Comparison of the Greatest Ancient Cities and Tunnels of the World

Explore these majestic ancient and hidden cities of the Prehistoric and Ancient Age. From the underground caves in Turkey to the pagodas of Myanmar.

My recent trip to the latest ancient city I have visited has triggered me to recap some of the best ancient sights and magnificent cities I have seen over my past years of travel.

One of Athens Ancient Theaters | Sights in Athens
One of Athens Ancient Theaters

If it’s your 1st time visiting an ancient city, it will usually be very impressive! But over time, you will see different ones and then there might be some that resonated or impressed you more than others.

So here’s my sharing on those that I have been (and would love to go some day), and some thoughts on whether they are worth visiting:

Ancient and Underground Cities of the World

1. Polonnaruwa , Sri Lanka

I spend a good 1+week in Sri Lanka over Christmas and New Year years ago with my buddy Elysa.

20161225 140636

While some parts of Sri Lanka felt a bit of a rip off ( Eg. Sigiriya Rock Fortress), the overall trip was a really fun one and one of the highlights of the trip was the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa. It had quite a bit of crowd in certain zones of the ancient city, but we had a great time exploring other hidden areas on bicycles. Check out some of my photos below to get a better idea.

I have forgotten the name of this animal, but it is of certain significance as it is commonly scene at the entrance of a lot of these monuments
I have forgotten the name of this animal, but it is of certain significance as it is commonly scene at the entrance of a lot of these monuments

2. Underground City in Cappadocia, Turkey

One of the most captivating sights I have seen in all my travels, is the underground tunnels and cities in Cappadocia and the pigeon holes homes.
Did you know there are 36 of them?

Underground Cave Passages and Network
Underground Cave Passages and Network

The layout of the underground tunnels how the Christians created it to hide from the Romans during the years of persecution.

For the sights above the ground, the unique structure of the rock and how they converted these caves into homes and blacksmith, bakeries and more, it’s just so fascinating. This area was one of the reasons I am so amazed by Turkey’s natural beauty.

Rock Caves
Rock Caves
Where are the other underground cities in Turkey?

– Derinkuyu underground city
– Kaymaklı

3. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

Angkor Wat was the most recent visit we made. We spend a good 2 weeks in Siem Reap and made time to visit Angkor Wat.

It was a bit of a disappointment for me to be honest, as I have heard so much talk about how spectacular this place was and a must-visit.

The disappointment was not from the place, but by the sheer numbers and crowds of people there, that its quite challenging to get some quiet peaceful time to explore the area at your own pace.

We did check out a few less crowded temples which was much more peaceful and beautiful. Hence, will strongly encourage everyone to skip the extremely crowded ones while you are here.

4. Stonehenge in England

You must be wondering how this made it into the list. I was too. But surprisingly, this spot where this large prehistoric earthwork; now called the Stonehenge, used to be part of the Neolithic and Bronze age almost 5,000 years ago. That is the 17th century!

As to its purpose, many are still unsure what it is..some speculate it is used to tell time, or perhaps used to be a Druid Temple for ceremonial and mortuary practices.

5. Bagan in Myanmar

Visiting Myanmar was one of the things I have always wanted to do. Many are familiar with the famous sights of hot air balloons in Bagan, but the thousands of temples, pagodas and stupas all around Bagan are just worth exploring and visiting. Each structure is so different and unique, and to know the history and stories behind what they are used for is highly interesting.

Sunlight bursting through the pagodas
Sunlight bursting through the pagodas

One thing that you mustn’t miss is enjoying the spot at sunrise or sunset. Sunrises allow you to get a stunning view of the hot air balloons in the sky too, but sunrise really cast a golden glow across the entire land and light up all the stupas and pagodas.

Witnessing the hot air balloons in Bagan at Sunrise
Witnessing the hot air balloons in Bagan at Sunrise

6. Hue Citadel and Palace in Vietnam

Okay, this isn’t exactly an ancient city, but this citadel and imperial grounds still is very spectacular with rich history behind it dated 1379.

Each of the citadel’s 4 high walls are about 2 km in length with a huge moat just outside the walls.

7. Athens in Greece

One of the most talked about places in Europe that you should visit if you want to learn about the history of the Greek empire – the Athens city!

The iconic sights of Athens
The iconic sights of Athens

Its quite sad to say that quite a lot of the ancient city is in quite a bad state ( especially the Acropolis), with the government trying to restore it faster than it is crumbling. Ancient agora in Athens is also being preserved in small steps.

athens 3

Compared to the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey and other places, the restoration of this place still has a long way to go.

Highlights to visit in Athens in a day
Are there any left?

So here’s sharing all my top ancient cities ( and sites) that are worth considering. However there is more…

Ancient Cities on my Bucket List, have you been to any of them?

  • Egypt
  • Petra in Jordon
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Iran
Lydia Yang

Lydia Yang

Lydia Yang is a Singaporean city girl who decided to ditch her high heels for hiking boots and become a full-time traveller and digital nomad. She has been to almost 60 countries to date! She has a knack for adventure travel, especially rock climbing, and always hunts down the best climbing spots around the world. Check out her expert advice on the best outdoor crags to climb at or what workouts to improve your climbing performance.

Articles: 211

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *