The Most Popular Abandoned Cities

abandoned cities

We consider cities to be abandoned when the local population has fled and everything is left in oblivion. Some reasons for fleeing were wars, migrations of the masses, or natural disasters.

Such an abandoned city becomes a “time capsule,” perfectly preserving a certain historical epoch, untouched until one day it is discovered by explorers.

Today, this is still true – some abandoned cities have been found, providing archaeologists with rich historic material to learn about, while others remain a mystery.

We present you with the top ten most popular abandoned cities, some completely real, others still just legends, but nonetheless, all of them continue to excite explorers and adventurers.

The City of Kings


According to some legends, this mythical city is located somewhere in South America, in the region of Patagonia (also known as The City of Patagonia). Several Spanish shipwreck survivors encountered the city and found countless jewels and gold treasures. But, despite numerous attempts to rediscover the city, it is unclear whether or not anyone succeeded.

Failed attempts have contributed with many more legends about the city – for example, some say it has become home to giants and ghosts.


Tales of the city of Troy have reached us thanks to the great poet, Homer, however, up to the second half of the XIX century, it all remained a mystery. In the poems, Troy is described as a well enforced city, located in modern day Turkey, built on a hill above the Scamander River.

Digital reconstruction of the city of Troy.
Digital reconstruction of the city of Troy.

The strategic location of this city made trading very successful, and the land was very fertile which was great for the advancement of agriculture. Enchanted by the legendary city, and believing in the reality of events as told by Homer, Heinrich Schliemann conducted excavations in a place that strongly resembled Troy, and in 1870 he actually did come across the ruins of an ancient, wealthy city.

The Lost City of Z

It is believed that this city, with its advanced bridges, paths, breathtaking palaces and temples is located in the dense the Brazilian jungles. This information is based on an ancient script, written by a sailor, who claims to have been there in 1953.


Famous explorer, Percy Fawcett, organized an expedition in 1925 to find the city, but neither him, nor any of his crew made it back home.

A couple of years ago, the abandoned city of Kuhikugu was discovered in the Amazon forest and it is quite possible that it is the one mentioned in the script.



It is possible that this is the most amazing abandoned city in the world. Petra is located on the Dead Sea, on the territory of present day Jordan. Once, the city of Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom.

Beautiful examples of stone architecturewere found in Petra, and a lot of the structures were carved straight into the walls.

After a long period of prosperity, the city suffered substantially from an earthquake in 365 AD. Slowly and surely it started losing its importance, until it was completely abandoned by its people. In 1812, the majestic Petra was discovered in the middle of the Arabian desert and it is still visited by half a million tourists each year.

El Dorado


This legendary place, called the Golden city, located in the midst of the South American jungles, was a like a magnet for numerous conquistador expeditions over the years. The goal was to obtain its treasures which were mentioned in various stories.

One of the most popular attempts to find the mythical city of El Dorado was made by Gonzalo Pizarro in the year 1541. His team, consisting of 300 conquistadors and several hundred soldiers, began the search between the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.

Numerous explorers lost their life in those places because of attacks from hostile native tribes as well as infectious diseases and hunger. Yet, El Dorado remains undiscovered.


This ancient city was founded in 3100 B.C. and lasted for several centuries. It was the capital of an Ancient Egyptian kingdom, until it fell in the shadow of Thebes and Alexandria.


In its golden years, the population of Memphis reached 30 000, and it was considered one of the largest cities of its time.

In time, the city was abandoned and it even became unclear where it was situated. Napoleon’s Egyptian crusade, consisting of many archeologists, was immensely helpful for the discovery of its ruins. That’s when the city’s structures and monuments were analyzed for the first time, providing archeologists with many new facts about the culture of Ancient Egypt.




A name carried by a region in Cambodia, where during IX-XV centuries, the mighty Khmer Empire flourished. At the end of that period, the whole empire suffered a huge degradation, and finally was completely destroyed by the invasion of a hostile army from Thailand in the year 1431.

The capital became deserted and numerous Buddhist temples, palaces and streets gave in to nature and turned into jungles. Even so, many of the structures remained intact and when archeologists from France began exploring the abandoned city in the 19 century, they were astonished by its colossal size.

Scientists believe that the population of that region was about one million, which would make Angkor the largest preindustrial city. The largest religious compound in the word – Angkor Wat – can be seen there, too.


The city fell victim to the eruption of Vesuvius volcano in the year 79 AD. Those who perished, along with the streets and structures were buried under a 20-meter layer of ashes and stone. In Pompeii, which was mainly used by wealthy Roman citizens for relaxation, were located numerous luxurious villas and homes, as well as amazing monuments of art.

Trey Ratcliff/Flickr
Trey Ratcliff/Flickr

The ruins of the city were found 1700 years later accidently, during the construction of a palace for a Neapolitan king. The layer of ash had preserved the monuments, frescoes, and architecture from the devastating effects of the natural disaster, which turned out to be a priceless gift for archeologists.

Discoveries made in the city of Pompeii, have been an enormous contribution in the study of life of the ancient Roman civilization.


There is still no credible evidence to this day that Atlantis ever existed, however the legend of the city swallowed by water continues to excite many archeologists.


The first to mention this city was Pluto in the 4 century BC He describes it as a highly evolved civilization, with huge achievements in the areas of science and technology. Even the authorities in Nazy Germany believed in the ancient legends. That’s why they even sent an expedition to explore ancient knowledge in Tibet, where the people of Atlantis were thought to have migrated after the disaster.

Machu Picchu

мачу пикчу

One of the most mysterious cities, of course, would probably be Machu Picchu (literally meaning – “Old Peak”) in Peru. It is located at an altitude of 2539 meters in the Andy Mountains, for which it is also called “a city in the clouds”. Greedy conquistadors were not able to reach it which kept it from being ravished like many other Native American cities.

But, the people of Machu Picchu mysteriously disappeared and the city remained abandoned for 400 years, rarely visited by locals. The rest of the world was blind to this amazing monument depicting Native American culture. That was until 1911, when Hiram Bingham visited the place, escorted by a guide.

The Incan city itself does not impress with size, most likely no more than 1200 people resided in it. But it is impossible not to marvel upon the exquisite structures, towers and temples of Machu Picchu, erected by Native American construction workers.

There are different versions about the purpose of the city – religious center, residence of the ruler of the Incan people, as well as many others. The geographic location of Machu Picchu suggests that the place had been carefully selected, using astronomical data.