Myths become even more fascinating when you can visit their backdrops. Here are 10 mythological places in the world to visit today.
In ancient times, before the radio, movies, or HBO —in fact before things were written down—,people would share and listen to stories. Nowadays, we refer to those stories of gods and heroes as “myths.” As we all know, every story is set in one (or sometimes more) particular place, so we thought we’d share some of the legendary places that—while they certainly belong to mythology—are also real places that you can visit.
1. Andromeda’s Rock, Jaffa
The coastal city of Jaffa, adjacent to Tel Aviv, has Biblical origins: it is said to have been founded by one of Noah’s sons, Japheth, after the Flood. Andromeda’s Rock lay just off the coast of Jaffa, which, according to Greek mythology, is the place where Princess Andromeda was chained as a sacrifice to a sea monster before being rescued by Perseus.
2. Yomi-no-Kuni, Japan
According to Shinto lore, Yomi is the realm of the dead. Japanese traditions say that this is the place where the dead dwell in the afterlife. It is said to be ruled by Izanami, a kind of creative goddess and mother deity of Japan, and its entrance is said to be located in the former Province of Izumo in the eastern part of the Chūgoku region’s Shimane Prefecture. According to legend, the entrance is sealed behind a large boulder.
3. The Garden of the Hesperides, Cyrene, Libya
This garden was said to have been Zeus’s wedding gift to Hera, and it contained the tree bearing golden apples, enchanted fruit that Hercules had to retrieve for his eleventh labor. Legend says that Cyrene (now Benghazi), a city on the Libyan coast, used to house the garden. What is certain is that even today you can still see the remains of the Temple of Zeus and the Sanctuary of Apollo—they’ll leave you breathless.
4. Scylla and Charybdis, the Messina Strait
Scylla and Charybdis were said to be two sea monsters, in the form of a giant rock and a whirlpool respectively, that would shipwreck any sailor who dared to sail between them. They are mentioned in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts as well as in the Odyssey, but their myth predates Odysseus’ journey. The legend says that Scylla was a nymph who was transformed into a terrifying sea monster by the witch Circe. Desperate, Scylla hid away in a cave where she met the other sea monster, Charybdis, a goddess who had been punished by Zeus for her greed. He transformed her into a monstrous whirlpool that would suck in and spew out all the waters of the sea, including any unfortunate ship in the vicinity. Scylla and Charybdis were allegories for the two tips of the Calabrian and Sicilian coastlines—at Torre Faro, to be precise—that form the Strait of Messina, which has always been very difficult to navigate because of its strong currents.
5. Eea, the Circeo Promontory
We just mentioned Circe, the enchantress who, among other things, could turn men into pigs—the fate that befell some of Odysseus’ companions. There are different accounts about the location of the island of Eea, her mythical home. The Odyssey mentions an island, which is why many have identified it as either Ponza or Ustica. However, the best theory holds that it was actually meant to be the Circeo Promontory, which looks like an island when viewed from the sea.
6. Calypso’s Cave, Gozo
On his journey back to Ithaca in the Odyssey, Odysseus makes several stops, all for long periods of time. On one occasion, he stays on the island of Ogygia for seven years, together with Calypso, who lived in a deep cave that was said to open up towards idyllic gardens with lush vegetation, rivers, streams and springs. Calypso’s cave is on the island of Gozo and though it closed to visitors a few years back, you can still admire an aerial view of Ramla l-Hamra, the gorgeous red sand beach.
7. The Labyrinth of the Minotaur, Crete
The myth of Ariadne’s thread, Theseus and the labyrinth of the Minotaur still lives on today in Crete—indeed, more than ever. Knossos Palace, the mythical home of King Minos himself, stands on the outskirts of Heraklion, the Cretan capital. Its complex and intricate architecture is nothing short of a real-life labyrinth.
8. The Fairy Kingdom, Knockma Hill, Ireland
The legendary Irish fairies are said to dwell in the Irish hills, and legend states that the fairy kingdom ruled by King Finvarra lies underground, beneath the enchanted Knockma (Cnoc Meadha) Hill near Galway. Its entrance is marked by a ditch that’s still visible on the hill today, and it’s said to have been dug by a nobleman while trying to rescue his wife who had been kidnapped by the fairies’ king.
9. The Sacred Dwelling-Place of the Gods, the Hill of Tara, Ireland
Once again in Ireland, but moving on to a place near Dublin. Close to Skryne in Meath County, stands the Royal Hill of Tara, an important site for many reasons. Firstly, the Stone of Destiny (Lia Fáil) is found at the top, a mythical monolith without which, it is said, that Ireland would have been destroyed. Moreover, the Hill of Tara was a home for the Fianna, the mythical knights who were said to be protectors of Ireland. It was also believed to be the place where the Tuatha Dé Danann lived, a race of supernatural beings who are thought to represent the deities of Gaelic Ireland.
10. The Tomb of Queen Branwen, the mouth of the Afon Alaw River, Wales
The Mabinogion is a collection of prose texts that record historical records dating back to the Middle Ages, myths and ancient traditions, some of which date back to the Iron Age. One of its stories tells the tale of Queen Branwen who, along with seven other survivors, arrived in Wales after fleeing Ireland, decimated by a bloody war. The mouth of the Afon Alaw River in Anglesey (a place called Aber Alaw in Welsh) is where, according to the legend, the queen died of a broken heart after casting a final glance towards the Irish coast. Her burial place is said to be at Llanddeusant, which sits on the Alaw’s bank.