There are many who view traveling as an unnecessary expense, a mere luxury, and a liability they can easily do without. Paying the bills, saving up for retirement, and investing their money soundly always take precedence over traveling. But little do most of us realize is that one of the best investments we can ever make is in our education. And traveling is certainly one of the best forms of hands-on, experiential learning.
When we travel, our eyes are opened and our horizons are broadened. It makes us realize how vast the wonders of this world are. Making it a point to visit at least one new destination every year is not a lofty goal; it’s very attainable if you’re diligently able to save up for it. Apart from experiencing the culture, eating the food, and meeting the people, the landmarks themselves are certainly worth the trip. Sites that are rooted in legend are made all the more fascinating because of the mysterious stories and hidden history behind them. These are some of the many spots in different corners of the world that have beautiful backstories behind them and hence, are certainly worth visiting.
12 Shambhala, Tibet
If you’ve ever wondered where the term Shangri-La originated, it was from the very elusive, mysterious sanctuary deep within the Tibetan mountains. It was known by many names, the most prominent of which was Shambhala, meaning a “place of peace” in Sanskrit. It’s said that only those with the purest of hearts can enter this mystical kingdom and there, they enjoy everlasting tranquility, joy, and eternal life. To this day, no one knows the exact location of this haven, leading many to assume that no human being has ever been worthy enough to enter it.
11 El Dorado, Colombia
The legend of El Dorado is shrouded in mystery. Meaning “the golden one,” no one can pinpoint its exact location, but it’s believed to be found in Colombia, South America. It became renowned in the 16th and 17th centuries as a site filled with immense gold and treasures and located deep within the Andes Mountains, buried beneath a lake called Guatavia. Though no one has found the actual haven, the Spaniards did find pieces of gold along Lake Guatavia’s shores when they attempted to drain it. They believed the city was buried in the depths of the lake, but were unable to get to the bottom.
10 Valley of the Kings, Egypt
One of the most visited tourist attractions in Egypt is the Valley of the Kings, which lies along the banks of the Nile. The area was once the final resting place of Egypt’s great pharaohs and other powerful rulers, the most famous of who was King Tutankhamun mainly because of the vast treasures found within the confines of his tomb. But many have claimed that King Tut’s tomb is cursed, as the one who commissioned its excavation and many who came near it were struck down. Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito and died, as did his pet bird and dog. An American who visited the tomb succumbed to pneumonia and another excavator died of poisoning.
9 Ys, France
The fabled city of Ys was said to have been built along the coast of Brittany in France and now lies beneath the bay of a popular beach town in the area. It’s said that a Celtic princess named Dahut asked her father King Gradlon to build her a city by the water. The king granted his daughter’s wishes and the city of Ys was born. The king held the key to the city, but one day, a demon persuaded the princess to steal the key from her father and being the devil that he was, he unlocked the gates. The city was flooded and was soon completely submerged under the bay.
8 Troy, Turkey
Who can ever forget the tragic Trojan war, described in poetic detail in Homer’s Iliad? It may just be a work of fiction, but many believe that this infamous war was what put the city of Troy on the map. The legend of the Trojan war starts when Helen runs off with Trojan prince Paris and launches a war between Troy and Greece. Things got uglier when Achilles killed Hector, spurring on the Greeks to defeat the Trojans completely via the Trojan horse. The city was promptly burned down by the Greeks and today, it’s nothing but a pile of ruins.
7 Karakorum, Mongolia
What was once the mighty capital of the Mongolian Empire is today nothing but an eerie ghost town of stones, walls, and ruins. But once upon a time, it was the seat of power of the Mongol rulers, filled with monasteries, temples, and other buildings of interest. One such monastery is the Erdene Zuu Khiid, the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. Long since abandoned, temples and rocks are located inside the compound, one of which is the Phallic Rock. Legend has it that the rock was placed there to prevent horny monks from giving in to their perverted thoughts and deter them from mingling with the local girls.
6 Carthage, Tunisia
Founded by Phoenicians, Carthage was once a prosperous city in what is now the African nation of Tunisia. In legend, Carthage came to be because a king of Tyre gave his daughter Elissa in marriage to his brother Sichaeus, with a piece of land as dowry. This enraged Pygmalion, Elissa’s brother, because he was under the assumption that the land would be his. He killed Elissa’s husband, causing Elissa and her followers to flee the land. They eventually claimed a portion of land by blocking off as much area as an ox hide would cover. This land that was enclosed came to be known as Carthage.
5 Timbuktu, Mali
Aptly called the city of legends, Timbuktu is a city in Northern Mali at the fringes of the Sahara Desert. It was central to many a trade route, making it greatly rich. According to legend, salt, which was in abundance in Timbuktu, was of the same worth as gold, giving the city its reputation of being overflowing in wealth. Many explorers made it their goal to reach this place to amass wealth, but they were non-Muslims and thus banned from the city. This unattainability added to the its allure and even though it’s but a shadow of what it once used to be, people still put it on their travel wish lists today.
4 Loch Ness, Scotland
The famed Loch Ness monster continues to be an enigma to this very day, a modern urban legend that refuses to die. Said to have been located in Loch Ness in Scotland, the monster purportedly lives at the bottom of the 788-foot body of water. The first recorded sighting of Nessie the monster was in 565 AD. The tale of the monster has since been passed on to each generation, though there’s still no concrete evidence that it exists at all. Some say it’s the last remaining plesiosaur (aquatic dinosaur). Others say it’s a giant sea serpent. But as long as Nessie doesn’t show itself in its entirety, the legend will always be shrouded in mystery.
3 The Loreley, Germany
Those who have had the fortune of cruising down the Rhine River would have not only seen the picturesque banks dotted with castles, but that rock formation that juts out on the river’s eastern bank. But boats tend to avoid going too near the Loreley because a strong undercurrent below the rock has caused many boating accidents. According to German folklore, a beautiful maiden named Loreley threw herself into the river in despair because her lover left her for another woman. Her death transformed her into a siren singing atop the rock, luring sailors with her mesmerizing voice into the dangerous rock and to their imminent deaths.
2 Rozafa Castle, Albania
Rozafa Castle in Albania is virtually below the radar when it comes to famous tourist attractions, not even coming close to the likes of other tourist traps such as Versailles or Buckingham Palace. It’s by no means extravagant, but rather a mere structure of what was once a formidable fortress. It’s surrounded by legend, the most famous of which was about the three brothers who built the castle. To keep the castle from crumbling, they were told a human sacrifice was needed and they agreed to make as their offering the first of any of their respective wives who would bring their lunch the next day. It was Rosafa, the wife of the youngest brother, who showed up first and accepted her fate willingly and she was immediately buried within the walls of the castle.
1 Glastonbury, England
Rich in history and filled with legends, Glastonbury in England is most famous for being the site of two historical figures and a common object that both persons held much reverence for: the Holy Grail. It’s said that Joseph of Arimathea, the disciple who took Jesus’ body after crucifixion, fled to Britain and settled in Glastonbury, bringing with him the Holy Grail. Legend says that he buried the Grail at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, the hill overlooking the Isle of Avalon, which brings us to the legend of the once and future king buried in said isle, King Arthur. It’s been said that Arthur’s Camelot was located in Glastonbury and that he buried the Holy Grail, the greatest treasure he unearthed during his crusades, under Glastonbury Tor.
Sources: newdawnmagazine.com, science.nationalgeographic.com, theguardian.com, foxnews.com, legendtour.ru, ancienthistory.about.com, news.bbc.co.uk, authenticireland.com, pantheon.org, argophilia.com, britainexpress.com