Leave the history books and dusty museum dioramas behind and step into the past. Here's a selection of the most intact ancient cities in which you can really imagine how our ancestors lived.
Most often seen enveloped in mist, the world’s most famous Inca site has a spectacular setting amid forest-clad Andean peaks. Built in the 15th century, the citadel is thought to have been both a residential and religious center, although plenty of theories and legends surround its mystical setting.
You’ll be lost for words as you walk the myriad of stone steps connecting temples, storehouses, palaces and agricultural terraces.
The man-made and natural come together at the magnificent ancient ruins of Hampi in central India. Temples, pavilions and palaces occupy the impressive landscape dotted with boulders, banana groves and rice paddies.
Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, and became one of the world’s wealthiest cities. You’ll want to spend a few days exploring its intricately-carved temples, soaking in the site’s enchanting atmosphere. Don't forget to head to the top of Matanga Hill for sunset to see the city at its most magical.
The prehistoric town of Butrint lies in southern Albania in a gorgeous natural setting. Built on a peninsula in a marshy landscape, it nestles amid greenery in what is today a national park.
It has a rich and diverse history: it was a Greek colony, a Roman city, an episcopal centre, a Byzantine outpost and was briefly occupied by the Venetians. It’s a hotchpotch of architectural styles that span three millennia of Mediterranean history. It includes a Greek theater, a paleo-Christian basilica and a baptistery embellished with colorful mosaics.
The city of Pompeii may be better known and architecturally more impressive, but the compelling ruins of Herculaneum are much better preserved. Like its neighbor, it was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, although Herculaneum’s pyroclastic material helped preserve much of its buildings.
Its fine villas embellished with beautiful mosaics and multi-colored marble shed light on what life was like before Vesuvius wiped out the urban center and, tragically, much of its population.
The second capital of the Kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya was once one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities.
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