Fairytale Locations: 5 Places That Helped Inspire Disney Movies

15 August 2014

The magic of Disney and Disney-Pixar films has been felt across generations, but where do these incredibly creative people source some of the inspiration for their movies? From the world's equally majestic natural and man-made places, of course.

Travelling the world to seek out the fairytale locations that inspired your favourite Disney movies is a fantastic form of themed travel for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to experience the incredible countries and cultures that accompany these landmarks. And secondly, there's a good chance you'll recapture that child-like awe you first experienced when seeing their big-screen representations.

 Neuschwanstein Castle is a great place to take your own prince charming or princess

Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavaria, Germany

Sitting high atop a rugged hill overlooking a quaint village, Neuschwanstein Castle looks exactly like the sort of place where princes and princesses would overcome evil and fall in love. With its Neo-Romanesque architecture, interior decorations that pay homage to German legends, luxurious furnishings and impressive towers, it's a joy to visit year-round.

The original owner, Ludwig II, ensured that beauty remained an important part of Neuschwanstein Castle, and it was this fantastical appearance that led to it inspiring the Royal Palace in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Today, you can follow in the footsteps of Ludwig and the 61 million-plus people who have visited the Castle since his death, by exploring the completed rooms.

 The trek to Machu Picchu can be an epic adventure through the Inca Trail

Machu Picchu – Cusco, Peru

Plenty of people know of or have visited the 15th-Century ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu and can attest to its mystical ambience. The surrounding mountains, and its historic stone architecture and unique views have made visiting this area a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, what a lot of visitors fail to realise is that Machu Picchu inspired the design of Pacha's village in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove.

To reach Machu Picchu, you can embark on a multi-day journey through the Inca Trail, an incredible adventure in its own right that involves trekking through jungles and tunnels, along with overnight camping. Once you arrive, you're free to explore the area at your own pace, discovering its various popular features such as the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Condor and the Intihuatana – the names alone invoke an adventurous spirit!

 Angel Falls delivers a display of natural beauty like nowhere else in the world

Angel Falls – Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Reaching a height of 979 metres, Angel Falls is a trul breathtakying sight and anyone who lays eyes upon this natural marvel might find themselves picturing a house being placed on top. Yep, you guessed it – Angel Falls was given a fictional representation in Disney-Pixar's Up. If the image of 'Paradise Falls' seemed too good to be true, you seriously need to visit the real life version.

Although Angel Falls is the main event of Canaima National Park, the park itself is just as equally magical, blessed with a collection of mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and savannahs. It's impossible to see all of Canaima in a typical visit, but just witnessing Angel Falls is enough to make forgotten dreams and fantasies resurface.

 The Mont Saint-Michel lights up in a spectacular fashion every night

Mont Saint-Michel – Normandy, France

Driving down the road to Mont Saint-Michel is a fairytale experience that might make you wish you'd swapped your car for a horse-drawn carriage (for immersive purposes of course). The only thing that surpasses seeing this romantic island sanctuary is stepping onto the other side of its ancient walls. Inside, an abundance of historic architecture and impressive buildings await you.

It doesn't take long to understand why Mont Saint-Michel is referred to as 'The Wonder of the Western World'. It has been a place of pilgrimage since the first church was constructed on the island in 709AD. Today, simply walking down the streets, across the ramparts and through the abbey gardens is a somewhat spiritual experience. If you take a step back and marvel it from afar, you may be reminded of another mystical place, the Royal Palace in Disney's Tangled.

 Immerse yourself in the history and grandeur of Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame – Paris, France

Although this one's quite a bit more obvious than the others, there's nothing less impressive about Notre-Dame de Paris (Notre-Dame for short). No points for guessing it features heavily in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame – that's way too easy! Since its construction was finished in the 14th Century, Paris' world-famous church has attracted millions of visitors.

It takes a surprisingly long time to walk around the outside, with your neck craned skyward as you marvel at the intricate sculptures (yes, there are stone gargoyles). Inside, the church runs as usual, holding regular worship services, concerts and shows. You can also meet with a priest or scale the interior towers to admire the church's upper areas.

Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.