Myth, legend, tall tale… or reality? While folklore eludes formal evidence, the stories manage to slip their way through history, sometimes stretching back through centuries with vivid first-hand accounts. To help you decide for yourself, we’ve pulled together some of the world’s most mysterious local legends with tips on where to go and information to direct you toward the right place to point your camera on your next investigative trip.
Scroll down to read this VacationRenter guide to finding five of the world’s most popular folklore!
Bigfoot: Pacific Northwest, United States
This big and hairy beast has several names, not all of them accurate. For clarity, this article is a good resource to learn and distinguish them. Your focus should be on Bigfoot and Sasquatch, two essentially interchangeable names despite each having a different origin. “Bigfoot” is pretty self-explanatory; “Sasquatch” comes from a British Columbian native tribe’s term that was used by a Canadian journalist who wrote articles on the creature in the 1920’s. In general, the legend of Bigfoot traces back to Native Americans and loggers in the Pacific Northwest with tales full of a giant, muscular, ape-like creature who hides from humans in the woods and leaves behind enormous footprints. He is rumored to spend time roaming the mountains of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but sightings have been reported throughout North America.
To maximize your chances of spotting Sasquatch, travel to Washington state, leading the charts with 2,032 reported sightings. Hike down to Ape Canyon, where a group of miners recorded a particularly vivid run-in with Bigfoot in 1924 that helped the legend take root and spread across the country. The hike lasts about 3 to 4 hours, and the canyon offers gorgeous, wide views of the southeast side of Mount St. Helens.
Staying nearby, regardless of your quest, is both rewarding and picturesque. To continue your Sasquatch hunt, head two hours north to Mount Rainier, located in Washington’s Pierce County – an area chock-full of reported Bigfoot encounters.
A nice long walk more your style? You can take a scenic 6-mile walk up to Fremont Lookout for stunning peak views of several mountaintops.
Places to Eat
Once you work up an appetite, head to the Tall Timber Restaurant to share your tales of Bigfoot over a hearty breakfast, a Sasquatch-sized pizza or a plate of their famous Chicken and Jos.
For a shot at a different angle, head west to Ocean Shores on the coast, where a man recently reported seeing a creature on his property that was “hairy and brown, with silver gray hair on its back” that reminded him “of a giant pile of steel wool.” The man said the creature looked at him, crawled on all fours, then stood up and walked away into the forest. Keep an eye out for his giant tracks as you explore the Spruce Railroad Trail on the shores of Lake Crescent.
More food, please!
Hungry from all of your Bigfoot sightings? Granny’s Cafe is a must, just keep in mind that Granny is only open during the spring, summer and fall months.
The Headless Horseman: New York, United States
Everyone knows something about the mystical Headless Horseman. While fun at any time of year, Halloween is a great time to visit Sleepy Hollow, New York where the legend took root. The story begins with a Hessian soldier who was killed during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of White Plains occurring around Halloween in 1776. Decapitated by an American cannonball, troops carried his body away and buried him in the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, but left his head behind on the battlefield. Rumor has it that he rises at night as a malevolent ghost, furiously searching for his lost head. Expertly dramatized into a short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) by the great American writer Washington Irving, his description of Sleepy Hollow pretty much sums things up:
“…From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow … A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere…”
Sleepy Hollow itself is actually a “glen” or secluded valley that is part of Tarrytown, NY. The distance between the two is only 4 miles; depending on the weather, you can easily walk or bike, and hopping in a car will get you back and forth in a matter of minutes. The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is an historic resting place filled with a variety of colorful stories. It has both daytime and extra-scary night tours of the grounds and it is open year-round. Among the many noteworthy personalities interred here are Elizabeth Arden of cosmetics fame, Brooke Astor, New York socialite, Walter Chrysler, hotel magnates Harry and Leona Helmsley, and, of course, Washington Irving.
For brave travelers, check out Horseman’s Hollow, where the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor transforms into a haunt-fest led by the Headless Horseman himself, or enjoy a dramatic performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in the actual church and courtyard of the legend, just a few steps from the bridge where Ichabod Crane was last seen, never to be spotted again.
Places to Eat
It may be somewhat of a surprise, but the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown area offers diverse food options to suit any taste. For a coffee break, check out Coffee Labs Roasters, where beans are roasted on site. Lunch and dinner provide choices from around the world including delicious Cuban fare at Croqueteria, Greek/Mediterranean at Santorini, and authentic Mexican food at Guadalajara. Head to Bridge View Tavern for local craft beers and tasty plates.
The Minotaur: Crete, Greece
Looking to travel internationally to find your folklore? Dive into Greek mythology and head to Crete, Greece where the infamous Minotaur is said to have lived. The legend begins with King Minos who prayed to Poseidon after he ascended the Cretan throne. To help keep his ambitious, throne-seeking brothers away, Minos asked Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull as a sign of support. When the bull arrived, King Minos was supposed to kill it in sacrifice, but, because of its beauty, he chose to kill one of his own bulls instead. To punish him, Poseidon made King Minos’s wife Pasiphaë fall in love with the snow-white bull and their offspring was the Minotaur: a half-man, half-bull creature who devoured humans for sustenance.
