Story Setting Ideas for Writers: Fantastic Places Make for Fantastic Tales

Updated on January 8, 2018
ControlledChaos1 profile image

I've been a small time traveler for years and always seem to find a treasure trove of inspiration for stories I write.

Heaphy Beach, Buller District, West Coast, New Zealand
Heaphy Beach, Buller District, West Coast, New Zealand | Source

Cool Story Settings Are Just As Important As Characters

Coming up with a good story setting for your character's fable to take place in is just as important (some would say more important) than the story or character itself. Can a story be written without a cool place as a setting? Sure, it can, but why would you want to. Memorable and unique surroundings will give your entire world more depth and something your audience can relate to. In my opinion it is a vital part to the whole.

Because of the nature of this list, I'm sure they'll be people who visit who are looking for travel or vacation ideas and advice instead of writing ideas, and that's perfectly fine. They're likely to find lots of great suggestions for natural and man-made wonders as well as roadside attractions and unusual places. Just keep in mind that I'm making this lens from the point of view of a writer, with the express purpose of story improvement.

Although you're likely to find lots of places you'd like to visit before you die, this article is in essence an idea lens, not an information lens. I've kept the destination info to a minimum, so I can fit as many places as I can on the list. It's going to be up to you to delve deeper into the place you're interested in to see if you want to use it in your story or experience it in your life. Thanks for visiting and keep on writing.

Abandoned Places Make For Great Settings

Cool Places To Visit - Story Setting Ideas For Your Tale

Abiod Valley (Algeria): A lush, green river running through a barren and desolate landscape.

Ahaggar Mountains (Algeria): Some of the oldest rocks in Africa.

Aland Islands (Finland): Isands emerging from the sea.

Amalfi Coast (Italy): Lots of unique and unusual multi-colored towns can be found in the Campania region.

Amazon River (Brazil): Got its name from the explorer, Francisco de Orellana who said him and his soldiers had to do battle with fierce female warriors.

Angel Falls (Venezuela): Tallest uninterrupted waterfall.

Annapurna (Nepal): Realm of the gods.

Antarctica: What secrets will be revealed as the ice melts?

Arches National Park (U.S. - Utah): These arches will eventually disappear due to erosion.

Ashford Castle: A medieval castle that has been turned into a 5 star luxury hotel in the Republic of Ireland. Lots of things to do.

Assal Lake (Djibouti): Ten times saltier than the ocean, which means bodies float easily.

Atlantic Ocean Road (Averoy, Norway): The waves of the Norwegian Sea often crash over the pavement during storms; a favorite of motorcyclists.

Ayers Rock (Australia): Also called Uluru by the Aboriginal. The best time to see it is after a rainstorm.

Badenweiler (Germany): A luxury health resort at the edge of the Black Forest.

Badlands (U.S. - South Dakota): A popular fossil hunting ground. Any story dealing with dinosaurs will find this destination useful.

Balancing Rocks (Zimbabwe): The rocks near the township of Epworth are some of the oldest on the entire planet; think what stories they could tell if they could talk.

Bam Bam Amphitheaters (Gabon): Remote African cliffs topped off by grasslands and surrounded by dense rain forests.

Baradla Caves (Hungary – Czechoslovakia): The cave system stretches across the two countries and at times has concerts held in them.

Basel (Switzerland): Contains more museums than any other city in Europe.

Bell Witch Cave (Adams, Tennessee): This 500 foot long cave is quite spooky.

Benbulbin (Ireland): An ancient dwelling place of great warrior-heroes during the third century A.D. called the Fianna.

Gorton Creek Oregon
Gorton Creek Oregon | Source

Big Sur (U.S. California): Delicate ripples of sand cover this Pacific shore line.

Black Rock Desert (Nevada): Amazing scenery and shimmering geysers are just about everywhere you go in this dry environment.

Body Farm (Knoxville, Tennessee): If you're driving a little outside of Knoxville near the University of Tennessee and think you smell someone grilling on the BBQ, think again... that's not what you smell. This research facility focuses on decomposition.

Bug Carousel (Bronx, New York): The Bronx Zoo has a wonderful carousel made up entirely of bugs. It even has sliding glass doors to keep it open in Winter.

Bryce Canyon (U.S. – Utah): Depending on the time of day, weather and which season it is; you'll see amazing, seemingly ever changing colors.

Cabrini Green (U.S. - Chicago): A Chicago Housing Authority public housing project. Once home to 15,000 people. Over the years, gang violence and neglect created terrible living conditions.

Canyon of the Black Gunnison (U.S. - Colorado): Deep, narrow and shadowed on the bottom. A great setting for any movie or story.

Cape Hatteras (U.S. – North Carolina): A beautiful and fragile landmass at the mercy of the relentless oceans that will likely be gone in a few decades.

Caspian Sea (Iran - Russia): Rivers flow in, but they don't flow out.

Cathedral Grove (Canada - British Columbia): Mild winters and lots of rain make for amazing dense forests of green that one can lose their breath over.

