Fairytale Destinations: 27 Magical Places To Visit In Real Life


The world is overflowing with places that will take your breath away. We especially love adventuring to places that make you feel like you have just jumped into the pages of a storybook because they fill our lives with so much wonder and enchantment. Luckily, these locations are not make-believe. These fairytale destinations really do exist, and they have many stories to share with us during our adventures.

As a series, we are going to share with you the most magical fairytale destinations that you can visit in real life: magical destinations, magical destinations in nature, and magical castles around the world. Check back next week for the next post of magical destinations.

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Here are 27 magical fairytale destinations you will want to add to your bucket list:

st peters basilica rome

Rome, Italy

What makes it so magical?

With its ancient history a living and breathing part of Rome, wandering the streets feels like you’re in a fairytale romance and is of the most romantic cities we have visited. With its expansive outdoor museum of history, fountains, piazzas, and cobbled streets, you’ll witness some of the best, and unexplainable, feats of architecture ever created.

Best things to do:

Rome is ancient and you can witness it around every corner; there are so many gems to discover. Visit The Colosseum, the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire. Toss a coin over your left shoulder using your right hand at the Trevi Fountain, in hopes that you will one day return to Rome. Enjoy the sights from Piazza Navona,  one of the most beautiful Baroque squares in Rome. And, a visit to Rome is not complete without seeing Vatican City, located in the heart of Rome.

If you’re looking for something away from the main tourist areas, wander through Quartiere Coppedè to experience a different side of Rome. The area has a unique whimsical feel in its architecture that features pinnacles and pointy roofs.

Rome also has so many mystical stories to share of its origins and legendary gods. One of the most interesting legends is Rome’s Bocca Della Verità, the marble face known as the mouth of truth. It is said that the mouth of the marble face would close if anyone put his hand in it and told a lie; try your luck at the beautiful Paleochristian church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Even Rome’s well-worn, but impressively preserved streets that have some grime to them are loaded with incredible stories to tell.

Rome is a total fairytale destination. There are so many reasons why you should visit Rome at least once!

Photo: Erki, Genem Travels

Cinque Terre, Italy

What makes it so magical?

Cinque Terre is a coastal area lined with the Mediterranean Sea and it’s known by the five magical villages. These villages are Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These scenic sights were earlier fisher villages on a rocky shore. They were isolated from main roads and were reachable from the sea by boats or on foot from hike trails. Nowadays this area is fed by tourism because of colorful old fisher cottages, spectacular views over the Cinque Terre National Park, and a steep landscape with the fields of vineyards, olives, and lemons. Also, it’s now connected with drive roads and trains.

Best things to do:

Even though these villages are relatively small, there are plenty of things to do. Firstly the villages themselves are extremely beautiful with narrow streets, vivid buildings, small picturesque harbors, and shops with locally grown ingredients. For example, Monterosso al Mare is known as a lemon village, with shops that sell lemon products like limoncello. Also, there is a lemon festival once a year. Manarola village is mainly surrounded by grape fields and it’s a home for signature sweet white wine called sciacchetrà. As these all villages are old fisher villages, then the traditional cuisine is fish dishes.

Cinque Terre is a National Park with many hike trails. There are two most known pathways: Blue and High trail. The High trail is longer and takes you up to the National Park hills, where there are magnificent views over the Cinque Terre area. The more popular pathway is the Blue trail, which connects all these five villages. It’s lower than High trail and winds along with a coastline.

With its unique historic villages, maintained agriculture, and landscape, Cinque Terre is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage site and is an incredible fairytale destination.

Contributed by Erki from Genem Travels,  a blog with an aim to have adventure travels. Including backpacking, hitchhiking, budgeting, and other travel tips. Also including destination guides where the traveler has been.

Photo: Margherita Ragg, The Crowded Planet

Matera, Italy

What makes it so magical?

When talking about fairytale destinations, I think Matera in Southern Italy definitely deserves a mention. It is argued that the town name ‘Matera’ comes from the Greek Meteoron, meaning starry sky – because once upon a time, inhabitants used to put lights in front of their homes, making it appear as if sky and land had exchanged places.
Matera is also one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet, home to people ever since the Paleolithic. The area where the town is located is full of calcareous caves – people moved into caves first, which then became cave homes, cave churches, and cave palaces. Nowadays, most of the historic center includes these ‘cave neighborhoods’, known as Sassi.
Best things to do:
Matera is worth a visit because of the Sassi, a true treasure trove of narrow streets, hidden courtyards, and beautiful views around every corner. You’ll find several scenic points, known as ‘Belvedere’, to get good pictures over the Sassi – or you can simply wander around, letting your footsteps and your inspiration guide you.
If you like hiking, one of the best things to do in Matera is taking a trip to the Parco della Murgia Materana, a protected nature reserve home where you can find stunning hiking trails through a canyon, over 100 cave churches, and some really great views over Matera. The town is only 10 minutes drive away, so it’s also worth visiting for sunset or sunrise.
Just one word of warning – avoid visiting Matera in summer, as it’s just too hot! Most of the town is built out of really pale stone, reflecting the heat like a mirror. Autumn and spring are much better options or even winter. Sometimes it snows in Matera, and it looks like a true fairytale!
Contributed by Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet.
Photo: Anisa, Two Traveling Texans

Burano, Italy

What makes it so magical?

