The legend of Atlantis is an enduring one. Invented by Plato some 2,300 years ago, he claimed that this utopian civilization, which allegedly existed 9,000 years before even his time, was punished by the gods for becoming selfish, greedy, and amoral and thus sunk into the seas. Which sea exactly, is not known.
While Atlantis is an entirely fictional sunken city, there are plenty of real ones out there that through some misfortune, if not necessarily the wrath of gods, can now only be found at the bottom of the sea, or, indeed, a lake.
Here are some of the world’s best.
7.) Yonaguni Jima (Japan)
In Japan, there are mysterious monuments of the coast of Ryuku Island that baffled scientist due to its strange shapes. They believed that it was submerged 10,000 years ago and some even believed that it belong to an unknown ancient civilization.
A mysterious arch, pyramid-shaped structure, metal staircases, and other shapes complete with markings that could be unknown ancient writings, have reportedly been identified, all hinting to a lost civilization.
6.) San Roma de Sau (Spain)
San Roma de Sau in Spain is a 1,000-year-old village in Catalonia between Barcelona and the French border in north-eastern Spain that went underwater during the 1960s.
The people moved, taking with them their belongings and their dead, exhuming bodies of loved ones from the cemetery.
The village stays submerged, except for the church spire, which stands tall above the water level. During high tide, only the top of the spire is visible but at low levels, the entire church and the tops of other buildings emerge as well in a bizarre spectacle.
5.) Dwarka (India)
The city of Dwarka also known by locals as the “Gateway to Heaven,” was found submerged some 100 feet below the Gulf of Cambay during the 1980s.
Ancient mega-structures, unique pillars, precise grids of a city, and ancient artifacts were found. Scientists believe them to be at least 10,000 years old, others say they could be 5,000 years of age, yet others are sure that they date from the Middle Ages.
Yet, others claim that in 1473 the Gujarat Sultan Mahmud Begada attacked the city and destroyed the temple of Dwarka. Either way, this is a true underwater city, long lost, full of mystery and legend, and magnificent.
4.) Villa Epecuen (Argentina)
From the oldest sunken city to one of the youngest.
Villa Epecuen was established as a tourist resort a hundred miles away from the Capital, Buenos Aires on the shores of the salty Lake Epecuen. Until an unusual weather event resulted in floods breaking the dam of Lake Epecuen. It became the youngest sunken city in the world.
Over the next eight years, Villa Epecuen was swallowed, slowly but steadily, until in 1993 the town was under 33 feet of water.
The water has since receded somewhat, leaving an eerie city grid, dead trees lining what were once bustling streets, and an empty marina. Reportedly there is still one person living there.
3.) Thonis-Heracleiona (Egypt)
Long lost Thonis-Heracleiona is one of the closest depictions of Atlantis. But the mysteries surrounding it are real and it has been found.
Thonis-Heracleion rests a little farther off the coast of today’s Alexandria. It is spectacularly well-preserved, considering the ruins are more than 2,000 years old and littered with various shipwrecks, dropped anchors, and even lost—and found—gold treasures.
Temples and buildings of Thonis-Heracleion were once separated by canals, not unlike Venice, but how and why exactly the city became submerged is still a mystery.
2.) Pavlopetri (Greece)
In 1967 an oceanographer discovered what looked like ancient ruins and a year later a survey produced a plan of a prehistoric town thought to be Mycenaean, lying in three to 12 feet of water in the Peloponnese, in south-western Greece.
Pavlopteri, named after a nearby settlement, has since been touted as the oldest underwater city, dating to the Bronze Age, and occupied from the third millennium until 1100 B.C. Located steps away from a sandy beach, it is a miracle that it is the good condition it is.
1.) Baia (Italy)
Another once wicked city submerged underwater. This time it was not pirates that were wicked, but hedonistic Romans that flocked to Baia dubbed the Las Vegas of ancient Rome, some 18 miles outside of Naples on the Mediterranean coast.
Alas, as seems to happen with wicked cities, it sank. Most likely due to the region’s rather active volcanic activities. The 2,000-year-old remains are in superb condition with many intact statues found, together with houses and temples. Most of the city lies at a depth of fewer than 20 feet, and some of it is even visible above water. The archaeological park can be explored by donning a snorkel.