Do you believe in magic? The jury’s still out for me on that one, but what I do know is how much I love traveling to places that encompass elements of the supernatural or spiritual. I’m fascinated by the history of the occult; I’m also super curious about pagan religions and obsessed with folklore. Thankfully, our big beautiful planet has loads of spiritual travel destinations to sate my growing appetite for all things mysterious and sacred.
But here’s the awesome thing: These places are so magical that their beauty, mysticism, and folklore are tangible even through a screen. Check out these places on Instagram—and more like them at #magicalplaces—and you’ll get that shiver-up-your-spine feeling that makes you realize the world is so much more than meets the eye. Here, four of the most magical places on the planet—according to me, and my fellow Instagram travelers.
The Bagan Archaeological Zone, Myanmar
Rich in spirituality, the Bagan Archaeological Zone comprises over 22,000 pagodas, temples, and monasteries. And while a hot air balloon ride at dawn is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the scenery, any mode of transportation will get you exactly where you need to be. Sit down on a wall or a step, close your eyes, and take some deep belly breaths as you soak it all in. This is definitely a spot you want to linger in—plan to take time and let your intuition guide you, rather than a map.
“This place is breathtaking,” says Instagram user @ramiray15. “I drove a motorbike from temple to temple on a dirt road, but the best part was just sitting at sunrise and admiring the view. I felt nothing but at peace.”
@sumrucaliskan’s favorite spot in the Bagan Archaelogical Zone.
The Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt
While Egypt is filled with sights that will resonate with your soul, one of the most spiritual places I have ever visited was the Valley of the Kings. Found on the West Bank of the Nile, the site was the main burial place of Egypt’s most important pharoahs and nobles, and tells a story of foregone opulence, crushing power, and intense mythology. (No photography is allowed in the Valley, so most IG images, like the one below, document other Luxor temples).
Whether you can photograph it or not, there’s nothing more thrilling than standing where history was made—literally. To study the ornate hieroglyphics and imagine the lives of the people who made them is to feel instantly transported to another place and time.
@saschasaskiia (and baby bump!), feeling inspired in Luxor.
The Fairy Tale Route, Germany
Are whimsical castles, enchanted forests, and bewitched medieval towns more your thing? If so, head to Germany’s Fairy Tale Route, the 600 km stretch of road between Kassel and Bremen where the sagas and legends of your childhood come alive. This is the home of fairies, princes, and scorned witches—famed storytellers the Brothers Grimm lived in this area for most of their lives and drew inspiration from the eerie forests and haunted-looking castles surrounding their village. This is the perfect place to get in touch with nature, and the myths it inspires.
“There’s always a story behind the story,” says Instagram user @storyseeker_ who documents the trail on Instagram. You know the story of Hansel and Gretel, about the witch who lives in a house made of gingerbread and eats children alive? That one is reportedly based in reality—during the Great Famine in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to abandon their kids in the woods, or even resort to cannibalism. Spooky! But I like to think of the woods, castles, and waterfalls along the Fairy Tale Route as reminders of the magical link between nature and the imagination—and how stories can connect us all, even through the centuries.
@catiimorteo let her imagination run wild on the Fairy Tale Route.
The Taj Mahal, India
The beauty and wonder of the Taj Mahal probably doesn’t need any explanation. But the magic is in the details. Just look at over half a million Instagram posts dedicated to this wonder of the world. Whether your eye catches on the symmetry of the structure of the ornate detail of the marble, one thing is clear: This place is sacred.
I’m rarely one to get emotional when I visit monuments, but visiting the Taj in the half light of dawn brought tears to my eyes—especially knowing the tragic story behind its construction. The emperor Shah Jahan built structure to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in the seventeenth century. And of course, the Taj Mahal wouldn’t be complete without a magical myth surrounding it: Legend has it that if you hit it a certain spot on its walls, water, like tears, will fall from the stone.
@wheresperryyo, soaking in the Taj Mahal’s magic.
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