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Lost Cities of the World

Mankind always had a fascination with the lost civilizations, fictitious underwater cities and the wonders of the world. The idea and concept of a lost city, besides an evident excavation, has been enforced strongly upon the human consciousness by popular culture mechanisms like 3D games, films and Meta narratives in literature. Here's a quick look at some of the most intriguing cities that have been labelled as lost, whether they actually existed or not. Let's lose ourselves in the fascination of the unknown.

The lost city of Machu Picchu

Wouldn't you love to go back in time and live in Machu Picchu? Truly exotic!

Wouldn't you love to go back in time and live in Machu Picchu? Truly exotic!

Machu Piccho is a tourist destination that attracts more than 1 million tourists annually, a UNESCO Heritage Site and also one of the 7 wonders of the World. This lost city of the Incas is located 2430 metres above sea level on the Urubamba valley. It is believed that the city was abandoned by the Incas due to a Spanish conquest. In 1911, Yale historian and explorer Hiram Bingham brought Machu Picchu to the world's attention. This is a true 15th century lost city, straight out of imaginary historical ruins that stand amidst floating clouds.

The lost city of Xanadu

An antique Chinese map showing the location of Xanadu

An antique Chinese map showing the location of Xanadu

Xanadu is a city which was believed to be the summer capital of Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty in China. Experts have deduced that this lost city was located in modern day Inner Mongolia, 171 miles (275 kilometres) north of Beijing and about 17 miles (28 kilometres) northwest of Duolun. Based on the ancient architectural concept of inner and outer city, what remains of Xanadu today is simply a circular brick platform and a few earthen walls. Because of constant references in popular culture, Xanadu has come to be known as a metaphor for opulence. Here's what Samuel Taylor Coleridge said about this lost city in his poem 'Xanadu – Kubla Khan'.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea

The lost city of Troy

Walls of the city of Troy

Walls of the city of Troy

Made much popular by Brad Pitt's historical epic Troy, this lost city has been as controversial as the existence of the lost city Atlantis. Troy is said to be located in modern day Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles, next to Mount Ida. It is best known as the epicentre of the Trojan War as described in Homer's Iliad. Archaeological experts say that a new city called Ilium was founded on the Troy site during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The legendary walls of the city that you can see in the picture, were considered to be a part of the Trojan War.

The lost city of Z

Col. Percy Fawcett in the jungles of Mato Grosso in Brazil exploring the lost city of Z

Col. Percy Fawcett in the jungles of Mato Grosso in Brazil exploring the lost city of Z

Z, pretty cool name for a city, don't you think? The lost city of Z has been named so by Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett, a British surveyor. It has also been mentioned by several other explorers who think that the lost city of Z is located deep in the jungle of Mato Grosso region of Brazil. Unfortunately, no believable evidences of Z have been found. An archaeologist named Michael Heckenberger may have traced city at Kuhikugu where meticulously planned settlements were found. These settlements displayed skills of engineering and mathematics which went beyond the developments taking place in Europe at the time.

The lost city of El Dorado

A representation of the Muisca tribal chief of El Dorado giving offerings of gold to goddess Guatavita

A representation of the Muisca tribal chief of El Dorado giving offerings of gold to goddess Guatavita

It is said that the lost city of El Dorado derives its name from El Dorado, a Muisca tribal chief who used to cover his body in gold dust and offered his gold treasures to the Guatavita goddess. Later it came to be known as the Lost City of Gold. No real evidence has been found that can confirm the existence of the city of El Dorado. But the myth of the treasures is so strong that it has made many explorers gravitate towards an indefinite search across South America, believed to be the location of El Dorado. Metaphorized as wealth and the Holy Grail, El Dorado is referenced innumerably in popular culture – from classics like Heart of Darkness, Paradise Lost to the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, to a Werner Herzog movie.

