The Best Ancient Underwater Cities You Can Actually Visit

Jelena Vuckovic Hidden Wonders0 Comments

Shi Cheng City, China

There is a whole mysterious world out there, hidden in plain sight. This world is full of life but remains uninhabitable to humans: The deep blue sea.

Mankind has made great strides since the beginning of our time, and with the opposable thumb the idea to build a cathedral was born. But much of the mirror world underneath remains untouched by human hands, while the water sometimes moves in the blink of an eye to take things man has created.

What remains of worlds long gone, of history forgotten and secrets never told? Underwater ruins, for you to discover.

Take the plunge and visit one these diving sites to feel like you’ve found Atlantis.

There are many lost, underwater cities scattered across the globe. Sites like in Pavlopetri, Greece or Lord Krishna’s fabled city of Dwarka, not to mention Cleopatra’s Alexandria, Egypt. But none of these can actually be visited.

The places on this list are bound to become unforgettable forays into open water: So eerily quiet, you can hear your own heart beating, with the weightlessness that slows time and the soft, diffused light from beyond the sea illuminating hand-carved stone.

While some of these sites require you to be an expert diver, others can be visited with virtually no previous training. So put on that wetsuit and get down there.


1. Old Cesarea Diving Center, Israel

Old Cesarea Diving Center, Israel

Photo Source:
Caesarea Diving

If something is the oldest in Israel, you can bet it’s pretty old. Like this diving center, for instance. Come here year-round to discover the harbour of Sebastos by the ancient city of Cesarea. While the city itself is worth a trip, the real marvel is just below the surface: The sunken harbour built under Herod’s rule two thousand years ago. It may be overtaken by marine life by now, but was once the largest and most sophisticated harbour far and wide. Visit this unique underwater archaeological park, the only one of its kind, to float around in history. The depth of the sites ranges from 4 to 9 meters. Both experienced and novice divers are welcome, with on-site courses for diving as well as snorkelling, so you really have no excuse.


2. Underwater Temple Garden, Pemuteran, Bali

Underwater Temple Garden, Pemuteran, Bali

Underwater Temple Garden, Pemuteran, BaliPhoto Source: Kat Ramage

30 meters under sea level is where you will find this strange, otherworldly temple garden: Buddha’s head overgrown with algae, or the face of Ganesh teeming with soft coral. Tales of this ancient garden were making the rounds before it was discovered that it was made by two foreigners living in Bali to promote diving in the area. They are managing quite well, we think: The flora and fauna attracted to this diving site because of the statues placed there are breathtaking. You can even find electric clams to stare at – just don’t touch them. You must be comfortable diving to 30 meters to get here, unless you are a Hindu deity, and will have to complete a course which will allow you to dive up to 12m. Bring your logbook!


3. 8000 year old Yonaguni-Jima, Japan

Yonaguni-Jima, Japan

Yonaguni-Jima, Japan

You read that right. Eight-thousand. Thank God this place is underwater, because it doesn’t look a day over 35. Off the east coast of Taiwan, Yonaguni island is a popular winter diving spot because of the large population of hammerhead sharks. It was these sharks that brought Kihachiro Aratake here in 1987 when he discovered the ruins. Not much is known about these structures sitting 16 meters under the surface – not even what they are, exactly: experts disagree on whether the structures are artificial or made by mother nature. Some even say it is the lost continent of Mu. This uncertainty is perhaps what makes this place so exciting. Or, you know, the sharks. You will have to see for yourself. Diving courses are offered by various companies nearby, but please keep in mind that the wildlife and strong currents make this place somewhat challenging for novice divers.


4. Underwater City of Baiae, Gulf Of Naples, Italy

See how the other half lives – underwater. This sunken sinner’s haven was the template for Las Vegas. A place of debauchery and vices. Look, no one is saying it made God angry, but the place was plagued by malaria and sank into the sea 1700 years ago, just like that. It was deserted by the time volcanic activity drowned the city, and everything is just as they left it. Good thing we’ve got diving suits today, because the show must go on: You can take a diving tour, snorkel or even discover the place with glass-bottomed boats from above. Visit the subaqueous city of sin 50 miles from another late great city, Pompeii, and marvel at the finiteness of life. No wonder they wanted to get as much out of it as possible. Courses are offered at Baiae, and a number of sites – from 5 to 16 meters in depth – ensure there is something for everyone.


5. Magical City at the Bottom of a Lake, China

Shi Cheng City, China

Shi Cheng City, China Photo Source: lovethesepics

If you got it in your head to try and find the ancient city of Shi-Cheng, near Shanghai, you would most certainly not be able to without help. This ancient seat of power, once the financial and political centre of Zhejiang province, was intentionally flooded by the Chinese government in 1959 to make way for a hydroelectric power station. Hidden under the Quiandao lake’s mirrored surface, you would never guess what was submerged here from looking at it: a 1,300 year old city in close to perfect condition. It was recently given a second lease on life as an underwater adventure park you can visit. Explore the stone structures, streets and wooden elements with close to no wear and tear. Diving in a lake brings with it certain considerations – such as lower visibility, for instance – and is not recommended for learning divers.


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