The Most Amazing Ancient Cities in the World

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In terms of historical sites, nothing quite beats exploring lost, abandoned and ruined ancient cities. Among the most popular of these historic cities to visit are Pompeii, Chichen Itza and Angkor Wat. Other popular sites tend to include Machu Picchu, Teotihuacan and Carthage.

From the remains of the ancient city of Babylon to lost Roman metropolises, Mayan centres and Egyptian mega-towns, the ancient cities of the world are as varied as they are numerous.

Our ancient cities guide will help you plan your very own ancient city tour and explore the world’s best ancient places. So whether you’re seeking ancient cities in Europe, South America or anywhere across the globe, our ancient city guide will help you get exploring.

What are the most popular ancient cities to visit?

1. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is an enormous 12th century temple complex in Cambodia and the best preserved of its kind. Incredibly grand and ornately decorated, Angkor Wat’s sand-coloured buildings rise up to form five towers, representing the home of the Hindu deities. Friezes and sculptures are found throughout, depicting both day-to-day life from the time it was built and religious events.

Today Angkor Wat is one of Cambodia’s most popular tourist sites. There is an incredible amount to see and it’s a good (although relatively expensive) idea to get a licensed tour guide. Angkor Wat has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992.

2. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an extraordinary ancient stone city along the Inca Trail in Peru and forms one of the most famous historical sites in the world. Believed to have been constructed by the Inca Yupanqui people sometime during the mid-fifteenth century, the ruins of Machu Picchu sit high atop a granite mountain. Some of the most impressive structures include the semi-circular Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows, the mausoleum and the upper cemetery.

Machu Picchu’s agricultural section, with its terraces and granaries, is also an important aspect of the site demonstrating the advanced agricultural methods employed by the Inca people. The main Machu Picchu city is surrounded by other sites forming the Inca Trail and some of which take some serious hiking, but are well worth it. It’s also a good idea to stop at the Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón at the base of the mountain.

3. Ephesus

Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums. Some of the most impressive sites include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century.

A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day - some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus - but history enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day. There is also a great Ephesus Museum displaying artifacts found in the old city.

4. Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is an archaeological site in Egypt housing a series of incredible Ancient Egyptian monuments, especially a number of rock temples. The most famous sites at Abu Simbel are the two Temples of Ramesses II. The site was rediscovered in 1813. One of the most startling sights at Abu Simbel is the main hall of the Great Temple. This was also cut into the sandstone and along the hand hewn length are two rows of Osirid statues of Ramses, each one 30 feet high. Incredibly, the temples at Abu Simbel were once located elsewhere, but were moved – with the help of UNESCO – to their current location in order to protect them from flooding. The place they once stood is now under water.

5. Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan was a holy Mesoamerican city built in around 400 BC in what is now Mexico and forms one of the country’s oldest archeological sites. Characterised by looming stepped pyramids, indeed one of the most impressive aspects of Teotihuacan is the sheer size of these monuments, including the Pyramid of the Sun, which measures 225 by 222 metres at its base, rising 75 metres high. Incredibly well-preserved, despite a fire which tore through Teotihuacan in the 7th century, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Visitors to Teotihuacan can manouver their way through the city via its original streets, such as Avenue of the Dead, which divided the city into quarters, although take note that the site is absolutely enormous. Today, Teotihuacan is one of the most popular tourist sites in Mexico and includes numerous museums, including the Museo del Sitio, just south of the Pyramid of the Sun where visitors can see various artefacts from the site.

6. Jerash

Jerash is one of the world’s best preserved ancient Roman sites. Today, tourists flock to see Jerash’s extensive and impressive ruins, including the Temple of Artemis and the Forum with its large ionic columns. Jerash’s original main street, the Cardo, runs through the centre of the site and, with its visible chariot marks and underground drainage system, is fascinating in its own right. Other must-see aspects of Jerash include its still-functioning 3,000 seat South Theatre built between 90-92AD during the reign of Emperor Domitian, its second century AD North Theatre and its Nymphaeum fountain. Visitors can also see many of the artefacts found during the excavation of this site at the Jerash Archeological Museum.

