Many of the world’s most historical cities are incredible to visit for many reasons: you learn something, it’s wonderful to take pictures in such locations and some of these places have even been featured in Hollywood productions. Istanbul, Rome and Athens, you name it; there are lots of locations around the globe where exploring ancient ruins and monuments that have been preserved through the ages is both exciting and wonderful. Here are 15 ancient cities worth the trip.
15. Carthage, Tunisia
The ancient city of Carthage was founded by Phoenician colonists in what is modern-day Tunisia, under the leadership of the legendary Queen Elissa, or Dido. It grew to be a large and wealthy city and major powerhouse in the region. This made it a major target of other Mediterranean rivals, including Syracuse and Rome. In its prime, Carthage had beautiful, orderly neighborhoods on top of a hill, a Forum, buildings with mosaicked walls and roads paved with clay.
14. Troy, Turkey
Troy was a legendary city made famous by Homer’s Illiad as the place where the Trojan war took place at some point in the 12th, 13th or 14th century BC. Anyone thinking Brad Pitt? Visitors to Troy could stand in the hilly city and gaze across the plain where the ancient battles of the Trojan war took place, and where the gods and leaders of ancient myths once roamed.
13. Tikal, Guatemala
The ancient city of Tikal is located deep in a rainforest in Guatemala. It was once the capital of one of the most powerful Mayan states and was a military and political powerhouse. Tikal may be as old as the 4th century BC, with the height of its civilization dating to around 200 to 900 AD. A visitor to Tikal would have been greeted by the city’s many imposing pyramid structures filled with fine carvings and artwork.
12. Ancient Memphis, Egypt
The massive Egyptian city of Memphis was founded back in 3,100 BC, during Egypt’s first dynasty. Initially a fortress that helped control the land and water routes between Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta, it later developed into an important religious center and flourishing capital with a bounty of temples and art. A great temple, royal palaces and a staggering statue of Rameses II were all once a part of the ancient city.
11. Babylon & the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
The capital of Babylonia in the ancient Mesopotamian empire was legendary for luxury and innovation. Today, the ruins of the city are located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Although the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered one of the 7 original Wonders of the World, beyond legend, little to no evidence that they existed has ever been found.
10. Ctesiphon, Iraq
Ctesiphon was the capital city of the ancient Parthian Empire, located on the Tigris River in present-day Iraq. Ctesiphon would have been another fascinating city to visit because of its advanced architecture and technology. One of Ctesiphon’s landmarks is a stunning vaulted hall that led to a massive and imposing throne room.
9. Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan
Located in the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro was built in 2600 BC and it was as large as other famous Greek and Egyptian cities that existed at the time. Ruins today testify to the complex network of houses, shops, and streets that once filled this bustling city. Brilliant!
8. Mesa Verde, United States
One of the most unique cities in the ancient world, Mesa Verde, is located in the southwest United States in Mesa Verde National Park. Here, over 600 cliff dwellings that were inhabited by the Anasazi people will impress any visitor. These incredible houses were built from sandstone, wood and mortar, carved directly into the sides of the mountains.
7. Ani, Turkey
Imagine a city of 1001 churches set amongst picturesque hills. That picture-perfect city, called Ani, was once located in modern-day Turkey. It was the capital of the Armenian Kingdom in the 10th century. Many of the ruins of these tall, ornate churches can still be explored, and they reveal a vast wealth of exquisite art and architecture.
6. Thebes, Egypt
A city that worshiped Amon, the sun god, Thebes was a luxurious city and would have been filled with lots of luster and splendor that was indeed worthy of a god. The ruins of the legendary temple at Thebes are still incredible to visit. The famous tomb of Tutankhamun is also located in Thebes.
5. Vijayanagar, India
Located in present-day India, this was once one of the largest cities in the world, home to 500,000 people in its heyday. It was the capital of the historic Vijayanagara Empire, which covered part of southern India. The city had beautiful, massive Hindu temples, some of which have survived to this day.
4. Persepolis, Iran
Located in present-day Iran, Persepolis took over a century to build. Once considered the richest city in the world, in its heyday Persepolis had an immense complex built on a terrace with carvings of slaves, kings, and other officials and important figures in the Persian Empire depicted on its side.
3. Palenque, Mexico
Palenque, once one of the most powerful Mayan city-states that dominated the landscape of the Mexican plain, is a site of impressive architecture and advanced engineering. Although it was abandoned nearly a thousand years ago, the ruins of Palenque can still be visited and continue to astound. Palenque was an advanced metropolis with buildings set on massive platforms, palaces, plazas and sports arenas.
2. Petra, Jordan
Petra is a familiar sight thanks to the “Indiana Jones” trilogy. The city was literally carved into the rose-colored mountains in present-day Jordan. Linking Asia and Arabia, Petra was a busy trading hub for silk and spices, which allowed it to enjoy significant wealth and power. A beautiful passage carved directly in the canyon set an impressive tone for visitors entering the city, gradually leading them to the massive so-called “treasury,” one of the most recognizable and photographed remains of the ancient city.
1. Angkor, Cambodia
The ancient city of Angko sits within the forest and farmland of present-day Cambodia; it was once home to stunning buildings and up to a million inhabitants. This made it the largest pre-industrial city in the world. Built over 400 square kilometers, the city featured temples and massive, elaborately decorated structures.