This Neighborhood of Castles in Turkey Has Turned Into a Fairytale Ghost Town

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images

Located between Istanbul and Ankara are hundreds of gothic-style castle villas that sit abandoned and unfinished, out of place in the Turkish hillside. The housing development is called Burj Al Babas, and construction on the fairytale complex began in 2014. After years of construction and financial turmoil, the entire complex now sits eerily quiet, waiting for the day that it might be completed.

Inspired by French architecture

Aerial view of castle villas at Burj Al Babas
Hundreds of castle-like villas and houses are seen unfinished at the Burj Al Babas housing development on May 21, 2019 in Mudurnu, Turkey. Construction on the luxury housing project began in 2014 and aimed to build 732 villas, a shopping mall and entertainment facilities targeted at foreign buyers. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)
A cul-de-sac at Burj al Babas
The future of the villas is now uncertain after the developers, Sarot Property Group filed for bankruptcy after buyers and investors pulled out of the 150-million euro project. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)
Aerial view of Burj Al Babas
The economic downturn and weakening Turkish lira have left many companies unable to pay large foreign currency debts borrowed to finance projects, resulting in many companies filing for bankruptcy and leaving projects unfinished, including the Sarot Property Group and the Burj Al Babas housing development project. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

The development is home to some 587 of the 732 planned buildings with French-inspired architectural features that make them look like identical mini-castles. These include round turrets, ornate façades, and Juliet balconies. Each building could be straight out of a Disney fairytale, with pointed dark roofs and light exteriors. That was the intent of the Sarot Group, which hoped that the development would attract wealthy investors to purchase these properties as luxury vacation homes. The development was also going to feature to movie theaters, sports facilities, shopping centers, and Turkish baths.

The project was supported by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who believed that the infrastructure jobs and the real estate sales generated by the new development would result in an economic boom for the country. Unfortunately, the weakening of the Turkish lira made it extremely difficult for businesses to repay foreign debts, and large construction projects like Burj Al Babas took a major hit.

The developers went bankrupt

Front views of 3 castle villas at Burj Al Babas
Three nearly identical castle villas, like all of the other ones in the development project, have been left unfinished after the project was abandoned. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)
A road showing multiple castle villas at Burj Al Babas
The interiors of these castle villas were not completed, leaving the structures at Burj Al Babas hollow. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

In 2018, the Sarot Group was forced to declare bankruptcy after only four years of construction. Up to this point, the project had already cost a whopping $200 million to develop, without all of the buildings even completed yet. The intended cost of each property was going to be in the ballpark of $400,000 and $500,000, and a handful of properties did sell. However, once the company filed for bankruptcy, a sizeable chunk of those property sales was canceled.

The complex now sits abandoned

The front of two castle villas at Burj Al Babas
The entire 250-acre land development sits in a state of unfinished construction, with unpaved roads and unfinished power lines. (Photo Credit: ADEM ALTAN / AFP / Getty Images)
Construction materials in front of castle villas at Burj Al Babas
Construction materials have been left scattered around the entire development project. Completion of the project is still up in the air, and the abandoned site sits prepared for construction to possibly start up again. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

Now, the entire complex sits abandoned. Though most of the buildings themselves have been constructed, the interiors were left unfinished. In some rooms, it seems as though workers simply dropped their tools and walked off of the site, adding to the eeriness of the already creepy fairytale ghost town. Perhaps they believed they would be returning to finish the multi-million dollar project that they were so close to wrapping up.

Hopes for future development

Uncompleted castle villas at Burj Al Babas
Many castle villas sit unfinished in various stages of completion as the entire complex has been abandoned due to financial issues. (Photo Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images)
Many castles sit abandoned at Burj al Babas
A photo shows hundreds of houses part of the Sarot Group’s Burj Al Babas project on December 15, 2018 close to the town center of Mudurnu in the Bolu northwestern region. (Photo Credit: ADEM ALTAN / AFP / Getty Images)

The same year the Sarot Group declared bankruptcy, Turkey eased its financial criteria for foreigners to become citizens. This was partly in response to the weakening currency, but served as a hope to double the country’s annual property investments.

The Deputy Chair of the Sarot Group, Mezher Yerdelen, previously made a statement expressing his belief that the development could be finished and be quite successful. “We only need to sell 100 villas to pay off our debt. I believe we can get over this crisis in four to five months and partially inaugurate the project,” he stated.

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Meanwhile, the castle villas seem to be waiting and longing for their own fairytale ending.