So, we’ve read and indulged ourselves into many books and movies of glorious fantasies and oftentimes, wished the places it transported us to were real. Some of the most enduring destinations are fictional. Well, not completely. Some have been made a reality by those who dared to dream, and some were inspired by real places that resonated with their respective authors. Here are my top mythical locations that are best for travelling – if they only existed. What have I missed?
10. Hundred Acre Wood
The home of Winnie-the-Pooh, visited regularly by young boy Christopher Robin in his wildest make-believe world, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, and friends on their many adventures. The lush and charming Hundred Acre Wood is the literary soul mate of Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England. If you’re looking for a perfect retreat with comic cries and sodden elapsed, Hundred Acre Wood is a must-stop excursion with your family. The perfect place to reconnect with your inner child, the Wood is known for its honey, tree climbing and the endangered Heffalump species.
The kingdom of Narnia, brought to life by C.S. Lewis, captured the heart of young readers desperate for their own wardrobe portal to a land where animals talk and magic abounds. Created by the great lion Aslan, Narnia is filled with mystical prowess of magical imagination. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see centaurs flocking around as you journey around the land, and rarely, sneaky imps wishing to make up on you for a fireball mischief. The latest film The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is now being shoot at White Island in the breathtaking Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
Perhaps being the greatest cities of ancient history, the subject of debate since Plato first wrote about it in 360 B.C., Atlantis is said to have sunk into the seas one night around 9000 B.C. after its people – who descended from god Poseidon – invaded too many kingdoms. Known for its naval power but with its futile failed attempt to invade Athens, it sank in “a single day and night of misfortune”. At the heart of the massive island continent was a series of concentric circles and canals, and its sophisticated architecture and culture was a reminiscent of ancient Greece. While scholars largely accept the tale was a fable, some think Plato was referring to ancient Ireland. So what if we need to travel by air automobiles at the speed of light to enter Poseidon’s turf? As if it’s Avatar’s Pandora in disguise, we will simply be overwhelmed by its majestic furore. Anybody’s up for an undersea extravaganza?
7. Land of Oz: Emerald City
Divided along the diagonals into four countries in a roughly rectangular shape and surrounded by desert on all sides, Frank L. Baum’s Oz is divided into four territories with its capital, the Emerald City, in the middle and a yellow brick road connecting the lot. Munchkin Country will definitely be a popular hotspot for travellers but for those who are adventurous, open to dangers, and dare to explore the roads less travelled in the Land of Oz, desert-like Minkie Country would be the best place to start. Though visitors should beware of flying monkeys and coma-inducing fields of poppies, Oz has it all – steam punk robots, witches, fairies, nymphs, killer shoes, talking lions, scarecrow escorts, and corrupt wizards. It’s popularly thought to represent different regions of the United States, but some think Oz may actually be China.
6. Middle Earth
It’s hard to find a more extensively documented and mapped non-existent destination than that of Middle Earth, courtesy of J.R.R. Tolkien. Care to mingle with Dwarves? Hobbits? Elves? Wizards? Or how about a ride with sapient animals around nasty Mount Doom, hobbit-dominated Shire, Elvan haven Rivendell, or in the realm of Gondor? Tolkien’s Middle Earth has more histories on record than many actual countries and has inspired the creation of all the world’s languages. Since the destruction of Lord Sauron’s One Ring and Aragorn’s accession to the throne, Middle Earth has been more peaceful and tranquil than ever. Peter Jackson forever associated Middle Earth with New Zealand with his Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and Wellywood, New Zealand is very happy to let tourists relive the adventure. Of course, Tolkien had a war torn, newly industrial Englandin mind when he wrote the epic. He likened Middle Earth to England with imaginative contrasts and metaphors of how it would prevail during at times of difficulties (symbolism of One Ring is corruption, Mount Doom as politics, Rivendell as future generations, and the Fellowship as saviours of the industrialization).
Rumour has it that only children can visit Neverland, but if you think of happy thoughts you might just find your way to the famous home of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys. Multiple suns and moons make for some crazy weather, but the chance to fly through treetops and cave dive with Peter and his posse makes up for it, especially when flying across the lagoons and atoll. Wildlife includes flamingos, crocodiles, fairies and pixies, but it’s the mermaids and the pirates you have to watch out for. J.M. Barrie may have made Wendy’s home in London, England but it’s Madagascar that is often depicted to have made the tricks of the island’s parlour. Often portrayed as a metaphor for eternal childhood and escapism, Neverland ceased to age, and is place of swoonish magical bonanza for those who refused to grow up.
