Fantasy Worlds You Can Visit

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So David and Faith are travelling this week, and suddenly I started thinking about places I’ve always wanted to visit.  As writers, we’re always looking at our ordinary world with an eye toward finding the magic hidden everywhere, but there are places right here on Earth that can rival fantasy worlds for their beauty and otherworldliness.  Remember the gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand, that made the Lord of the Rings movies come alive?  And that’s not all – so many places all over our beautiful planet verge on the magical.  So come with me on a quick trip to some extraordinary places!

When I was a little girl, I had a set of children’s encyclopedias, and one volume was about the wonders of the world.  It had pictures of countries from every continent, but my favorite was a shot of the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy.  It’s a sea cave that’s only accessible by boat, and the light from outside causes the water to glow an unearthly blue. 

 

Speaking of water, have you ever seen the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize?  It’s an underwater sinkhole, about 400 feet deep, and very popular with divers.  It’s such an incredible sight from above – a dark, round shadow under the bright blue water.  What might it hide, there in the depths? 

 

Travelling in the other direction for a moment…the town of Derweze in Turkmenistan is home to a cavern some call the Door To Hell.  In 1971, geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas, but when the ground collapsed under the drilling rig, the men decided the best way to clear the air and keep from poisoning the town was to burn off the gas.  The fire is still burning today.  The sound of the fire is one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard. 

 

On top of a mountain in Wales, there’s an ancient ruin that utterly captivated me.  I visited Llanthony Priory in 1992.  We drove up a mountain, going from a highway to a small paved road, then to a rocky path before the trees opened up, revealing the brilliant blue sky and this gorgeous building standing before us.  Walking under its arches, I felt as though all the souls who’d once walked its halls were still there, moving quietly about their duties even as I stood on the grass that served as its floor. 

 

The Olympic National Forest is a lush rainforest in the Pacific Northwest United States, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  It’s so insanely green!  My very first novel was born during a visit to the forest, and while you may never have a chance to read that story, the million shades of green will definitely inspire you to write other stories of your own.

 

And then, of course, there’s my home, the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  We have spooky mansions, gorgeous beaches, and haunting marshes.  Live oaks line the roads leading into town, bending low over the pavement as if welcoming a royal visitor to the realm.  One of my favorite spots is the ruin of Old Sheldon Church, out near Yemassee.  The highway goes right past, but the minute you step past the tree line and approach the brick walls that still stand, peace descends.  It’s as if something there is focusing on you, waiting for you to reach out and touch it.

I’ve shared a few places I think are fantasy on earth.  Some I’ve seen for myself, and others I can only hope to visit someday.  Share yours!

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17 comments to Fantasy Worlds You Can Visit

  • Unicorn

    Great post, Misty. Llanthony Priory is just beautiful. I would love to visit a castle, any castle. There is something so special about a castle. If I ever had the guts to travel, Britain would be my first destination – first a castle, then Westminster Abby, then Stonehenge, then Wales. (Anywhere in Wales, just to prove that there really is a country that has a dragon on its flag and names right out of a fairytale).
    My home is also inspiring. This is Africa, the oldest and wildest continent. Sophisticated as it might now be, there’s still something unknown and dangerous in the untamed silence that spreads its wings around us at twilight. And though I’ve heard them almost every night of my life, I still never expect the jackals’ howls.

  • I wanted to leave a picture, but the comment field doesn’t seem to let me.

    In high school, I visited France, which has so many awesome spectacles. However, one of the most stunning and memorable was Mount St. Michel http://www.hotelsearch.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/mont-saint-michel.jpg It’s an old monastery built on an island. Except, it isn’t always an island. When the tide is in, it is surrounded by water; when the tide is out, it is surrounded by sand. The story goes that if the tide comes in when your horse is halfway to the island (not counting the bridge), you will drown because it cannot get to mainland or island before the water consumes the sand. Then there is the winding road that circles the little mountain where you walk through this town built on the side. At the top is the monastery, and standing on the grand balcony at the very top, looking out across the world… it just brings innumerable fantasies to life.

  • Uni, I hope you manage to travel the way you want to. I’d love to come see your home someday.

    David, I had a poster of Mont St Michel when I was in college. It’s so gorgeous! So many old religious buildings seem to come straight out of fantasy – I’ve wanted for years to see La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain. It looks like a faerie construction.

  • I want to go to all of these places. Now, please.

  • I managed to get online to play!!!
    Grand Canyon, please.
    And the South of France.
    And Nunny Castle, in England, where my royal ancestors are buried.
    And…(Sighs happily) Sooo many places.

  • Beautiful images, Misty. Some of these (and those others mention) I’ve been to and they really are special (esp. if you can get away from the crowds. Some other faves of mine include Delphi in Greece, the Castlerigg stone circle in the English lake district, and the Corcovado rainforest national park in Costa Rica, all of which I have or plan to use in books 🙂

  • Lenny Alcor

    Amazing Places… Wow, such a big world and such little time! If you EVER come to Mexico, you should definitely visit an amazing castle (now an exclusive hotel) in Xilitla, San Luis Potosi. It´s like visiting our own Rivendel!

    http://www.paginasprodigy.com.mx/leroy_ts/pagina106848.html

    As for “writing” places, I have a few of my own… Meribel, France; Jasper, Canada; Agua Azul, Chiapas (MEX); Brugge, Brusels; Petra, Jordan; and so many more! See ya!

  • Okay, I was traveling this weekend, but not to ANYPLACE, like these places.

    There is an ocean-side beach on St. Catherine’s Island in Georgia that is simply magnificent.

