/lawsuit-filed-against-developer-of-chateau-style-buildings-in-mudurnu-139448">the alleged destruction</a> of 82 black pine and oak trees, and dumping of excavated soil on 6.5 acres of pristine woodland have further infuriated Mudurnu residents already up in arms about the resort's incongruous architecture.</p>

Environmental damage

The then-mayor attempted to assuage locals' concerns, assuring them that the development would be hidden away in a valley outside the town.

But the alleged destruction of 82 black pine and oak trees and the dumping of excavated soil on 6.5 acres of pristine woodland further infuriated Mudurnu residents, who were already up in arms about the resort's incongruous architecture.

<p>An official criminal complaint was made in 2015, the indictment was issued the following year and <a href="https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/lawsuit-filed-against-developer-of-chateau-style-buildings-in-mudurnu-139448">a lawsuit accusing Sarot Group of environmental damage was filed in 2018</a>. The case is by all accounts still making its way through the local courts. If only this were the sole problem the developer was dealing with.</p>

An official criminal complaint was made against Burj Al Babas in 2015. The indictment was issued the following year and a lawsuit accusing the Sarot Group of environmental damage was filed in 2018.

The case is, by all accounts, still thought to be pending, but this wasn't the sole problem the developers were dealing with...

<p>During the early stages of the development, the <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/67978/fairytale-castles-you-can-actually-buy">fairytale castles</a> were selling like hotcakes and all was boding well for the project from a financial point of view. Deep-pocketed buyers from Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were lining up to invest in the development and secure their very own French-style castle. But the storm clouds were brewing.</p>

During the early stages of the development, the fairytale castles were selling like hotcakes and all was boding well for the project from a financial point of view.

Deep-pocketed buyers from Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were lining up to invest in the development and secure their very own French-style castle. But the storm clouds were brewing...

<p>The Turkish economy was tanking and plummeting oil prices were hitting the developer's target market hard in the wallet. Sales began to dry up, but building work pressed on.</p>  <p>By summer 2018, 587 mini châteaux had been constructed, albeit in differing states of completion, though only around 350 had been sold. </p>

Strong headwinds

The Turkish economy was tanking and plummeting oil prices were hitting the developer's target market hard in the wallet. Sales began to dry up, but building work pressed on.

By summer 2018, 587 mini châteaux had been constructed, albeit in differing states of completion, though only around 350 had been sold. 

<p>Compounding the developer's money woes, a large proportion of buyers were <a href="https://www.domusweb.it/en/news/2019/01/15/swathe-of-unsellable-disney-like-houses-blight-landscape-near-turkish-unesco-site-.html">reportedly</a> struggling to pay the cost of the villas. The project was up to its eyeballs in debt and Sarot Group was staring into a gaping financial black hole. With the company's debt burden <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-26/builder-of-200-million-turkish-chateaux-project-goes-bankrupt#:~:text=Builder%20Sarot%20Group%20was%20slapped,debt%2C%20Hurriyet%20newspaper%20reported%20Sunday.">climbing to $27 million</a>, it needed to offload the remaining mini castles, and fast. Show villas, looking rather more basic than the brochure renders promised, were fitted out, but business remained far from brisk.</p>

Defaulting buyers

Compounding the developer's money woes, a large proportion of buyers were reportedly  struggling to pay the cost of the villas. The project was up to its eyeballs in debt and the Sarot Group was staring into a gaping financial black hole.

With the company's debt burden climbing to $27 million , it needed to offload the remaining mini castles, and fast. Show villas, looking rather more basic than the brochure renders promised, were fitted out, but business remained far from brisk.

<p>A <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BhoPVaGhVJE/?hl=en">post</a> on the Sarot Group's Instagram page from April 2018 shows a change in tack in their efforts to offload the empty homes.</p>  <p>A translation of the post shows that the company was marketing a number of its villas with a flexible payment plan. This meant that buyers would pay "a monthly installment of $5,000... and no down payment." The installments would be payable for five years.</p>  <p>The Sarot Group also claimed in the post that the project was in the "finishing stages" and that the villas were "90% completed." However, it doesn't seem that this drastic sales technique was enough to rescue the development...</p>

Cut-price payment plans

A  post on the Sarot Group's Instagram page from April 2018 shows a change in tack in their efforts to offload the empty homes.

