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From Machu Picchu to the City of the Monkey God: the world's top 10 lost cities
Posted on 16/03/2015 , Modified on 07/10/2015


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LOST CITY: As archaeologists rediscover an ancient settlement deep in the jungles of Honduras, we take a look at some of the world's most beautiful and valuable lost cities.

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  • "City of the Monkey God", Honduras

    Recently rediscovered by a team comprised of archaeologists, former SAS soldiers and some National Geographic reporters, this lost city deep in the La Mosquitia region of Honduras was filled with evidence of a previous civilization - as of yet unknown - which had mysteriously abandoned the city. The ruins have not yet been excavated, and the precise location remains a closely guarded secret.

  • Machu Picchu, Peru
    Machu Picchu, Peru

    Without a doubt Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic ancient sites in the world, and quite simply no amount of superlatives can do it justice. It is set atop a 2,500-metre mountain ridge and was the jewel of the pre-Columbian Inca kingdom. There are a number of ways to visit from the nearby city of Cusco, though undoubtedly the most spectacular - if you have the time and perseverance - is the four-day hike along the original Inca trails.

  • Petra, Jordan
    Petra, Jordan

    Petra, a city carved out of the surrounding rock face in the Jordanian desert, is an unrivalled architectural feat (with the possible exception of Mesa Verde - see below). A grand temple-like entrance beckons you into the rock, leading into a network of tunnels, passage ways and a sophisticated irrigation system - so valuable in this dry climate. The location between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea made it an important stopping point on the trade routes between East and West.

  • Pompeii, Italy
    Pompeii, Italy

    In the shadows of the fearsome Mount Vesuvius, the ruins of Pompeii, preserved for almost 2000 years, are a fascinating insight into ancient Roman society. The city of 11,000 was instantaneously wiped out by the explosion of Vesuvius, and as a consequence the site remained more or less frozen in time. Easily accessible from Naples, the city is a sight to behold.

  • Tikal, Guatemala
    Tikal, Guatemala

    This ancient city, left abandoned in the luscious rainforest of northern Guatemala, was one of the centres of the Mayan empire. Tikal was built in the 6th century and abandoned some 400 years later, though the reasons are unclear. It is an archaeological treasure trove, teaching historians much about Mayan society when it was found in the 19th century. The site was even used for the filming of the first Star Wars film.


There are few relics of the past more extraordinary than "lost cities": once-thriving communities, sometimes with sizes rivalling modern cities, abandoned to history. From the dramatic mountain-top kingdom of Machu Picchu in Peru to the Jordan's Petra, a city carved into stone in the desert, many of these places are not only beautiful, but historical mysteries. As archaeologists return from a successful expedition to find the "City of the Monkey God" in the jungles of Honduras, we travel the world in search of the lost cities that will inspire the Indiana Jones in you.