In terms of historical sites, nothing quite beats exploring lost, abandoned and ruined ancient cities. 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 tours 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.
Check out our ancient cities map above or the list of ancient cities below and click on each ancient city for more information.
One of the best known ancient cities of the world, and a staple of many tours of ancient cities, Machu Picchu is one of the best preserved Inca sites, located in modern Peru.
Containing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean, Ephesus in Turkey is something that should be a must for those planning tours of ancient cities or any ancient cities list.
Teotihuacan is a well preserved ancient Mesoamerican city near Mexico City.
One of the best preserved Roman cities, Palmyra was an independent trading state which eventually fell to the Roman Empire. Its impressive ruins are located in Syria.
Abu Simbel is an Ancient Egyptian site housing, amongst other ruins, the two impressive Temples of Ramesses II. It is one of many ancient cities listed by UNESCO.
A must for anyone planning ancient city tours, Abydos is an important Ancient Egyptian site which contains a wealth of tombs, temples and other archaeological remains.
An important site of the Maya, Aguateca was once a capital city in Guatemala until it was dramatically destroyed. A lesser-known entry on the list of ancient cities of the world.
One of many surviving ancient cities from Roman times, Aizanoi houses ancient ruins including a gymnasium, theatre, stadium, and the impressive Temple of Zeus.
Believed by some to be Atlantis, Akrotiri is a beautifully preserved Minoan site in Santorini, famed for its incredible frescos.
The site where Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls in 52 BC, Alesia went on to become an important Roman settlement, the ruins of this being among the lesser-known ancient cities of the world.
Amathus is an archaeological site in Cyprus which includes the ruins of one of the island’s oldest ancient cities.
Angkor Wat is an incredible, vast 12th century temple in Cambodia and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Built by Caliph Walid I, the ancient trading settlement of Anjar is an excellent example of the 8th century architecture of the Umayyad dynasty.
One of the most visually impressive of the world’s ancient cities, Apamea in Syria which boasts a remarkable 1800 metres of dramatic Roman colonnades
A large ancient site in Budapest, Aquincum houses the remains of part of what was an important Roman military base and city. One of many Roman settlements on the list of ancient cities.
Asklepieion was an ancient centre of healing based on the teachings of Hippocrates. Today visitors can explore the ruins of this ancient city, which is said to be the birthplace of medicine.
Augusta Raurica is an ancient Roman archaeological site near Basel in Switzerland. Relatively unknown, it makes for an interesting stop for those undertaking tours of ancient cities in Europe.
Avdat was an ancient Nabatean city located in modern Israel which once stood along a prosperous trade route.
Aventicum is an ancient Roman site in Switzerland which was once the capital of the Helvetians. Among the ruins of this ancient city are parts of the original city walls and a surviving tower.
One of the world’s most impressive ancient cities, and a UNESCO site, Baalbek is home to the largest Roman temple ever built as well as many other magnificent ancient structures.
Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world and today can be found near the town in modern-day Iraq. Often at the very centre of ancient civilisations, this city saw culture and conquest alike.
A well-preserved ancient city which sits on the Andalusian coast, the ruins of Baelo Claudia provide a picturesque setting from which to explore history.
Baia was once the summer retreat of Ancient Rome’s elite and is now an archaeological park outside Naples.
Among the most fascinating ancient cities of the world, Bulla Regia was an Ancient Roman settlement in Tunisia, famous for its subterranean villas.
Spanning the empires of the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing the ruins of this ancient city, now located in south west Albania.
One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins, Byblos is a must for those seeking tours of ancient cities.
Caerwent Roman Town in Wales contains the remains of the once thriving Roman settlement of Venta Silurum.
A staple of any ancient city guide, Caesarea in Israel was a Roman city later conquered by the Crusaders and now containing remains from several periods and civilisations.
Believed to have been a pilgrimage site, Cahuachi is an ancient city of the Nazca civilization in Peru.
Calixtlahuaca contains the ruins of an Aztec city located near Toluca in Mexico. It has a series of fascinating and impressive structures including ancient pyramids.
Among the more unusual of the ancient cities of the world, the Cappadocia Underground Cities are Christian subterranean fortified settlements in Turkey.
An ancient city in Spain, Carranque Archaeological Park contains a series of Roman ruins built in the 4th century AD.
One of the most famous ancient cities, Carthage was once the centre of a hugely powerful civilisation. Today, the ruins of Carthage can be found on the outskirts of Tunis and are a must for those seeking cities of the ancient world.