Walk alongside one of the canals in Burano, Italy and you will feel like you are in a fairytale destination.  Burano is a group of four islands a short Vaporetto ride from Venice that is known for its colorful houses.  Historically it’s a fishing island. Legend has it that the houses were painted different colors so that the fisherman could find their way home when it was foggy or they were drunk.  Now, it’s become a popular day-trip option for tourists.

Best things to do:

Burano is not a big place, but there are some interesting things to do while you are there.

In addition to all the colorful houses, Burano is also known for making beautiful lace which is still a traditional art form today.  You can visit the Burano Lace Museum to learn more about the process and history. It’s one of the museums that is part of the Venice Museum Pass.

Burano is also the place to buy lace as a souvenir, but be forewarned, it is expensive.  Be wary if it is cheap, it is probably not the real thing.

You can also visit San Martino Church. Peek inside this 15th-century church or get a photo of the exterior with its leaning tower, Il Campanile Storto, which has become the symbol of Burano.

Lastly, you should just walk around and appreciate the beauty.  It’s a fun place to take photos and also watch other people taking photos. You could take a walking tour if you want something more formal.

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.

Photo: Reisetopia, Unsplash

Alberobello, Italy

What makes it so magical?

Alberobello is a small fairytale destination in the region of Puglia in Italy. It is known for the beautiful whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs called Trullis which can be found all over the city centre of the town. The city centre of Alberobello has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the unique construction style used to build the Trulli.

Best things to do:

Those visiting Alberobello must take some time to visit the magical ancient city centre of the town where you will find different kinds of Trulli. The Trulli Church is one of the most unique churches in the country and deserves a visit. There are certain Trullis that have been converted into hotels and BnB’s, making it a unique experience for your trip.

The region is also known for the famous Burrata, Focaccia, and Stracciatella. Make sure you try some during your visit to the town. The Primitivo wine is also another typical wine from the region that should not be missed out on during your visit to Alberobello.

Alberobello can easily be reached by train or road from Bari, which is where the nearest airport is located.

Travel blogger and enthusiast based in the eternal city, Merryl loves to discover the hidden gems and local spots Italy has to offer. 
Photo: Heather Cole, Bahia Palace

Marrakech, Morocco

What makes it so magical?

If you want to travel to a land of magic carpets and secret stories, then head to the red city of Marrakech, one of the most popular places to visit in Morocco. This colorful city is a fairytale destination surrounded by ancient rose-tinted walls, with a maze of photogenic alleyways and markets to explore inside.

To make all your 1001 nights dreams come true, book into one of the hundreds of traditional riad hotels and enjoy the romantic mood lighting, trickling patio fountains, and panoramic rooftops that give amazing views over the city. The old Marrakech medina is one of those places that hasn’t changed much over the centuries, and that is all part of its charm.

Best things to do:

Start at the central main square where you can watch performers dazzle the crowds with displays of acrobatics, and listen as musicians serenade passing visitors as they walk across the sun-baked ground. Grab a cooling drink in one of the cafes overlooking the square for the best views. Then head into the souks to practice your bartering skills before checking out the Bahia Palace to admire the intricate mosaic tiling. Stop for lunch at Café Arabe and refresh yourself with some mint tea and pastries afterward. Next, take a stroll down to the ruins of the Badi Palace where you might see storks nesting high up on the walls. Swing by the old Saadian tombs and finish the day at Kosybar for drinks and dinner with a view. If you still have the energy, walk back to the main square for the night market where fortune tellers and fairground games are all part of the show.

Heather Cole blogs at Conversant Traveller, focusing on luxury adventure travel and quirky places to sleep. She loves Morocco and has made it her mission to try out all the best luxury riads in Marrakech before she’s 50!

Photo: Dea Mariano, How She Wanders

Jiufen Old Street, Taiwan

What makes it so magical?

Jiufen is a bustling mountain town in Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan. It is well-known for its narrow alleyways lined up with teahouses, souvenir shops, and street food stalls. At daytime, it may look like just an old busy street jam-packed with tourists and shoppers. Wait as darkness slowly creeps in and you’ll witness how the old alleyways magically glow at night. It will make you feel like you were suddenly transported into another era!

The narrow staircases with red lanterns may look particularly reminiscent of the Japanese animated film called Spirited Away. But Hayao Miyazaki, the writer, and director of the film, directly stated that Jiufen was not the inspiration of the said fantasy film. However, due to countless bloggers and writers propagating the myth, Jiufen and Spirited Away are now permanently tied despite the falsity of the claims. Nonetheless, the fact that Jiufen, Taiwan has been associated with a fantasy animated film is proof that it is a fairytale destination!

Best things to do:

You may visit a teahouse, choose a seat on the balcony and enjoy the view with your tea. There are numerous teahouses lining up the alleyways, and one of the most popular is the Amei Teahouse. Another exciting activity, particularly for the ladies, is renting a Qipao dress. It is traditional Chinese clothing usually worn during formal events and New Year.

