The truth is that most legendary lost cities are not actually lost at all; they simply never existed in the first place. But can anything that has had a genuine impact on generations of humans be fairly called nonexistent? Perhaps the famous lost cities live only in legend, but there are other cities that are filled with wood, stone, and concrete that have been lost and found again.
Here are the top legendary lost cities that will leave you stunned.
15.) El Dorado, Colombia
For a city that almost surely never existed, El Dorado sure has consumed a lot of real blood and treasure. Why? Because it was said to be filled with treasure. The fabled City of Gold was thought by many 16th century explorers to lie somewhere in the so-called New World.
Famous adventurers such as Gonzalo Pizarro (brother to Francisco Pizarro) and Sir Walter Raleigh undertook massive expeditions in search of the fabled city, only to have their hopes dashed against the rocks of reality.
The legend of Atlantis started off in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of a place that existed some 10,000 years before the Common Era, and described it as a mighty island city filled with strong, brave, intelligent citizens. Plato created the land of Atlantis as an allegory for the fate of a too-proud people, struck down for their hubris: the entire island of Atlantis was said to have sunk into the sea in less than a day’s time.
The ostensible impossibility of that occurrence coupled with the fact that Plato was obviously speaking figuratively has not stopped generations of explorers from searching for the fabled lost city, though. People claim to have located Atlantis in locations ranging from the seafloor of the Mediterranean to the waters off Florida’s coast.
Date: 3000 BC – 500 AD
From the 12th century BC to the mid-1800s, the city of Troy was thought to be nothing more than fable—the site of the legendary war between the Greek and Trojan armies set off by the capture of the Greek beauty Helen. Troy was the seat of power of the mighty Trojan empire, and its impregnable walls manned by mighty warriors were the stuff of Homeric saga.
In the middle of the 19th century, though, two archeologists, a Brit named Calvert and a German named Schliemann, began excavations in Turkish farmland, eventually revealing a plethora of ruins many now believe are the site of Ancient Troy. We’ll likely never know for sure if the ruins have revealed the real Troy, or if they are of another ancient metropolis long lost to the ages.
12.) Tikal, Guatemala
Date: 200 to 900 AD
Guatemala’s prize is the lost city, Tikal. It’s considered the greatest of all the Maya cities. There are six impressive temples which still dominate the landscape much as they did a thousand years ago.
They soar above the rainforest and making everyone wonder what ceremonies took place there. Even though it was a city back then, it is not surrounded by a jungle.
11.) Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Date: 1000 AD – 1400 AD
This legendary lost city was built by the Gokomere people in the eleventh century on a plateau. It is around 100 miles from modern-day Harare, Great Zimbabwe’s palace enclosed by a granite wall that is 15 feet high.
It was once a stone city that developed a trade network site in gold, ivory, and cattle. Today, the ruins of the city are scattered through a wide valley.
10.) Mesa Verde, Colorado, USA
Date: 600 AD – 1300 AD
The Mesa Verde has over 600 cliff dwellings, which is where the Anasazi people lived for hundreds of years. They built the buildings from sandstone, wood, and mortar under an overhang.
The most famous structure, Cliff Palace, housed around 100 people and they were able to access it by ladders.
9.) Palenque, Mexico
Date: 600 AD -1120 AD
Palenque was a mid-sized Maya city that was most popular when the ruler Pacal the Great took control. If you walk around this lost city now, there is a ton of architecture and sculptures that are breathtaking.
Now, most of the buildings are covered under the forest and jungle.
8.) Pompeii, Italy
Date: 600 BC – 79 AD
This is probably the most famous lost city because there have been multiple movies made out of this lost city. In 79 AD, the city of Pompeii was covered under a wave of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Many of the citizens and animals were buried alive. The possessions were perfectly intact when people found this area.
Even doors and certain buildings remained upright. It’s almost like a weird time capsule that was recently discovered.
7.) Petra, Jordan
Date: 9000 BC – 106 AD
Petra was the capital of Nabateans. It was a key trading center for silk and spices that were linked to Asia and the west. The city started to decline under Roman rule in the fourth century BC.
It was not rediscovered until 1812. There were breathtaking and large tombs, which are similar to the ones seen in Indiana Jones movies.
6.) Angkor, Cambodia
Date: 800 AD – 1400 AD
This lost city stretched over 150 miles. The Khmer Empire flourished in this area, making it prosperous city to be living in at the time.
In this area, there is a Hindu temple with cone towers where there are sculpted human faces of the Hindu myths.
5.) Machu Picchu, Peru
Date: 1450 AD-1550 AD.
Machu Picchu was constructed in the mountains of Peru by the Incas around 1450. Sadly, it was abandoned only 100 years later.
Since it’s finding in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, this is has been a huge tourist attraction. The city itself is filled with mystery that historians are still trying to figure out.
4.) Ctesiphon, Iraq
Date: 120 BC – 363 AD
In the ancient Parthian Empire, Ctesiphon was the capital. To give you a reference where it is located, it’s not too far away from modern Baghdad.
There are enormous halls, which has a large brick-built arch. There is a throne room that is 100 feet high and 157 feet long. We think this is truly fit for a king.
3.) Persepolis, Iran
Date: 518 BC-330 BC
This legendary lost city was found by Darius I in 518 BC. In a century, Persepolis started to take off with people building more architecture and sculptures.
In this city, the Persian empire was partly kept here with slaves, kings, officials, and representatives.
2.) Sodom and Gomorrah
Few mythical cities have had more impact on actual humanity than the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Old Testament God proved himself to be the kind of guy who solves his problems with a rather heavy-handed approach when he totally destroyed these two towns with a seething storm of fire and brimstone.
While it’s a safe bet that these mythical cities never existed anywhere but in the minds of the scribes writing the Book of Genesis, they still influence our culture today, especially those with more fundamental religious views.
1.) Shambhala, City of Light
This mythical kingdom is considered a highly holy place for followers of both Hinduism and Buddhism. To the latter it is one of the few “Pure Lands,” or a place where the Buddha resides; many Hindus believe that Shambhala is (or will be) the birthplace of the final incarnation of Vishnu, the supreme deity.
Unlike many other cities of ancient legend, Shambhala is not generally thought of as a real place that actually existed but is rather a religious construct possibly inspired by actual locations, but truly extant only in the mind of believers.
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