The Atlantis Copycats: 7 Underwater Cities That Actually Do Exist In Real-Life

The myth of the mysterious underwater city of Atlantis has been on people’s minds for more than 2000 years. Atlantis is a supposedly sunken continent that is said to have been the stronghold of all knowledge. It is said that a prehistoric “super civilization” has once lived on Atlantis, which was also considered the center of politics, culture, and languages. Even the Greek philosopher, Plato, worked on researching the continent and find out more about its history. Still, numerous rumors were surrounding the supercontinent in the past two-thousand years, but they are all vague guesses.

Thanks to the latest technological advances, the seabed can now be examined for any lost/sunken cities or artifacts. The questions remain: Did this ancient, highly developed civilization indeed exist? We’ll most probably never know. However, one thing is sure: there are still several other sunken underwater cities that fascinate us up to this day – and they do indeed exist!

Port Royal, Kingston Harbour, Jamaica

The city of Port Royal in Jamaica once was known as the “Wickedest City on Earth.” Founded in 1518, it was one of the most notorious trading centers in the Caribbean and a quite popular abode for pirates and privateers. In June 1692, Port Royal was surprised by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on the Richter scale and entirely destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. This accident killed more than 2,000 people, and about two-thirds of the once magnificent port city sank in quicksand. For a long time, people thought that the destruction of this place was a punishment for your sins. Today, well-preserved buildings and parts of the city are only more than 12 m below the water surface.

Shi Cheng or “The Lion City,” China

The Lion City of Shi Cheng in China is located about 26 – 40 m (85 – 130 ft) below the water surface. It was built more than 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty and was once the economic hub of the eastern province Zhejiang. However, the Lion City did not sink due to natural causes, but because of the construction of a hydroelectric power plant and a dam. The area was flooded in 1959, and more than 290,000 people had to resettle, while about 1,300 villages were destroyed. The underwater city was then simply forgotten and only rediscovered by chance by a tourist diving company in 2001. The three city gates, city walls, stairs, Chinese statues, and entire apartment buildings are still well preserved and a popular tourist destination.

Heraklion, Egypt

The remains of this almost one square kilometer city were found around 6 km (~ 3.7 miles) off the coast at Abu Qir in Egypt. Back in 500 BC, the capital of Heraklion was a dynamic trading center until the sea swallowed it. Although there’ve been numerous ancient texts mentioning the city, there was no evidence for its existence until the 2000s. It was only when the marine archaeologist Frank Goddio and his team searched the seabed inch by inch that he made the phenomenal discovery of Heraklion’s underwater city. What caused the place to sink is not known today. However, what is certain is that the sinking must have come very suddenly because entire properties were still lying on the seabed.

Pavlopetri, Greece

This underwater city was found off the coast of southern Laconia in Greece. Nobody knows the original name of the city from the Bronze Age. But it is certain that it sank about 5,000 years ago due to erosion. It was discovered by Nicholas Flemming in 1967 and was almost wholly surveyed and mapped by archaeological field studies. It is believed that the city stretched over an area of 100,000 m² (~ 24.7 acres). Streets, houses with gardens, temples, a cemetery, and a complex water supply system can already be discovered just 4 m (~ 13.1 ft) underwater.

Gulf of Khambhat, India

In 1991, Indian and British researchers discovered the remains of a sunken city of the coast of the northern Indian state of Gujarat using ultrasound imaging. The incredibly large remains were found within a radius of 9 km ( ~ 5.6 miles). The dates of the objects confirm that this is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is estimated that it dates back to 3,500 BC! Many Indians believe that the underwater city was connected to their god Krishna and that it sank into the ocean when he died. 

Baiae, Italy

The town of Baiae, Italy, once was a luxurious type of Roman resort with thermal springs that were already used therapeutically back in 176 BC. Although Baiae’s location in a volcanically active region where the reason for those hot springs, it also led to its downfall. During one bradyseismic activity, a considerable magma chamber beneath the town and its surrounding area gradually drained, which led the land above to sink partially, which means, that today Baiae exists half on the ground and half in the sea.
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Phanagoria, Russia

Phanagoria, founded ~540 BC, once was one of the largest colonies in ancient Greece on the shore of the Black Sea. Back then, it covered 75 hectares (190 acres), of which one third gradually was submerged by the sea. Its powerful and fearsome king and queen, Mithridates VI and his wife Hypsikratia, ruled Asia Minor (now Turkey) from 119 – 63 BCE and waged three wars on Rome. Now, centuries later, everything that’s left of Phanagoria’s legacy is well preserved underwater. Archaeologists recovered coins depicting Mithridates and a marble gravestone bearing Hypsikratia’s name. Today the site belongs to the west of Sennoy in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.