The lost cities of the world are an enigmatic collection of reality and myth. For some, there is genuine and very real evidence that these places once existed, while for others, their stories are forever shrouded in myth, and are still waiting to be discovered. Some lost cities were abandoned and left to go to ruin and decay, while others may have suffered at the hands of a disaster. Whether still lost or rediscovered, the lost cities of the world have long been a source of fascination for historians, archaeologists and travelers.
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For lovers of ancient mythology, Troy will always be at the top of the world’s lost cities. There is probably no lost city more fascinating than Troy, with its connection to the Trojan War and Odysseus’s use of the legendary Trojan horse. What you may not realize however is that Troy was actually a factual settlement, located in what is now Turkey. Found by archaeologists in the mid-19th century, the ruins of Troy are now a world heritage listed tourist attraction, which is certainly worth seeing if you’re planning a visit to the area.
One of the most famous lost cities in the world owing to the magnificent ruins that still exist to this day, Angkor, in Cambodia easily draws over a million visitors annually. The crowning gem of what is said to be the largest ancient city in the world however, is the stunning 12th century temple of Angkor Wat, which is slowly being recovered from the jungle after its rediscovery in the late 16th century. The sheer size and magnificence of this formerly lost civilization however, is enough to warrant placing it at the very top of your holiday to-do list.
Unquestionably one of the most impressive lost cities in the world, Petra, which is thought to date back to the 6th century BC, is comprised of a series of breath-taking “buildings” carved directly into the sheer faces of the 80 meter high cliffs near Wadi Musa in Jordan. The most popular of these structures are the “Treasury” and the “Amphitheatre”, in addition to a number of stunning tombs, although you’ll find that every structure in the valley seems to be more amazing than the last.
One of the most recently lost cities on the planet, the Roman settlement of Pompeii (near modern Naples) was wiped out of existence in 79AD, after a massive volcanic eruption covered the community with ash. The city was rediscovered in the late 16th century however, and later became an extremely popular tourist attraction, owing the fact that the volcanic debris left the buildings and their unlucky inhabitants extremely well preserved. If you’re interested in getting a first-hand look at ancient Roman life, then Pompeii is definitely a must-see.
If you’re looking for a lost city which oozes adventure and beauty, then you really need look no further than the ruins of Machu Picchu, located high in the Andes of Central Peru. Constructed during the 15th century, Machu Picchu was a thriving Incan settlement for roughly 100 years before being suddenly abandoned and subsequently lying undiscovered until the early 20th century. These days, the site is a fixture for travelers from all over the world, although the local government is currently fighting to stem the flow of tourists, as the sheer numbers of visitors are slowly degrading the ruins.
Nestled amidst cloud-wrapped mountains, this iconic UNESCO World Heritage site is not only a symbol of the Inca Empire but also a masterpiece of architecture and engineering. Its terraces cut into the steep rebuff, ancient walls, and mystifying alignment with astronomical events such as the summer solstice sunrise, render it a spellbinding experience. Visitors can explore the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana stone, and the Room of Three Windows, each telling a story of a culture long past yet vividly present through these timeless stones. But remember, while the allure of Machu Picchu is undeniable, every step taken should be with respect for its preservation.
The ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis lie just outside of modern-day Cairo, although the structures which are currently located at the site don’t give an accurate idea of what the settlement was really like. This is owing to the fact that after its abandonment during the 7th century the city was excavated and used as construction material to build new communities. If you’re interested in ancient Egyptian history however, the site still plays host to a number of fantastic temple ruins, statues and sculptures.
No list of lost cities is complete without making mention of the fabled sunken settlement of Atlantis, which is believed to have been first mentioned by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato around 360BC. While no sign of the city has ever been recovered and you certainly can’t visit, the idea of a whole island (complete with its inhabitants) sinking into the ocean has acted as food for the imagination for thousands of years…and who knows, fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Do the world’s lost cities fire your imagination? Having been to Pompeii, Troy, Petra and Memphis, I can tell you it’s quite an experience to wonder around them imagining how life was when the city was alive. Have you been any to any of these places?
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