8 Mythical Places You Can Visit in Real Life

The cloud-covered peak of Mount Olympus.
Mytikas Peak, the highest point on Mount Olympus, is the mythical home of the throne of Zeus.

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King Arthur and his Knights of the Roundtable never roamed the English countryside in search of the Holy Grail, but a place strongly connected with the myth, Tintagel Castle, is quite real. Similar myths and legends, from the ancient Greek gods atop Mount Olympus to the kappa creatures of Tono, Japan, take place in real-world locations and are open to visitors.

Here are eight mythical places you can visit in real life.

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The Ruins of Troy

The Ruins of Troy in modern-day Turkey

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A major setting in the epic poem “The Iliad” by the Greek writer Homer, Troy was long believed to be a place of pure fiction. Although there is debate about the locations and events that inspired many of Homer's tales, most agree that the 4,000-year-old ruins of Troy are in Anatolia in modern-day Turkey. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, archaeologists first began excavating the ruins, known locally as Hisarlik, in the 19th century. The site, only about 650 feet in diameter, consists mainly of a scattering of stone walls and foundations of buildings.

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Loch Ness

Tourists visiting castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness

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The legend of the Loch Ness monster dates back to the sixth century with an account of a “water beast” attacking a man in the freshwater lake near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The modern popularity of the Loch Ness myth began in the 1930s when grainy images of a "monster" reawakened the legend of the lake. While conclusive evidence of the monster was never produced, the media embraced the story and created a legend that still draws people to the incredibly deep (433-foot average depth) Loch Ness and the castle ruins on the lake's edge.

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The preserved set of Bag End in Hobbiton located in New Zealand

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J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved Middle Earth was brought to life in the successful film adaptation of “Lord of the Rings,” with the entirety of the production shot in director Peter Jackson’s home country of New Zealand. Perhaps the most popular of these locations is the Hobbiton set, which was filmed in the country’s Waikato region on a lush, family sheep farm. Although the original set was deconstructed upon completion of filming, the set was rebuilt with permanent materials when “The Hobbit” trilogy went into production. Today, the bucolic town of the hobbits, with its picturesque Party Tree and Bag End on the hill, is available for tours year-round.

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Sherwood Forest

The 1,000-year-old Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.

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The popular legend of English folk hero Robin Hood sees the green-capped adventurer roaming Sherwood Forest while outwitting the rich and defending the poor. Although it isn’t likely that a historical figure named Robin Hood roamed the countryside with his band of Merry Men, the Sherwood Forest did, and still does, exist. Located in Nottinghamshire, England, the forest belongs to the over-1,000-acre Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve. The grounds are home to Major Oak, a 1,000-year-old oak tree that features prominently in legend as one of Robin Hood’s hideouts.

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Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus on a blue-sky day

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At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, Mount Olympus is one of the most prominent peaks in Europe. According to ancient Greek mythology, the 12 Olympian gods and goddesses, including Aphrodite, Poseidon, and Zeus, lived atop Mount Olympus. The stunning mountain sits on the border of Greece and Macedonia and, although quite remote compared to other popular destinations in Greece, it is quite accessible to tourists. The foothills of Mount Olympus are popular among casual hikers, while more experienced climbers take to the cloud-covered Mytikas Peak.

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Giant's Causeway

Tourists visit the incredible landscape of Giant's Causeway

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Northern Ireland’s magnificent Giant’s Causeway consists of nearly 40,000 basalt columns, caused by columnar jointing, and plays a major role in the tales of giants. One such legend has it that the giant known as Fionn mac Cumhaill built the causeway as a meeting place to do battle with the rival giant Benandonner. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, Giant’s Causeway is monitored for and protected against erosion.

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The beautiful valley in Tono, Japan on a bright day

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Tono, a town in the Iwate Prefecture on northeastern Honshu, Japan, earned the nickname City of Folklore due to its rural scenery, strong traditional culture, and its prominence in the popular collection of folk tales, “The Legends of Tono,” written by Kunio Yanagita. Among the tales set in Tono is that of the kappa—elusive, troll-like creatures who are often found around water and like to cause general mischief. Each year, a number of festivals are held in Tono to preserve the spirit and tradition of these legendary tales.

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Tintagel Castle

The ruins of Tintagel Castle in England on a partly cloudy day

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Built in the 13th century, the ruins of Tintagel Castle stand on Tintagel Island in North Cornwall, England, and have deep ties to the legend of King Arthur. Twelfth-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, known for popularizing the Arthurian legend, held that the Tintagel region was the conception-place of King Arthur, thus inspiring the construction of the castle by Richard of Cornwall. Today, visitors to Tintagel Castle enjoy tours of the dramatic cliffside ruins and delight in exploring Merlin’s Cave by the beach below.