During the 16th and 18th centuries, many explorations in different countries of the world led to the rediscovery of what we know today as “lost cities”. The reasons why these cities were lost in time and forgotten for centuries include the total abandonment of their inhabitants, climate change, massacres, conquests or natural disasters.
Today, many of these cities are considered the most famous tourist attractions in the world. Next we make a list with the 25 most famous lost cities in the world:
Palmyra was a wealthy city situated between Persia and the Mediterranean ports of Syria. Known as “the city of palm trees”, it began to experience a decline in its trade in 212 AD, after the Sassanid occupation of the Tigris and Euphrates. In the year 643 after Christ, the city was conquered by the Muslims until it became an oasis town.
This city was built in the year 2,600 BC in what is now known as Pakistan. It was one of the oldest urban settlements in the world. Around 1700 BC, the city disappeared from history until its rediscovery in the 1920s.
23.- Great Zimbabwe
As a complex of stone ruins, Great Zimbabwe was built by the Bantu people during the 11th century. It was once home to 18,000 inhabitants during its heyday, but due to a significant decline in political stability and trade, as well as drastic changes in the weather, its people decided to leave the city.
Hatra was a large fortified city that existed during the reign of the Parthian empire. It successfully resisted several invasions by the Romans thanks to its high and thick walls and towers. In the year 241 after Christ it fell into the hands of the Sassanian empire and was completely destroyed.
It took more than a thousand years to build this city (from the 3rd to the 13th century). His downfall began after the decline of Buddhism in India. The city was rediscovered by a British officer in the year 1818.
Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite Empire during the 17th century. In 1200 BC, it was destroyed as part of the Bronze Age collapse, until it was totally abandoned by its 40,000-50,000 inhabitants. Hattusa was rediscovered in the early 20th century.
Learn more about the ancient city of Hattusa by doing click here.
19.- Chan Chan
The largest city in pre-Columbian America, Chan Chan was a large city with buildings adorned with patterned arabesques. This city was called the city of adobe, since its construction material was made with sand, clay and water. Built in 850 BC by the Chimú, it was later conquered by the Inca empire.
18.- Green Table
Located in the southwestern part of Colorado, in the United States, Mesa Verde used to be the home of the Anasazi people. It was where these people built dwellings under rock ledges and in shallow caves. Its inhabitants left the city in the year 1300 for unknown reasons, although its ruins have remained perfectly preserved ever since.
The ancient capital of Persia was the ceremonial center and capital of the Persian empire. Known for its beauty, it featured some of the most incredible art in the world during its heyday. Persepolis was sacked and burned to the ground by order of Alexander the Great.
16.- Leptis Magna
One of the most important cities of the Roman Empire, Leptis Magna, was located in the country we know today as Libya. It was a wealthy city that served as a center of trade in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara. The city began to decline during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, until it fell into ruin in 642 AD.
Urgench is located on the Amu-Darya River, in Uzbekistan. It was one of the largest cities between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the year 1211, Mongol soldiers came to the city, turning young women and children into slaves while massacring the rest of the population.
During its heyday, the city had a population of around 500,000. It was one of the largest cities in the world between the 14th and 16th centuries, during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire. The city was destroyed following the victory of the Muslim armies that were in conflict with the empire.
As one of the great Mayan cities, Calakmul was powerful and wealthy. He came to defy the Tikal scoop (point 3 on this list). It was rediscovered in the jungle of Campeche. The city suffered a population decline after a battle for Tikal in 695 AD, which led to the collapse of the Maya.
As a Roman colonial city located in Algeria, Timgad was founded by Emperor Trajan in 100 AD. It was sacked in the fifth century by the Vandals and two centuries later by the Berbers. The prosperous city disappeared from history until its excavation in 1881.
Ctesiphon existed during the 6th century and was known to be one of the largest cities in the world. Being one of the most famous cities of ancient Mesopotamia, the Roman empire and later the Byzantine empire tried to gain control of it, until in the year 637 after Christ it fell into the hands of the Muslims during the Islamic conquest.
Hvalsey was one of the three largest Viking settlements in Greenland in 985 AD. It was basically a farm used by Nordic farmers from Iceland. In this place 4,000 inhabitants lived together during its heyday, but this number was reduced during the middle of the fourteenth century as a result of the disappearance of the western settlement.
Known to be one of the most important cities of the 12th century, Ani was the capital of Armenia during the 10th century. Many churches were built in this city during the period, including some of the most impressive examples of medieval architecture. When a devastating earthquake rocked the city in the year 1319, Ani was abandoned by her people and was forgotten by the world for centuries.
Located in Mexico, Palenque has some of the most impressive sculptures of the Mayans. As one of the smallest cities of the Maya, Palenque had its heyday between 600 and 800 AD, but its population declined during the 8th century as it began to suffer from various invasions.
Tiwanaku is located near the south eastern shore of a lake in Bolivia known as Lake Titicaca. Between 300 BC and 300 AD, the city served as a cosmological center for many people. It had a population of around 300,000, however, after a dramatic change in climate, the city’s inhabitants gradually relocated.
When a volcano near the city erupted on August 24 AD 79, Pompeii was severely hit and completely covered in ash. The city was rediscovered in the 18th century after a series of excavations.
Built in the 2nd century BC, this ancient city located in the Valley of Mexico has experienced a massive population decline since the 6th century. Now the pyramids of this lost city, which used to be honored by the Aztecs, are used as a place of pilgrimage.
The ancient capital of the Nabataean kingdom, Petra is a city located on the Wadi Musa side of southern Jordan. A series of earthquakes brought the city’s water management system to a standstill, causing its inhabitants to flee during the 6th century. Petra was rediscovered by a Swiss traveler in the year 1812.
Tikal existed between the year 200 and 900 after Christ. In its time it was the largest existing Mayan city. It had an estimated population between 100,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, although it lost most of them between the years 830 and 950.
Located in Cambodia, this immense temple city features the remains of the Khmer empire from the 19th to the 15th century. Among the most popular attractions visited by tourists in this famous city is the Angkor Wat temple, known today as the largest religious monument in the world.
1.- Machu Picchu
Considered one of the best known lost cities in the world this city has remained hidden for centuries in the upper part of the Urubamba Valley until it was rediscovered by a Hawaiian historian named Hiram in the year 1911. Known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu is surrounded by agricultural terraces and it is totally invisible from below the mountain.