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While the legendary city of Atlantis has kept its mythical status since Plato’s earliest reference in 360 BC, there are many real, lost cities all over the world. Swallowed up by forests, abandoned or hidden, lost cities have fascinated architects, explorers and the general public alike for centuries. For the curious and the adventurous, here are six lost cities to put on your list of places to visit.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Constructed by the Incas in the mountains of Peru in the 15th century, Machu Picchu is the adventure destination of a lifetime. Each year 40,000 people flock to see this global icon, drawn to the mountainous site, eager to get a glimpse into the past. Situated 7,970 feet above sea level, the Inca citadel was abandoned around 1450, but rediscovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. The Incan have shown themselves to be ancient masters of town planning, having built their city by cutting blocks of stone to fit together perfectly, never using mortar as a building method. Now, all that remains are ruins the size of village and the mystery that surrounds it.
Once a prosperous city filled with temples and theatres, Pompeii was a jewel in the Roman empire. But as we all know it met a tragic end, wiped out by a volcanic eruption, with its 11,000 inhabitants buried under tons of ash. The city was lost for around 1,500 years until it was rediscovered by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre, in 1599. Since then, Pompeii has captured popular imagination and is visited by 2.5 million people each year.
Out of all the cities of the ancient world, few can compete for age and mystery with Babylon. This city was an empire of Mesopotamia which now roughly corresponds to modern day Iraq. Built on the Euphrates River, it dates back to the Akkadian Empire dynasty of c. 2300 BC. It was once the largest city in the world, with over 200,000 inhabitants it was an early example of city planning. Sadly, today all that remains are broken mud-brick buildings and debris.
This world wonder, Petra, is without a doubt Jordan’s most popular tourist destination. It’s a cultural heritage site that dates back to at least 312 BC, established as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans. This vast city, carved out of stone was an important trading post for the silk and trade routes that linked China, India and other parts of Asia. It had an estimated population of 20,000, but in the 6th century the city was completely abandoned, lost and forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1812.
In the heart of a lush rainforest deep within Northern Guatemala lies Tikal, one of the most powerful cities of the Mayan empire. This spiritual, ancient city flourished during the classic period between c.200 to 900 AD. Tikal is characterised by its major temples and superstructures. Population estimates vary from 10,000 to as a high as 90,000, but the city was completely deserted after 950 AD. Many of the impressive structures look in impressive shape, even today.
Amid forests and farmlands in the south of Kulen Hills sits Angkor. This vast city is visited by two million people annually who travel to see the historic structures. Angkor is surely an ancient masterpiece for construction and engineering, as it features many impressive temples, including the famous Angle Wat temple. It’s the world’s largest religious temple and a symbol of Cambodia. Once a home to one million people, this city was abandoned and hidden for centuries, but now its ruins are preserved for all to see.
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