The most unmissable thing to do in Jiufen is trying local street foods that are almost everywhere in the area. There are innumerable food choices and we’ve tried as many as we can. Surprisingly, there was not a single thing that we disliked as everything was delicious and the best food quality.

Dea Mariano is a traveler, foodie, and electronics engineer based in the Philippines. She shares her travel and food adventures on How She Wanders blog.

Photo: Corinne Vail, Reflections Enroute

Shirakawago, Japan

What makes it so magical?
An other-worldly and magical fairytale destination, Shirakawago is also a world heritage site. It’s very special for Japanese tourists as well as foreign ones. Whether you go in winter or in summer, it’s gorgeous. A small traditional village, what makes Shirakawago so amazing is the “gassho zukuri” or traditional thatched houses. The roofs are very steep since this valley receives over 35 feet of snow each year. Most of the houses are over 300 years old and have remained intact to this day. In summer the verdant green mountains are enhanced by so many flowers, and in winter the snow drapes like a comforter on the steep roofs.
Best things to do:
The village is small, easy walkable, and surprisingly will keep you busy for a day. You will want to visit at least one of the traditional houses as well as the open air museum, before taking a short hike up to the Observation Deck which oversees the entire village. There is also a Buddhist temple and a beautiful shrine to walk around, as well as enjoying swing bridge and some shopping. Don’t leave town without trying the famous Hida beef croquettes and maybe a full traditional Japanese meal of tempura. Making your stay much more magical would be if you choose to spend the night in one of the houses and sleep on a traditional futon.
If you are entertaining a trip to Japan, you will want to plan a stop in Shirakawago and experience this fairytale place yourself. Just strolling around the town will transport you into an alternate reality, beautiful and serene.
Contributed by Corinne Vail at Reflections Enroute.
Photo: Sylvie Simpson, Travels with Eden

Naxos, Greece

What makes it so magical?

Naxos is a fairytale destination located in the Cyclades, Greece. The most magical place in Naxos is Agios Prokopios beach, a huge stretch of tiny pebbled sand with crystal clear waters, backed by tavernas, takeaways, a huge range of amazing places to stay, and beach bars.

You’ll have everything you’ll ever need in the village of  Agios Prokopios from perfect guesthouses such as the Ioanna Apartments to a lush bakery and highly recommended tavernas.

Best things to do:

On a day trip to the capital of Naxos, Naxos Chora, you’ll see the magical Kastro Castle from all around with rows of houses and shops sloping up towards it. From the top of Kastro Castle, you’ll see amazing views of the surrounding villages as well as stunning views out to sea towards Paros Island.

Naxos island has some of the best beaches in Greece and exploring them all is a magical experience. Beaches range from huge wilderness stretches of sand such as Plaka Beach to the small village beaches including Pollonia Beach.

Traveling around the island, you’ll see traditional isolated Greek villages, rolling hills and ample archaeological sites including the prehistoric Acropolis of Naxos and the temple of Portara – the symbol of Naxos.

 Whatever you choose to do in Naxos, you’ll be sure to have a magical experience at this fairytale destination.

Contributed by Sylvie Simpson of Travels with Eden.

Photo: Trisha and Modi, Try Wandering More

Maldives

What makes it so magical?

Imagine this. You wake up with a view of clear azure waters and walk a few steps to relax on a splendid white sand beach by the shade of tall palm trees. You indulge in various activities from spa therapies to water sports all day. In the eve, you sit with a cocktail in hand and watch the sunset dip into the ocean brimming with marine life and corals. After eating a delicious meal, you slowly fall off to sleep watching the twinkling night sky. That is the magic of the Maldives – perfect, memorable days surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty.

Best things to do:

You can plan a Maldives holiday in three ways – by living on an inhabited island (cheapest option and culturally immersive), on a live-aboard (best for experienced divers), or at a luxury one-island resort (the most popular and expensive). That said, it is a once in a lifetime experience to live in an over-water villa complete with a private infinity lap pool, hot tub, and direct lagoon access.

You have the option to partake in a myriad of activities – island hopping, sandbank visits, fishing, water sports ranging from standup paddleboarding to wakeboarding, a helicopter ride to see the Maldives islands shine like jewels, visit the capital city of Male, and more.

However, the best things to do are snorkeling and scuba diving. You’ll see colorful coral, sharks, stingrays, manta rays, turtles, and a variety of fish. Snorkeling can be done at the island reef itself or by excursions to various points like Manta Point, Turtle Point, etc. Do not miss seeing the majestic whale sharks here.
For a more relaxing time indulge in spa therapies, movies under the sky, romantic dinners, underwater dinners, sunset cruises with dolphin watching, or do nothing. Just enjoy the incredible view and serenity that this fairytale destination offers.
Trisha and Modi from Try Wandering More are travel and photography enthusiasts from India. During their travels, they enjoy hikes, exploring small towns on foot, occasional luxury stays, and trying out new things be it food or activities.
Photo: Scott Walsh, Unsplash