A translation of the post shows that the company was marketing a number of its villas with a flexible payment plan. This meant that buyers would pay "a monthly installment of $5,000... and no down payment." The installments would be payable for five years.

The Sarot Group also claimed in the post that the project was in the "finishing stages" and that the villas were "90% completed." However, it doesn't seem that this drastic sales technique was enough to rescue the development...

<p>In June 2018, Sarot Group applied for a concordat, which is an agreement that lets 'well-intentioned and honest' debtors pay back part of what they owe to appease creditors and stave off bankruptcy. The court <a href="https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=tr&u=http://www.samanyoluhaber.com/ucube-villalar-elde-kaldi-haberi/1355734/&prev=search&pto=aue">reportedly</a> gave the firm three months to sort out its debts in accordance with the terms of the agreement, but Sarot Group was unable to cough up the necessary cash and the deadline passed.</p>

Debt problems

In June 2018, the Sarot Group applied for a concordat, which is an agreement that lets 'well-intentioned and honest' debtors pay back part of what they owe to appease creditors and stave off bankruptcy.

The court reportedly gave the firm three months to sort out its debts in accordance with the terms of the agreement, but the Sarot Group was unable to produce the necessary cash and the deadline passed.

<p>As costs spiraled out of control, Sarot Group asked for permission to restructure the outstanding debts, but the court refused and in November 2018 it imposed a bankruptcy order instead. Construction ground to a halt despite pleas for it to carry on. At the time, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/28/fate-of-castles-in-the-air-in-turkeys-151m-ghost-town">Sarot Group said</a> that the company only needed to sell an additional 100 villas to pay off the debts.</p>

Bankruptcy order

As with many abandoned mansions found across the world, costs began spiraling out of control.

The Sarot Group asked for permission to restructure the outstanding debts, but the court refused and in November 2018 it imposed a bankruptcy order instead. Construction ground to a halt despite pleas for it to carry on. 

<p>At the time, the Sarot Group said that the company only needed to sell an additional 100 villas to pay off its debts.</p>  <p>“The project is valued at $200 million,” the Sarot Group Chairman Mehmet Emin Yerdelen commented in November 2018. “We only need to sell 100 villas to pay off our debt. I believe we can get over this crisis in 4-5 months and partially inaugurate the project in 2019.”</p>

Getting over the crisis

At the time, the Sarot Group said that the company only needed to sell an additional 100 villas to pay off its debts.

“The project is valued at $200 million,” the Sarot Group Chairman Mehmet Emin Yerdelen commented in November 2018. “We only need to sell 100 villas to pay off our debt. I believe we can get over this crisis in 4-5 months and partially inaugurate the project in 2019.”

<p>Burj Al Babas had pretty much become an <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/91679/tour-the-abandoned-tennessee-ghost-town-where-millionaires-vacationed">abandoned ghost town</a>, and although the court did eventually allow Sarot Group to continue marketing the completed mini chateaux after the firm's lawyers lodged an appeal, the project was effectively put on hold indefinitely.</p>

Abandoned ghost town

Yet sadly for the group, nothing much happened in the years that followed Yerdelen's positive comments.

Burj Al Babas has pretty much become an abandoned ghost town. Although the court did eventually allow the Sarot Group to continue marketing the completed mini châteaux after the firm's lawyers lodged an appeal, the project has effectively been put on indefinite hold.

<p>In 2018, in a bid to entice overseas property investors to boost the flagging market, the Turkish government acted to reduce the minimum property investment required for a foreign national to secure citizenship from $1 million to $250,000, but Burj Al Babas still found itself floundering.</p>

Golden passports

In 2018, in a bid to entice overseas property investors to boost the flagging market, the Turkish government acted to reduce the minimum property investment required for a foreign national to secure citizenship from $1 million to just $250,000, but Burj Al Babas still found itself floundering.

<p>It's conceivable that some buyers may have been put off by the lack of privacy the villas provide. While each has a small yard, the mini chateaux stand almost shoulder to shoulder, with little space separating one from the other. “They ask for walls,” Mehmet Yerdelen told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/03/world/europe/turkey-castle-development.html"><em>New York Times</em></a>, “but I say no, there will be trees instead.” </p>

It's conceivable that some buyers may have been put off by the lack of privacy the villas provide. While each has a small garden, the mini châteaux stand almost shoulder to shoulder, with little space separating one from the other.