7. Monte Alban

Monte Alban in Mexico is an impressive ancient site created by an incredible feat which involved carving a flat space out of a mountain rising to an elevation of over 1,600 feet above the valley below it. The site is characterised by over 2,200 terraces as well as numerous pyramid structures, large staircases, ornate palaces, elaborate tombs and even a ball court known as Juego de Pelota, mostly arranged on its “Grand Plaza”. The ball court is very well-preserved, made up of two facing stepped platforms with the playing field in the centre. The ball games played were ritualistic and often ended in the death of the losers. Today, Monte Alban is a popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has a small on-site museum showing some of the finds from excavations of Monte Alban.

8. Pergamum

Pergamum is a famous archaeological site in Turkey which developed under the Attalid dynasty following the death of Alexander the Great. The historic ruins of Pergamum are split into three main areas. In the Acropolis, one can find sites such as its library, gymnasium, very steep theatre and arsenal as well as the Roman Temple of Trajan. This was also once the site of the incredible Altar of Pergamum, now controversially located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Now only its base remains at Pergamum. The other two areas of Pergamum are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths. Pergamum has a small archaeological museum, with some of the finds excavated from the site.

9. Carthage

Carthage was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world and spawned the powerful Carthaginian Empire which dominated much of the western Mediterranean. The ruins of this famed city can be found on the outskirts of modern day Tunis.

The best way to begin exploring these ruins is probably by visiting Byrsa Hill and the Carthage Museum. The museum hosts a collection of Carthaginian and Roman artefacts including marble sarcophagi and a model of Punic Carthage. Other key points of interest include the impressive Antonine Baths, the Roman Amphitheater, Roman villas and reconstructed Roman theatre of Carthage. Among the best preserved Punic remains are the Magon Quarter, Punic Port and unnerving Sanctuary of Tophet.

10. Chichen Itza

Stunningly well-preserved and imposingly beautiful, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most impressive historical sites. A UNESCO World Heritage site based in the forests of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is actually made up of two cities built by two peoples, the Mayas and the Toltecs.

The site is made up of several surviving buildings including a circular observatory known as El Caracol, the Warriors’ Temple and El Castillo. Accounts vary as to the date of the first settlement at Chichen Itza, placing it between the 6th and 9th century AD when the Mayas built the original city including “The Building of the Nuns” and a church.

Full list of ancient cities you can visit today

Beyond this top ancient cities list, there are many similar places to visit, including Montezuma Castle, Mesa Verde National Park and Saqqara to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of historic cities and you can view the current selection below.


Abydos is an important Ancient Egyptian site which contains a wealth of tombs, temples and other archaeological remains including the famous Temple of Seti I.


Aguateca was an important Maya capital city in Guatemala which was dramatically destroyed.


Aizanoi houses ancient Roman ruins including a stadium, gymnasium, theatre and an impressive Temple of Zeus.


Akrotiri is a beautifully preserved ancient site in Santorini, famed for its incredible frescos and its connection with the Minoans.


Alesia was the site where Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls in 52 BC.


Anjar is an excellent example of the 8th century architecture of the Umayyad dynasty.


Apamea is an ancient site in Syria which boasts a remarkable 1800 metres of dramatic Roman colonnades


Aquincum is a large Ancient Roman site in Budapest housing the remains of part of what was an important military base and city.


Asklepieion is an archaeological site containing the well-preserved ruins of the birthplace of medicine.

Augusta Raurica

Augusta Raurica is an ancient Roman archaeological site near Basel in Switzerland.


Avdat was an ancient Nabatean city along a prosperous trade route.


Aventicum is an impressive ancient Roman site in Switzerland which was the thriving capital of the Helvetians.


Baalbek is home to the largest ever Roman temple and a range of other magnificent ancient structures.


Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world and today can be found near the town of Al-Hillah in modern-day Iraq.