A Maya settlement site in northern Guatemala, Ceibal is a lesser-known ancient city that nonetheless contains many interesting remains, including an impressive round temple.
Not mentioned in many ancient city guides, and only recently discovered in 2008, Cerro Patapo was an ancient city of the Wari civilisation found in modern Peru.
An interesting part of any ancient city tours, Chacchoben is a Mexican Maya site which contains some impressive pyramid temples.
Chan Chan in Peru was the capital of the Chimu civilisation and is the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas as well as a UNESCO listed site. A fascinating ancient city to explore.
Ranked among the most famous of the world’s ancient cities, Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist sites in Mexico and a vital part of any ancient city tours.
Choquequirao is a little known ancient city of the Inca in Peru which is similar to the far more famous Machu Picchu. A lesser-known entry on the ancient cities list.
Among many ancient cities in Portugal, Citania de Briteiros contains the ruins of an ancient Iron Age settlement.
A vast Maya archaeological site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region, Cobá is an important ancient city which contains the 138-ft tall Great Pyramid.
Probably Portugal’s best-preserved ancient city, Conimbriga contains a wealth of Roman ruins.
Copan in Honduras was an important Maya city, the impressive ruins of which are UNESCO listed.
Corinth is a popular tourist destination and famous ancient city which was a major centre to both the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans.
Once a famous ancient city, Cumae Archaeological Park contains a series of ancient ruins and artefacts and is thought to have been inhabited as far back as the Iron Age.
Boasting some impressive ancient ruins, Cyrene in Lybia is considered to be one of the most impressive Greco-Roman cities in the world.
Delos is an impressive UNESCO listed ancient Greek city and the island on which Apollo was said to have been born.
One of the most famous ancient cities in the world, 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.
The site of extensive Roman ruins of a former ancient military base, Djemila in Algeria is one of several ancient cities to have survived in North Africa.
An ancient city of the Maya, Dos Pilas was a major centre which eventually succumbed to the ravages of warfare.
Once the thriving Numidian capital, Dougga is an impressive and well-preserved UNESCO-listed ancient city in Tunisia.
An important ancient city in Eastern Syria, Dura Europos was occupied by a series of civilisations, now represented by a series of well-preserved ruins.
Now the English town of Dorchester, Durnovaria contains the ruins of the ancient Roman city
Dzibilchaltun in Mexico is an archaeological site housing the ruins of an ancient Maya settlement.
One of many ancient cities in Mexico, Ek Balam is a Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula which contains some impressive ruins including a 100ft pyramid.
A Moche settlement inhabited between 100 and 700 AD, El Brujo is a lesser-known ancient city in Peru.
El Tajin in Mexico is an impressive archaeological site which was once a city of the Totonac people and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With a wealth of incredible ruins, Epidaurus is one of the best ancient cities of the world. Located on the Greek mainland it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
An extensive archaeological site, Glanum is of a former Roman city near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Most of the site dates back to between the first and second centuries AD.
An interesting ancient city in Crete, Gortyna was the capital of Crete and Cyrene during the Roman era.
A UNESCO heritage site, Hattusha holds the ruins of one of the capitals of the Hittite Empire and is one of many such ancient cities in the region.
Heraklea Linkestis was an ancient Macedonian city, conquered by the Romans in the second century BC which then became an important Roman settlement.
An important stop on any Ancient city tours of Italy, Herculaneum was a Roman town which was destroyed along with Pompeii following the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
One of many ancient cities in Turkey, Hierapolis was once a thriving, multicultural city and spa, the remains of which are now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Thought to be the oldest settlement in Romania, Histria was occupied by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines and is a relatively quiet ancient city to explore.
Containing some of the world’s best preserved Roman ruins, Jerash in Jordan was once a thriving Roman city and is one of the most fascinating ancient cities in the world. Definitely ranks highly on the list of ancient cities of the world.
Inhabited from the 3rd century BC and abandoned circa 1200 AD, the ruins of the ancient city 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.
Forming part of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, the Karnak Temple is a vast sacred Ancient Egyptian complex in Luxor.
Kasserine was an ancient Roman city known as Cillium, the remains of which can be seen today near the modern town of the same name.
Home of a number of stunning temples, famous for their erotic sculptures, Khajuraho was the ancient capital of the Chandela Dynasty.
One of the most famous ancient cities in the world, Knossos is an archaeological site which was once the thriving heart of the Minoan civilisation.
