Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment in our history. Many traditional stories have lasted for thousands of years, being passed from generation to generation. Over time, stories change and develop as they are passed on and many become exaggerated, twisted or just downright false.
Despite this, many of the places connected to these tales have taken advantage and used them for tourism. Of course, some are tourist traps, but others are genuine portals into human history.
Loch Ness Monster - Loch Ness, ScotlandSpeaking of tourist traps, this is one of the biggest. The story of Nessie is surprisingly dated, stemming back to the 6th Century and has been hoaxed many times. One of the more outlandish hoaxes was that of John Shields.
John was a worker at Flamingo Park Zoo who, in 1972, tricked his colleagues by dumping a large disfigured animal carcass into the loch a day or two before their visit. Upon their discovery, the zoologists collected the carcass, threw it in the back of the van and sped off, before being tracked down by the police. Shields had created a worldwide media frenzy and a police chase, but admitted to the hoax once the animal was identified as a seal.
Moai - Easter Island, ChileThis small island off the Chilean coast is one of the most isolated places on the earth, at 2000 miles away from human habitation. The famous stone heads, known as Moai, reach around 30 ft in height and are scattered around the coast of the island. While archaeological evidence suggests that the statues were built by settling Polynesians at around 400 AD, some have suggested that they are the result of extraterrestrial involvement.
Locals are referred to as Rapa Nui and around 2000 of them populate the small island. While much of their culture has been lost through South American colonisation, the island tourism is not controlled by western tourist boards, but by the locals themselves. The island is one of the most unique places on earth, full of mystery and wonder.
Tutankhamun - Valley of the Kings, Egyptegypt has one of the most well documented ancient histories from around the world and its mythology is firmly within the western public conscience. We know quite a lot about the country's history, which has become endlessly adapted into western popular culture. While many of the scriptures and carvings have become academically analysed and interpreted, the traditional myths are still present.
One of the biggest myths is that of the Pharaoh’s curse - of which Tutankhamun’s is the most famous. The myths suggest that anyone who disturbes the mummy of an ancient Pharaoh will be haunted by bad luck, illness or even death. When a team of Archaeologists discovered King Tutankhamun in 1922, reports of their mysterious deaths began to roll out of the national press. However, the statistics surrounding the death rate of the team is somewhat underwhelming, after 50 of the 58-strong team survived.
Area 51 - International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, New MexicoThe Americans are the kings of conspiracy theories, with the Area 51 alien conspiracy being one of the more famous ones. Many films and TV shows have depicted the the military airbase as a government extraterrestrial experimental facility, but there’s very little proof. Like the Loch Ness Monster, Area 51 has also been the subject of many hoaxes over the years, with the biggest being the release of a staged autopsy, caught on video, in the 1990s.
Although the base is actually located in Nevada, the site of the faked autopsy was said to be in Roswell, New Mexico, which is now the home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center. The museum examines the tales of a reported UFO crash in 1947, as well as other notorius stories and sightings.
Leprechauns - Leprechaun Museum, Dublin, IrelandFlickr, National Leprechaun Museum
Leprechauns are well known within Irish folklore, and while some Irish people consider them outplayed stereotypes and a little offensive, the country certainly uses them as a brand for tourism. The mythical little creatures date back to the 700s and are said to have come up from under the sea and settled in Ireland.
Dublin has opened a National Museum for the creatures, which offers a lighthearted look into the fairy tales and provides great fun for both adults and children. The buckles, rainbows and pots of gold have become synonymous with the country and the majority of the Irish have accepted their icon as a good poster for the nation.
Rasputin - Yusupov Palace, RussiaWhile Grigori Rasputin was a real person, there are many mythical tales that surround his death. Born in 1869 in Siberia, Grigori Rasputin became a pilgrim and mystic healer for Russian Emperor, Nicholas II. Rasputin had a strong influence over the politics of the Russian Empire in the early stages of the 20th Century and was eventually assassinated in 1916. Doesn’t sound too mystical, but this is where things get strange.
Rasputin is said to have survived several extraordinary assassination attempts, including a a severe beating, cyanide poisoning and four gunshots, but finally died by drowning after being bound and thrown into an icy river. Still not finished however, Rasputin reportedly awakened while his collected corpse was being burned, but little is known about what happened next. The official reports of his autopsy, and the people connected with it, vanished.
The Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg is the site of Rasputin’s death and now offers tour guides into one of the most infamous assassinations in history.
Ancient Greek Gods - Acropolis, Athens, GreeceGreek teachings are probably the most influential ancient factors of modern society. The literature of Ancient Greece has developed into popular themes that affect many aspects of Western schools of practise, including academia, religion, philosophy, psychology and language. While the Greeks discovered mathematics, physics and transformed art, they also explored the world of faith and religion and were influential developers of the idea of mythology and superstition.
Today, the ruins of the Acropolis in Athens provide a view into the heroes, gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece - many of which have become staple names in historical fiction.
Pied Piper of Hamelin - Hamelin, GermanyFlickr, dymidziukjanusz
During the 19th Century, fairy tales were particularly prominent in Europe and the German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, are probably the most famous of the the folklore authors. The brothers created some of the most memorable childhood tales which have lasted for generations and don’t appear to be going out of fashion.
While the Pied Piper of Hamelin was an old oral tale which was picked up by several writers from around Europe, the Brothers Grimm documented the most well known version of the tale.
To refresh your memory, the story tells the tale of a piper who is hired by the town to remove its rat problem by playing his magical music. When the piper plays, the rats instantly follow and he and removes them from the town. When the town mayor refuses to pay him, he steals all the town’s children by leading them away with his music by way of punishment.