“They ask for walls,” Mehmet Yerdelen told the New York Times , “but I say no, there will be trees instead.” 

<p>The <em>New York Times</em> also spoke to Imad Yousef, a real estate broker in Kuwait, who has decided to look on the bright side and remain positive about the development. “I hope to make some money, and I will use it myself,” he said. “When the project is finished, God willing, it will be amazing.” </p>

Positive voice

The New York Times also spoke to Imad Yousef, a real estate broker in Kuwait, who has decided to look on the bright side and remain positive about the development.

“I hope to make some money, and I will use it myself,” he said. “When the project is finished, God willing, it will be amazing.” 

<p>Other buyers, as you can imagine, aren't quite so optimistic. “In 2013, I purchased a timeshare studio for 13,000 Turkish Liras. I fully paid the cost. My timeshare was supposed to be delivered in 2015,” investor Nilüfer Önce told <em><a href="https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/lawsuit-filed-against-developer-of-chateau-style-buildings-in-mudurnu-139448">Hürriyet Daily News</a>.</em> Another called for his money to be refunded.</p>

Expectant investors

Other buyers, as you can imagine, aren't quite so optimistic. “In 2013, I purchased a timeshare studio for 13,000 Turkish Liras. I fully paid the cost. My timeshare was supposed to be delivered in 2015,” investor Nilüfer Önce told Hürriyet Daily News .  Another called for his money to be refunded.

<p>A breakthrough came in November 2019. By this point, Sarot Group had discharged 50% of its debts, persuading the court to <a href="https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/chateau-style-villas-in-bolu-to-be-completed-148737">reverse the bankruptcy decision</a>. Permission was granted for the construction of the remaining villas to resume, much to the delight of the developer and the project's investors.</p>

Construction resumes

A breakthrough came in November 2019. By this point, the Sarot Group had discharged 50% of its debts, persuading the court to reverse the bankruptcy decision .

Permission was granted for the construction of the remaining villas to resume, much to the delight of the developer and the project's investors.

<p>Construction was stalled again over the winter due to inclement weather conditions and then the Covid pandemic struck, which likely added a further very significant delay due to lockdown and other disease-mitigating measures. Still, Burj Al Babas hasn't been short of visitors, and the <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/71819/explore-these-dilapidated-dream-homes-that-time-forgot">abandoned dream homes</a> have fast turned into a cult attraction.</p>

Further delays

Construction was stalled again over the winter due to inclement weather conditions and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, which likely added a further very significant delay due to lockdown and other disease-mitigating measures.

Still, Burj Al Babas hasn't been short of visitors over the past few years, and the abandoned dream homes have fast turned into a cult attraction.

<p>In February 2020, conceptual designer and director Alexandre Humbert shot a short at Burj Al Babas, reimagining the place as a theme park called Sleeping Beauties where visitors stump up a small entrance fee to photograph the empty villas. Meanwhile, last autumn the music video for Meduza's smash hit 'Lose Control', which has an edgy, post-apocalyptic feel, was filmed in and around the <a href="https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/83211/modern-ghost-towns-where-no-one-lives">modern ghost town</a>. It currently has 85.8 million YouTube views.</p>

Arty endeavors

In February 2020, conceptual designer and director Alexandre Humbert shot a short film at Burj Al Babas, reimagining the place as a theme park called Sleeping Beauties, where visitors stump up a small entrance fee to photograph the empty villas.

Meanwhile, in the fall of the same year, the music video for Meduza's smash hit 'Lose Control,' which has an edgy, post-apocalyptic feel, was filmed in and around the modern ghost town. 

<p>The site has also attracted its fair share of urbex enthusiasts. In December, intrepid vlogger and BBC's <em>The Travel Show</em> host Mike Corey paid Burj Al Babas a visit with a couple of buddies in tow, and posted a video of the experience on his <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRzpDqqB2fk&t=0s">Fearless & Far</a> YouTube channel, racking up more than 2.3 million views for his efforts.</p>

Urbex hotspot

The site has also attracted its fair share of urbex enthusiasts. In December 2020, intrepid vlogger and BBC's The Travel Show host Mike Corey paid Burj Al Babas a visit with a couple of buddies in tow, and posted a video of the experience on his Fearless & Far YouTube channel, racking up more than 2.4 million views for his efforts.