Prince Edward Island, Canada

What makes it so magical?
Have you ever heard of Anne of Green Gables? The magical setting in this book takes place on Prince Edward Island. PEI is located on the eastern side of Canada. On the north end of the island, there is the “Lake of Shining Waters” and the “Haunted Forest.”  You will also find the red cliffs and a beach that are breathtaking. In the story, Anne describes the landscapes in the most magnificent ways.  You actually feel as if you are there. Going to PEI is just as incredible as reading about it.
Best things to do:
PEI has a lot to offer but is most intriguing for those “Anne of Green Gable” fans.  The Anne of Green Gable Museum and the Green Gables Heritage site is at the top of the list. Take a step back in time and enjoy all the sites from the book including lovers lane and the haunted forest.
You can also go on an old-fashioned carriage ride.  After exploring all the sites, head into Charlottetown and see the live musical of Anne of Green Gables.  The beauty of Prince Edward Island almost seems unreal.  Going on a scenic drive around the island and enjoying the views is a must and will spark your imagination for sure!
Prince Edward Island is one of the best fairytale destinations in Canada.
Submitted by Lisa from Planning Away.
Photo: Veronika Primm, Travel Geekery

Prague

What makes it so magical?

Anybody who’s visited Prague will agree it belongs to the most magical fairytale destinations in the world. Especially if you get to experience it without crowds. Winter Prague is often like that. In the dead of winter, not too many tourists come. If you get lucky, you can stroll the Old Town or the Castle district completely alone, with freshly fallen snow cracking under your feet. Whether you prefer to look from above at the snow-capped rooftops and spires, or rather take long walks in the winding streets of the Old Town lined by old charming street lamps, you’ll feel like you are in a fairy tale.

Best things to do:

Sightseeing should be high on your list of things to do in Prague. There’s so much to see! In the heart of the Old Town, at the Old Town Square, you can admire the magnificent Astronomical clock, as well as the fragments of the Old Town Hall. Stroll into any direction to find even more charm.

From the Old Town, make your way across the photogenic Charles Bridge to the Castle district. The Prague Castle is actually the largest castle complex in the world. Explore the monstrous St. Vitus Cathedral, a number of palaces, and the little Golden Lane.

There are so many more things to do in Prague, not just diving into history. Prague is a vibrant capital full of culture. Museums and art galleries are plentiful, and there’s quite some art to be admired in the streets too – e.g. the numerous works by David Černý. There are events on constantly so no need to retire to your hotel room other than to get some sleep. Prague’s nightlife is alive and kicking as well and goes well beyond the traditional beer pubs.

Prague is incredibly green too. There are several large parks hugging the wider city center. Letná Park offers lovely sunset views over the city of a hundred spires.

If you come during Christmas, Easter, or any other festive time of year, make sure to visit the markets. The largest one is always located in the Old Town Square.

Veronika Primm is a Czech travel blogger based in Prague. She loves to travel all over the world but usually ends up somewhere in Europe or Southeast Asia. While she’s a keen hiker and loves spending time in nature, she enjoys cities too, often trying to blend in with the locals. 

Photo: Maria Vojtovicova, Unsplash

Finnish Lapland

What makes it so magical?

Lapland is undoubtedly the most magical fairytale destination we have ever visited in winter. For about six months, thick snow spreads over the landscape wherever you look, the trees turn to unique shapes, the lakes freeze, and reindeer roam freely around.

Best things to do:

To fully experience Lapland, the best not only to visit some of the bigger settlements such as Rovaniemi, Levi, or Inari but also to head to the national parks. That is where the real magic happens. You will find yourself in a winter wonderland. We have spent extended time in several parks, including Pyhä-Luosto and Pallas-Yllästunturi National Parks. Both can be reached from Rovaniemi in 2-3 hours of driving.

If you’re still looking for more, you can stay in one of the glass igloos and try your chances to see the northern lights above you while you stay in a comfy bed, or just head to nature on a tour or by yourself. You can go on reindeer sled rides, husky rides, snowmobile tours as well from any central location to complement your Lapland-experience.

Other favorite places of ours were Lainio SnowVillage and Kemi SnowCastles. As their names suggest, they are built from snow and ice and decorated with rich sculptures and figures, and every year have a different layout.

Although the first snow usually falls as early as October, it is more enjoyable to travel to Lapland between Christmas and March for the best winter adventure. The snow stays in early spring, and the temperatures are much milder, and the days are longer than in the fall.

Contributed by Katalin Waga from Amazing Lapland.
Photo: Anna Irene, Flickr

Carmel by the Sea, California

What makes it so magical?

Whether you are on a road trip or you are looking for a weekend getaway in the US Golden State you must include Carmel by the Sea in your itinerary, one of the most exquisite places to visit in California.

Located on the south coast of the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel by the sea is a pretty little town, characterized by cute tiny cottages wrapped up in colorful flowers and greenery, narrow lanes, and charming shops that make you feel like you are walking into a fairy tale. A unique place where homes have no numbers, shops leave bowls with water for dogs outside their doors, and walking on heels is forbidden.

The charm of this precious fairytale destination comes from its fascinating history. Carmel was founded by Spanish missionaries attracted by the rich soil and generous nature. You can still admire the original Mission Basilica founded in 1771. However, it became a hot spot around in the early 20th century when artists of all sorts, escaping from the great earthquake in San Francisco found their special place in this tiny town, blessed with a blooming nature, the crispy scent of cypress and pine trees, the blue ocean, and tranquil deserted beaches. That’s where Jack London, George Gershwin, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and the poet Robinson Jeffers, among hundreds of others found their inspiration and made Carmel their home.

