Abandoned tanks are a great mystery of the world. You can find them in just about every type of landscape: deserts, icy tundras, forests, underwater. Every tank that’s abandoned on this planet has an interesting history behind it: Why was it left there? How did it get there? Why is it still there? But sometimes the circumstances of why a tank is in a certain place are less interesting than the fact that it's there at all.
Photographers have gone through painstaking attempts to juxtapose the lives of these machines with the peaceful serenity of the landscapes they survive in. Grassy hillsides, lush green forests, dusty deserts, pristine seascapes—the list goes on. These deserted vehicles are a reminder of what came before them, and what man is capable of: both in a destructive sense, and in terms of mechanical, technological achievements.
At some of these abandoned, deserted tank cemeteries, the history behind these pieces is almost tangible. You can almost see how they were left, or what fate befell the driver of these massive machines. Across the world, armored vehicles lie near the battle zones they fought in—symbols of war that have been left to rust and rot, often for decades. Other times, it’s not so clear-cut what brought them to their final resting places, simply because they’re so far removed from any battle lines.
Either way, there are some impressive tank graveyards out there, and here we’ll take a look at 25 of the best ones.
25 Ukraine Tank Graveyard
This is a tank graveyard that screams of a dystopian world. There are rows upon rows of discarded tanks that sit in this highly-guarded scrapyard. Local photographer Patvel Itkin took months to find the location of the massive site after first hearing about it. The workers that once kept the place running were responsible for overhauling up to 60 tanks every month. It’s now a re-purposing yard, but is still more of a graveyard. The hundreds of tanks in the yard that were once slated to be torn down for parts have been left to rust.
24 The Sierra Nevada Army Depot
This depot is nestled between the valleys of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It isn’t technically a graveyard, but it looks like one.
Lined up in the desert are rows upon rows of M-1 Abrams battle tanks, one of the most well-known tanks in the world, that seem to stretch on almost to the horizon.
There are more than 2,000 tanks in total sitting in the desert, many of which are still in pristine condition. Since 2012, these tanks were mostly abandoned, since nearly $3 billion could be saved by just letting them deteriorate in the sun.
23 Abandoned Tank On Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
There are only two tanks rusting away in the waters of this beach in Puerto Rico, but they’re quite iconic. The Flamenco Beach abandoned tanks remain on the beach from former exercises and have become famous tourist attractions.
One sits along the water on the pristine beach and is a popular meet-up spot.
It’s covered with graffiti that changes constantly. The other isn’t too far away, up the hill and out of the water, and it will probably last much longer given that it isn't faced with rising saltwater tides that can be very destructive to metal and paint.
22 Eritrea’s Tank Graveyard
These tanks are all piled on top of each other, sitting in long rows partially reclaimed by the sand and the cacti. Eritrea is a country in Africa, and these rusting monsters rest outside of the country’s capital of Asmara. While other tank graveyards are often arranged in neat rows, these are just piled up on top of each other in a heap. These tanks were used from 1974 to 1991 as Eritrea attempted to achieve liberation, and the tank serve as a reminder of the sacrifice of thousands of citizens who gave the country its freedom.
21 Stompie The Bermondsey Tank
This one-tank graveyard is the resting site of a T-34 tank that wasn’t quite entirely abandoned. Instead, it continues to make a definite statement on modern affairs. The tank started its life in Prague in the late-1960s.
In 1995, it was imported to England, to be used in the making of the updated film version of Richard III.
After its movie appearance, it went up for sale and was bought by a property developer, who stated it was a gift for his 7-year-old son. Since then, it’s been covered and re-covered in graffiti and painted numerous times (pink, yellow, and more).
20 Abandoned Tanks On The Plain Of Jars, Laos
This is a pretty non-traditional place when it comes to tank graveyards. There aren’t miles of tanks rusting in the dust, but rather a few tanks that have been abandoned and have fallen apart where they sit.
But the scenery around them is truly incredible.
The Plain of Jars is one of history’s great unsolved mysteries: covering the fields of Laos are these giant stone jars. Some are small, some can hide an adult inside. No one knows what brought them there, though a popular theory believes they were used to make wine during ancient times.
19 Abandoned Tanks At Fort Knox, Kentucky
For decades, Fort Knox was home to the famous cache of gold that supported the US dollar, but it was also home to heavy armor training grounds. The school was moved in 2010, but the area around Fort Knox became littered with old abandoned tanks that were previously used for target practice. For some of the tanks, there are little more than pieces still remaining, lying in pieces surrounded by other heavy vehicles. Others have been reassembled and cobbled together from different pieces, giving them the chilling nickname of Frankentanks.
