Everyone has heard the legend of Atlantis, the incredible city that was swallowed up by the ocean and never seen again. People have spent their whole lives looking for this place to prove that it really existed, but it has not yet been discovered.
What has been discovered, though, are several other sunken cities that were once major destinations. These cities were and are very real, and many of them look the same underwater as they did up on land. Here is a list of five of the most impressive sunken cities that would have been worth a visit even before the ocean claimed them.
Port Royal, Jamaica
Port Royal was like the Las Vegas of Jamaica. Referred to as “the most wicked and sinful city in the world” by multiple sources, this city was once home to everything from pirates and boozing to partying and prostitutes. Some say that this history of sinfulness is the reason why it was plunged into the ocean in 1692, when a massive earthquake hit Jamaica. Others say that the reason for its sinking was due to its faulty and unstable foundations on the island, but either way, more than 2,000 people lost their lives when it sank into the ocean. It is still frequently visited now, not by pirates, but by archaeologists searching for more of the almost perfectly preserved artifacts that were left behind.
This sunken Indian city is often compared to Atlantis, due to the fact that so much that is known about it is based on myth. According to Hindu texts from ancient times, Dwarka was founded by the Hindu god Krishna, and was often a place of battle between the god and the evil King Salva.
The descriptions of the battles that took place here have actually led to many theorizing that aliens were involved, since the technology of the weapons were so advanced for their time. While all of this might be enough to make one give up on the city out of sheer disbelief, all it takes is one look at the submerged ruins to prove that it was, indeed, a real place. Seventy feet beneath the sea lies a myriad of artifacts ranging from anchors and pottery to the partial walls of the structures of the city, making it clear that, however the city was made, it really did exist.
Shi Cheng, China
If you think that every sunken city was submerged hundreds of years ago, think again. Shi Cheng in China actually sank quite recently in the grand scheme of things: it was flooded in the 1950s. This 2,000-year-old city was once a huge economic hub founded during the Han Dynasty, and was a big tourist destination even when it was above sea level due to some incredible statues, art, and intricately-carved buildings. Unfortunately, when the government built a hydroelectric power station in the 1950s, the city was lost forever to the sea as it was flooded out. It now rests an incredible 130 feet underwater, but many of the statues, buildings, and pieces of art are still there for tourists to explore.
Phanagoria was once the largest city in Greece. Now, though, at least one third of it is submerged beneath the waters of the Black Sea. Founded in 543 B.C. by Teian colonists fleeing Asia Minor, the city was a spectacular sight even when it was just beginning. This area of the Taman Peninsula was home to nearly every natural wonder there is: ravines, hills, craters, and even active volcanoes. The city soon began to thrive in this location, becoming a big trade hub and, eventually, the main economic center of Greece.
After many centuries of war, the city eventually sank, only to be rediscovered by archaeologists centuries after that, who became highly interested in the submerged kingdom when they discovered the gravestone of Hypsikrates. She was the wife of Mithridates VI, king of Pontus—and someone who was once thought to be a figure from a myth. Further exploration revealed more incredible artifacts and locations, including a large necropolis where many important figures were buried.
Cleopatra’s Kingdom, Egypt
While all of the sunken cities on this list are impressive, Cleopatra’s Kingdom just off the coast of Alexandria may just be the most impressive of all. The royal palace of one of Egypt’s most famous figures was discovered just 20 years ago, having been lost for over 1,600 years. When Cleopatra was alive, she had many different palaces, one of which was on the island of Antirhodos. The island was extremely luxurious, and featured enormous pillars with crowns etched onto them, leading visitors to the palace itself. The palace was then surrounded by sphinxes and statues of Egyptian goddesses, surely making it something quite breathtaking to see when it was above water.
Four hundred years after Cleopatra’s death, though, the island was submerged by devastating earthquakes and tsunamis and remained hidden for centuries. When it was finally rediscovered in 1998, archaeologists found that many of the crowned pillars and much of the foundation of the palace were still intact. Now, the heads of enormous Sphinxes and Egyptian goddess statues greet explorers under the sea, where Egypt hopes to one day open an underwater museum.