7 most famous mythical places

Throughout history, mankind has often been enthralled by stories of mythical places, cities, and paradises shrouded in secrets and lost to the sands of time. Here are the 7 most famous mythical places in the world.

Shangri-La concept art, Far Cry 4, Wikimedia Commons


Throughout history, mankind has often been enthralled by stories of mythical places, cities, and paradises shrouded in secrets and lost to the sands of time. These legendary locations pervade all great cultural histories. Some have served as allegories for more prosperous and peaceful times, others as places to find and conquer!

While philosophers weaved tales about lost cities, ancients also dreamt of places that once gave rise to utopian golden ages. A journey through the history of these fabled lands has captivated many. Some people might even be inspired to believe in them all over again.  

Here are the 7 most famous mythical places in the world.    

Artists depiction of Atlantis, Werner Brigette, Pixabay.

Atlantis

Unlike many stories whose appearance have been lost to the historical record, we know exactly when and who invented the story of Atlantis. The story was first told by Plato around 330 BCE, in two of his dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias.” It’s been established that there was no record of Atlantis before these texts and that Plato created this place as a plot device in his stories.  

The Sunken City of Atlantis was supposed to be an incredibly powerful civilization that was sophisticated, wealthy and founded by demigods. It was made up of many concentric islands with exotic plants and animals aplenty. He used these people as an example of what befalls a nation when they succumb to hubris.

Despite this story's origin in pure fiction, many people over the millennia have sought out this mythical place. A lot of the speculations were inspired by a book written by a Minnesota politician, Ignatius L. Donnelly, in 1882. He believed that Plato considered Atlantis a real place. He went on to explain its histories and supposed rule over large swathes of the world, his theory being that all ancient civilizations descended from this one land.

The Last Sleep of Arthur, Wikimedia Commons. Supposedly, the background is Avalon. 

Avalon

Glastonbury, a town in England, well known for its neo-pagan beliefs and local Arthurian legends was once thought of the location for the legendary, idyllic and lost paradise of Avalon. The first mention of Avalon was in 1136 through Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. According to Arthurian legend, the island was ruled by Morgan le Fay, an enchantress who nursed King Arthur back to health after a battle.     

The mystical land was sometimes referred to as the Island of Apples because it was supposedly covered in wild grapevines and apple forests. Its inhabitants were immortals as well. This was the place that the great sword Excalibur was forged. This magical place is where King Arthur was laid to rest and laid on a bed of gold.  

 Thomas Cole's 'The Arcadian', Public domain. 

Arcadia

A couple of hundred years before Plato's time, the Ancient Greeks imagined a place called Arcadia. This early vision utopia is also the name of a region in modern-day Greece. In ancient mythology, Arcadia was a pastoral back-to-nature place. The wilderness housed Pan, a woodlands God who resided with his nymphs and satyrs as his guards of a never-ending hedonistic paradise. This was a place where beings greater than humans ascended to and lived in prosperous delight for hundreds of years. It was an Eden where spirits and gods gallivanted in ecstasy and longevity.     

Arcadia has remained a popular muse for artists from antiquities onwards. Virgil and Ovid set many of their poems in these primeval forests. Medieval European writers and Renaissance painters all tried to capture the spirit of this golden age land. Arcadia is the archetypical view of a place untouched by civilization where humans live as gods.    

 Hessel Gerritsz from 1625, depicting the city of Manoa / El Dorado on the left of the lake.

El Dorado

Conquistadors riding through 16th century South America scoured the land for a mythical city of gold. El Dorado started out as a story about a king named “The Gilded One.” He was said to be a native king who powdered his body with gold and tossed ornate jewels into a lake as part of his coronation. These stories eventually would morph into a tale of a kingdom rather than an individual man.

The legends grew over the years as the Europeans spread and discovered more of South America. The golden city was a place of untold prestige and wealth, which captivated plenty of adventurers. El Dorado was said to be next to Lake Guatavita – a real space they'd eventually find. When explorers found the lake, they lowered the level of the water and found hundreds of gold pieces. But the fabled city remained out of their grasp until all swathes of South American land were eventually covered and the myth was no more.

Map of Lemuria according to William Scott-Elliott.

Lemuria

This hidden land was told through stories many ages before Atlantis. There are many origins to Lemuria, some occult writings, pseudo-histories and even scientific musings of a lost continent as well. Many texts from the east talk about a land called ‘Ra-Mu.’ In some sacred Tibetan texts, this land is also known as Muri or Lemuria.  

Madame Blavatsky, a Russian occultist who co-founded the Theosophical society in 1875, wrote a thrilling fiction about this secret land. Blavatsky claims in her “The Secret Doctrine” text that Lemuria contained a third race of Lemurians, she also posited that Atlantis also existed. Her Lemurians were described as having four arms and a psychic eye on the back of their head, which they used to communicate with one another through telepathy. This is a definite favorite amongst occultists and esoteric conspiracists.

Far Cry 4 concept art, apparently of Shangri-La. 

Shambala/Shangri-La

Shambhala is a Sanskrit word that means “place of peace.” This is an ancient mythical paradise that predates Tibetan Buddhism. The name was first seen in the scriptures of Zhang Zhung in western Tibet. According to the legend, it’s a kind of heaven where only the purest can live in a place bountiful with love and wisdom. There is no old age or suffering here in this mythical kingdom.

Also known as Shangri-la, this place has been called by many names throughout the years. Sometimes called the Forbidden Land, Land of Radiant Spirits and Land of the Living Gods. Many westerners believed it to be a real place for some time, hidden deep within the Tibetan mountains. In Buddhist traditions it's said to be ruled over by a future Buddha named Maitreya and when the world declines into abject war and degeneracy, a great war will come as the Shambhala Kings ride out to defeat "dark forces" It is after this time in which the world will be ushered into a new Golden Age.

Thule

A place of intrigue for many explorers, poets, and even Nazi occultists, Thule was a territory that was said to be located in the frozen north near the Arctic. The tale dates back to 4th century BCE when a Greek explorer named Pytheas claimed to have traveled to an icy island north of Scotland.

Many of Pytheas’ fellow explorers doubted the validity of his claims, but the Thule legend would live on through the ages. Eventually, the original location was most likely a mistaken Norway or Iceland. The myth of the island is most famously connected to the Thule Society, a post World War I organization that believed Thule to be the ancestral home of an Aryan race.

Yug, age 7, and Alia, age 10, both entered Let Grow's "Independence Challenge" essay contest.

Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
  • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
  • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

What should schools teach? Now is the moment to ask.

The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.

What should schools teach? Now is the moment to ask. | Caroline ...
Future of Learning
  • The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
  • One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
  • Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.

Keep reading Show less

Here are 3 things white people can do right now to help #BLM

Remaining silent is being complicit.

Demonstrators pause for a moment of silence during a protest over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer, in McCarren Park in the borough of Brooklyn on June 3, 2020 in New York City.

Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Protests around the world are demanding an end to police discrimination and violence against black citizens in America.
  • Author and activist Dax-Devlon Ross offers advice on how white people can help during this moment.
  • Ross's suggestions include thinking and voting locally, supporting black-owned businesses, and practicing self-reflection.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…