18 Tank Cemetery In Kabul, Afghanistan
When large quantities of troops left Afghanistan in 1989, plenty of their equipment got left behind. Today, dozens of rusting tanks—originally built in the 1960s and 1970s—sit outside Kabul, and some of them have been given new life. Some of the tanks left behind that still run have been drafted into service again, while others have been stripped of parts to use to keep others running. Their decades-old technology has proven to be a benefit: without the scores of electronics that run modern tanks, fixing up old ones requires more mechanical know-how.
17 Abandoned Tanks In Otterburn Ranges, Northern England
The Otterburn Ranges sit in Northern England. About 23% of the Northumberland National Park is owned by the army and used as training grounds.
It is a public area most of the time, free of live fire and merely the final resting place of a number of tanks whose purpose is training.
Other areas are restricted, used for live fire and training as they have been since 1911. Around 29,000 acres are reserved for a combination of dry firing and public use, where civilians can get a unique chance at looking at these astounding tanks as they slowly rust away in the damp air.
16 Abandoned Tanks In The Desert In Libya
Things made out of metal typically last a long time in the desert because of the high temperatures, low humidity, and infrequent rainfall that prevent rust and corrosion.
That is why Libya is still home to some intact war machines dating from as far back as the 1940s.
Some of the vehicles, such as the M4A2 Sherman Tank are in poor condition, because anything that could be sold as scrap metal has already been pilfered and the rubber from the idler wheels has rotted away. But other items, like the M13 mini-tank and the M3 Stuart light tank are begging to be towed into a workshop to be given a once-over with an angle grinder.
15 Abandoned Tank In Panjshir, Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s roads and valleys are littered with debris left over the centuries. This abandoned tank is one such machine that was left to rust in the hills of Panjshir. But Iranian Neda Taiyebi has turned the relics of dismaying times in Afghanistan into art, by giving old tanks a paint job that involves exuberant, playful patterns and colors. One such tank has been colored goldenrod and adorned with flowers. Children often go with her to keep her company while she paints. Another tank is bedecked with drawings of pears, and is now used by police as a tea den.
14 Abandoned Tanks In Antarctica
Antarctica is probably the last continent you’d expect to find abandoned tanks. But these tanks near a research base prove that you can find abandoned tanks literally anywhere—under the sea, in the plains, in the hills, and in the snow.
These were left about 400 kilometers west of the Casey base.
The tanks would typically be perfectly preserved because of the embalming effects of ice and freeze, but that is not the case with these rusty hulks, since the snow and water has seeped in and eroded their paint and metal.
13 Coral Tank In Chuuk Lagoon, Japan
As stated above, you can find deserted tanks just about anywhere you look, if you search hard enough. Such is the case with this abandoned tank that is in the Chuuk Lagoon, off the coast of Japan. It has been overtaken by coral and other sea life, and has truly become a part of nature. Many abandoned shipwrecks also lie in the Chuuk Lagoon, and some of those ships carried tanks such as this one. The graveyard under the sea here is quite haunting, and has become a diving attraction for tourists and locals alike.
12 Rainforest Tank In Solomon Islands
One of the landscapes not mentioned above where you might find abandoned tanks is rainforests! That is the case of this deserted machine, which is now part of the rainforest and Mother Nature. A jungle is a hostile environment already, as is surely noticeable by looking at the condition of this tank: it is rusted, falling apart, and literally growing trees and brush on it. This tank may have seen real use once upon a time, but it has since been abandoned and become a plaything and structure for the flora and fauna of the jungle.
11 Submerged Sherman Tank On The Reef Of Saipan
This partly submerged Sherman tank is half in the water and half out, giving it quite a chilling look. It was stranded by on this reef and is now subject to the whims of the ocean's tides.
It is used as a literal jumping off point for tourists and local scuba divers, who use it to have fun in the water.
One can assume that the driver of the tank must have misjudged the tides during its ascent into Saipan, and it was left stranded and waterlogged, probably after unloading from a landing ship.
10 Tank On A Hill In A Village In Russia
This deserted tank is immediately offset by a spectacular view, giving it a juxtaposition that is difficult not to admire. This tank stands atop the hills in the Krabozavodsk village, in the Shikotan Islands, which are part of Russia. Though it is a rusted husk of destruction that is a reminder of times past, the view below it is peaceful and serene: a colorful range of hills and mountains in the backdrop, a bright blue river flowing through the village, and dark green trees dotting the lush, green hillsides.
9 Leopard I Tank On Range In The Netherlands
This Leopard I tank is on Vlieland, one of the five islands of Frisia that are part of the Netherlands. These islands basically form an archipelago which borders the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.