The lost city of Tikal

Tikal temple

Tikal temple

The lost city of Tikal is one more fascinating jewel from the Mayan civilization after Machu Picchu. Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites located in the Petén Basin, which is modern day northern Guatemala. It is believed to have been a throbbing urban center of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. Because of the many temples, rooms, engravings, sculptures and inscriptions found at the site, a lot about the dynasty of Mayan rules has come to the forefront. In fact, visiting Tikal during the winter solstice celebrations would give you a great overview of the temple complex, the acropolis area, the causeways and the central plaza. Tikal is now a part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The lost city of Pavlopetri

A diver exploring Pavlopetri, off the coast of Greece

A diver exploring Pavlopetri, off the coast of Greece

Whenever the term lost city is mentioned alongside Greece, Atlantis comes to mind first. But it terms of evidences, Pavlopetri, also called the underwater city, has more substance. It is believed that this city was submerged due to the earth's tectonic movements around 1000 BC. The lost city of Pavlopetir is believed to be located underwater off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece. And like most others, Pavlopetri also had perfect town planning with streets, buildings, and tombs. It was discovered in 1967 by Nicholas Flemming and mapped in 1968 by Cambridge archaeologists.

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The lost city of Mohenjo Daro

Mohenjo daro excavation site

Mohenjo daro excavation site

The origins and the spread of the Indus Valley Civilisation has fascinated explorers, tourists, archaeologists and historians to no end. Abandoned in 19th century BC, Mohenjo Daro is located in the Indian subcontinent and is believed to be one of the largest cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Mohenjo Daro has architectural planning that is hard to believe, given the resources and technology they had at the time. Street grid planning, drainage system, wells, grain storage, basements, public baths and a central marketplace have been documented by archaeologists so far.

The lost city of Atlantis

An ancient map of the city of Atlantis, by German scholar Athanasius Kircher

An ancient map of the city of Atlantis, by German scholar Athanasius Kircher

No one really knows if Atlantis existed or not, making it very apt to be termed as a lost city. Bearing its hypothetical origins in the monologues of Greek philosopher Plato, Atlantis has been described as a naval power lying 'in front of the Pillars of Hercules'. Speculations of the location of Atlantis have remained innumerable – from Antarctica, Batabano Bay, Bermuda Triangle to the Indian Ocean. In fact, authors like Graham Hancock having spent their entire lives on documenting lost civilisations like the Atlantis. In popular culture, Atlantis has become a metaphor for any advanced prehistoric lost civilizations.

The lost city of Pompeii

A street in Pompeii

A street in Pompeii

It's interesting to see that the ruins of the Pompeii are located right next to the modern suburban town of Pompeii in Italy. The lost city of Pompeii has given Italy more than 2.5 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular archaeological tourist sites in the country. It is part of a Vesuvius National Park in Italy and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. It is believed that the lost city of Pompeii was destroyed and buried because of an eruption of the volcano of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The lost city of Memphis

Stepped pyramid at the ruins of Memphis

Stepped pyramid at the ruins of Memphis

Egypt, the land of King Tut, pharaohs, mummies and mysterious tombs has never been free from the chains of myths and legends. One such legend that stands strong with its ruins present near the town of Helwan, south of Cairo, is the lost city of Memphis. This Egyptian lost city was said to be the capital of Aneb-Hetch. It is believed that the decline of Memphis started with its gradually decreasing economic contributions and significance, giving way to the city of Alexandria to rise. The ruins of Memphis have been preserved alongside the famous Pyramids of Giza, in an open air museum. And here's some classical Egyptian trivia about Memphis - it was believed to be under the protection of God Ptah - the lord of craftsmen!


la on April 01, 2012:

i really want to no how to get to the lost city of atlantis with my cousin and find i really want to no what it really looks like so give me information if you no what it really looks like or if you have the book and no where to get it

freelanceauthor on February 11, 2012:

Great hub. I am always fascinated by archaeological findings like the ones mentioned above. Thanks. VOted up

princesswithapen (author) on November 08, 2011:

Hi Natalie

This is very fascinating indeed. It is amazing to think about how their inhabitants survived and the ways of life, like you've pointed out. Yes, it was tough to select a few because the list of exotic and ancient places is endless.

