Cities thrive and sometimes die. Despite centuries of neglect, some are still of unparalleled beauty. Discover these abandoned, forgotten cities that captivate us with their fascinating ruins.
There are few places in the world comparable to the majestic beauty of Thebes. Once known as Waset, the city of Thebes is now part of the modern city of Luxor. The city was once the capital of Egypt and was the largest city in the world, with a population of over 40,000. The tomb of King Tutankhamun and the temple of Karnak are just two of the amazing architectural beauties of this lost city.
This place is familiar to you? Perhaps you have already seen it in the cartoon The Mysterious Cities of Gold! It is presumed that the city of Palenque was built around 226 BC. J.-C. and it would have remained inhabited until 799 of our era. Palenque was inhabited by an essentially agricultural population and, when agriculture was no longer possible, the town slowly emptied and gradually became covered with forest. Carved stone tablets that tell the story of the city and its rulers over the centuries thus remained hidden until the city was rediscovered, cleansed and restored. Although uninhabited today, Palenque is a magnificent site, rich in history and art.
For more than 1,500 years, the exact location of the Roman city of Pompeii remained unknown. In 79 AD. BC, the volcano Vesuvius erupted covering this city, a few kilometers from Naples, under 4 meters of ash and pumice stones. After numerous excavations by experts, the city of 20,000 inhabitants reappeared. Although the place is now uninhabited, its intricate design, temples and houses perfectly preserved by the ashes make it an extraordinary site to visit.
If you’ve never heard of the lost city of Vijayanagara, India, rest assured you’re not alone. Although this once booming city is still revered by Hindus, the world is unaware of its existence. What was an urban center from the 14th to 16th centuries is today a superb historic site demonstrating wonderful detailed craftsmanship, superb structures, still standing, without restoration of any kind. This holy place was once the heart of South India’s greatest empire and its ruins are as remarkable as the city during its rise.
Art is everywhere in Persepolis and that’s what makes this city so impressive. The ruins of the city, which dates back to 515 BC. J.-C., are intact and the sculptures of nobles, slaves and officials of the Persian Empire are still visible. The detail of the works on the buildings is phenomenal and elevates Persepolis, today lost and deserted, to the rank of the most beautiful creations of humanity.
The Smithsonian Magazine ranks the ancient city of Petra, “rock” in Greek, among the 28 cities to see before you die. Until 1812, the city was not known to the Western world, but it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Petra was founded in 312 BC. AD and was a hub of the silk trade until the fourth century, when it fell under the rule of the Roman Empire. From then on, the population dwindled until the city was abandoned and forgotten. Its beauty is linked to the ornamentation of its structures, carved by hand out of the rock. It’s breathtaking!
Now a city in ruins, Ephesus was once beautiful and mighty. Located in what is now Turkey, this lost city is home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. However, the most impressive building remains the Library of Celsus, a sumptuous architectural creation, still standing and still splendid.
Once the largest pre-industrial city in the world (from 802 to 1431), Angkor is one of the most captivating abandoned places of all time. The place is teeming with temples, including Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. The remains of this mighty city of the Khmer Empire are magnificent and the intricate artistic details of the temples are still clearly visible.
Palmyra, the Bride of the Desert, was a central city in Syria. Rich and prosperous, the city, whose name was Tadmor, is mentioned in the Bible and Babylonian writings. The architecture testifies to the Roman domination of the middle of the first century. Around the sixth century the population began to decline, and by the sixteenth century the mighty city was completely abandoned. Although left behind, its ruins are among the oldest and are still in very good condition. For those wishing to observe the Roman architecture of antiquity, a visit to this beautiful forgotten city is a must.
Located in present-day Turkey, the ancient city of Troy, whose foundation dates back to 3000 BC. AD, was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Each time, the new city was built on the ruins of the previous one. Its status as the setting for the action of Homer’s epic The Iliad has of course contributed to its popularity over the centuries. The ruins of Troy are still relatively intact today and the incredible craftsmanship of the craftsmen of this famous city makes it one of the most beautiful lost cities in history.