    Uluru, King’s Canyon, and Trephina Gorge in Australia’s famed Red Centre.

    Cathedral Cove on New Zealand’s North Island, which I believe was used as a location in one of the Narnia movies.

    Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

  • A sunset on the beach in the Philippines looks like the sky caught on fire.

    There are some old castle ruins in Germany near their border with Switzerland–can’t remember the name–where the dungeon is still intact. It left such an impression that my daughter, who was only four at the time, still remembers it over ten years later. The Roman tower felt so old I could imagine ghosts of the past crowding around my shoulders.

    I feel like going into the limestone caves in Southern Kentucky, such as the Lost River Cave, is like stepping into another world.

    Someday, I hope to see the castles in France running along the Loire River. That’s my current real-world fantasy.

  • The island temple of Philae, upper Nile, Egypt. ’twas amazing.

    When taking a walk with a friend through some woods near Graz, Austria, we ran across some old fort or castle ruins in a farmer’s field. Magical, surround by the yellow fall leaves.

    Castle Urquhard, the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland. The ruins of this wonderful castle, perched on the shores of Loch Ness, bring to mind lake monsters and fae.

    Any of the smaller Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey. I learned to drink Ouzo from a little old greek fisherman there, so I don’t exactly remember it all, but people tell me it was pretty 🙂

    And thanks for mentioning Olympic National Park. One of the best parts of my home state. Was just there a few months ago.

    And of course Seattle and New Orleans for your fantasy vampires, werewolves, and other creepies. Cliche, I know, but there are reasons these areas are so great.

  • These are amazing examples, Misty. I’m not much of a traveler, but I go everywhere on Google Maps (especially via Google Earth) to discover all of the wonderful secret places the planet still has to offer.

    That mystical Pacific Northwest forest is also present in and around Vancouver. I’ve always felt that connection to the serenity and magical potential of the land the moment I am far from the roadside, and Lynn Canyon Park has been one of the places I frequent. Even the wildly popular 30 Foot Pool has its quiet moments, as do the nearby suspension bridge and the hiking trails that abound. The mountains, too, offer their own silence, even amidst the tourist attraciton that is Whistler-Blackcomb.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Thanks for bringing up all these cool places. I have way too many places I want to go and am always most inspired with cool ideas when I see or learn about cool places, but I’m always happy to add more to the list. I’m also glad Unicorn brought up sounds, though. Certain sounds can really make a place feel otherworldly. For me, the best such sound is a loon calling at twilight. So beautiful, like a ghost singing on the lake. Also, coqui frogs at night when I visited Puerto Rico. If rain drops were given musical notes, they might sound like these little frogs.

  • MaCrae

    WOW! All of these places are definately going on my travel list! I never thought places like that could exist! The Door to Hell one is so awesome, I am SO putting that in my story. These places bring to mind a place in Brandon Mull’s Beyonders book. He made ( WARNING SPOILERS! ) an entire huge lake that acts like cornstarch mixed with water! It was so cool to read. The only magical thing I can think of where I live is when the sun is out and there’s a fine rain coming down, like mist. I love going outside and looking at the rain through shafts of sunlight and seeing every fine drop.

  • Razziecat

    Lenny, thanks for that link! Rivendell, indeed. And the pool looks like something I was imagining for one of my still-simmering story ideas.

    It’s not very exotic where I live, but I would suggest these places (images available online, I’m sure): Letchworth State Park, especially in the autumn; Panama Rocks, in Panama, NY; Niagara Falls (ignore the touristy stuff – there’s nothing like standing right next to that cascade of water, or even better, riding the Maid of the Mist right behind it). And one of my favorite spots is in another state park, where bluebells come into bloom in early May. They’re spread out over a couple of acres in the woods, and they look like a blue mist among the trees. Gorgeous.

  • The four corners area with the wind-sculpted mesas and the Anasazi ruins, the amazing colors and the shhhshing of sand against sand and ever-constant wind. The desert after a rain, when the ghods carpet the sand with splashes of yellow and purple. The Grand Canyon during a thunderstorm. The Superstition Mountains on a hot summer night when the heat lightning flashes silently in pinks, oranges, teals, and lavenders. The Redwood Forest at dawn. Morro Bay at sunset. The mountains around Baggio, Philippines.
    But my favorite place of all is this hidden little meadow about 1/4 mile from my house – it is completely surrounded by woods and only accessible by an overgrown, tunnel-like trail…

  • Lynn reminded me of one of the most magical places I ever found (although tragically, it no longer exists.) Many years ago, my husband and I had gone to Holden Beach, NC. It’s a small barrier island north of the SC/NC border. At low tide you could walk out to a half-buried wreck of a Civil War era blockade runner. But the best part was a huge wind-carved bowl set back from the beach in the dunes. It was probably 20′ deep at its lowest point, and we loved to hike there and stay all day. The sound of the waves became weird down there, and the wind didn’t rush – it moaned. At night the stars looked enormous when we stared at them from the bottom of the bowl.

    Alas, that end of the island was washed flat in a hurricane about ten years ago, so the bowl is gone. But I’ll never forget it.

  • Uluru http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock as it once was known) in the centre of Australia. It’s a massive chunk of sandstone that just sticks out of the desert. I’m not sure you’re allowed to climb it any more, but I got to. Watching it at sunset is quite magical. Of course the local tribes have lots of sacred sites and stone paintings and so on. If you visit, be sure to get a bona fide Aborigine as your guide who can tell you about all the spiritual aspects and I’m sure you’ll see some of the magic too.