Cat Island (Japan): Tashirojima Island has a very low human population, but is dominated by thousands of feral felines.

Causeway to Osea Island (Essex, East England): Completely covered at high tide; trapping anyone on the wrong side. Can be seen in the film "The Woman In Black."

Chiker Caves (Morocco): A well known cavern with an underground lake. Heavy rains will cause most passageways to flood.

Child Eater of Bern (Bern, Switzerland): Built in 1546, it is one of the oldest fountains in the city. No one knows why someone would make a sculpture of a giant eating a sack of babies.

Cliffs of Étretat (France): These cliffs have been the focus of and inspiration to many well-known artists and writers.

Cliffs of Mesa Verde (Colorado): Explore the homes of the Pueblo Indians who made these cliff houses over 800 years ago.

Cliffs of Moen (Denmark): The sea is constantly changing these chalk cliffs by taking a bit each time they pound against them.

Congo River (Central Africa): Also known as the Zaire.

Constantine (Algeria): Often called the “City of Bridges” due to the bridges that connect the mountains that the city is built upon.

Crater Lake (U.S. – Oregon): The deepest lake in the United States.

Craters of the Moon (U.S. – Idaho): A desolate place created by volcanic activity.

Crystal Lagoon (Chile): The world’s largest man-made outdoor swimming pool.

Burning Man 2016

Burning Man is an annual gathering that takes place each year in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. A temporary city is erected and fun is had by all with a focus on community and art. The event has been held every year since 1986 with most of them being in Black Rock.

Choose Places That Are Located Off the Beaten Path

Try making a list of truly out of the way attractions or destinations, then make a travel plan. The key is to leave yourself room (and time) to explore the surrounding area as well as what is on your list. This little trick can work for a story or a real life vacation. Perfect for people who like to take road trips, but not random road trips.

Footbridge at Poplar DLR Station in London, England
Footbridge at Poplar DLR Station in London, England | Source

Unique and Memorable Places To Pay a Visit To

Danube River (Central Europe): Stretching from the Black Forest to the Black Sea this river touches eight countries and has been a huge part in the history of Europe.

Dead Sea (Israel – Jordan): Several memorable historical events have happened here.

Death Valley (U.S. – California): Known as Tomesha (ground afire) to the local Native Americans.

Dells of Wisconsin (U.S. – Wisconsin): Tall mushroom shaped sandstone formations topped with green.

Devils Tower (U.S. - Wyoming): Well known from the climactic scene from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Door To Hell (Turkmenistan): A cavern that was lit on fire back in 1971 to burn off the natural gas. As of 2013 the hole is still burning.

Drach Caves (Spain): Has a number of subterranean lakes. This setting would work so well in the horror genre.

Dragon Gate (China): A section of the Yellow River that really shows off the surrounding country.

Eisriesenwelt (Austria): World of the Ice Giants. The largest permanently ice-filled cave in the world.

Erg of Bilma (Chad - Niger): A sandy expanse of magnificent dunes.

Everglades (U.S. – Florida): Because it is so flat (and wet), even the slightest elevation differences result in noticeable changes in scenery.

Fingal's Cave (U.K. - Scotland): A grotto whose walls are composed of column after column of basalt.

Four Corners (U.S.): A place where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet.

Fujiyama (Japan): This volcanoes base is made up of even older volcanoes.

Ganges Delta (Bangladesh – India): Houses sit on high mounds of mud to keep them safe during the flood season.

Giant’s Causeway (U.K. – Northern Ireland): An amazing mass of basaltic columns extending out into the sea.

Great Wall of China (China): With a few repairs and reinforcing here and there, it could still be used for defense to this very day.

Grotta di Nettuno (Italy – Sardinia): The “Cave of Neptune” is a flooded cave that is often seen by boat.

Grotto of Adonis (Lebanon): Said to be the place where Adonis was killed.

Gulf of Kotar (Yugoslavia): Beyond the entrance are spectacular deepwater bays surrounded by steep mountain slopes.

Hammam-Meskoutine (Algeria): Arabic for "Baths of the Damned."

Heaven : I wonder if you'd get bored after a while if you were always totally satisfied.

Hell: You'd probably only want to visit for short periods of time.

Himalayas (Asia): The Sanskrit name means "abode of the snow."

Hong Kong (China): One of the world's most densely populated cities and as a result is a huge vertical city.

Huacachina (Peru): A village oasis built in the middle of vast sand dunes.

Hunlen Falls (Canada - British Columbia): Water falls uninterrupted at seven times the height of Niagara.

Cheap Vacation Ideas

We all come from someplace and some of those places can be pretty interesting.

Unusual Vacations Can Provide A Perfect Place For A Good Story

Iguazu Falls (Argentina - Brazil): A series of 200 waterfalls that look best when viewed during a full moon.

Itabirito (Brazil): A mountain made up of almost pure iron.

Jal Mahal Palace (India): A beautiful palace located right in the middle of Man Sagar Lake.

Jewel Cave (U.S. - South Dakota): Walls lined with glistening minerals.

