Unfortunately, you can't just hop a bus and ride into Gondor. If you could, public transit would be a lot more popular than it is. But don't worry—if you ever find yourself feeling blue about the hobbitless reality you were born into, we've got a solution. Scattered across the globe are destinations that look a heck of a lot like Gondor—and the rest of Middle Earth, for that matter (plus, they're not all in New Zealand). When you travel to these spots, reality readily slips away, quickly replaced by the infinite possibilities of Tolkien's legendarium. Are those birds above, or dragons? Is that a tall grey-haired guy hiking in front of you, or Gandalf? Does everything suddenly look much taller to you because you've fallen down due to the strain of this hike you did not properly prepare for? Or are you just channeling a hobbit's perspective?
Like we said—infinite possibilities. Just don't forget to pack second breakfast. Here are 10 travel destinations that feel like Middle Earth:
10 The Lake District, England (The Shire)
The scenery of Middle Earth is varied, but it combines in the perfect mixture of snug and splendid. Homey farmland borders soaring mountains and cheerful towns line stunning lakes. Representing both these aspects of Tolkien's mythical land, the Lake District in England offers the coziness of Hobbiton alongside breathtaking vistas.
The rolling fields and tiny towns of this national park bear an unmistakable resemblance to the Shire, but rising above the lakeside villages are some of England's highest mountains. Visitors can explore the area's beautiful forests, lakes and fells during the day, returning to homey hamlets in the evenings to enjoy the warm hospitality of England's Cumbria (and perhaps a pint of ale).
9 Krafka Lava Fields, Iceland (Mordor)
One does not simply walk into Mordor. But one can definitely walk atop the Krafla Lava Fields in northern Iceland. In the 1970s and 1980s, numerous volcanic eruptions rocked this region, and although no dangerous activity has occurred since, the area remains very much volcanically active. To this day, the black rock of the Krafla Lava Fields still steams and hisses, a living embodiment of Mordor.
Visitors can explore the unique rock formations on set hiking trails, walking on solidified lava from years past while steaming gases leak like wisps of smoke from the rock. The only thing missing is the orcs (but it's probably more enjoyable without them).
8 Inle Lake, Myanmar (Lake-town)
Built on wooden poles driven into the ground, Middle Earth's Lake-town is located not beside a lake, but on top of one, offering a distinct atmosphere that few places on Regular Earth can rival. However, Myanmar is home to a lake that is populated by many similar settlements which line the shore and even sit at the lake's centre.
Instead of a lone peak rising in the distance, there are two mountain ranges which border Inle Lake, offering gorgeous background scenery. And the best part? There's no angry dragon living next door (one of the few perks to living on Regular Earth).
7 The Rocky Mountains, Canada (The Misty Mountains)
One of the most iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings is when the Fellowship treks across the Misty Mountains, with the horns of the main musical theme booming in the background. It's one of those scenes that gets the adrenaline pumping, that perks that insatiable thirst for adventure. And where better to have some adventures of your own than Canada's Rocky Mountains?
Boasting breathtaking views and well-worn hiking trails, the Canadian Rockies offer countless opportunities to explore nature at your own pace, whether you're a seasoned explorer like Strider or a newbie adventurer like the hobbits. Walking amidst Canada's snow-capped peaks, it's hard not to feel like you're part of some grand quest—even if it's just to get back to your hotel in time for dinner (like a good little hobbit).
6 Blarney Castle, Ireland (The Hornburg and The Shire)
Dating from the mid-1400s, Blarney Castle is one of the main tourist attractions in Ireland. Most people go to kiss the Blarney Stone, which supposedly gifts visitors with eloquence (maybe Pippin should give it a try), but this destination is worth visiting simply for its ambiance.
The castle itself is reminiscent of the many fortifications of Middle Earth, from the Hornburg at Helm's Deep to the ruins of Osgiliath in Gondor. But it's the castle's surroundings that truly evoke the magic of Middle Earth. Gurgling creeks, stretching fields and quiet forests dot the countryside, perfectly embodying the idyllic charm of the Shire. Plus, if you feel like hitting a tavern afterwards, the Irish are probably the only people on the planet who can match the hobbits' enthusiasm for ale.
5 South Island, New Zealand (Isengard, Rohan, etc)
Given that The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that many places in this country are reminiscent of Tolkien's legendary landscapes. On the South Island, fans can visit the filming locations for Isengard, Pelennor Fields, Lake-town, Edoras and much more—but even without picking specific film sites to hit, simply wandering the mountainous landscape of the South Island will feel like a visit to Middle Earth.
So get yourself a cloak, pack up some lembas bread, and head out for a distinctly Tolkienesque adventure in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
4 The Black Forest, Germany (Mirkwood)
Germany's Black Forest is a densely wooded mountain range that feels much like Mirkwood. Heck, even their names are similar! Luckily for visitors, the Black Forest lacks the oversized spiders of Middle Earth, and the chances of being captured by elves are rather slim (*sigh*). But the atmosphere is one in the same, with thin rays of sunlight filtering through the canopy above to illuminate a dark underbrush.
Equal parts imposing and peaceful, the Black Forest is what Mirkwood was probably like before it was tarnished by Sauron (Nerd Crash Course: Mirkwood used to be called Greenwood the Great, until Sauron's presence caused a darkness to spread within it).
3 Mount Fuji, Japan (The Lonely Mountain)
One of Japan's most iconic sights, Mount Fuji is the perfect stand-in for the Lonely Mountain. Rising as a solitary peak, it boasts a beautifully symmetrical cone which is capped by a white layer of snow for much of the year. From Tokyo, visitors can spot its distinct summit rising from the horizon on clear days, and in the summer months, it's possible to hike to its peak.
Although there's no treasure hidden within it (that we know of), Mount Fuji is still a worthy destination for any adventurer. Just keep an eye out for dragons.
2 The Swiss Alps, Switzerland (The White Mountains)
Sitting in one of the villages of the Swiss Alps (ideally in a chalet dining on cheese fondue), it's easy to feel like you're on vacation in the White Mountains of Middle Earth, which define the landscapes of both Rohan and Gondor.
These mountains are named for the glaciers that sit atop their peaks and humble all those who draw near. Similarly, the stunning heights of the Swiss Alps can make even the tallest amongst us feel like hobbits.
1 North Island, New Zealand (Hobbiton, Mount Doom, etc)
The North Island of New Zealand is home to many of Middle Earth's most iconic locations. At Tongariro National Park, fans can hike alongside Mount Doom and imagine themselves trekking through Mordor (it's fun to picture the masses of people that will inevitably share the path with you as orcs from whom you must escape). Visitors can also take a tour of Hobbiton, which has been retained as a functioning village (and—I say this with no bias whatsoever—it is the best place in the entire world).
From the darkest recesses of Mordor to the hallowed halls of The Green Dragon (which actually exists and offers free beer with every tour of Hobbiton), the North Island is a a must-visit destination for any Lord of the Rings fan.