In the land of northern lights
Filled with magic and mystery, the spectacle offered by northern lights is a light display that happens when solar winds come closer to the magnetic poles. The night takes on green, pink and indigo hues, at once surreal and mystical. A Scandinavian legend has it an arctic fox swipes the snowy mounts with its furry tail, producing celestial dust. It is very easy to be carried away by this natural spectacle, which will undoubtedly remain etched in your memory.
About 60 miles north of Oslo, the city of Lillehammer, famous for organising the 1994 Winter Olympics, is a perfect, northernmost candidate for visitors from the capital looking for an extraordinary stay. During winter, the ski resort is dressed to the snowy nines and offers the largest outdoor museum in Norway, as well as a genuine Christmas market that will take you back to the past.
An ocean of blueish lights in the Maldives
The phantasmagoria is not circumscribed to skies filled with Northern Lights: it also takes place at water level. As such, in the Maldives, a truly remarkable natural phenomenon makes the Indian Ocean beam like a luminous flux.
However, there's no need for a magic wand waved by a Maldivian fairy. It is actually caused by dinoflagellate bioluminescent organisms (Lingulodinium polyedrum) emitting light when stressed, in this case by rolling waves.
Located in the heart of the archipelago, the Vaadhoo Island is in itself worth the trip. A few miles from the Malé airport, board a speed boat or seaplane to reach a quiet place on the beach where you'll best enjoy this natural show. Even if it is little visible during the day, this marine plankton transfigures the waves as soon as night falls by creating an incredible blueish effect. Even your footprints in the sand will benefit from this enchantment.
A fairy tale castle near Munich
Have you ever dreamed of visiting Sleeping Beauty's castle? If so, you'll soon be able to! A one and a half hour drive from Munich, the high turrets of the Neuschwanstein castle stand out over rocky and wooded landscapes, worthy of a Walt Disney film. Built in the 19th century, this symbol of Romanesque architecture was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria to court architect Eduard Riedel.
As a stunning mix of architectural styles, between Neo-Gothic and Romanesque Revival, the castle counts a dazzling throne hall with Byzantine décor, as well as other halls and rooms adorned with frescoes adapted from Tristan und Isolde, Richard Wagner's opera.
Ludwig II of Bavaria was declared insane and removed from Neuschwanstein two years after moving in. During construction, he had requested that a little artificial grotto be built on third floor of his fortress, along with a balcony overlooking the majestic Alpine panorama.
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Atacama and the desert's magic touch
Watched over by the Andes in Northern Chile, the lunar landscape of the Atacama holds many persistent charms. This seemingly unfriendly natural setting where volcanoes, dunes and snowy caps coexist under ever pure blue skies, seems to be shrouded in a veil of unreal poetic beauty.
Rest assured, a few luxury lodges have emerged amid this oasis, serving as little hideouts to better explore the region. Additionally, restaurants, bars and trekking agencies have mushroomed these past few years in cities like Copiapó, Antofagasta, Iquique and Arica.
A thousand and one wonders will mark your journey towards San Pedro de Atacama: the Valley of the Moon and its shifting dunes chiseled by the wind, but also Death Valley and Dinosaur Valley, which hilly nature seems to draw gigantic skeletal diplodocus and other prehistoric monsters when night falls.
Green fairyland in the Broceliande Forest
About 60 miles from Nantes, a land of legends awaits you. As King Arthur's original setting, the Broceliande forest is Brittany's mythical soul. Showcasing moors, clusters of trees and deep valleys, it houses a kingdom of imagination, filled with storytellers and popular beliefs of days gone by.
Walk up its winding paths and discover magical creatures said to haunt Broceliande. You'll step into the shoes of the Knights of the Round Table: Lancelot, Percival, Gawain, Ywain and of course Arthur himself. You'll come across Merlin's tomb, the Val sans Retour (sorceress Morgan le Fay's enchanted land), or the Grail Church, the only sanctuary in the world dedicated to the holy vessel.
At the side of a trail, you'll stop in front of the Guillotin oak tree, the eldest tree of this magical forest. Its knotted trunk shelters a dark and mysterious cavern. Further along the way, on the shores of Trémelin Lake, you can catch a sight of Excalibur, the sword forged in the depth of the kingdom of ancient gods. It is still stuck in a rock, waiting for a worthy hero to pick it up. Will you be the lucky one?