Being Earth’s closest stellar neighbour 4.37 light years away in Alpha Centauri, Pandora has been brought into prominence as James Cameron’s movie setting for his latest record-breaking Avatar. A tale of imperialism, environmental recklessness, and military obstructionism for its abundant resource of unobtanium, Pandora is a world of wonder and mystery, incredible nature, and strange beauty. It has a reputation to wow spectators of all oblique angles for its magnificent jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, tranquil natural beauty. Don’t forget to immerse yourself within the temples of Eywa, the mother goddess of the indigenous Na’vi. While there are tours offered on human spaceship after the irking Great War, independent travel on the land will introduce you to many bizarre predators and exotic hexapodal creatures, a must-have experience for Pandora visitors. Get yourself an Avatar for the ultimate Pandorish experience and be a warrior by taming and riding an Ikran (though, you will given a younger breed for safety purposes). On your last day, do pay a visit to The Tree of Souls to make a wish, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find unobtanium along the way!
Buckle your seatbelts, Muggle. With the extermination of the evil Lord Voldemort, the multi-dimensional magical world of Hogwarts is once again safe for Muggle visitors (of course, with both the consent of Minister of Magic and UK Muggle Prime Minister). While UK’s red telephone box and the Leaky Cauldron is the most convenient way to enter the wizarding world – straight into Diagon Alley, it’s best to start off from London’s King’s Cross station at Platform 9 3⁄4 using Hogwarts Express. You can find yourself in the middle of nature’s beauty and learn its historical carriages during that 12- hour ride. While you’re there, make a visit to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to enjoy the marvels of Extendable Ears, Canary Creams, and Wildfire Whiz-Bangs – infamously used to protest against Dolores Umbridge in the founders’ final year at school. Be sure to wonder around the great halls of Hogwarts as you explore your way out, lurk in the mysterious Ministry of Magic, exchange Muggle currencies at Dublin’s Gringotts Bank, and do not miss a broom-kicking Quidditch match! J.K. Rowling’s single-ride train trip from Manchester to London inspired the fables in a single evening; and, further articulated the fantasies of her wildest imaginations during her travels around London, making London widely known as the birthplace of the wizarding world.
2. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory
Attention sweet tooth! Chocoholics beware – you’ve finally found your heaven. Forget about the Golden Tickets. Charlie’s ownership has made Wonka’s Factory more accessible and transparent than ever. The 4 must-see sights in this gargantuan factory are: Chocolate Room, Inventing Room, Nut Sorting Room, and Television Room. Visiting without the sight of these fantastic four is like going to Beijing missing the Forbidden City. While Inventing and Television Room may house the most ever authentic-looking technological candymaking breakthroughs, and the Nut Sorting Room having the most genius squirrels in history, it’s the Chocolate Room that outshines others with its all- chocolaty and unique grass-growing licorice, scrumptious kernel-tasting candy corns and flower-shaped starbursts. You won’t be able to keep the words from your lips at Cocoa- falls: great muscular bands of chocolate arch over the precipice-like liquid glass, roaring into the void below; a vast plume of spray boils up from the cauldron, feathering into the air hundreds of meters above. Despite supplying world’s worth of chocolates from this river-like falls, the chocolaty extravaganza is undiminished.
Who wouldn’t like to travel via rabbit hole? It might be a bit bumpy, but these days it seems less confronting than flying and promises something much more marvellous at journey’s end. Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland introduced a beguiling universe of floating Cheshire cats, peculiar anthropomorphic creatures, power-hungry playing cards, tea-loving Mad Hatter, and scrumptious food withpeculiar after-effects. Mischief is the national sport of Wonderland, where riddles and pranks await you if you’re sufficiently curious (and who wouldn’t be, when the flowers talk back and the furniture changes size). Carroll based Wonderland on the people and places in his own life, particularly around Oxford, where he attended university. A carving in North Yorkshire’s magnificent Ripon Cathedral is also said to have inspired the trip down the rabbit hole. Now with the latest euphoria with the release of its 21st film to date (featuring Johnny Depp in his latest collaboration with Tim Burton), this unorthodox and queerly world is more alive than ever. And that’s why this is on top of my list.