Misty Pine Forest
The woods are a tranquil place, but can be scary for a lone wanderer. Out here, you could suddenly find yourself running from the big bad wolf, escaping a witch's clutches, or just plain old lost. Though often in the old stories, scary places like this are also where the hero overcomes a great obstacle or finds a valuable treasure. Could you be in luck?
The spindly pine forests of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, shown here, are the setting for many traditional tales of evil spirits and spells. But even if you don't believe in all that magic stuff, a forest can still feel enchanted when twilight bathes the misty air. Just don't lose your way out here…
北奥塞梯-阿兰共和国的一片墓地，俄罗斯 Necropolis near Dargavs, North Ossetia, Russia (© Yakov Oskanov/Shutterstock)
Necropolis Near Dargavs
Be glad we're merely paying a virtual visit to this 'City of the Dead' outside Dargavs, Russia. Local folklore warns that if you set foot here, you won't escape with your life. We're not sure the dead pose such a mortal danger, but what's certain is that this is a dead-quiet village. These vaulted-roof huts are not homes—they're crypts.
Were you here, you might peer into the sole window of any of these huts and see the inhabitants, some entombed with their earthly possessions, others laid to rest in rowboats to paddle into the afterlife. Many of the remains are preserved unsettlingly well—and they more than outnumber you. In use from at least the 16th to 18th centuries, this necropolis is populated by about 10,000 departed ancestors.
Spooked enough yet? If not, try today's quiz about cemeteries, tombstones, and other grave matters…if you dare.
It's not too late to pick up a pumpkin to add some Halloween flair to your doorstep. Although pumpkins are grown across the country, most of the 2 billion pounds produced in the US come from five states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. While California grows the most pumpkins headed for the jack-o'-lantern market, Illinois wins in poundage, though, most of its crop ends up as pie filling or other processed products—perhaps even your pumpkin spice latte?
And while we're talking orange orbs, what is a pumpkin exactly? You might think they're vegetables, but botanists say they're the fruit of pumpkin vines. They're considered fruit because pumpkins contain seeds and grow from the same part of the plant that produces flowers. Whether you opt to consume or carve, we invite you to enjoy this fruit of the spookiest season!
A red fox stalks the Black Forest
Even in the most flattering daylight, foxes somehow always seem up to no good. Not to mention when they're spotted slinking up a fallen tree in a dank, shadowy Black Forest in Germany. These cunning canids get away with a lot just by being cute, don't you think?
That mischievous twinkle in a fox's eye hasn't gone unnoticed by countless cultures around the world. Most fox myths venerate the critter as a trickster or even a shapeshifter who outfoxes larger, meaner foes like lions and bears. But the fox is said to sometimes hoodwink humans too…so keep your wits about you while wandering the wilderness.
Does this crossing carry a curse?
You've heard of a bridge over troubled waters, but what if the bridge is troubled too? Legend tells of a Bulgarian stonemason, Dimitar, who was tasked with solving a bridge problem here in the early 1500s. Dimitar was hired to construct a crossing that wouldn't collapse into the rushing Arda river, as had all previous spans in this strange spot.
How could Dimitar build a bridge to beat all the others? By making a deal with the devil, of course. As one version of the story goes, Lucifer impelled Dimitar to encase his wife's shadow in the stonework, which imbued the bridge with supernatural strength against the rapids. The diabolical catch? Trapping her shadow meant she was doomed to death once construction was completed. Dimitar finished the bridge in 40 days, and his wife died shortly after.
Dyavolski Most (Devil's Bridge) in the Rhodope Mountains of southern Bulgaria stands tall to this day as proof of Dimitar's deadly pact. Or could it be, perhaps, that Dimitar was just a really good stonemason? Five centuries on, it's all water under the bridge…
This 'fingerprint' is one of a kind
Of the 1,246 islands on Croatia's fragmented coast, the unique isle of Bavljenac might be the most identifiable. It's nicknamed 'Fingerprint Island' for its miles of dry-stone walls that look like the whorled ridges of a human fingerprint. The tiny, uninhabited landmass in the Adriatic Sea was once an agricultural center. In the 19th century—the heyday of Croatian wine production— farmers from the nearest populated island built the winding walls on Bavljenac to protect olive trees and grapevines from the winds blowing in from the Adriatic.
Here's looking Atchafalaya
Encompassing 14 Louisiana parishes and over 1.4 million acres, the Atchafalaya Basin is one of the United States' 55 National Heritage Areas, the one they call America's Foreign Country. Bayous, marshes, backwater lakes, and the nation's largest river swamp make up one of the most diverse ecological and cultural landscapes in North America.
The Choctaw people named the area 'long river' or 'hacha falaia.' Over the past four centuries, waves of French, Spanish, African, Acadian, and Caribbean settlers have contributed to the unique Cajun language, cuisine, music, architecture, and storytelling traditions that set this region apart.
The bald cypress trees—seen here draped in Spanish moss—are an iconic part of this incredibly rich ecosystem. Wildlife here includes crawfish, catfish, shrimp, bears, alligators, and over 270 species of birds. The Atchafalaya Basin was recognized as a National Heritage Area (NHA) in 2006. Unlike National Parks, NHAs function as a partnership between residents, local, and federal agencies, that combine private and public lands into more livable and sustainable regions.
These laurels are hardy
Go back 15 million years and you'll find most of Southern Europe looking like this fantasy forest: thick, scrubby underbrush canopied by wizened laurel trees. An epoch or two of human agricultural advances cleared those ancient woods, but patches persist on a few temperate Atlantic islands—Especially here on Madeira, a Portuguese-held island off northwest Africa.
The Fanal Forest, at almost 60 square miles, is the largest surviving laurel forest in the world. Ninety percent of the forest's growth remains uncut, and some of these long-in-the-root laurels have stood for 500 years.
A Welsh wonder turns 70
Here on the west coast of Great Britain, we're enjoying views of the windswept uplands and jagged peaks that surround the small village of Capel Curig in the heart of Snowdonia National Park. Renowned for its rugged and mountainous landscape, Snowdonia is the largest national park in Wales and home to over 26,000 people—and even more sheep—the wooly farm animals outnumber people three to one in Wales. About 60% of the park's population speak Welsh, one of Europe's oldest languages, and today they will be wishing this spectacular setting a 'pen-blwydd hapus' (happy birthday) as Snowdonia celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Established on October 18, 1951 as the first national park in Wales, Snowdonia boasts nine mountain ranges that cover just over half the park's 823 square miles. Its most popular peak is Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in the local Welsh tongue), the tallest mountain in Wales and England, which you can see in the background of our photo. At 3,560 feet, Snowdon is one of 15 mountains within the park that top 3,000 feet, and they're clustered close enough together to make it possible to reach all 15 summits within 24 hours, a challenge known as the Welsh 3000s.