10 Ancient/Lost Cities to Visit

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Ancient cities can provide a glimpse into the cultures and civilizations of the past. In this post we’ll look at 10 cities with impressive ruins that are certainly worth a visit.

Petra (Jordan)

Petra is well-known for the beautiful Treasury, which is carved into the rock. It is unknown exactly when The Treasury was built, but it is believed to be in or near the 1st century BC. It’s purposes is also a bit of a mystery, although it is believed to have been a temple or a royal tomb. Petra, located near the Dead Sea, is currently the number one tourist attraction in Jordan. It was named by BBC as one of the 40 places you have to see before you die.

Petra

Photo credit: Karsten Wrobel

Petra

Photo credit: Piers Golden

Ephesus (Turkey)

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city. It is located in Turkey, near the city of Izmir. During the 1st century BC Ephesus was one of the largest Mediterranean cities with a population of more than 250,000. Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis, which was destroyed in 401 A.D.

Ephesus was also an important city in early Christianity, being the home to the apostle Paul for a few years. Ephesus is one of the seven cities mentioned in the book of Revelations.

Today it is possible to walk down the streets of Ephesus while viewing ruins of the city. The theater is still intact and the city is under constant renovation.

Turkey

Photo credit: Robin

Ephesus

Photo credit: Carlo Columbia

Pompeii (Italy)

Pompeii is well-known for it’s quick destruction at the hands of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in AD 79. Pompeii is located near Naples and is a popular tourist destination because of the history and the ruins.

The excavation of Pompeii from under about 20 feet of ash has provided a great deal of insight into life during the height of the Roman Empire.

Pompeii

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

Pompeii

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

Angkor (Cambodia)

Angkor flourished from the 9th century to the 15th century. Ruins of more than 1,000 temples exist in the Angkor area, with Angkor Wat being the largest single religious monument in the world. Today, Angkor attracts more than 2 million visitors each year. Angkor is believed to have been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with a population of up to 1 million.

Angkor

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

Angkor

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

Palmyra (Syria)

Palmyra was an important city because it served as a stop for travelers crossing the Syrian desert. It was located between Damascus and the Euphrates River. The city was also known by the name “Tadmor” and is believed to have been built by King Solomon in the 2nd millennium BC, some 2,000 years before the Romans would ever see it.

Palmyra

Photo credit: Alessandra Kocman

Palmyra

Photo credit: Alessandra Kocman

Palenque (Mexico)

Palenque was a Mayan city that existed from about 100 BC to 800 AD, flourishing in the 7th century. The city has been excavated and is now a popular archaeological site. Palenque is not the largest Mayan city, but it contains ruins of some of the finest Mayan architecture and sculptures. It’s estimated that only about 10% of the city has been excavated to date.

Palenque

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

Palenque

Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

Vijayanagara (India)

Vijayanagara, once referred to as “the second Rome”, was the capital of the Vijayanagara empire in southern India. The city flourished from the 14th century to the 16th century. Many of the Hindu temples and icons were destroyed when the city was taken by Muslim armies.

Vijayanagara

Photo credit: Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen

Apamea (Syria)

Apamea was originally named Pharmake, but the name was changed after it was fortified and enlarged around 300 BC. The city was taken by the Romans in 64 AD, destroyed in the 7th century, and then partially re-built before being destroyed by an earthquake in the 12th century.

Today you can walk down the street known as the Cardo Maximus by the Romans and view ruins of the city.

Apamea

Photo credit: Arian Zwegers

Apamea

Photo credit: Thomas Stellmach

Jerash (Jordan)

Jerash, located in northern Jordan is considered to be one of the best preserved Roman cities in the near east. Jerash was already inhabited by the Bronze Age (3200 – 1200 BC). It was taken by the Romans in 63 AD, and the Emperor Trajan built roads throughout Jerash to increase trade. A Persian invasion in the 7th century led to the decline of Jerash, and later, much of the city was destroyed by earthquake.

Jerash

Photo credit: Javier Martin Espartosa

Jerash

Photo credit: Donna Winton

Persepolis (Iran)

The earliest remains of Persepolis date to around 500 BC. Darius the Great is believed to have built the palaces of Persepolis. The city was eventually captured and partially destroyed by Alexander the Great. Today ruins of several buildings exist, constructed from marble.

Persepolis

Photo credit: Elias Pirasteh

Persepolis

Photo credit: Sebastia Giralt

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