I'm really glad you like this hub. Thanks!


Textured Ideas on November 08, 2011:

A very well written article, there is so much scope on this subject it must have been hard to select a few to talk about.

Wow, you've really touched on a fascination of mine. I too love to think about lost ancient cities, their inhabitants and their distant ways. It's so fascinating to think how different society was in those different times and how different it is for us now. I have not heard of most of these cities so I will check them out.

Many thanks.

princesswithapen (author) on October 15, 2011:

Hi Alan

Your sister must have had an exotic wedding! The guest list may have been small but the memories and pictures will last a lifetime and more!

Thanks for reading and commenting.


pinoyortiz from Quezon City, Philippines on October 15, 2011:

I'd really like to visit Machu Picchu one day. My sister (no kidding), had her wedding there! But she only invited our parents hahaha! (and the groom's)

princesswithapen (author) on October 13, 2011:


You may have not known about Pavlopetri since the discovery and the documentation of it's possible location is very recent, as compared to the other lost cities. I can't say that about Mohenjo Daro because it has been excavated, documented and mapped since many years. Mohenjo Daro is very unique for the various planning and design features that were implemented in building the city.


FloraBreenRobison on October 13, 2011:

I am most familiar with Pompeii, Troy, and Atlantis.

I always think of Citizen Kane when I hear the name Xanadu.

I've never heard of Paplovpetri or Mohenjo Daro-not sure why, but I haven't.

princesswithapen (author) on October 13, 2011:

Hi Digitskyes

I'm really glad that you feel that way! You will soon realize that HubPages is a continuous learning experience. After every few hubs you will feel that you could have done a better job with the ones you've done in the past. And this very journey makes time spent on HubPages worth the effort. Thanks for reading this hub and sparing the time to comment.


Digitskyes from Highlands, Scotland on October 13, 2011:

I really like your hubs :) they are exactly what i'd categorize as perfect examples of their type.

I reckon I could learn a lot from Hubbers like yourself :)

princesswithapen (author) on October 13, 2011:


You're right. Macchu Picchu is by far, the most visually stunning city that still stands. Places like Macchi Picchu often make me wish that we could go back in time and witness it's true glory when it was inhabitated.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


princesswithapen (author) on October 13, 2011:

Hi learner365

You are a gem of a person for saying that. I'm glad that you liked this post! Thanks heaps for stopping by.


princesswithapen (author) on October 13, 2011:


Firstly, thank you for appreciating the writing. It does mean a lot! Sometimes it is really amusing to see the range of topics that the mind can dwell into. Picking up the lost cities straight after the USB hubs was surprisingly not too difficult. That's because I use one of the USB hubs mentioned in there and I also like to read up on history. Well, not all of it but things that look exotic. The topic of lost cities was definitely too exotic to let go! Talking about geometry, many of the excavation sites reveal that even during ancient times, people were well aware of the basic concepts of geometry and dimensions. And some of the sites really make you wonder how they made it possible when there were no machines.


Joseph De Cross from New York on October 13, 2011:

Amazingly done.

Lord was in Macchu Picchu in 2006 and wheew!! you gotta be there to explain it. Thaanks for sharing so valuable information! Up...voted up!


Saadia A on October 13, 2011:

You are really a princess with a good pen...:) A real interesting post,well covered and nicely put!

Husky1970 on October 13, 2011:

What a fascinating hub, princesswithapen. I had heard of a few of these lost cities but most of the information you have provided is completely new to me. Well researched and written. Kudos! Voted up and interesting.

Back-to-back hubs on these ancient lost cities and USB Hubs clearly illustrates the spectrum of topics that you cover in your writing. I must admit that the USB Hubs were a little beyond my technological expertise but this hub is more relevant to me. Imagine that ! Admitting that a hub on ancient lost cities is more relevant to me than one on USB Hubs? Can't believe I admitted that. Must be a result of teaching geometry for so many years, a subject that hasn't changed since the days of Euclid. HaHa!

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