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Your Outdoor Passion Meets Your Disney Fandom At These Locations

Did you know many of the settings for Disney movies are based on real places? From German castles to Peruvian jungles, the animators have drawn (literally) inspiration from locations all over the world.

Here are eight Disney movie “sets” you can actually visit. Which one do you most want to see?

Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Angkor Wat

Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia

The world’s largest religious monument was originally built in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu, but eventually became the Buddhist temple it is today. When Disney decided to make a movie about the lost city of Atlantis, the directors wanted the setting to look like an ancient civilization that was ahead of its time. That’s why the animators chose to model their drawings in part after Angkor Wat, which is such a symbol of Cambodia that it even appears on the country’s flag. Website: tourismcambodia.com

(Photo by Paul Szewczyk on Unsplash)

Beauty and the Beast: Alsace

Location: Grand Est, France

This stunning storybook village, located along the upper Rhine, has an incredible history dating back to 1500 BC. Alsace was part of the Holy Roman Empire before being annexed by France during the 17th century. Today, it offers visitors many beautiful sights and monuments, cycling, a wine route, and a popular Christmas market. You almost expect to see Belle wandering the streets with her nose in a book. Website: tourisme-alsace.com

(Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash)

The Emperor’s New Groove: Machu Picchu

Location: Cusco Region, Peru

This mountaintop city is the ultimate icon of Inca civilization. Historians believe it was built around 1450, during the reign of Inca ruler Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui. Since its discovery in 1911, as many as 400,000 tourists a year have visited this New Wonder of the World, including Disney animators looking for inspiration for peasant Pacha’s hillside village. (It’s worth noting the movie’s emperor, Kuzco, is clearly named after the region where Machu Picchu is located!) Website: peru-machu-picchu.com

(Photo by Lee Scarratt on Unsplash)

The Little Mermaid: Chateau de Chillon

Location: Veytaux, Switzerland

Chillon Castle sits on the shore of Lake Geneva. Construction began in the 12th century; over the years, the castle has served as a palace, fortress, prison, and arsenal. Today, it’s a historic site that has delighted generations of visitors. It was even the inspiration for Prince Eric’s seaside castle in The Little Mermaid. Website: chillon.ch

(Photo by Thijs Kennis on Unsplash)

Mulan: Forbidden City

Location: Beijing, China

More than five centuries’ worth of Chinese emperors ruled from this imperial palace. While “The Ballad of Mulan,” the poem on which the movie is based, was written centuries before construction of the Forbidden City, it’s easy to see where Disney animators got their inspiration for the Emperor’s home. (Hey, they’re allowed to take a little creative license, right?) Website: theforbiddencity.org

(Photo by Rafik Wahba on Unsplash)

Sleeping Beauty: Neuschwanstein Castle

Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Once the palace of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, this stunning German castle is now one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing about 1.4 million people a year. Walt Disney reportedly visited in the 1950s, while Disneyland was still under construction, and was so blown away that he modeled Sleeping Beauty’s castle, in both the park and the 1959 movie, after the structure. Website: neuschwanstein.de/

(Photo by Lanju Fotografie on Unsplash)

Tangled: Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Location: Normandy, France

This stunning French castle is notable for its location. It’s situated on an island about 600 meters from the coast; visitors can walk to it at low tide, but when the water rises, the castle is cut off from the mainland. Naturally, this allowed Mont Saint-Michel to go unconquered in times of conflict, including during the Hundred Years’ War. More than 3 million people visit the inspiration for Rapunzel’s castle every year. Website: ot-montsaintmichel.com

(Photo by Norbu GYACHUNG on Unsplash)

Up: Angel Falls

Location: Bolívar State, Venezuela

Salto Ángel is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall. It’s named for American pilot Jimmie Angel, who in 1933 became the first person to fly over the falls. Although Angel Falls is one of Venezuela’s most popular tourist attractions, reaching it is difficult, as it’s located among some of the country’s most rugged mountains and jungle. Angel Falls appears in Up as Paradise Falls, the attraction Carl hopes to visit. Website: salto-angel.com

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