To hide this monstrosity, King Minos hired a famous craftsman named Daedalus to construct a large labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. As the years and wars passed, Minos required that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, be sent to be devoured by the Minotaur. A young hero named Theseus volunteered, and navigating the labyrinth with a ball of thread, Theseus slayed the Minotaur with the sword of his father.
Head to the archaeological site of Knossos to visit the rumored home of King Minos and the mythical Minotaur. The historical landmark is the home to the ruins of decadent palaces and ancient architecture, partially rebuilt to show what life was like in these ancient Greek civilizations.
Places to Eat
For some authentic Greek fare, grab a bite at Minotavros Restaurant and Café, a restaurant named after the myth, or at Pasiphae Restaurant, named after Minos’s wife and known for its historic Minoan dishes.
Places to Stay
Crete gives travelers endless villa and hotel options, and rest assured, your scenic backdrop will be breathtaking.
Round out your tour of Greek mythology by discovering the two caves in Crete, that both claim to be the birthplace of Zeus. Ideon Cave and Dikteon Cave concurrently demand this honor. Both caves are adorned with intricate stalagmites and stalactites and a total of five well-lit chambers, and they even hold the remains of offerings at an ancient religious altar.
The Loch Ness Monster: Loch Ness Lake, Scotland
The Loch Ness Monster, or “Nessie” as it is fondly come to be known, is rumored to lurk in the Scottish highlands and has been drawing visitors to the deep misty Loch Ness Lake since the 1930s. Stories of this mysterious legend date back to the 7th century but didn’t become widely popular until an Englishman from London claimed to have seen a prehistoric beast on the Loch Ness shores in 1934. Locals backed the claim with their own stories and newspapers picked up the news, prompting people from around the world to visit and photograph the lake in hopes of a sighting. While numerous formal investigations have ensued, no definitive evidence has been found
If you’re ready to join the hunt to find Nessie, fly into the nearby town of Inverness, travel down to Loch Ness and hop aboard a boat tour of the loch. While you’re in town, visit the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre for an in-depth photo and video tour of the area that includes an explanation of how the geology of the loch could support a creature like Nessie, then grab the kids — or the adults — and head over to Nessie Land where you can explore an entire theme park and playground built around the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Check out this article to learn cool facts about the loch that are not commonly shared.
Places to Eat
When you get hungry, head to the Boathouse Lochside Restaurant for great pub fare and to hear first-hand accounts from the locals. If you have an iron will plus an iron stomach, you need to order haggis, a traditional savory Scottish pudding made from the organs (heart, liver, and lungs) of a sheep cooked with onions, oatmeal, suet and spices. (Oh, and by the way, haggis is banned in the US.) Eating this dish may be more challenging than meeting Nessie.
Places to Stay
Pro tip: Nessie may be good at evading cameras but bring one with you just in case. The views are exquisite, and you never know what you might find!
While they’ve made their way into American cereal boxes and as sports mascots, leprechauns have a long, rich history in Ireland. Known as the Faerie Folk, leprechauns are rumored to be members of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a mythical tribe in another world who invaded Ireland and were banished to live underground. Legend tells of a trickster two to three feet tall; quick-witted, intelligent and will do anything to evade capture by humans.
Known for their love of Irish music and dance, leprechauns are expert musicians and shoemakers by trade. They are so in love with dancing, in fact, that they always need new shoes. It’s believed that if you manage to capture a leprechaun, they’ll grant you three wishes.
Leprechauns are said to love their drink, so you can start your search in Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse, home to the worldwide beloved Guinness beer made up of only four ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. The Storehouse has seven floors that each offer a unique experience, including the Tasting Experience where you can enjoy the complexity of this rich stout and the Brewers’ Dining Hall which offers traditional Irish food and an open kitchen inspired by 18th and 19th century Irish dining rooms.
If you don’t spot a leprechaun in the city, then head on out to the countryside. Leprechauns are said to live in rural areas away from the general population, so try your luck at the Irish Cliffs of Moher where scenes from Star Wars: The Last Jedi were filmed. The cliffs offer a breathtaking view facing the Atlantic Ocean and are a haven for wildlife, with over twenty species of protected seabirds calling it home. Just be careful near the edge because leprechauns are known for their trickery!
Places to Eat
Chasing leprechauns can certainly make you work up an appetite, and luckily (!) there are two wonderful restaurants close to the Irish Cliffs of Moher. Stonecutter’s Kitchen is not open in the winter so be sure to visit in one of the other seasons.
Places to Stay
Vaughan’s Anchor Inn is both a lovely lodging choice as well as a five-star restaurant. And you’re in luck (there we go again) – an excellent Irish cafeteria is on site at the cliffs if you prefer a truly casual dining experience.
Let the Search Begin
Folklore abounds in places near and far. From tracking Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest to searching for mischievous leprechauns in Ireland, folklore is sure to inspire adventure and enjoyment for just about any kind of traveler. And regardless of what you’re looking to find, VacationRenter can help you plan and book the perfect stay!