Baelo Claudia

The Roman town of Baelo Claudia in Spain is a well-preserved ancient city which sits on the Andalusian coast, providing a beautiful backdrop to these ancient remains.


Baia was once the summer retreat of Ancient Rome’s elite and is now an archaeological park outside Naples.

Bulla Regia

Bulla Regia was an Ancient Roman settlement in Tunisia, now famous for its subterranean villas.


Butrint is a prehistoric UNESCO World Heritage site in south west Albania which has been occupied by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines.


Byblos is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins.

Caerwent Roman Town

Caerwent Roman Town is home to the ruins of the once thriving Roman settlement of Venta Silurum.


Caesarea in Israel was an Ancient Roman city later conquered by the Crusaders.


Cahuachi is an ancient site of the Nazca civilization in Peru.


Calakmul is a remote and incredible Maya site in Campeche, Mexico, containing the remains of a vast and once-powerful ancient city.


Calixtlahuaca is an Aztec archaeological site near Toluca in Mexico.

Cappadocia Underground Cities

The Cappadocia Underground Cities are incredible Christian subterranean fortified cities in Turkey protected by UNESCO.

Carranque Archaeological Park

Carranque Archaeological Park contains a series of Ancient Roman ruins built in the fourth century AD.


Ceibal is an ancient Maya settlement site in northern Guatemala.

Cerro Patapo

Cerro Patapo was the site of a city of the Wari civilisation only discovered in 2008.


Chacchoben is a Maya site in Mexico housing some impressive pyramid temples.

Chan Chan

Chan Chan in Peru was the capital of the Chimu civilisation and is a UNESCO listed site.


Choquequirao is a little known Incan city in the south of Peru which is similar to the far more famous Machu Picchu.

Citania de Briteiros

Citania de Briteiros is a Portuguese archaeological site containing the ruins of an ancient settlement.


Cobá is an important and vast archaeological Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region.


Conimbriga is probably Portugal’s best-preserved Ancient Roman archaeological site.


Copan in Honduras was an important Maya city, the impressive ruins of which are UNESCO listed.


Corinth was a major city to both the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans and its fascinating ruins are a popular tourist destination.

Cumae Archaeological Park

Cumae Archaeological Park in Pozzuoli houses a series of ancient ruins and artefacts and is thought to have been inhabited as far back as the Iron Age.


Cyrene in Libya is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman sites in the world.


Delos is a UNESCO listed ancient Greek site and the island on which Apollo was said to have been born.


Delphi is an Ancient Greek site once considered to have been the centre of the Earth.


Dendera, near Luxor, contains the stunning Temple of Hathor and is a real gem amongst Ancient Egyptian ruins. Day-trips to the site run from many Luxor hotels.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City is the most famous of the Cappadocia subterranean cities built by early Christians and protected by UNESCO.


Djemila in Algeria is the site of extensive Roman ruins of a former military base.

Dos Pilas

Dos Pilas was a major Maya city which succumbed to the ravages of warfare.


Dougga is an impressively well-preserved and UNESCO-listed ancient site in Tunisia.


Dubrovnik is a city in Croatia dating back as far as the seventh century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Dura Europos

Dura Europos was a thriving ancient city in Eastern Syria occupied by a series of civilisations, now represented by well preserved ruins.


Durnovaria is the original Roman name for what is now the English town of Dorchester.


Dzibilchaltun in Mexico is an archaeological site housing the ruins of a Maya settlement.

Ek Balam

Ek Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula with some impressive ruins.

El Brujo

El Brujo is an early Chimu archaeological site in Peru.

El Tajin

El Tajin in Mexico was a city of the Totonac people and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Epidaurus was a city of Ancient Greece located on the Greek mainland. Its incredible ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Glanum is an extensive archaeological site of a former Roman settlement near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.


Gortyna in Crete was the capital of Crete and Cyrene during the Roman era.

Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the remains of an eleventh century Shona city.


Hattusha is one of Turkey’s great ruins of the capitals of the Hittite Empire and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Heraklea Linkestis

Heraklea Linkestis is an archaeological site in Bitola in Macedonia which was once an ancient Roman settlement.


Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town fossilized following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.


Hierapolis was once a thriving, multicultural ancient city and spa, the remains of which can now be seen in modern day Turkey.


Histria was occupied by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines and is thought to be the oldest settlement in Romania.


The ruins of Kabah are those of a Maya settlement in Yucatan, Mexico.


Kamiros was an ancient city on the island of Rhodes, the ruins of which include an acropolis.

Karnak Temple

The Karnak Temple is a vast sacred Ancient Egyptian complex in Luxor, Egypt listed by UNESCO.


Kasserine was an ancient Roman settlement known as Cillium, the remains of which can be seen today.

Kaymaklı Underground City

Kaymaklı Underground City is a large subterranean city in central Turkey built by early Christians and part of a UNESCO site.


Home of a number of stunning temples, famous for their erotic sculptures, Khajuraho was the ancient capital of the Chandela Dynasty.


Knossos is an archaeological site which was once a thriving city at the centre of the Minoan civilisation.


Kourion is an impressive archaeological site in Cyprus containing mostly Ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins.


Labna is a Maya site in Yucatan State in Mexico.


Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ruins.

Leptis Magna

Leptis Magna was once one of the most important African cities of the Roman Empire and is now an impressive archaeological site in Tripoli.


Leukaspis was a thriving Greco-Roman port and city founded in the second century BC. Today, it has been excavated as the Marina el-Alamein Archaeological Site.

Luxor Temple

The Luxor Temple is a vast sacred Ancient Egyptian site which once formed part of the city of Thebes. It is UNESCO listed.


Mamshit in Israel is the site of one of four UNESCO listed Nabatean cities which prospered as part of the Incense trading route.

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is an incredibly well preserved and stunning collection of archaeological sites of the Native American Pueblo people dating back to 600 AD.


Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins.


Mirobriga was once a thriving Roman town, the ruins of which can now be seen in Portugal.


Mitla was a Zapotec religious centre later taken over by the Mixtecs in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle is a 12th century cliff dwelling in Arizona.

Museu D'Historia De Barcelona

If you want to truly know the story of Barcelona, head straight for Museu D’Historia De Barcelona.


Mycenae is a well-preserved Ancient Greek archaeological site in the Peloponnese which formed the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation.

Nea Pafos

Nea Pafos is an archaeological site near Paphos Harbour which served as the capital of Cyprus from the fourth century BC.

Nora Archaeological Site

The Nora Archaeological Site in Sardinia houses ancient Phoenician and Roman ruins.


Novae was a Roman town and military camp, the ruins of which are now found in Bulgaria.


Olympia was a city in Ancient Greece from which today’s Olympic Games originate and is now an important archaeological site protected by UNESCO.

Ostia Antica

The site of Ostia Antica contains the ruins of the port of ancient Rome and visitors can view some amazingly well preserved remains of the settlement.


Paestum is a Greco-Roman site in Italy containing the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples.


Palaipafos in Cyprus contains ruins dating back as far as the Late Bronze Age.


Palenque in Mexico is a UNESCO listed Maya archaeological site of a city which thrived between 500 and 700 AD.


Palmyra was an ancient city which became part of the Roman Empire. Its impressive ruins are located in Syria.


Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire, the UNESCO-listed ruins of which are located in Iran.


Pella in Greece was the capital of ancient Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander the Great.


Perge is a Turkish archaeological site containing mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece.


Perperikon was an important Thracian sanctuary turned Roman town then medieval fortress.


Persepolis was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire and today contains the ruins of many ancient buildings and monuments.


Petra is a famous UNESCO-listed ancient Nabataean city which later formed part of the Roman Empire.

Piramide de Cuicuilco

Cuicuilco is a Mesoamerican archeological site in Mexico City, believed to have been a large, ceremonial city that existed prior to the foundation of Teotihuacan.


Pollentia is an Ancient Roman site in Alcudia in Majorca.


Pompeii was an ancient Roman city whose incredibly well-preserved ruins now form a popular UNESCO World Heritage site.