However, the fairy tale cottages that Carmel is mainly known for come from the idea of Mr. Hugh Comstock, a farmer with a passion for drawing who during a visit to his sister in Carmel in 1920, met his wife and built for her a shop where to sell her hand made dolls. When other citizens saw the quaint original cottage architecture they asked him to build a similar one for them and the rest is history.

Best things to do:

Although you will be mesmerized just by walking around this pretty town and its magical atmosphere there are so many things you can do. From hiking along the surrounding trails to strolling on the beach or participating in historical walking tours of the town, visiting the old Carmel Missions and the nearby interesting beach town of Monterey, on the other side of the peninsula.  Carmel by the Sea is indeed a rare gem that you must visit at least once in your life.

Contributed by Isabella Biava from Boundless Roads.

Polignano a Mare, Pugalia

Photo: Alessia & Toti, Italian Trip Abroad

What makes it so magical?

Imagine a beautiful landscape, white hanging houses on the cliffs, the thousand shades of blue slamming on the rocks, welcoming you on the beautiful fjord of Lama Monachile. This is Polignano, a dreamy whitewashed town in Puglia. This place looks like a fairytale destination, and it’s becoming famous recently thanks to social media. The maze of little alleys is ideal to snap a few pictures to make your friends jealous of this incredible trip.

Polignano has inspired travelers and artists, like the famous singer Domenico Modugno, author of “Volare”, but also poets and painters. The staircases of the little Puglian Town are so beautiful, filled with verses, about love, life, and magical moments. Polignano a Mare is a dream that comes true for every traveler enthusiast. The sea’s the very main reason you should visit this place, and you can discover the many caves and hidden places around the cliffs of Polignano that will leave you astonished by that beauty.

Best things to do:
For a proper dreamy holiday in Polignano, you should take a boat ride from Cala Porto, visiting Grotta Palazzese, Grotta di Santa Catarina and the Blue Grotto, just among the others. The first Grotta Palazzese it’s also a beautiful restaurant, unique, dug into the rock, with the tables overlooking the sea, a real gem especially at dinner. An ideal day will also see you sunbathe at Lama Monachile, the main beach of Polignano a Mare, right in the seashore and famous worldwide. If you are looking for the best view of this pebble beach, it is from Terrazza Santo Stefano.
Polignano a Mare is a truly beautiful place to visit in Italy, a fairytale Destination that you have to experience once in your life. Doesn’t matter if you stay in town for just a day or an entire week, this place is a must-visit in Italy.
Contributed by Alessia & Toti from Italian Trip Abroad.
Photo: Paul Healy, Anywhere We Roam

Cappadocia, Turkey

What makes it so magical?

Cappadocia, deep in the heart of Turkey, is a magical fairytale destination of unique landscapes. Rocks, sculpted over the years by wind and water, form a canvas of magnificent scenery; half-domed white rocks cling to valley tops, rippling rose canyons scar the earth, and rock formations reach for the sky above churches carved into rock.

It’s one of the most magical landscapes you could imagine. But there’s also an energy to Cappadocia that is intoxicating. Hidden in the sculptured rock, locals sell dried fruit and mint tea from flower-strewn valleys. Makeshift bars have been set up at the best panoramic viewpoints, with nothing but a piece of Turkish carpet to sit on while feet dangle over the edge.

Best things to do:

One of the best things to do in Cappadocia is undoubtedly a balloon ride over the magical landscape. As the sun rises over the rock formations with hundreds of balloons in the air, the atmosphere is breath-taking.

But there are also some more understated activities to enjoy. Hiking in Cappadocia is a fantastic way to get to the heart of this unique scenic gem, with a number of different trails exploring the area. Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum which contains many of the best frescoed cave churches in the area. Explore under-visited Mustafapaşa, a small rural village just starting to come to terms with tourism. Descend 8 floors below ground to Kaymakli Underground City: a cave metropolis with a church, stables, and storage rooms.

Contributed by Paul Healy of Anywhere We Roam.

Photo: Liji Jinaraj, Flickr

Khajuraho Temples, India

What makes it so magical?

The Khajuraho Temples, are a fairytale destination and one of the most exquisite sets of monuments in the world. Set against the plains of the central Indian state Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a small town in Chhatarpur. Rulers of the Chandela dynasty built a collection of gorgeous temples in the relatively barren lands of Khajuraho between 950 and 1100 Common Era. These sandstone temples with concealed granite foundations were mostly in reverence to the Hindu and Jain Gods, but also symbolic of milestone events like victories in battles during the Chandela rule.

Best things to do:

Archaeologists and historians have estimated that 85 temples spread over 20 km formed this temple zone. Of these, alas, only 25 temples covering 6 km have survived the test of time. The Hindu temples, except for one, are now of historical value. The only live shrine is the Matangeshwara Temple where a beautifully decorated oversized Shiva Linga is worshipped regularly. The Jain temples have seen continuous worship throughout the years. Each temple is unique in its shape, or structure, or mind-boggling carving details.  Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, it appears, is the most popular. The Western Group of temples has many big shrines as a cluster. This is the only temple complex that is ticketed. A light and sound show is held here in the evenings. The other temples do not have any entry fee.

