Humans have always used myths and legends to explain everything from the weather to the afterlife. For centuries, these stories helped humanity have a better understanding of the world around us.

Though many of the great tales of the past are no longer accepted as fact like they once were, their impact still resonates in the places they originated from today. For those seeking to unlock the mysteries of our past, these 20 legendary locales hold the key – and boy, there’s much more to the story than you think!

1. The Lost City of Atlantis (Santorini, Greece): This luxurious vacation spot could be home to history’s greatest unsolved mystery: Atlantis. It is widely speculated that a volcanic eruption caused a tsunami that sank the mythical city right off the coast of Santorini.

2. The Seven Gates Of Guinee (New Orleans): In Voodoo myths, there are seven gates that the dead must pass through in order to reach the spirit world of Guinee. Many believe that these seven gates are scattered throughout the cemeteries in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

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3. Robin Hood (Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire): The Major Oak, a nearly 1,000-year-old tree that stands in England’s Sherwood Forest, was said to have been Robin Hood’s hideout in the days of old.

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4. The Parthenon (Athens, Greece): Originally built as a temple to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, this structure mainly served as the city treasury. In the later years of the 6th century, however, it became a church that eventually turned mosque under the Ottomans before its destruction in 1687.

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5. Valley Of Scarecrows (Nagoro, Japan): Ghost towns are creepy, but ghost towns filled with lifelike scarecrows? Even creepier. The small Japanese village of Nagoro is home to 150 individually made scarecrows; on any given day, the scarecrows can be seen lingering in the streets, tending to the fields, and even attending school.

6. Petra (Ma’an, Jordan): One of the Seven Wonders of the World, renowned for its architecture, the legend of Petra has grown considerably thanks to features in films like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

7. The Kingsroad (Gracehill House, Ballymoney): The Gracehill House has wowed visitors to Northern Ireland since 1775. Rumored to be haunted by several ghosts, the Dark Hedges are most well-known for appearing as the Kingsroad in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

8. Homer’s Odyssey (Cyclopean Isles, Greece): These isles were once believed to have been part of Sicily, but Homer changed people’s minds once he wrote Odyssey. Within it, a cyclopes named Polyphemus hurled three large stones at a passing ship… thus creating the Cyclopean Isles.

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9. The Shire (Matamata, New Zealand): When director Peter Jackson set his sights on this 1,200-acre farm as the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings franchise, he inadvertently created a world-famous tourist attraction. Who knew J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy would actually become a reality?

10. The Goddess Pele (Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai’i): The first ancient Hawaiians to settle on the island believed that Kilauea was the body of Pele, goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes. According to legend, anyone that removes one of the rocks from this area will be cursed with bad luck until it’s returned.

11. Salem Witch Trials (Salem, Massachusetts): Infamous for the trials held in 1692, “The Witch City” has embraced its dark past to the tune of over one million tourists and witch fanatics a year!

12. Troy (Çanakkale, Turkey): Rediscovered in 1865 by archaeologist Frank Calvert, Troy—now Hisarlik—still features the ruins of many structures from the Trojan War recounted in Homer’s Odyssey. 

13. Yomi-no-kuni (Matsue, Japan): The deity Izanagi is said to have sealed off the entrance to the Japanese land of the dead with a large boulder after his beloved chased him from the underworld. Today, this boulder can be found in the Iya area of Matsue. 

14. Neuschwanstein Castle (Bavaria, Germany): A fairy tale come to life, this massive castle has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Look familiar? Well, it also served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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15. Shangri-La (Kunlun Mountains): The term “Shangri-La” has become synonymous with any place considered “heaven on earth”, though some believe that the one in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon actually exists in the Kunlun Mountains. 

16. The Loch Ness Monster (Loch Ness, Scotland): Cited as far back as the 6th century, “Nessie” has supposedly been spotted over 1,000 times in the waters of Loch Ness. While many “sightings” have been ruled hoaxes, there is no definitive proof that the monster does not exist.

17. The Throne of Zeus (Mount Olympus, Greece): In Greek Mythology, this mountain was home to the all-powerful gods and goddesses that ruled. In modern times, it has gained fame for its flora, fauna, and breathtaking views. 

18. Camelot (Winchester, England): While the city of Caerleon in Wales was originally cited as the location of King Arthur’s chief court, later works place the monarch and his Round Table in England’s Winchester Castle.

19. Dracula’s Castle (Poenari Citadel, Romania): A horror icon both feared and beloved by millions, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was inspired by the infamous 15th-century Prince “Vlad the Impaler”. The Poenari Citadel was one of Vlad’s most well-known strongholds.

20. El Dorado (Lake Guatavita, Colombia): The fabled “Golden City” may be lying just below the surface of this lake. According to legend, the ruler of the Muisca people would scatter treasures in the center of the water here to appease the Guatavita goddess.

Who knew that these popular places held such a mythical history? It looks like our past is more present than we think.

Plan your next adventure and share these amazing sites with your friends below!