By SJ Bansil
Our world indeed has a lot of mysteries. Throughout the beginning of our time, several myths and legends have emerged from different nations. Words are passed from one person to another, creating stories without sufficient evidences.
However, these stories travel to generation by generation, igniting the curiosity of people’s minds. Later on, they would ask, “Where is that place? Does it actually exist?” Of course, myths are still myths. But what if you can visit the places in your favorite tale? Exciting, right?
So here, we’ve listed the five mythological places that in the present day, are tourist attractions.
Shangri-La ‒ Himalayan Mountains, Tibet
Synonymous from the word Utopia, Shangri-La was known as an isolated, imaginary paradise. The legendary, idyllic place was first mentioned in James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon, in 1933. He described it as a mysterious, hidden valley in the far reaches of Tibetan Himalayas.
The protagonist of his novel is Glory Conway, a British consul who fought in the first World War. Serving Afghanistan, he encountered political turmoil and civil conflicts. He escaped the country by plane to find peace, however, it crashed and landed to the remote, mountainous area. Until he and his fellow passengers discovered the breathtaking valley of Shangri-La, where the villagers lived in harmony.
The snow-capped mountains of Himalayas are believed to be the inspiration of the mythical paradise. So in 2001, Zhongdian, an ancient town in the border of China and Tibet, renamed itself to Shangri-La. Accordingly, Zhongdian bears a huge resemblance to the fictional utopia.
Zhongdian, now Shangri-La, used to export woods before the flood from Yangtze River occurred. But later then, tourism increased progressively, making the villagers earn their livings. There are tea houses, public square and boutique hotel that offers a spectacular view of the Buddhist Temple. But if you’re looking for some adventures to refresh your soul, you can have hiking and trekking trails. You will definitely enjoy it, viewing the magnificent Himalayan Mountains.
El Dorado ‒ Lake Guatavita, Bogota, Colombia
Known as the City of Gold, El Dorado was considered to be a myth because of its uncertain location. Several expeditions were made somewhere in the jungle of South America, but none was successful. Originally, El Dorado pertains to a man, and not a city. As a matter of fact, it means ‘the gilded man’. According to the legend, the term is associated with the sunken treasures of the Muisca tribe in Lake Guatavita, Colombia.
The Muisca people had a tradition where their Cacique, means leader in their language, would cover himself in gold dust. From a raft loaded with gold treasures, he would then throw these to the lake as offerings to their goddess. Then, he would dive into the lake and would emerge clean.
Their neighboring tribes knew about this and they disclosed it to the greedy Spanish conquistadors. Thousands of men searched for El Dorado for centuries. And as words passed from one to another, El Dorado became a city and no longer an individual.
Nowadays, Lake Guatavita has become a tourist attraction. There are rules and regulations that protect the lake to keep it from greedy men in pursuit of riches. If you plan to visit this stupendous body of water, you have to prepare yourself for shortness of breath. Because you will trail up to 3,100 meters above sea level. But once you view the top of the lake, you will absolutely never forget this enchanting beauty enriched with myths and history.
Home of Greek Gods and Goddesses ‒ Mount Olympus, Greece
Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo – these are just some of the famous Greek gods and goddesses, and I am definitely sure you’ve heard and known of them.
Greece is rich in myths and legends. Their mythology has spread around the world and a lot of people are fanatic of it. Located in the Olympus Range on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, Mount Olympus is the highest mountain of Greece. It is known as the home of Zeus and the major Greek gods. Homer, the well-known author of Odyssey and Iliad, included this mythical mountain in his stories.
Mount Olympus has a height of 2,917 meters. It is abundant of tree and plant life, so it’s no surprise that some rare species are living here. The mountain has always been the destination of many tourists. Numerous affordable hotels, restaurants and fast foods along the coast were built because of this.
Hiking Mount Olympus is a great adventure to add in your travel list. The trails are decently large, so it won’t be difficult for anyone to climb it. Although it may take two days to hike it, you can spend a longer time if you want. However, some people have died during the climb here, so you have to be cautious and take it seriously. But along your way, you have to make sure to enjoy the beauty and wonders of this picturesque mountain.
Dracula’s Domain ‒ Bran Castle, Romania
Looking for some exciting adventure? Perhaps Dracula’s castle will satisfy you. Situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, Romania, Bran Castle has always been popular because of Count Dracula.
According to history, Louis I of Hungary gave the Saxons of Kronstadt the privilege to build a stone castle. This legendary castle was used as a defense against the Ottoman Empire, but later became a customs post. When Hungary lost Transylvania, this legendary castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania. It was Queen Marie’s favorite home and retreat, and later on, her daughter, Princess Ileana, inherited it.
In fact, Bran Castle has no solid proof of connection in Stam Broker’s notable novel, Dracula. However, many believed that Vlad Tepes, known as Vlad the Impaler, inspired Broker to write his masterpiece. Vlad was a Wallachian ruler who became notorious because of his fondness of impaling his victims. A lot of speculations arose that Vlad was imprisoned in the Bran Castle, but it is still not yet proven.
Real or not, exploring this old, mystifying castle will surely make you amaze. Since it is now open to the public as a museum, it might not that eerie as what others have described. And because of the restoration made in the rooms, the castle looks homely and charming. You might even think that it is for a fairy tale setting, and not for a horror one.
Yomotsu Hirasaka ‒ Matsue, Japan
Undoubtedly, Japan is rich in folk tales and legends. But this time, you might get surprised, or rather frightened, if you haven’t heard yet the story of Yomotsu Hirasaka.
Yomotsu Hirasaka, or the entrance to the underworld, is located in Matsue, Japan. It is a quiet, secluded place, and its ambiance is unwelcoming and gloomy. One would be convinced that the place is certainly the entrance to the underworld.
In the myth, Izanagi and Izanami, the firstborn male and female pair of gods, created the islands of Japan.
They also created deities to populate the heavens and earth. However, when Izanami gave birth to Kagutsuchi, the god of fire, she had terrible burns. She fell extremely ill and eventually she died. She was buried and her spirit was descended to Yomi-no-Kuni, the underworld.
Izanagi missed his wife so much, so he decided to travel the dark Yomi-no-Kuni and meet Izanami. He asked his wife to return with him, but Izanami refused because she already consumed the food in the underworld. On her second thought, Izanami told her husband that she could ask the permission of the lord of the underworld. She advised Izanagi to wait for her and never look in.
But Izanagi grew impatient, so he walked through the darkness of the underworld with his torch. He was utterly shocked when he saw his wife rotting and crawling with maggots. His wife became furious so she ordered the evil hags to run after him. Izanagi managed to escape and used a boulder to close the entrance.
It is uncanny to visit the closed Yomotsu Hirasaka, but it will be thrilling and exciting to quench your curiosity. There are also shrines nearby the place. So if you get scared to check the Yomotsu Hirasaka, you can always visit the shrines of Matsue.
Myths and legends have become part of our traditions, no matter where we come from.
Whether they are fact or just fiction, they contribute various customs that we still appreciate until today. They may not have any documented authentication, but they will always reflect how rich is the culture and the history of each land.
Have you visited any of these tourist attractions? What do you like the most? Or does your place also have a myth that is worth sharing?