Among the carvings of gods, humans, animals, and trees, Khajuraho temples are known for their depiction of erotica. Contrary to popular notion, the erotic statues do not titillate but show love as a way of life, a religion. In the days of yore, the visual splendors were created with basic tools like hammer and chisel and when you look around, it is awe and disbelief. It is magic.

How to reach: Khajuraho is serviced by a busy railway station and a small airport. The roads are in decent condition and one can drive from any nearby city. One can hire a taxi or an auto-rickshaw for local transport. The temple area is small, and one can cover it on foot too.

Contributed by Sundeep and Bedabrata – Indian Food and Travel blogger duo who share their stories on their website Delhi-Fun-Dos.com.

Photo: Ellis, Backpack Adventures

Rajasthan, India

What makes it so magical?

Rajasthan in India with its royal heritage is one of the best fairytale destinations in Asia. This desert province is full of ancient forts and palaces. A trip to Rajasthan is a journey back in time to the age of the Rajputs. When you walk through one of their lavishly decorated palaces it is easy to imagine yourself an Indian princess.

Best things to do:

The wealth of the Rajputs is visible everywhere in Rajasthan. Every city has its own network of palaces and forts. Udaipur probably wins if it comes to the most picturesque location. The city palace is right on the shore of scenic lake Pichola. The nearby Monsoon palace is on the top of a hill with spectacular sunset views overlooking the city.

Jaipur has the largest amount of forts and palaces as well as a thriving bazaar. The elegant architecture and the iconic red sandstone color that marks the city makes it a magical place. Jaipur also has a long history of arts and crafts. As a result, there are all kinds of nice souvenirs such as block printed textiles, miniature paintings, and silver jewelry. In Jaipur, you can buy everything to make your own home a bit more like a palace.

Also fairytale-like is the desert city of Jaisalmer with its living fort on top of a hill. The narrow streets with the traditional mansions are a joy to walk around in. What makes it even more magical is the possibility to go on a camel safari into the desert. What is more romantic than a night under the stars?

The palaces and forts alone make Rajasthan well worth a visit. However, don’t forget that there are many more things to see and do. Rajasthan also has great food and lots of cultural experiences. Folk music, dance, and theatre still play an important role in Rajasthani traditions. Nature lovers will be glad to know that Rajasthan has several national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries.

Contributed by Ellis from Backpack Adventures.

Photo: Kamila Napora, Kami & the Rest of the World

Dubrovnik, Croatia

What makes it so magical?

Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia and it definitely lives up to its fairytale destination hype. The Old Town is picture-perfect with its narrow, winding lanes and stairs leading to the upper parts, beautiful centuries-old palaces, and monasteries with charming backyards. It is so easy to get lost there and feel the magic of the place, all you need to do is to leave the main street – Stradun.

Best things to do:

To admire the beauty of Dubrovnik Old Town in its full glory head to the Old Town Walls – it’s a big pricey attraction but worth the money as the view from up there is splendid. The whole circuit is almost 2 kilometers and it’s recommended to walk it all to admire a different panorama of Dubrovnik from each angle. This Adriatic gem was spotted also by the filmmakers and you can see Dubrovnik in a few movies, including the famous “Game of Thrones” series – you can see the city in numerous scenes like the (in)famous walk of shame. Dubrovnik is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and in the summertime the Old Town can get really packed, especially when cruise ships arrive in the city. To enjoy Dubrovnik to the fullest go wander around early in the morning or in the late afternoon, when most of the daytrippers are gone, or visit the city off-season when it’s blissfully empty. This is the best time to fall for the pure magic that Dubrovnik offers.

Contributed by Kamila Napora of Kami & the Rest of the World.

Photo: Chrysoula, Greece Travel Ideas

Santorini, Greece

What makes it so magical?

The island of Santorini with its stunning sunsets is a fairytale destination and is said to be one of the most beautiful islands in Greece. Santorini is a volcanic island. The white-washed houses of the main town of Thira (Fira) and Oia cling dramatically to the edge of its sea-filled volcanic rim (caldera) and enjoy stunning panoramic views. For an unbelievable experience, it is possible to hike around the rim.

Best things to do:

The island’s most spectacular feature is its caldera and many tavernas cling to its rim, overlooking the blue waters that are up to 400 meters deep – what a romantic setting for dinner. There are donkey rides and a cable car down from Thira to the old port– or you can walk down 580 steps. From the harbor, there are boat trips that explore the caldera and visit its hot sulfur springs.

Santorini is just 18km in length so is easy to explore and there is a good bus service. You will find the east of the island really flat in comparison! The beaches have red and black volcanic sand and require footwear right to the water’s edge as the sand gets very hot! Perissa has the best beach and water sports including jet-skiing, kayaking, and sea fishing. Kamari is Santorini’s main beach resort and its buildings have distinctive barrel-vaulted roofs. The white wines of Santorini are among the best in Greece and it is gaining a good reputation for its two island-made beers – Volkan and Donkey!

