Chichen Itza Marv Watson

Ancient Lost Cities Around the World

Ancient Lost Cities Around the World

25 November 2022

Around the world, there are countless wonderful and fascinating sights to see – but there are some historical sites that were lost from the world for hundreds of years. After being lost for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, magnificent ancient lost cities have been discovered and excavated by historians and archaeologists. Now they have been rediscovered, we can use them to learn about ancient civilisations.


In southwestern Iran, the ancient city of Persepolis was founded by Darius I in 518 BCE, taking over 100 years to complete. With stunningly intricate carvings covering the stone ruins, it is clear that this is a city fit for a King. Persepolis was designed to be the home of the government of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as a spectacle for receptions and festivals. With grandiose design and an immense political and cultural history, this is a bucket-list historical site.


This is surely one of the most famous ancient lost cities in the world – Pompeii. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted spewing hot volcanic ash onto the city of Pompeii just below. In the eruption, ash descended on the city burying citizens, their homes, and their possessions, immediately leaving much of it intact. The city remains as a living statue – you can see a snapshot of an ancient civilization caught at the very moment it fell. With 12 square kilometres to explore, Pompeii is a unique archaeological site and a stunning lost city.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, located in the Cusco region of Peru, is an Incan citadel located at a staggering altitude of 7972 ft. With luscious vistas of the mountainous Peruvian landscape surrounding and a well-preserved glimpse into the lives of the Incan empire, Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Since the Incans did not have a written language, all historical understanding of Machu Picchu is thanks to archaeological excavation and analysis. The “Lost City of the Incas” was likely constructed for Pachacuti and, in recent years, has become one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations.

Machu Picchu Errin Casano

Chichén Itzá

You’re probably familiar with the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, but many ancient civilisations, including the Mayans, famously constructed pyramid structures. Chichén Itzá is dominated by a stepped pyramid called the Temple of Kukulcán, built sometime between the 8th and 12 centuries AD. The surviving pyramids and observatories at the site highlight the incredible astronomical studies and discoveries that were made by the Maya-Toltec civilisation.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde is now a UNESCO recognised national park in Colorado, USA, but was once a cliff city of incredible beauty. Inhabited by nomadic people as far back as 7500 BCE, the Mesa Verde National Park has long been a home for various American peoples, but is now best known for the Cliff Palace, which is considered to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. This palace on the side of a cliff was abandoned in 1300 AD and left untouched until 1988, when this amazing city was rediscovered by cowboys.

Mesa Verde Rohaden

Skara Brae

Most of these ancient lost cities can be found around the world in exotic locations, but the United Kingdom has some lost cities of its own! On the Orkney archipelago of Scotland, there remains ruins of a stone-built Neolithic settlement – the best preserved in Western Europe. Dating back to 3180-2500 BCE, the condition of some structures at Skara Brae is truly amazing. Discovered following severe storms, an amateur excavation began a long journey to uncovering the true beauty of this lost city.


If you’re looking for somewhere to truly transport you to another world, this might just be the lost city you’ve been searching for! You can find Petra in modern day Jordan, but it was the capital of the Nabateans possibly as early as the 5th century BCE. Covering an area of 264 square kilometres, there is plenty to explore – from the intricate carved rock that makes up the city to the tombs that you might just recognise from films and TV. Rediscovered in 1812, this is a city that was culturally influential thousands of years ago and remains so today.

Petra Brian Kairuz


Xanadu has become widely known thanks to pop culture references ranging from Coleridge to Olivia Newton John – but has a deep cultural and historical meaning. Xanadu (or Shangdu as it is known) was the summer capital of the Yuan dynasty of China and is located in present-day Mongolia. Now a historical ruins site, Shangdu once housed over 100,000 people within its walls. Shangdu was designed and constructed in the 13th century AD and named by Kublai Khan, instilling it with historical importance and cultural heritage.


The historic Mosque city of Bagerhat is situated where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers meet. Once known as Khalifatabad, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is in Bangladesh and comprises of 360 mosques, public buildings, mausoleums, and more. Bagerhat was founded in the 15th century and spans 50 square kilometres. With a dominantly Islamic architecture style, this lost city is something to behold. With domes and spires cast in terracotta and baked brick, as well as astoundingly well-preserved architecture, this is a lost city worth finding.