Our human history is filled with folklore and stories to intrigue steadfast adventurers. Or perhaps you’ve recently seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and you’ve got an appetite to go out into the world and find out where all those mythical beasts and monsters reside among us. Well, help is at hand. Fact or fiction, you can discover the places that inspire mystery, romance and the imagination. We’ve unearthed seven travel destinations full of interest to fans of myth and legend.
The Amazon, Brazil
The Amazon is a beautiful place, but it’s also a dangerous one. For hundreds of years tales abound of the Yacumama, an enormous 160 feet long serpent that sucks up, hoover-like, anything that dares to come within a few paces of it.
Meaning Mother of the Water, this snake-serpent skirts the Amazon River and the area’s offshoot waterways and lagoons, hunting for prey. As it prowls the Yacumama is said to literally make the earth move, causing mudslides, tremors and general chaos. With rumours of the vast snake dating back to indigenous South American cultures, the Yacumama is one of the oldest – and most dangerous – beasts in folklore.
A big part of Zulu, Pondo and Xhosa folklore, South Africans speak in hushed tones of the Impundulu, a bird the size of an adult that’s said to ‘keep watch’ over the country’s Eastern Cape.
Impundulu translates as ‘lightning bird’, because the mythological bird is said to be able to cause raging storms whenever it so wants – with a mere flick of its beak or flutter of its wings. The Impundulu has a dark side, too, and is also thought to be able to shape-shift – typically into a handsome man who seduces women – with an appetite for blood. You have been warned.
As travel experts Expedia show in their online map of mythical creatures from around the world, the unicorn has been rooted in Chinese mythology for hundreds of years. We introduce the so-called Qilin at this stage as you’d be forgiven for thinking all the world’s mythical creatures are malevolent and unkind. The Qilin is quite different in personality and temperance from the Impundulu and Yacumama – kind and wise, its main motive is to deliver messages of peace.
As a Buddhist symbol, the Qilin unicorn is often portrayed as walking on clouds – so it doesn’t have to harm blades of grass. Associated with greatness, the unicorn is said to appear at momentous moments, such as just before the death of a respected ruler.
The Yeti – Sherpa for ‘wild man’ – is one the our oldest and most fascinating folklore entries. For decades there have been reports of an ape-like man treading the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. Like many creatures from folklore, one reason for the Yeti’s existence is as a warning beacon. It’s thought tales of the Yeti were told in Himalayan communities as a way of warding people off from approaching wild animals.
Like its cousins Bigfoot and Sasquatch, there have been countless claims to have seen the beast over the years, although little hard evidence has ever appeared – although, last year a team of leading international scientists used DNA analysis to determine whether there is any truth behind the stories.
The Loch Ness Monster
The most famous of all mythical creatures? Almost certainly. The earliest recorded account of Nessie was way back in the 6th century, when St Columba tasked one of his monks with swimming across the loch. As he did so, the monster reared its head, and Columba shouted at the creature: “Go no further, nor touch the man! Go back!” The rest is history. The Loch Ness Monster is well and truly mainstream, a bona fide household name.
In Greek mythology, the phoenix is portrayed as a phenomenally bright, golden-feathered firebird that, of course, is reborn by rising from the ashes of its forebears – coining the phrase ‘phoenix from the flames’ in the process. Beautiful and elegant, the phoenix transfixes all those who come across it – although chance would be a fine thing. It’s said that only one phoenix ever exists at any one time.
You can’t miss him. Standing 9 feet tall, large, hairy, with dark fur and skin, the gorilla-like Bigfoot isn’t backwards in coming forwards. One of the many ‘wild man’ stories that populate folklore, the creature is said to frequent Oregon. In fact, so sure are the locals that the beast exists that a tourist trail has been created – the Oregon Bigfoot Highway. Covered in a book by two adventurers, the route is formally known as Oregon’s National Scenic Byway No. 5, so it’s a perfect trip if you’re planning on car hire and a US road trip.
Written in partnership with Expedia