There is something alluring about visiting historical sites – standing on top of a spot where a famous religious leader or emperor made their mark on history can be a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience. Lost cities such as Xanadu, Petra and Carthage have stirred the imagination for generations, causing millions of tourists from all around the world to experience the magic and adventure for themselves. Read on to discover some of the greatest lost cities in the world, some of which you have probably never heard of, and see why you should visit these historical and fascinating sites.
Also known as Shangdu, Xanadu has long stimulated the imagination. It was the summer home to Kublai Khan (the grandson of Genghis Khan- the man who conquered China), who erected a gigantic marble palace decorated with gold gilt and magnificent statues according to Marco Polo. The glorious city of Xanadu has crumbled to the winds of time, but the might and gloriousness of it still has the power to impress any traveler.
Another famous lost Mayan city, Palenque, located in Mexico, gained a bloody and fearsome reputation during the reign of Pacal the Great during the 7th Century. It is one of the greatest lost cities in South America as nearly 90% of it lies buried beneath the canopy of the jungle, just waiting to be rediscovered.
Not far from modern day Bagdad in Iraq, Ctesiphon gained prestige as the capital of the Parthian Empire. It is home to the world’s largest brick built arch and the magnificent vaulted hall and throne room cause all who see it to be reminded of the power this lost city still holds.
Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe, located roughly 90 miles from modern day Harare, has drawn thousands of tourists to its doors in the last year alone. At the center of the ancient locale was a fabulous palace, which was encircled by a granite wall that was 15-feet tall. The city was founded by the Gokomere people during the 11th Century and became the major trading center in the area for gold, ivory and cattle.
For archaeologists, Mohenjo-daro is one of the greatest Asian civilizations ever to be founded. The city was established around 2600 BC in the Indus Valley. Although it rivaled Athens and Egyptian cities in terms of artistry and architecture, we still do not know much of the actual people who called it home.
Carthage was the dominant sea-fearing power of the Mediterranean during the Classical period before it fell to the might of the Roman Empire. It was famous for being the kingdom of Queen Dido and then sacked and salted by the Romans. The Vandals and the Arabs also made their mark on Carthage before it was abandoned completely.
Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh
Where the Ganges and Brahmaputra come together lies the 15th Century mosque city of Bagerhat. It was established on the orders of a Turkish general, creating a city unlike the Islamic world had ever seen before. 360 mosques were founded, along with numerous palaces and tombs. When the general died, the mosque city crumbled away into the mists of time and vegetation. Luckily, it has now been partly refurbished to its original beauty.
Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy are considered the most famous out of all the world’s lost cities, receiving approximately 2.5 million visitors each year. The entire population of both cities were buried alive under a cloud of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. However, the ash kept them preserved throughout the centuries. Food, animals, furniture, jewelry and even people were preserved in the ash and uncovered by archeologist to give us a glimpse into the past and what life was like during this time period.
Mesa Verde, USA
The Mesa Verde National Park was once home to the Anasazi tribe during the 7th to 14th Centuries. They dwelled in a number of homes carved into the ridge outcroppings. The Cliff Palace, which housed nearly 100, people is considered the most famous.
During the 15th Century, Vijayanagar was the center of the greatest Indian empire the world had ever seen. The name translates to “City of Victory” and was the home to more than 500,000 people, making it the second largest city in the world at the time. The heart and soul of the city was the Virupaksha Temple, which has been considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. The temple is still fully intact among the surrounding ruins and is even still used in worship today.
It is hard to imagine, but the lush green fields of Ani in modern Turkey were once home to a 10th Century Armenian city-state that held the same power that Constantinople once had. Ani was called the “City of 1001 Churches”, gaining a religious reputation both fearsome and revered. Ultimately the city was abandoned and succumbed to the ravages of time.
Tikal has long been held to be the crown jewel of the ancient South American civilizations. The gigantic six temples were the heart and soul of the Mayan cultures, influencing all who came to visit. A millennia later, they still hold power, influencing millions of tourists to travel to Guatemala to experience the beauty and prestige of this ancient lost jungle city.