Contributed by Chrysoula from Greece Travel Ideas.

Photo: Isabella Biava, Let’s Travel To Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

What makes it so magical?

One of the most magical fairytale destinations in Mexico, Guanajuato is a pretty colonial town and capital city of the homonym state Northeast of Mexico City.  Its historic center and the adjacent mines were proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

It was founded by the Spanish in 1548 as Real de Minas de Guanajuato, and it became an important center for silver extraction in the 18th century.

It’s nowadays one of the most popular tourist attractions among foreigners and locals alike, for its captivating colonial architectures, interesting museums, and a general festive vibe.

Best things to do:

Baroque architectures, neoclassical buildings refurbished into modern and sophisticated hotels, museums, or fancy restaurants will draw your attention as you walk around the narrow cobblestone lanes.

Guanajuato is also home to one of the first and most prestigious universities in Mexico. The home of one of the founders, and Dean has become a beautiful boutique hotel, La casa del Rector, definitely worth a visit for a cocktail on its rooftop bar during sunset, if you cannot stay there.

Guanajuato is also the hometown of the world-famous muralist Diego Rivera and a visit to his home-museum must be included among all the things to do in Guanajuato.

If you know Spanish you should participate in the Callejoneada, a walking tour that takes place every night led by university students while they tell you stories about Guanajuato in a funny captivating way. It’s a fun night around the narrow streets (callejones) of the Guanajuato historical center.

Also, if you are around in October do not miss the famous festival Cervantino, a tribute to Mexican and international culture, with music, art exhibitions, poetry, and much more, a 3 days celebration on the streets of Guanajuato.

Contributed by Isabella Biava of Let’s Travel To Mexico.

Photo: Jiayi Wang, The Diary of a Nomad

Iran

What makes it so magical?

One of the most magical fairytale destinations to visit in real life is definitely Iran. Often overlooked by tourists and wrongly deemed unsafe by mass media, Iran is vastly underrated. First of all, traveling in this country is incredibly safe (yes, even for Americans!). Iranians are extremely friendly, hospitable, and welcoming, and they’re definitely a huge reason why this country is so magical. 

Secondly, the architecture in Iran will absolutely blow you away. There are so many spectacular mosques and shrines there with details so intricate that you can stare at them for hours on end. The landscapes in Iran are also super breathtaking; from pink lakes to sand mountains, you’ll be left mesmerized for sure.

Best things to do:

One of the most spectacular places in Iran is the Pink Mosque in Shiraz. The stunning stained glass windows there show a variety of colors, and in the early morning, the sun reflects on them, creating a beautiful light show that can only be described as magical. It definitely feels like a scene straight out of a fairytale!

During your time in Iran, be sure to also visit Esfahan, home to the beautiful Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and Shah Mosque. The details inside these buildings are simply incredible, and you’ll be left in awe at what humans are capable of creating.

Another magical place in Iran is Yazd, a unique desert town with a wonderfully calm and quiet atmosphere. Be sure to visit Sar Yazd Castle, a hidden fairytale fortress in the middle of the desert. There are barely any tourists there, so visiting it is also a very authentic experience!

Jiayi Wang is the writer and photographer behind The Diary of a Nomad, a travel and photography blog with a special focus on lesser-visited destinations. Jiayi’s vision is to inspire others to go outside their comfort zones and explore hidden gems in the world that definitely deserve more spotlight.

Photo: Ella, Many More Maps

Sintra, Portugal

Just a 40-minute train journey away from Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, you’ll find the spellbinding fairytale destination city of Sintra. World-famous for its numerous palaces and castles, Sintra really is a magical place to visit. Once home to Portuguese royalty and eccentric millionaires, today visitors to Sintra roam their old palaces, marveling at the unique architecture and lavish grounds.

What makes it so magical?

Sintra is one of the most picturesque towns in Europe and oozes fairytale charm. With countless palaces, mansions and castles nestled atop the Sintra hills, and with delightful weather year-round, it draws thousands of Lisbon day-trippers. Although the palaces are, by themselves, fabulous to explore, their grounds, which include secret gardens, tunnels, and woods, are what add extra magic to Sintra.

Best things to do:

The best way to start a visit to Sintra is by visiting the Pena Palace. This iconic building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and photos of it are always used to advertise Portugal travel since it is just so gorgeous!

From the Pena Palace, many visitors stop at the Moorish Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira. Both of these attractions boast impressive views over the Sintra mountains and are hundreds of years old. The grounds of Quinta da Regaleira are breathtaking and expansive, and part of the fun of visiting here is to spend a few hours getting lost as you wander.

If you still have time, it’s recommended to visit Monserrate Palace, Sintra’s off-the-beaten-path palace. Unlike the other palaces in Sintra, Monserrate is fairly new and was constructed in 1863. It was the summertime retreat of the Cook family, who decided to recreate a traditional English garden, complete with a rose garden, on the grounds of Monserrate. It is one of the least-visited palaces in Sintra and the perfect place to take a break from the crowds and enjoy one of the area’s most unique buildings.

Contributed by Ella from Many More Maps.

Paris, France

What makes it so magical?

