Every culture has its own folklore tales, myths, and legends that are often age-old but still hold importance for local people today. Although the characters and creatures found throughout the world’s mythology are long gone (if they ever existed at all), the land where the stories are set is often very real. In fact, you can actually visit several locations from mythology today.
From the birthplace of gods to the site of epic ancient wars to the domain of sea monsters, these destinations have had starring roles in some of the world’s most popular myths. Keep reading to find out where they are.
10 Mount Olympus, Greece
One thing to know about Greece is that it's full of mythological sites. If you’re a fan of Ancient Greek mythology, then Mount Olympus would probably be on your bucket list. Located in the northeast of the country, the highest mountain in Greece was believed to be the home of the major gods, including Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Hera, and others.
You might not run into Zeus while you’re up there, but you might just catch a glimpse of some native birds. According to Smarter Travel, the area is now a sanctuary for birds, animals, and rare plants. It is also home to a selection of hiking trails.
9 The Minch, Scotland
One of the most famous locations where you can witness a real Scottish legend is Loch Ness, the supposed Highland home of the Loch Ness Monster. But a less renowned location from Celtic mythology is the Minch.
This stretch of water located in the northwest Highlands is also said to be home to supernatural life. According to Scotsman, the water is home to the blue men of the Minch. Legend says that these creatures have blue skin and grey faces. They are also said to wear a blue headgear.
8 Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan
The Sagano Bamboo Forest plays a role in Japanese mythology. Bamba Travel explains that, according to myth, the forest is home to spirits. The sounds you can hear when you visit the forest are actually the spirits singing and chanting.
Visit and see for yourself whether the sounds you hear are normal forest sounds, or whether there’s something magical about them. You’ll find the forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto. The forest boasts a network of paths to help you explore, and these are illuminated at night, adding to the magical vibe.
7 Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Ireland. Celtic legend reveals an interesting story behind the formation of the rocks, which are located in County Antrim.
The Irish giant Finn McCool was having an argument with a Scottish giant called Benandonner who lived across the sea. Finn built the causeway so he could walk over to Scotland and fight his rival. But Benandonner ended up being a much bigger opponent than Finn thought, and so his wife disguised him as a baby to avoid Benandonner’s wrath.
6 Shangri-La, China
Today, Shangri-La is a name often associated with opulence, paradise, and hotel chains. But in mythology, Shangri-La was a place hidden in the Himalayas of Tibet. Those who lived here were said to be enlightened and at peace.
You can visit the communities of the Himalayas, each claiming to be the real Shangri-La. One town on the border between China and Tibet even renamed itself Shangri-La in 2001. While there is no confirmation that any of these are the same Shangri-La from the myths, they do radiate a sense of calmness through their tea houses and monasteries.
5 Paphos, Cyprus
The destinations mentioned in Greek mythology extend beyond the borders of Greece. You can find them in countries throughout the Mediterranean, and sometimes even beyond! One famous destination is Paphos in Cyprus, where you’ll find Aphrodite’s Rock.
The Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of love and beauty, was born here and emerged from the rough seas to step foot on this piece of land for the first time. In ancient times, Paphos was a major location for those who wanted to worship Aphrodite.
4 Scilla, Italy
Speaking of Greek mythology, one of the most famous (and frequently referenced) classical texts still studied today is The Odyssey by Homer. The epic tale tells the story of Odyssey and his return home from the Trojan War. At one point in the story, Odysseus and his men must sail through the Strait of Messina where they are troubled by the monsters Charybdis and Scylla.
Scylla was said to live in the waters of the coastal Scilla. Today, you might not find any sea monsters in these crystal-blue waters, just lots of Italians enjoying the summer sun!
3 Uluru, Australia
Now one of the most intriguing tourist spots in Australia, Uluru holds great significance in the Dreamtime stories of the Aboriginal people. Even today, the colossal rock is sacred to several tribes in the region who still leave rock paintings there.
Uluru Australia explains that the monolith was created by 10 spirit people, or ancestors of the Aboriginal people, at the beginning of time. After colonization, Uluru became known as Ayers Rock and tour companies eventually started leading groups of foreigners on climbs of the rock. As of October 26, 2019, Uluru will be banned for visitors to climb.
2 Troy, Turkey
Perhaps one of the greatest and most well-known stories of Greek mythology is the Trojan War. For many years, historians debated whether the legendary city of Troy was just a myth, or whether it really did exist. In the late 1800s, an archeologist named Heinrich Schliemann uncovered remains near the northeast coast of Turkey. Experts believe he discovered the lost city of Troy.
At the site, you’ll find crumbling ruins to explore and a real-life replica of the famous Trojan Horse. The story goes that the Greeks were finally able to penetrate the formidable city walls by hiding in the horse and allowing the Trojans to bring them in.
1 Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
The Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii has erupted more than once. According to Hawaiian beliefs, every time the volcano erupts, the body of the volcano goddess Pele moves across the land. Visitors can check out the caldera of Kilauea, where Hawaiians still offer tributes to the goddess. These might include leis or even chants.
You’re welcome to visit the site of Pele’s home, but it’s considered bad luck to remove any rock from the national park. Anybody who does is doomed to suffer at the wrath of the goddess.