There’s something eerily awesome about drowned towns—ancient cities that continue a life underwater after falling off the map by way of coastal erosion, the development of dams or totally mysterious circumstances. For these five underwater cities, you won’t need to dive to catch a glimpse of what’s going on down below. You just need to wait for low tide.
1. Fabbriche di Careggine, Italy
In the shadows of the verdant peaks of the Apennines and the marble mountains of the Alpi Apuane sits a lake known as Lago Vagli. Just beneath its serene surface, the medieval ghost village of Fabbriche di Careggine awaits discovery. Founded by blacksmiths in the 12th century, the town was cleared to make way for a hydroelectric dam on the Edron River in 1946. Its church tower peeks above water levels on dry days but the entire reservoir is emptied about once a decade. Tourists flock to the lakebed to explore the hidden village’s skeleton.
2. St. Thomas, Nevada
Originally home to the Anasazi, the town of St. Thomas was settled in 1865 by Mormons who thought they were in Utah. After they realized their mistake and moved on to Salt Lake City, the town became inhabited with about 500 people at its peak, all of whom were displaced when President Calvin Coolidge signed the bill authorizing the building of the Hoover Dam 40 miles from town in 1928. Due to severe drought conditions, the settlement’s remnants are now back above water, protected within the confines of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
3. Hampton-on-Sea, United Kingdom
Photo by Storye book
Beside Herne Bay, a seaside town lapped by the Thames Estuary’s waters, Hampton-on-Sea rests peacefully submerged. The 19th century fishing village broke away and into the big blue due to coastal erosion. At low tide, the town’s rocky pier, ancient seawall and the remains of the Hampton Inn are visible.
4. Dian Kingdom, China
Photo by Emit Chan
At Fuxian Lake in China’s Yunnan Province, a local legend has endured for over 1,000 years. Those living along the lake’s edges have long claimed the existence of a spectral city just beyond the surface on a calm day. In 2001, a submarine archeological team began launching expeditions into the lake, discovering eight pyramid-like buildings that stretch for 2.5 miles, along with countless bronze castings, stone artifacts and earthenware. They are believed to be the remains of the ancient Dian Kingdom that mysteriously disappeared after 86 BC.
5. Olous, Greece
Photo by George M. Groutas
In Minoan times, the Greek city-state Olous was settled by some 40,000 inhabitants on coastal sands overlooking the cerulean waters of the Cretan sea. But all that remains of Olous today are a collection of ancient walls submerged underwater in Poros Bay at the present-day town of Elounda. Of the island to which Olous belonged, Homer wrote: “Along the wine-dark sea, by water ringed, there lies a land both fair and fertile.”
A queer mestiza travel writer from Brooklyn by way of Ecuador,
mission is to decolonize travel media.