Sunken cities, subaqueous forests, petrified figures of the watery underworlds – the legends were true. Plunge into the blue depths with the world’s most staggering underwater wonders – from the Cancún Underwater Museum in Mexico to Cleopatra’s Palace in Egypt.
This is China’s own Atlantis. The grand city of Shi Cheng, also known as Lion City after the Five Lion Mountain that rises up behind it, was once a cradle of wealth and power in the eastern province of Zhejiang. In 1959, the decision to build a new hydroelectric power station was made at the expense of the city. An artificial lake was constructed, and the ornate metropolis slowly filled with water. Submerged in the blue waters of Qiandao Lake, the city remained forgotten until recently, when divers in the area rediscovered it. Elaborate sculptures and engravings decorate the buildings, which remain remarkably intact.
Submerged in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the Italian Riviera near the glamorous seaside town of Portofino, a giant Christ reaches out with open arms skyward, offering a benediction of peace. The 2.4m-tall (8ft) statue that is separated from the surface by 17m (55ft) of sea, was created by Guido Galletti in 1954. It is said to be located near the spot where inventor Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to try out scuba diving equipment, died on a sub-aqua dive in 1947.
The city of Baiae was the Monte Carlo of Ancient Rome, a place of parties and hedonistic pleasure. It was favoured by famous figures of antiquity, with emperors such as Nero, Cicero and Caesar all spending their leisure time at the famed seaside resort. Following the sacking of Baiae by the Saracens in the eighth century, the city fell to ruin and rising water levels eventually swallowed it up. Today, the ancient city ruins can be visited in one of the world’s few public underwater archaeological parks, just off the Bay of Naples.
At 5,000 yeas old, Pavlopetri in southern Laconia, Greece, is the oldest submerged city in the world, dating back to the Bronze Age. It was discovered in 1967 by oceanographer Nic Flemming, and in 2009 investigations began into the history and development of this now-submerged ancient town. The archaeological site is awash with a wealth of artefacts, and the BBC created a digital recreation of how the city might have once looked.
Lake Kaindy, in the Tian Shan mountain range, was formed in 1911 after an earthquake caused a tremendous landslide to block off part of the gorge and act like a dam. With nowhere to drain, rainwater collected and gradually submerged the spruce tree forest that grows in the ravine. With just their tops peeping out, the spruce trunks grow below in the icy waters.
Sunken in the waters off Alexandria in Egypt lie the remains of Cleopatra’s Palace. Queen Cleopatra, the last female pharaoh, became a legend through her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. She supposedly committed suicide by letting a snake bite her breast. Her palace at Alexandria and the rest of the city were engulfed by the sea after a series of cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis in the fourth and eighth centuries. A French archeologist, Franck Goddio, and his team discovered the site in the 1990s. Among the huge limestone blocks from fallen buildings, divers have found coins, tiny amulets, jewellery, rings, glassware and hairpins, as well as two perfectly preserved sphinxes, the spiritual guardians of Cleopatra’s temple.
Craning her neck to gaze upward, a girl kneels on the sand bed. Aptly named Ocean Atlas, she calmly bears the weight of the sea on her shoulders. At 5.5m (18ft), she’s the largest underwater sculpture in the world, dwarfing the snorkellers and divers who come to New Providence in the Bahamas to visit her. Designed by underwater sculpture artist Jason deCaires Taylor, her texture is roughened to encourage coral to take up home on this gentle giant.
Sail to these mesmerising underwater spectacles by chartering a boat through SamBoat. Alternatively, book a week-long sailing adventure with Dream Yacht Charter.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.