However, by the looks of the most recent images to emerge of the development, little has changed in the past year or so for this dilapidated outpost...

<p>This image shows the villas shrouded in snow in February 2022. While their architecture is still grand and stately, many are open to the elements, the winter frost no doubt wreaking havoc on the structures. A power line appears to run through the site, but it looks less than stable, and discarded construction materials litter the frozen ground.</p>  <p>If, or when, this deserted development will be completed is anyone's guess. The Sarot Group's CEO Mezher Yerdelen vowed to have the project done and dusted in 2021, a pledge made before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Two years on, that ambitious deadline was clearly never met.</p>

Burj Al Babas completion date

This image shows the villas shrouded in snow in February 2022. While their architecture is still grand and stately, many are open to the elements, the winter frost no doubt wreaking havoc on the structures. A power line appears to run through the site, but it looks less than stable, and discarded construction materials litter the frozen ground.

If, or when, this deserted development will be completed is anyone's guess. The Sarot Group's CEO Mezher Yerdelen vowed to have the project done and dusted in 2021, a pledge made before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Two years on, that ambitious deadline was clearly never met.

<p>Judging by this Google Earth image, which captures Burj Al Babas as it was on September 27, 2023, the site is in much the same state of abandonment as it has been for the past few years.</p>  <p>It's quite something though to see the sheer scale of the project from the sky – all those orderly lines of villas lying dormant, waiting for residents who may never arrive. </p>

Construction stalled

Judging by this Google Earth image, which captures Burj Al Babas as it was on September 27, 2023, the site is in much the same state of abandonment as it has been for the past few years.

It's quite something though to see the sheer scale of the project from the sky – all those orderly lines of villas lying dormant, waiting for residents who may never arrive. 

<p>Given the absence of activity at Burj Al Babas – work on the site would have been suspended during the coldest depths of the winter – and the lack of any significant progress going by the most recent images, the likelihood of the development being completed this year seems decidedly slim. Nevertheless, here's hoping this storybook settlement eventually gets a happy ending. Sarot Group did not respond to requests for comment for this story. </p>  <p>Loved this? <strong><a href="https://bit.ly/3qMplh9">Like and follow us on Facebook</a> </strong>for more fascinating ghost towns</p>

Uncertain future

Given the absence of activity at the building site, the latest images of the development and the project's dormant social media accounts – their last interaction on Facebook was back in January 2022 – it seems the project has been left to languish for the time being.

Who knows if this ill-fated town will ever see its grand plan realized? Hopefully one day, Burj Al Babas will get the fairytale rescue it so badly needs.

The Sarot Group did not respond to requests for comment for this story. 

Now see more of the world's most fascinating ghost towns

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Photos: Inside the massive ghost town of Disney-esque castles

By Jessica Cherner and Katherine McLaughlin

Photos Inside the massive ghost town of Disneyesque castles

If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns , it wasn’t supposed to be this way. In fact, Burj Al Babas was planned as a luxurious, stately urban development offering the look of royal living for anyone willing to shell out anywhere from $370,000 to $500,000 for their own little palace.

Sarot Group, the project developer, probably had the right idea when they chose a community of castles for their latest endeavour. After all, though European monarchies’ power and influence over their respective country’s politics may have dwindled in recent years, their stately châteaus, castles , and palaces have endured. There’s something about the dwellings’ undeniable extravagance and opulence that makes them utterly timeless.

So it made sense: Rich foreigners uninterested in the south of France or the northeastern tip of Spain could enjoy the Mediterranean climate on Gothic-style rooftop terraces overlooking the lush Turkish forest. Not to mention, the spot for the little kingdom had an additional draw. Located in the Roman spa town of Mudurnu, which is well-known and well-loved for its hot springs and putative healing waters, each villa would boast underfloor heating and Jacuzzis on every level. Even in it’s current state, the vision for Burj Al Babas is still obvious: European luxury in the Middle East.

Why was the Disney castle village abandoned?

Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy . As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news , many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a $27 million debt. A combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.

Will Burj Al Babas ever be finished?

Even as investors and buyers pulled their money out of the $200 million project in 2019, Sarot Group was confident that it was just a bump in the road and the project would still be completed, according to a report in The New York Times . Of course, the pandemic soon changed life as many knew it and the project was left abandoned. Though it’s not impossible to say the project could ever resume, it appears unlikely at this point. Architectural Digest did reach out to Sarot Group for comment, but has not received a reply at the time of publication.