Hamelin is a town in Northern Germany, which, today, appreciates the famous fable and generates great tourism from it. During the summer months, the story is acted out in the town centre once a week and there is a shop, symbol or monument of the piper on every corner. While the story is only a folktale, theories have suggested that the story may represent a great loss of children in the town, due to a catastrophe or mass illness, such as the plague.
Ancient Dragons - Beijing, ChinaFlickr, d'n'c
The dragon in China is more than just a mascot for marketing, but a historical symbol of traditional values and traits - particularly power. While many of us consider the dragon to be a national symbol, it is used somewhat differently there, more so representing culture and ideas, rather than politics or nationalism. Think of it as the British Bulldog, rather than the British Lion.
A visit to China without experiencing the dragon is unheard of. You will see the it on food packaging, in hotel names, on stamps, on buildings and as statues and monuments. Particularly in more historical places, like the Forbidden City, the dragon is everywhere you look - it is simply inescapable.
Dracula - Transylvania, RomaniaCount Dracula is one of the most famous fictional characters to ever have existed. Created by Irish novelist, Bram Stoker in the last part of the 19th Century, the world’s most well known vampire has influenced popular culture for the past 115 years.
The story is based in the region of Transylvania, in Romania, which has become instantly synonymous with vampires and castles. Although the vampires part may be fictional, the connection to castles is somewhat justified, as the region has nearly 120 castles across its 10 counties. Today, the Romanian tourist boards base most of their Transylvania packages and tours around Dracula and offer some particularly special experiences around Halloween.
Robin Hood - Nottinghamshire, EnglandRobin Hood is one of England’s great legends, famous for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. The outlaw’s base was Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, which has a popular tourist attraction. In fact, the whole of Nottinghamshire has taken on the hero in order to bring in tourism. Both the city of Nottingham, along with the county use the old tales in their tour packages and even provide Robin Hood trails.
The story has been depicted and reimagined a number of times, but Robin Hood really took on an iconic image when portrayed as a fox in Disney’s classic adaptation - an image that is probably the most memorable.
Hole in the Wall - Eastern Cape, South AfricaWhile the hole in the wall doesn’t look particularly mystical at first glance, there is a strange phenomenon attached to this simple rock formation that attracted local myths. The rock is based in Coffee bay, between the Southeast ports of East London and Durban. During high tide, when the sea is particularly rough, the sound of the waves crashing against the rock is often amplified by the acoustics of the hole. The clapping sound is so loud, it can be heard for miles across the town.
The story attached to the hole is a little lengthy and complicated. When shortened, the story goes that an enormous fish crashed through the rock in order for some half-fish, half-human creatures to save a maiden from the clutches of her oppressive father. Sounds pretty fairy tale-ish, doesn't it?
Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park - Fujiyoshida, JapanFlickr, RW Sinclair
Urban legends can be a little spooky, but when Japan gets involved, things are taken to the next level and become full on horror gore-fests. The masters of horror movies have enough scary legends to provide the west with years of film adaptations, with their particular penchant for pale, big-eyed, scary children.
The Horror Hospital in Fuji-Q Highland is a 60 minute walk-through attraction that is said to be one of the scariest in the world. The mix of traditional horror spooks, such as the Kuchisake-onn and the teke-teke, along with new age special effects provide all the fright you will need to fully understand the horrors of Japan’s myths and legends.
Golem - Prague, Czech RepublicNot to be confused with Tolkien’s Gollum character in Lord of the Rings, a Golem is a Jewish, mythological human-like being that dates back to biblical references. While Golems were written about and documented in several different locations in different parts of history, the most infamous case is the Golem of Prague.
The story tells of a golem being summoned to protect the Jewish people of Prague, but when it slowly became bigger and more powerful, it became evil and began terrorising the city. When the Golem was eventually killed by a Rabbi, its remains were stored in the attic of the Synagogue of Prague - however, the attic is not open to the public. Like most other places, local Prague tourism attractions have used the legendary Golem to entice travellers to explore their supernatural history.
Rock Paintings - Kakadu National Park, AustraliaMost of our understanding of early human beings come from rock paintings and carvings from around the world. Although not many people get to see them, sites are available for public viewing in places like Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory, Australia. While many of the myths and legends listed are within the last millenium, these rock doodles that date back several thousand years show the the aboriginal beliefs in religion, mythology and even the supernatural.
Many of the paintings that can be found in the park depict organised ceremonies, belief in higher powers and the demonstration of extrovert, open minded thinking. The rocks stand to prove that the human fascination of creating and telling stories is an age-old, inbuilt instinct.
Ramayana - Angkor Wat, CambodiaWikicommons, Charles J Sharp
Religion has given birth to so many legends, many of whom have been depicted in statues and monuments around the world. These religious artifacts often become the biggest driving forces of tourism for a particular country or place. It’s subjective to say which structure is more important or influential, but when it comes to simple tangible attributions, it’s objective mathematics. When it comes to tangible attributes like size, then Angkor Wat is king.
Located in the north of Cambodia, Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world, devoted to spiritual faith of Hinduism. Built in the 12th Century, the City of Temples has become a major tourist destination of Cambodia and something of a legend in its own right.
The ancient Hindu folk tale of Ramayana is more than a quick story, but an epic tale, which outlines key themes and values of Hinduism. Although the story originated in India, where better could you experience the the story than the largest Hindu monument in the world?
Have we missed any places off the list? Tell us by tweeting us @FemaleFirst_UK or commenting below.
James Mellan @jamesmellan1