The beach of Vlieland is a vast and isolated location.
As such, this abandoned tank that is partly submerged in the sand and water, is often used for target practice. It looks like there might even be another one in the background, though it isn’t nearly as clear and pristine as this one—which, besides the rust, looks almost serviceable.
8 T-34 Tank Abandoned In The Sea Of Japan
This wide angled lens shot is a masterful display of an abandoned T-34 tank that was left at the Zheltukhin Island in the Sea of Japan. As you can see, there are more besides just this one. They sit atop lush, green hillsides, and the photographer here did an excellent job of contrasting the rusted, hollow shells of these machines with the sunny, cloudy day and the peaceful vortex of life surrounding them. Sometimes, it almost looks like these tanks belong in a place, while other times (such as this one), the tanks stand out like a sore thumb and make an astounding spectacle of nature and man-made machinery.
7 M47 Patton Tank Abandoned In West Europe Forest
There are a number of impressive tank graveyards in the world, but perhaps none as much as this expertly-photographed abandoned M47 Patton tank that was abandoned in a Western European forest. It blends in so well with its forested surroundings that it’s hard to imagine it not belonging here, as if it was put into place by some ancient civilization, rather than humans less than a hundred years ago. On the other hand, this tank clearly has no business being in this beautiful forest, though it does add a touch of wonder to the area.
6 Tank Cemetery In Kandahar, Afghanistan
As you can probably tell by now, Afghanistan is home to some of the most abundant tank graveyards in the world. This tank cemetery in Kandahar is from 1989, and leaves behind somber reminders of retreat.
Today, the rusted hulks are abandoned and serve a much different purpose: as a children’s playground.
The tank’s cannons are used as monkey bars, and those that are overturned make ideal slides. Groups of children also race each other to the top of the tanks in games of king-of-the-hill.
5 Tank Cemetery In Ussuriysk, Russia
This army facility in Ussuriysk, Russia, was originally built in 1936 as a repair base. Its purpose since 1940 was the repair of tanks and other heavy equipment, and in 1953 it was equipped to repair heavy armor as well. Some of the grounds has been sold off to private companies, but there’s still this eerie, surreal cemetery of tanks in the area. In some places, the tanks sit shoulder-to-shoulder, weaponry facing off in the same direction, giving them a strange sense of uniformity as a final salute. Others sit rusting in fields, now overgrown, or in front of buildings that bear the worn look of abandoned buildings.
4 Tank Cemetery Near Chita, Russia
There’s not a lot of information on how or why these tanks were abandoned outside the city limits of Chita, one of Russia’s least touristy cities. Not many outsiders see them, as visitors tend to go elsewhere in the vast country.
This city was once used for exile, so people tend to avoid it.
Chita is also a stone’s throw away from China, and most of the non-natives in the city are from that country. Dozens of old tanks rust here against the beautiful backdrop of the landscape. It’s a fitting graveyard for these tanks and the city, itself, as well.
3 Deserts of Kuwait
Sitting in the desert of Kuwait is a massive cemetery not just for tanks, but also for other heavy vehicles leftover from days gone past. It’s not too far from a little fishing village called Fao, whose residents have memories of the tanks being used. Locals call it a tank cemetery, and they know it’s a dangerous place that’s off-limits to exploration and curious photographers—at least, for the most part. It’s a place where all different types of tanks and machines were dumped after the fighting was done. Today, these tanks bake under the heat of the desert sun, with temperatures that can reach 122-degrees Fahrenheit.
2 T-34 Tanks In Zheltukhin, Russia
This is one of the most colorful arrangements of abandoned tanks in the bleak landscape of Russia. There’s not a lot of information about these tanks, other than that they’ve been painted an assortment of colors, such as yellow, red, and blue. For years, these tanks sat rusting in the salty air, until fairly recently, in 2013, when someone took it upon themselves to give them new life in the wilderness. Now, they stand out against the overgrown weeds and fields that they had long been rotting in.
1 Abandoned Tanks In Shikotan Islands, Russia And Japan
As you can tell, the landscape of the Shikotan Islands, which are owned partly by Russia and partly by Japan, are quite beautiful and serene—even with the appearance of a hulking, abandoned tank sitting in the middle of the hilly plains.
This island is small, with a population of just 2,000, and it’s home to some tanks from earlier eras, too.
Some are said to still be functional, although incredibly rusty. The locals haven’t done anything to them—they haven’t been stripped down or moved, because it would be too much of a hassle to do so. The same can be said with just about every other tank on this list!