Can you live in Burj Al Babas?

For now, the manor-dotted valley has become a neighborhood of empty, half-finished shells. With many of the villas started but not one finished, the town remains unlivable. From afar, the gray-roofed neighborhood looks like something out of a Disney movie—perhaps Beauty and the Beast—but , upon closer inspection, Burj Al Babas boasts an eerie postapocalyptic feel with rows of partially completed castles, patchy landscaping, and zero signs of life. The empty village is chilling, to say the least—like a sparkling city ravaged by war.

First published in Architectural Digest  

aerial view of buildings at Burj Al Babas

Burj Al Babas consists of more than 700 multi-story castles, half of which were already sold by 2019. After a series of unfortunate world events, Turkey’s economy dried up, leaving the sweeping village’s fate uncertain.

outside of a building

With ornate Gothic-inspired architectural details, including flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting, the nearly identical castles line the winding roads just outside the Roman spa town of Mudurnu. Hardly any of the gardens made it to the landscaping phase of the project, giving the neighborhood a cold postwar feel.

exterior of buildings

The project’s developers chose a massive valley at the base of Turkey’s northwestern mountains to draw in Arabs from the Gulf. Every castle boasts magnificent natural vistas.

snow on buildings

Veiled in a light layer of crisp white snow, Burj Al Babas takes on a more fairy-tale-like appearance.

exterior of building

What was supposed to be a European-inspired haven in the Middle East is now littered with abandoned construction materials, making it a proper ghost town.

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Near Black Sea lies ghost town of Burj Al Babas 

 the castles are simply empty shells

ALBAWABA - In a small town in the Bolu Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey lies an  abandoned town of white-colored castles, called Burj Al Babas.

Here's what Albawaba knows about it:

The small town of Burj Al Babas in Turkey is filled with half-finished, fully abandoned 700 Disney-like mini castles, with not one person living in it. 

ghost town in turkey with disney castles

In the 2000s, the Yerdelen brothers began the construction of 700 identical mini-chateaux castles located in the city of Mudurnu when Turkey's economy was booming. 

Now, with the economy slowing down as a result of a soaring global inflation, investors pulled out of the project in 2019. Subsequently, the Yerdelen brothers filed for bankruptcy and ultimately abandoned the town.

An abandoned town filled with Disney-like castles ? ?Burj Al Babas, Turkey ?? pic.twitter.com/xOxO0JtXDH — Nicole Sjamaan? (@SjamaanN) July 2, 2022

The project cost around $200 million and was later called Burj Al Babas, however, the fairytale town was not finished. 

Not a single castle was finished in terms of construction, and the town remains unlivable.

Now, the area looks like an eerie ghost town.

Recently, news reports said the Yerdelen brothers are thinking to turn the residences into vacation homes.

4. BURJ AJ BABAS ... The idea behind the Burj Al Babas development originated in 2014 when construction entrepreneurs planned a 732-home development. From a distance, it's a scene from a fairy tale, but take a closer look, and the town is cracking at its seams. pic.twitter.com/e6CtPyUADG — Heisjayy  (@Jayysen_) December 7, 2022

The fate of the Disney-eerie town remains uncertain, and it is unknown if the project will finish construction.

According to Times, the castles are simply empty shells with no signs of life other than the abandoned construction material placed on the ground.

Per timeout, "the idea behind the town was to create hundreds of palaces and put them up for sale, each one with its own pool, jacuzzi, and underfloor heating. The town itself was intended to also have its own shopping center, restaurants, spas, Turkish baths, and golf course. Each pad could apparently have sold for $542,000."

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COMMENTS

  1. Inside Burj Al Babas, an Abandoned Disney-Like Castle Town in Turkey

    The Burj Al Babas is an abandoned ghost town in Turkey filled with Disney-like castles. Construction of the luxury community began in 2014. When Turkey's economy fell, the project halted. Today, 587 castles remain empty, and tourists often visit to see the eerie ghost town in real life. Advertisement

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  3. Turkey's $200 million ghost town of castles -- Burj Al Babas

    Burj Al Babas is a $200 million housing development, located near Mudurnu, in northwestern Turkey, roughly midway between Istanbul and Ankara. When the developers, Sarot Property Group, fell into...

