One of the elements that draws us deeply into fantasy are the wondrous worlds and locations described within. While many fantasy lands are derived purely from imagination, there are places here on Earth that would feel right at home in a mystical, mythical world. From natural wonders, to unbelievable human-made structures, here are 10 places that look like they belong in a fantasy world.
1. Hallerbos Forest, Belgium
Covered in a blanket of endless bluebell flowers, the Hallerbos Forest looks like the kind of faerie stomping grounds you only see in dreams. Over 1,000 acres of the bluish-purple flowers give the forest a uniquely ethereal glow no matter the time of day. Imagine falling asleep in the fragrant field and being awakened by the nearby sound of a faerie festival—we think spending time in Hallerbos Forest would be like a real-life A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
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Goblin Forest, Tararua Forest Park, New Zealand
Whoever named this forest certainly didn't mince words. The canopy of gnarled trees reaches toward the sky like desperate fingers trying to touch the light, and the forest's carpet of moss lends it an unearthly hush. This is one place you wouldn’t want to get lost in your quest to find the Ring, or to rescue Princess Buttercup. That flash in the corner of your eye? It might just be a real life goblin. Or your tour guide ... one or the other.
3. Marble Caves, Patagonia, Chile
Upon first glance, it’s hard to believe that something like the Marble Caves exists in real life. Ok, upon second and third glances, too. This system of caves with its eerily beautiful blue glow is located in the middle of a glacial lake, its passages carved by waves out of solid marble. The Marble Caves look like the kind of place where a hero might find the sigil that leads them to the final part of their quest ... assuming the hero can get inside. The caves aren't exactly easy to access (you can only get there via boat), which makes this location perfect fantasy fodder.
4. Caño Cristales River, Vista Hermosa, Colombia
This body of water looks practically otherwordly. The rainforest river—sometimes called the "Liquid Rainbow"—gets its vibrant and varied colors thanks to the presence of a flowering riverweed. The water is home to many aquatic plants, but is entirely devoid of fish. The Caño Cristales' pristine but empty waters present a fascinating duality that we'd love to see explored in a fantasy story. Besides, who wouldn't want to swim in a rainbow?
5. Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland
Uninhabited island? Check. Mysterious echoes? Check. Naturally formed cathedral? Check! This sea cave in Scotland has inspired poems by Keats and Tennyson, stories by Jules Verne, and songs by Mendelssohn and Pink Floyd. The compelling natural formation boasts a blocky, stair-like appearance, and, when filled with water, the waves create a mystical echo chamber effect. We wouldn't be surprised to see a mythical selkie in Fingal's Cave.
6. Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng, China
Longji, which translates to Dragon’s Backbone, are stunning man-made vistas that carve into the countryside. Built nearly 700 years ago by the Zhuang people, China’s largest ethnic minority, the Longji Terraces tells an ancient story of their own. The terrace colors change depending on the season, as water is flooded through to irrigate the rice. It’s a scene that would be just at home in a fantasy novel as it is in reality.
7. Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
This island fortress is one of the most well known historical sites in France. Its history reads like a fantasy novel, full of epic battles. During low tide, one can make it out to the island, but once high tide races in, it becomes a nearly impenetrable force. There are less than 50 souls who live on the island now, and that isolation, coupled with Mont Saint-Michel's centuries of history, makes it the perfect inspiration for a fantastical story.
8. United Artists Theatre, Detroit, Michigan
There's a certain haunting beauty to structures left abandoned. This is true of many buildings in Detroit, but none have the same charm as the city's former United Artists Theatre. Built in the 1920s and a testament to art deco style, the UAT was officially vacated in the 80s. Decades of abandonment have given the theatre an almost dystopian fantasy feel, with layers of beauty lying underneath its crumbling facade. While the city of Detroit thrives and grows again, the UAT remains untouched.
9. Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
If Neil Gaiman and Salvador Dali conspired to create a building, it would probably look like the Casa Batlló. Designed by the famous architect Antoni Guadi, the Casa Batlló defies categorization. Nearly skeletal in appearance, with colorful shingles like scales and an arching roof, many have likened the building to a dragon. The entire Casa feels alive, almost like it’s moving. Sounds to me like a perfect fantasy abode.
10. Salt Flats, Potosi, Bolivia
Formed by the shifting Andes mountains, the Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) are a natural landscape that defies belief. 4,000 miles wide, one would think that living in a land made primarily of salt would be nearly impossible, yet there are those who do it. The flat, sparking salt crust covers brine-y water that is rich in lithium, and the salt blocks are frequently used in construction of homes, hotels, and even furniture. This place is just waiting to inspire the next great fantasy tale.