Kourion is an impressive ancient city in Cyprus containing mostly Roman and Byzantine ruins.
Labna is a Maya city in Yucatan, Mexico and part of what is known as the Puuc Trail.
Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which now contains a set of ruins including a stadium and gymnasium.
One of the most important ancient cities in North Africa, Leptis Magna is now an impressive archaeological site near Tripoli.
Founded in the second century BC, Leukaspis was a thriving Greco-Roman port and city. Today, it has been excavated as the Marina el-Alamein Archaeological Site.
Part of the ancient city of Thebes, the Luxor Temple is a vast Ancient Egyptian site which is UNESCO listed.
One of a number of ancient Nabatean cities, Mamshit in Israel is the site of one of four UNESCO listed settlements which prospered as part of the Incense trading route.
Mesa Verde National Park holds an incredibly well preserved and stunning collection of archaeological sites of the Native American Pueblo people dating back to 600 AD.
Miletus was once an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still has an impressive theatre, but relatively few other remains.
Dating back to around the first century AD, Mirobriga was once a thriving Roman city, the ruins of which contain Portugal’s only surviving Hippodrome.
An interesting entry on our ancient cities list and one of many ancient cities in Mexico, Mitla was a Zapotec religious centre later taken over by the Mixtecs in Oaxaca.
Containing numerous pyramids, ornate palaces and elaborate tombs, Monte Alban is a remarkable UNESCO listed ancient city in Mexico.
Mycenae is a famous Ancient Greek archaeological site in the Peloponnese which formed the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation and was once ruled by the famous King Agamemnon.
Nea Pafos is the site of an ancient city near Paphos which served as the capital of Cyprus from the 4th century BC.
One of the more obscure cities of the ancient world, the Nora Archaeological Site in Sardinia contains Phoenician and Roman ruins.
Once a Roman town and military camp, the ruins of Novae are found in modern day Bulgaria. One of the more obscure entries among the list of ancient cities of the world.
One of the most famous of all ancient cities, Olympia was the Ancient Greek centre from which the Olympic Games originate and is now an important archaeological site.
Containing the amazing remains of three ancient Greek temples, Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples.
A must for any ancient city tour in Cyprus, Palaipafos contains ruins dating back as far as the Late Bronze Age as well as the famous Sanctuary of Aphrodite.
One of the most intriguing historic cities in Mexico, Palenque is a UNESCO listed Maya archaeological site which thrived between 500 and 700 AD.
Pasargadae was the first capital of the once mighty Persian Empire, the ruins of which are located in modern Iran and are UNESCO-listed.
Famous as being the birthplace of Alexander the Great, Pella in Greece was the capital of ancient Macedonia.
Pergamum was an important ancient Greek and Roman city, home to famous sites such as its Asclepion, theatre and library.
Perge in Turkey is an archaeological site which contains mostly Roman ruins, but has a history dating back to Ancient Greece.
One of the lesser-known ancient cities in Europe, Perperikon in Bulgaria was an important Thracian sanctuary turned Roman town and medieval fortress.
One of the most famous cities of the ancient world, Persepolis was the capital of the Persian Empire and today contains the ruins of many ancient buildings and monuments.
One of the most recognisable of all ancient cities, Petra is a UNESCO-listed Nabataean city which later formed part of the Roman Empire. Lost to the ages, it was a secret to all but the Bedouins until 1812.
Pollentia is an Ancient Roman site in Alcudia in Majorca which includes the partial remains of the Forum and theatre.
Perhaps the first name on any tour of ancient cities, Pompeii was famously destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, leaving incredibly well-preserved ruins which are now a hugely popular tourist destination.
A picturesque ancient Greek city in Turkey, Priene boasts some amazing ancient remains without the crowds of other nearby sites.
Qatna Archaeological Park houses the ruins of what was the thriving ancient Mesopotamian city of Qatna.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of an ancient city dating as far back as the eighth century BC.
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 is home to the impressive remains of the ancient city of Dur Untash, the holy capital of the Elamite Kingdom.
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, 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.
The Valley of the Kings is a major royal Ancient Egyptian burial site in Luxor and part of a UNESCO World Heritage 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.
Volubilis near Meknes in Morocco was an Ancient Roman city developed in the first century BC.
Wroxeter Roman City houses the remains of what was once Roman Britain’s fourth largest city.
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.
Xochicalco is an important pre-Columbian site in Mexico and a World Heritage site.