Paris is one of the most magical fairytale destinations in Europe to visit in real life. The French capital, located in Northern France, is an elegant and cultural city bisected by the Seine River from east to west, with many beautiful sites to visit, some great shopping, and the best food and wine.

Paris is also considered one of the world’s most romantic cities and one of the favorite destinations for couples for a romantic getaway.

Best things to do:

What really makes Paris magical is the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. You can admire it from a Seine River cruise, perhaps with a glass of champagne, or – even better – book a room in one of the hotels with an Eiffel Tower view. A last glass of wine in your room with the view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower is priceless and unique to Paris.

To get the most out of the city, spend a minimum of 3 days in Paris, more if possible. With three full days in Paris, it is possible to visit the city’s most iconic monuments like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, or the Arc de Triomphe. Also, you can hang around the picturesque neighborhood of Montmartre and stroll along the city’s most beautiful parks. At night, you can have fun watching can-can dancers and drinking champagne in one of the Parisian cabarets or drive around the city in a vintage car.

Finally, enjoy the French cuisine and the French wines! From Michelin starred restaurants to more modest Parisian bistros or brasseries, you will find good French food everywhere.

Contributed by Elisa from World in Paris.

Photo: Mark Wyld, Wyld Family Travel

Colmar, France

What makes it so magical?

Colmar is one of the most popular destinations in the Alsace North East France. Colmar is 493 kilometers from Paris and 64 Kilometers from Strasbourg. This picturesque village borrows heavily from both France and Germany, with the German Border only 20 minutes away. Home to fairytale houses with their bright and attractive colors, storks nesting on roofs, and its little Venice area. Traditionally the area where Merchants live is today the most picturesque neighborhood in town.

Best things to do:

It is not surprising that Colmar the surrounding villages were the inspiration for the setting of Beauty and the Beast. Wander the cobblestones of the old town, visit the oldest public building in France, drink local wine such as wolf burger, and try some of the amazing regional cuisines. Take a gondola ride through the cities canals,  visit a world-famous gallery or explore one of the town’s markets. Starting in late November, Colmar comes into its own when the annual Christmas market overtakes the whole town. Colmar France embraces the Christmas market spirit better than most towns across Europe. The market in Colmar is not just in one place, it is dotted all over the old town area. Colmar is one of the most popular fairytale destinations in all of France.

Contributed by Mark Wyld from Wyld Family Travel.

Mont St Michel, France

What makes it so magical?

Mont St Michel is a beautiful abbey located in the North of France, just a few hours outside of Paris. Disney fans may better know this fairytale destination as the castle from the movie Tangled. This abbey looks like a castle but is really a quaint little medieval town, filled with shops and restaurants with the abbey at the very top. When the tide is high, the town is surrounded by water on all sides. When the tide is low, sometimes you can see sheep grazing on the grass.

Best things to do:
Inside the city, you can explore the town’s shops and restaurants, grab a crêpe or some vin chaud in the winter. After climbing your way through the city and exploring the different viewpoints, you can pay a small fee to visit the abbey. Keep in mind that the last entrance is an hour before close (so arrive before 5 pm). There are also various museums to visit throughout the city and I strongly recommend for you to stick around until sunset.

To access the island you must park in separate parking lots at the visitor center and then either walk (about 40 minutes) or take a bus across the bridge.

Contributed by Jori from The Tejana Abroad.

Photo: Anuradha, Country Hopping Couple

Tromso, Norway

What makes it so magical?

Located in the northern part of Norway, within the arctic circle, Tromso is one of the magical fairytale destinations to visit in the entire world. Known for its wilderness, striking landscape, friendly people, and incredible adventures, a visit to Tromso will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Add to it all the natural phenomenons that take place – the polar nights and incredible aurora borealis in winter and the midnight sun in summer! These rightly make Tromso a compelling destination all year round.

Best things to do:

Summer in Tromso is more enjoyable, thanks to the 24 hours daylight, you can take midnight cruises and many midnight adventures. With plenty of daylight, the options are unlimited. Winter in Tromso is laid back, but there is an equally magical adventure that awaits you. Whether you want to chase northern lights, go on snow adventures, or go whale watching, you are spoilt with choices.

A visit to Tromso is incomplete if you haven’t met the Sami people, the indigenous tribes of the arctic circle. A guided tour will provide insights into a Sami lifestyle, their traditional tent, and more information about reindeer herding.

Common things that can be done all through the year include a visit to Arctic Cathedral, one of the prominent landmarks in Tromso. For panoramic views of Tromso, take Tromso cable car (Fjellheisen) to the mountain Storsteinen and enjoy the sweeping views of the Tromso fjord and the city.

You can do a walking tour of the city to explore the colorful buildings, shop in Storgata, the main shopping street in Tromso, or visit the numerous museums in Tromso. If you are traveling with kids, a visit to the Tromso planetarium and Polar museum is a must.

Tromso is an ideal city that has a bit of everything for everyone, all year round.

Contributed by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple.

These are only a small amount of fabulous fairytale destinations around the world. Some have been the inspiration for your favorite fairytales, while others are a fairytale on their own. We certainly would not mind being whisked away to any of these great fairytale destinations.

What fairy tale destinations do you love or want to visit? Comment below!