Travel Diplomacy

9 imaginary places I wish really existed

Being the nerd I am, I often find myself wishing some of the places I’ve often travelled to with my imagination really existed. Here’s the imaginary lands or cities that made my top 10 – and some real-life places to visit that resemble them.

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9. Peter Pan’s Neverland

Wendy and her brothers’ incredible voyage from “boring” London to their new friend’s secret, magical island is part of any Disney (or James Matthew Barrie’s books) lover. There’s mermaids, crystalline waters, virgin rainforests: it’s practically a tropical paradise…with magic. Of course, pirates and crocodiles that feed on human blood are a bit of a con, but have you seen those beaches?

Where to find it in real life – Any tropical beach can do, as long as there’s a florid rainforest with parrots and monkeys – and maybe even crocodiles – nearby. Fiji and Bora Bora are some great Pacific islands, for example. There’s a reason why they’re on my to-visit list!

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8. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

Rivers, lakes, green hills and mountains…all made of chocolate. As well as the trees, the flowers and everything else. Isn’t it every child’s dream? Even though Roald Dahls’ book revolves around vices and all the horrible things that will happen to you if you follow them, I still wish the Chocolate factory existed. My scale, though, probably doesn’t.

Where to find it in real life – Perugina, one of Italy’s finest chocolate brands, lets people visit one of its wonder factories in San Sisto, a town in the central Italian region Umbria. Other chocolate factories can be visited in Switzerland or even in the US – take a look at Hershey’s Chocolate World, Pennsylvania.

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7. Atlantis

This mytical underwater city has inspired countless movies, books and songs throughout the centuries, but it still hasn’t been located – and probably never will (sigh). Yet, I can’t help but dream I’ll one day wake up to the news that archaeologists have finally uncovered Atlantis and its advanced culture.

Where to find it in real life – You can stay at several underwater hotels around the world – they may be costly, but the experience must be definitely worth it. One is Per Aquum Niyama, in the Maldives; another, situated in the Indian Ocean, is Manta Resort. Of course, if you really want to say you’ve been to Atlantis… you’ll have to go to Dubai.

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6. Pandora

Avatar was a record-breaker, and my first 3D movie. I’ll never forget those incredible floating mountains, the gigantic magic trees and its alien inhabitants. Not only was it a great tale on the dangers of pollution: it was every adventurer’s wet dream.

Where to find it in real life – Obviously, most of the places we’ve seen on the big screen were a product of CGI, but they’ve been inspired by real-life locations. Go to Venezuela’s Mount Roraima or to China’s Hunan Province to discover where they got the inspiration for the floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora. India’s bridge of roots were also a big inspiration for the Navi’i forest villages.

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5. Wonderland

Ok, many places in Alice’s Wonderland were definitely creepy. Yet, I’d still visit the hell out of that place: the Instagram posts of giant flowers and mushroom or technicolor trees would be incredible. I also think it would be a pleasure to get lost in there and meet those crazy carachters…“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where –” “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Pure wisdom.

Where to find it in real life – It’s only open once a year and it’s perfect if you want to wonder around a seemingly non-sense landscape. I’m talking about the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, in Scotland: a private sculpture garden, inspired by science and mathematics, with sculptures and landscapes revolving around abstract concepts. Must. Go.

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4. Gallifrey

The Doctor’s long-lost home planet, inhabited by his fellow time lords, is the final dream destination for Whovians. Amazing techology, ancient cities, a culture to discover…and possibly a T.A.R.D.I.S. to steal to discover the rest of the universe. Where do I sign?

Where to find it in real life – Space adventures are, unluckily, not a thing (yet), so we’ll have to settle with what Planet Earth has to offer. That means huge deserts to recall the harsh surface of Gallifrey – especially the Atacama Desert, in South America – and human, high-tech cities such as Seattle, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, or Tokyo.

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3. The Shire

I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” Tolkien’s Shire may be home to the quietest of people, but this doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect place to start from when you’re a powerful wizard who’s planning an adventure. With those cozy hobbit holes and the pleasant weather, it’s certainly great to chill for a few days…before you leave to conquer a mountain which is guarded by a dragon, perhaps.

Where to find it in real life – This one’s easy! The Lord of the Rings movies were all filmed in New Zealand, and you can now actually visit Hobbiville as you see it on the big screen. You can have a beer at the Green Dragon Inn and visit up to 17 “smials“.

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2. King’s Landing

To be honest, I’d visit the whole of Westeros and Essos – and I’d probably die some kind of gruesome death half way through my journey. If I had to chose one city in particular, that would be the capital (though the Citadel and its neverending library are tempting as well): great temples, the royal palace, an interesting port… sounds like the start of a fantastic and possibly deadly adventure.

Where to find it in real life – The HBO show films its King’s Landing scenes in Dubrovnik, the capital of Croatia. Sure, it will never be as magical as it’s in the series (unless they get dragons and a decent iron throne), but it’s not bad at all.

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1. Hogwarts

I know you’re still waiting for your letter, don’t lie. Every kid who grew up with Harry Potter wishes he could have studied in places such as Hogwarts, Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, amongst other gifted magical students. We all dreamt about our Houses, the common rooms, the trips to nearby Hogsmeade, the trips on the lake, the Forbidden Forest… always.

Where to find it in real life – While the castle our favorite school is based on a place in Northumberland, England, and you can take a Potter picture at “Platform 9 3/4″ in King’s Cross, London, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando is the ultimate experience for all Potterheads. Obviously, it’s in my ultimate bucket list.

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Are there other magical or imaginary places you wish you could visit? Leave a comment!

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