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  6. Inside a massive abandoned town of Disney-esque castles

    20 October 2022 Photo: Getty Images If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns, it wasn't supposed to be this way.

  7. There's an entire ghost town of Disney castle houses in Turkey

    Ed Cunningham Wednesday 1 February 2023 Drive a few kilometres south from the northwest Turkish spa town of Mudurnu and you'll come across an exceptionally strange sight indeed. Here you'll find...

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    Inside Burj al Babas, Turkey's ghost-town made up of 700 abandoned Disney-esque castles Ever dreamed of living in one of 700 identical mini-chateaux in the Turkish countryside? By Tal Dekel-Daks 3 April 2023

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    23 Eerie Photos Taken Inside Burj Al Babas, The Turkish Ghost Town Filled With Fairytale Castles By Erin Kelly | Edited By Leah Silverman Published February 1, 2021 Updated June 25, 2021 Hundreds of nearly-identical castles appear to be copied and pasted onto this Turkish hillside — but not a soul lives there.

  10. This Abandoned Town in Turkey Looks Like a Haunted Disney Attraction

    The small town of town of Burj Al Babas in Turkey is filled with 700 abandoned castle homes. Back in the early 2000s, Turkey was riding on the wave of an economic boom. This is when the Yerdelen ...

  11. Burj Al Babas

    Coordinates: 40.44451°N 31.20215°E. Burj Al Babas is an abandoned residential development located near Mudurnu, Turkey [1] with 732 nearly identical houses, each designed to resemble a miniature chateau. [2] The site, under development by the Sarot Group, was abandoned in 2019 after the developers filed for bankruptcy with a debt of $25 million.

  12. Burj Al Babas: The Ghost Town Of Abandoned Castles

    Destinations Middle East Turkiye (Turkey) Picture this: hundreds of elegant, identical, Gothic-style castles, complete with turrets and balconies and arranged in semicircles against a backdrop of rolling hills and dense green woods — but no living soul in sight. That's exactly what Burj Al Babas in northwestern Turkey looks like.

  13. Burj Al Babas: An Abandoned Town of Disney-Inspired Castles

    Burj Al Babas, located near the Black Sea, is a ghost town filled with 587 half-finished, abandoned mini-castles. Initially, it was planned as a luxurious urban development offering the appearance of royalty for those willing to pay from $370,000 to $500,000 for their own palace. The project developer, Sarot Group, envisioned rich foreigners ...

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  16. See a Ghost Town in Turkey Filled With Disney Castles

    Published on 9/29/2021 at 6:03 PM Disneyland, is that you? If you blink your eyes a few times, you can almost see it. A ghost town in Turkey called Burj Al Babas is filled with more than 500...

  17. Burj Al Babas

    Initially, the Disney-like chateaus sold for $400,000 to $500,000 each, and the Yerdelens actually managed to sell about half of the more than 700 residences, before things started going downhill ...

  18. Inside a GHOST TOWN of Abandoned Disney Castles

    Inside a GHOST TOWN of Abandoned Disney Castles - YouTube 0:00 / 13:43 Inside a GHOST TOWN of Abandoned Disney Castles Fearless & Far 2.5M subscribers Subscribe Subscribed 67K Share 3.1M...

  19. Inside The Eerie Fairytale Ghost Town That's Been Left To Rot

    Story by Jay L'Ecuyer • 5h. 1 / 13. 13 TV Shows That Were Canceled After One Episode ©Provided by Cracked. Once marketed as a high-end neighbourhood of luxury châteaux, Turkey's Burj Al Babas ...

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    Consisting of Gothic Disney-style castles against a stunning green backdrop- is nothing short of amazement. Situated near the northwest, beneath the Mudurnu hills in Turkey, its construction started back in 2014. Initially, the mansions were not the only thing to be included. The UAE investors bought most of the properties.

  21. Photos: Inside the massive ghost town of Disney-esque castles

    If Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, then Burj Al Babas might be the eeriest. Sitting near the Black Sea, the town is full of half-finished, fully abandoned mini-castles, 587 to be exact. Although, like most ghost towns, it wasn't supposed to be this way.In fact, Burj Al Babas was planned as a luxurious, stately urban development offering the look of royal living for anyone ...

  22. Near Black Sea lies ghost town of Burj Al Babas

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  25. ARCHITECTUREALLOVE on Instagram: "Burj Al Babas, The massive ghost town

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