Priene is a quiet, picturesque ancient Greek city in Turkey which boasts some amazing historical remains without the crowds of the nearby sites.

Qatna Archaeological Park

Qatna Archaeological Park houses the ruins of what was the thriving ancient Mesopotamian city of Qatna.

Quirigua Archaeological Park

Quirigua Archaeological Park is a former Maya settlement and is now a small, yet important UNESCO listed site in Guatemala.


A picturesque ancient city on Libya’s coast, Sabratha contains some excellent Roman ruins.


Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman ruins, some of them very well preserved.


Saqqara was the burial ground of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis and home to numerous pyramids and tombs.


Sayil in Mexico houses the ruins of a small Maya settlement built in the Puuc style.


Sbeitla in Tunisia flourished as a Roman city from the 1st century AD.


Segesta contains the famous fifth century BC incomplete, but very well-preserved, Temple of Segesta.


Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis and five temples.

Sirmium Imperial Palace

The Sirmium Imperial Palace complex holds the remains of a Roman imperial palace which was home to several Roman Emperors in the middle and late empire.


The ancient Greek city of Sparta was one of the most famous city-states of the ancient world.

St Albans

St Albans is a wonderful market town and the site of the execution of Britain’s first Christian martyr (209AD).


Stabiae contains the ruins of both ancient Roman and Oscan civilizations, dating back as far as the 7th century BC.


Stobi in Macedonia was an ancient settlement of Paeonia before becoming a Roman city.

Syracuse Archaeological Site

The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of an ancient city dating as far back as the eighth century BC.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo is a beautiful thousand year old Native American settlement in New Mexico.


Taxila was the ancient Gandhāran capital city and its incredible ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tchogha Zanbil

Tchogha Zanbil is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor was a holy temple in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, now modern day Mexico City.


Tenochtitlan was the Aztec capital, established in 1325AD and destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century.


Tharros, in Sardinia, was founded by the Phoenicians and contains mostly Roman ruins.


Thebes was an ancient Mycenaean and Greek city eventually destroyed by Alexander the Great.


Tikal in Guatemala was a major Maya site of great ceremonial importance. Its well-preserved ruins are listed by UNESCO.


The ruins of Timgad are the extremely well-preserved remains of an Ancient Roman military encampment in Algeria.


Tiwanaku in Bolivia was the capital of a powerful pre-Inca civilisation and is a UNESCO listed site.


Troy is a world-renowned archaeological site, inhabited since the 4th millennium BC and believed to the have been the location of the famous Trojan War.


Tulum is a cliff-top Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region with some interesting and quite well preserved ruins.

Umm Qais

Umm Qais, also spelt Umm Qays, houses the remains of Gadara, one of the Decapolis cities.


Uxmal was a Maya city in Yucatan, Mexico and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is a major royal Ancient Egyptian burial site in Luxor and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Velia Archaeological Site

The Velia Archaeological Site contains Greek, Roman and medieval ruins of the city initially founded as Elea.


Verulamium was a Roman settlement near modern day St Albans in England.


Site of a Roman legion camp includes ruins of amphitheater and aqueduct


Volubilis near Meknes in Morocco was an ancient Roman city developed in the first century BC.


Winaywayna is an Inca site in Peru near Machu Picchu.

Wroxeter Roman City

Wroxeter Roman City houses the remains of what was once Roman Britain’s fourth largest city.

Xanten Archaeological Park

Xanten Archaeological Park houses the remains of the former Roman settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana.


Xcaret houses the ruins of a Maya city which reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Xlapak is a small archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan region.


Xochicalco is an important pre-Columbian site in Mexico and a World Heritage site.


Yagul was a fortified Zapotec settlement in Oaxaca in Mexico.


Hidden away far from the husstle and busstle of the main tourist track is the archeaological site of Yaxchilan, containing the ruins of this once-powerful Maya city.


Yaxha is an impressive ancient Maya site in Guatemala’s Peten region.

Our list of ancient cities is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other ancient cities, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.