Video games have the unique ability to take us to extraordinarily beautiful places and allow us to interact with them, all within the convenient safety of our living rooms. Many games borrow from real places, and conversely there are some real world places that look like they were taken from various fictional worlds we know and love. You might be surprised to find that some of these amazing locales are actually quite real, and not the fictional playgrounds of battle hardened explorers and warriors. Here are just three vacation destinations from around the world that have some connection to beloved video games.
1.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim | Jotunheimen National Park, Norway
Perhaps the best thing about The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim was exploring its massive landscape. From rainy marshlands, sweeping plains to jagged white capped mountains and glaciers, Skyrim astounded players with something new at every turn. If you’re really itching to see what a real life Skyrim would look like though, look no further than Jotunheimen National Park in Southern Norway. Its name, Home of the Giants in English, is drawn from Norse mythology, and indeed the landscape looks as though giants once stalked the plains there.
Being Norway’s most popular national park, it’s got enough lakes, glaciers, canyons, and mountains to keep even the most intrepid of adventurers busy. While its highest peak, Galdhøpiggen, might not be the Throat of the World (we’ll save that for the next entry on our list), it is the highest mountain in Northern Europe at 8100 feet or 2469 meters. The Norwegian wilderness’ otherworldliness is almost convincing enough to have you searching the skyline for the silhouette of a dragon.
2.) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves | Kathmandu, Nepal
There are a lot of moments in Uncharted 2 that make you pause to pan the camera and take everything in. I remember, early in the game, having fought my way to the roof of a hotel, gazing out over Kathmandu at the derelict buildings (some of which I had helped destroy myself, just moments ago – good job, Nate!) and the striking stupas of the Buddhist temples, onward to the Himalayas that spread out along the horizon.
This diverse city and the mountains that lie beyond it aren’t restricted to just smooth-talking treasure hunters and Serbian mercenaries, however. Nepal is actually quite open to tourism. After exploring the Buddhist and Hindu temples, the markets and restaurants, you can head off on your own trek through to the “Roof of the World”, even to the base of Mt. Everest itself. While a basic level of fitness is required, you certainly don’t need to be a trained mountain climber to take in the Himalayas of Nepal (and if you can get a permit, maybe even Tibet!)
3.) Tomb Raider | Yakushima, Japan
2013’s Tomb Raider was set on the mythical island of Yamatai, but did you know that Japan has a real life island with an equally mysterious aura? And it’s a whole lot friendlier to visitors, too, what with its lack of insane stranded militants and murderous stone samurai.
95% of this small, subtropical island off the coast of Kyushu, Japan is covered in primeval cedar forest. The oldest living tree on the island dates back as far as 2300 years. It’s got deer and monkeys (although I think shooting them with your bow and arrow might be frowned upon) and even sea turtles.
The mountainous forests are bedecked in moss-covered rocks, thundering waterfalls, seaside hot springs and thick trunked trees, making it an ideal escape for nature lovers and hikers of all abilities.
Yakushima’s major draw for Japanese tourists is actually the “Mononoke-hime” forest, Shiratani Gorge, which inspired the Studio Ghibli film, Princess Mononoke. The island was also featured in Persona 3 and inspired the Dremuchij forest in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Video games introduce us to some truly astounding places we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. But it can be equally fascinating to discover that inspiration for our favorite video game environments come from places that actually exist. These three are just some of the many.