Europe Travel Guide

The Lost Cities Of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Italy, like most of Europe is home to some of the most fascinating historical sites, monuments and buildings in the world. Ever since a young age I have always loved ancient cities and have been fascinated with how people use to live. I think its just incredible at how advanced ancient societies were, and to think some are thousands of years old. That’s why after studying the famous cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum I just knew I would have to revisit them on my trip to Naples in Italy’s south. I visited both sights back in 2009 when I was 15 years old, but unfortunately did not appreciate the experience as much as I have now. That’s why I made the extra effort to re-visit some of the most amazing ancient cities in Italy! Pompeii and Herculaneum.


Travellers Guide To The Lost Cities Of Pompeii and Herculaneum


History Of The Sites: The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are some of the most fascinating historical sites in Italy, and some of the largest archaeological sites to have ever been uncovered to date. Dating back to 79AD, both Herculaneum and Pompeii where destroyed and buried under meters of volcanic ash, lava and mud almost two thousand years ago. Mt Vesuvius, located only a few kilometers away, which is an active volcano still to date, is believed to have erupted and over the course of 18 – 20 hours brought destruction to the cities.

Thousands of people lost their lives, most of which didn’t understand what exactly was happening, others fled the cities and sailed away on local boats, but the cities them selves have been frozen in time for centuries and hold some of the most incredible artifacts. From ancient buildings, amazing architecture, plumbing systems, and beautiful pottery, jewelry and paintings, its no wonder so many people flock to their gates every year.

Surprisingly most buildings are still in tact thanks to the great efforts to uncover the cities, however there is also another reason why so many visit these sites, and that is because of the amazing recovery of human remains that where accidently discovered when archeologist kept coming across what they believed to be air pockets, but turned out to be the cavities of where human bodies once lay. They pored cement into the holes and what they uncovered was indeed the shapes of human bodies. Similarly in Herculaneum they found these cavities but amazingly most of which where so intact that they found actual skeletal remains left due to the large amount of ash, and mud which covered the cities.

The site of Pompeii has been completely uncovered, where as Herculaneum is still buried under the new city. Only a small amount has been uncovered, with an over half of the city still yet to be unearthed.


How To Get To Pompeii And Herculaneum: Whether you are staying in the main town of Naples, around the Amalfi Coast, or around the local towns, you will always find the local train lines near by. In fact most of the train schedules and lines include both Pompeii and Herculaneum stations on their routes because of the high amount of tourists that pass through just to see the fascinating ancient sites. If you are coming from Naples then hop on at the main Circumvesuviana station and take the train line to the station”Pompeii” for Pompeii and “Ercolano Scavi” for Herculaneum. The tickets cost around 3 Euro and after you buy your tickets from the ticket booth you will be handed a time schedule for the trains. You can also get off at “Ercolano Scavi” to get the local shuttle up to Mt Vesuvius if that too is on your list. Just take into note, no matter what the time of day is, the trains are always packed! You will most likely not get a seat and the train ride can take anywhere between 25minutes to 1 hour. If local transport isn’t at the top of your list you can hire a private tour for the day that included entry tickets, a guide and lunch for around 80 Euro.IMG_4203

Maps and Time Spent: If you intend on seeing both Pompeii and Herculaneum in the same day then spend from 9am – 2pm at Pompeii and from 2:30 – 5pm at Herculaneum. This is of course with breaks for morning tea, lunch and the trains in between.

In terms of getting around the sights, Pompeii being significantly larger than Herculaneum (as most of Herculaneum is still buried under ground, under the new city) you will be given a map for the sight. When looking at this map of Pompeii, pay extra attention to the numbers on the walls of the site and refer those numbers to the ones you see on the map, so that you can see where you are in the site. Its important to pay attention to where you are because if not, you will get lost and may end up at totally different exit and not know where the train station is to get home. So make sure you use the map in Pompeii, it is very helpful and very well laid out. Herculaneum on the other hand is a very small site and no maps are available, but it’s very small so it’s fine to walk around in without the fear of getting lost.

Please refer to the map below. This is a scanned copy of the map you will receive at the entrance of Pompeii, just to give you an idea of the size of the site.

Pompeii Map

Cost: Now like most tourist activities in the world, there is always an entrance fee, taxes or tickets you must buy. Pompeii and Herculaneum are no different, but to give you a general idea here are some pricing options you can pay when visiting.

– Single entry inside Pompeii: 13 Euro

– Single entry inside Herculaneum: 11 Euro

– Three day pass: 22 Euro. This is wonderful and I strongly suggest getting this pass! Its great as is covers five of the main sites and you can use this pass over the course of three days. The sites included in the pass are: Pompei, Hercolaneum, Oplontis, Boscoreale and Stabiae.


Tips To Know:

  • Make sure you bring your own water, as it is extremely hot and the prices of water inside are silly. Like most tourist attractions you can buy half frozen water at the gate for only 1 Euro, and believe it’s worth the cost! It is so refreshing, so fears not if you forget your water bottle, just buy a nice cold one before you enter.
  • Instead of walking around in a big group, on a group tour, hire an audio guide. Audio guides are much cheaper and you can go at your own pace, which is wonderful. Private tour guides are also wonderful, but almost triple the cost.
  • Use the bathroom before you start exploring! There are only few public bathrooms inside the sight located indie the cafes scattered throughout the site, however the queues are ridiculous! So try to use the bathroom before or after your visit.
  • Bring a packed lunch if you can, find a nice spot either inside the amphitheater, on the sidewalk or even inside the colosseum. The food around Pompeii is very expensive because it’s a high tourist area. Herculaneum has restaurants around the area, and these are far cheaper, so either bring a packed lunch or eat near Herculaneum.
  • You cannot bring large bags inside the sites! If you are a backpacker, you cannot bring you backpack/suitcases inside, however Small backpacks and handbags are fine.
  • If you intend on visiting both Pompeii and Herculaneum, whether you are pushing your time into one single day or over a few days, then I would strongly suggest buying the three-day pass, which covers the five main sites to see in the area, including Pompei, Hercolaneum, Oplontis, Boscoreale, Stabiae. You can only enter the sites once! But you can use the pass over the course of three days, which is perfect!
  • If you are doing Pompeii and Herculaneum in the same day, try to get the earliest train to Pompeii first. Herculaneum is never as busy as Pompeii and it is a nice way to finish your day, by visiting the much quieter Herculaneum site.


Hopefully this has given you some more information for your visit to the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both are equally fascinating and extremely worth the visit. Make sure you see them both! They really will blow your mind.


Have you visited Pompeii or Herculaneum before? Which one did you enjoy the most? Leave a comment below for discussion! 🙂

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