6 Lost Cities to Visit in Your Lifetime
Abandoned for centuries and constantly harassed by natureâ€™s elements, these once booming centers of civilization have withstood the test of time, waiting to be rediscovered and reveal their old secrets. After capturing the imagination of countless adventurers and archeologists, these lost cities stand ready to share their past with any traveler interested in unraveling it.
Pompeii â€“ Italy
Once one of the liveliest cities in the Roman Empire, Pompeii was completely buried, following an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It remained lost to the world for 1,700 years, until its accidental discovery, in 1748. In 79 AD, the year of the disaster, Pompeii was known as a luxury resort where influential Romans built luxury villas and spent their holidays.
After being covered by layers of lava and ash, people eventually forgot all about Pompeii and its location. But, ever since its unearthing, the great Roman city regained part of its former glory and is currently one of Italyâ€™s major tourist attractions, drawing in over 2.5 million tourists every year.
Translated as â€œAt the mouth of the well of Itzaâ€, Chichen Itza was one of the most important settlements of the Mayan civilization. First populated between 500 and 900 AD, this great Mayan city developed into a social and political center of the Yucatan Peninsula (modern-day Mexico). It was abandoned in the 13th century, apparently following an invasion of the Toltecs, but since the Spanish spared no effort killing every Mayan and burning any books they could find, the reasons are unclear.
Now Chichen Itza is one of the busiest tourist attractions in North America and itâ€™s recommended people visit it early in the day, unless they want to get cooked under the scorching sun, waiting to climb El Castillo, one of the worldâ€™s most impressive pyramids.
Home to over one thousand religious structures, including Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument on Earth, Angkor is by far Cambodiaâ€™s primary tourist attraction. It was the booming capital of the ancient Khmer Empire and its most spectacular buildings were constructed during this time. After a long, exhausting war with Siam, Angkor was conquered and sacked, in 1431, during a Thai invasion.
Angkor was subsequently abandoned and laid concealed by the jungle, until the late 1800s, when French archeologists rediscovered and began to restore it. It was a long, difficult process, but judging by the 1 million tourists who come to Angkor annually, it was definitely worth it.
Petra â€“ Jordan
Carved in the sandstone mountains of Jordan, Petra is arguably the most beautiful ancient city in the world. Founded in the 6th century BC, by a nomad civilization known as Nabataens, Petra was located at the crossroads of several caravan trade routes and flourished as a result of intense commerce.
Absorbed by the Roman Empire in 100 AD, Petra began to decline when the trade routes changed and the devastating earthquake of 363 AD led to its abandonment. After Crusaders built a citadel here in the 12th century, the first Westerner to lay eyes on the breathtaking city of Petra was a Swiss explorer named Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, in 1812. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Built atop an Andean mountain top, 9,060 feet above sea-level, the Inca city of Machu Picchu is one of the most enigmatic sites in the world. It is believed the Incas built Machu Picchu during the early 1400s, at the peak of their civilization, but there is much speculation surrounding its purpose. Some archeologists believe it was an astronomical observatory, while others are convinced it was a prison or the estate of an Incan emperor.
Machu Picchu was abandoned roughly 100 years after its construction, during the Spanish invasion, but evidence suggests it had more to do with smallpox wiping out its entire population. Located just 50 miles from the capital of Cusco, Machu Picchu was never discovered by Spanish conquistadors and it wasnâ€™t until 1911 that the world rediscovered the ancient Inca city. Now Peruâ€™s number one attraction, Machu Picchu attracts over half a million tourists per year.
Made famous by the writings of Homer and Virgil, the legendary city of Troy has fascinated mythology enthusiasts for thousands of years. Founded in 3500 BC, Troy has been demolished and reconstructed nine times, until 500 AD. Homerâ€™s Trojan War took place in Troy VII and archaeological discoveries show the Greek writerâ€™s description of the ancient city was very accurate.
After the capturing of Troy, during the Trojan War, its inhabitants rebuilt their great city two more times, but in the Byzantine era the city went from a successful trading center to complete abandonment. The lost city of Troy was rediscovered in 1870, when German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann conducted excavation in the area near Canakkale.