Jigokudani Hot Springs (Japan): The Valley of Hell.

Kaieteur Falls (Guyana): A solid wall of water (due to heavy rainfall) drops more than 300 feet.

Karni Mata, Temple of Rats (Deshnoke, India): Rats right at home.

Lake Baikal (Russia): The world's deepest lake at 5,300 plus feet deep.

Lake Kivu (Rwanda - Zaire): A beautiful area where volcanoes are still shaping its shoreline.

Lakes of Killarney (Ireland): Lowlands of lush forests exists due to a mild climate and the protection from cold winds by the surrounding hills.

Lake of Lucerne (Switzerland): Rich in history and celebrated for its picturesque beauty.

Las Marismas (Spain): “The Marshes” must be seen from above to be appreciated.

Leviathan Cave (Kenya): A magnificent flattened circular lava tube.

Loch Morar (U.K. - Scotland): Deepest lake in all of the British Isles.

Machu Picchu (Cuzco Region, Peru): The most recognized icon associated with the Inca civilization.

Maletsunyane Falls (Lesotho): Silence falls over the area when winter comes.

Malta (Northern Ireland): Where Game of Thrones is shooting.

Mammoth Cave (U.S. – Kentucky): Longest cave in the world.

Matsushima Bay (Japan): Islands resembling bonsai on solid rock bases is what draws visitors here.

Meteora (Greece): Giant rock towers crowned with ancient monasteries.

Mir Mine (Eastern Siberia, Russia): A wide open pit diamond mine with a depth of over 1,700 feet deep.

Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park (Caribbean - Grenada): An incredible thing to see.

Monument Valley (U.S. – Arizona – Utah): Flatlands and sandstone pillars give people an opportunity to celebrate the old Southwest.

Moorea (French Polynesia): A Pacific island paradise.

Moskenesoy (Norway): Norwegian scenery at its finest.

Strange Destination Ideas

Places To Go When You Need To Get Away

Mount Ararat (Turkey): Resting place of Noah's ark?

Mount Cook (New Zealand): The highest peak on the island country. The native Maoris call it Aorangi (cloud piercer).

Mount Erebus (Antarctica): A live volcano amongst the ice.

Nefta (Tunisia): The oasis is a welcome site for weary travelers.

Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania): Well known for its wildlife.

Nile River (East Africa): The longest river in the world.

Nine Mile Canyon (Utah, U.S.): Tens of thousands of petroglyphs can be seen on “the world’s longest art gallery”.

Northern Territory Rivers (Australia): Saltwater crocodile populations are thriving in rivers such as the Adelaide, Mary and Daly Rivers.

Odense (Denmark): Birthplace of Hans-Chriten Anderson.

Old Man of Hoy (U.K. - Scotland): The lighthouse without a light.

Olympus (Greece): The highest peak in Greece is actually one of the world's younger mountains.

Pancake Rocks (New Zealand): Sits on the western edge of the Paparoa National Park, blowholes also included.

Pamir (Central Asia): “The roof of the world” is a harsh mountainous region seldom seen by outsiders, but worth the trek.

Pamukkale Thermal Pools (Turkey): Fantastic rock formations that look like ice or snow.

Petra (Jordan): Seen in the Indiana Jones movie "The Last Crusade."

Petrified Forest (U.S. – Arizona): Largest collection of petrified wood in the world.

Pfeiffer Beach (Big Sur – California): Purple beaches are the main draw.

Pobitite Kamani (Bulgaria): These natural (?) rock formations made up of hollow stone columns make for a wonderful travel destination.

Pompeii (Italy): Mount Vesuvius may have destroyed it, but it also preserved it.

Prachov Rocks (Czechoslovakia): A heavily forested area with clusters of rock formations that resemble buildings, animals and people scattered throughout.

Pyramids of Giza (Egypt): The only ancient of the 7 Wonders still left.

Rainbow Bridge (Utah): According to legend, it was formed when a rainbow turned into stone.

Red Deer Badlands (Canada – Alberta): Barren, inhospitable and beautiful.

Rhine River (Northern Europe): It’s name is derived from the word rein, which means “pure.” An amazing place to set your story or movie in.

Rift Valley (East Africa – Southwest Asia): A reminder of just how incredibly powerful Mother Nature can really be.

Rocks of Caldera (Chile): Stone with their interiors hollowed out and honeycomb cavities.

Ross Ice Shelf (Antarctica): Ninety percent lies below the surface of the ocean.

Karni Mata - Temple of Rats

An Unforgettable Story Setting Is Key - More Memorable Destinations For Your Short Story Ideas

San Andreas Fault (U.S. – California): A wound in the earth that never heals.

Simpson Desert (Australia): Areas of green vegetation upon a bed of deep red sand.

Stone Mountain (U.S. – Georgia): A mountain of granite virtually devoid of vegetation.

Tikal (Guatemala): An ancient city abruptly abandoned by the Mayans.

Tuscany (Central Italy): A region known for its landscapes, traditions, history and its permanent influence on high culture.

Vale of Kashmir (India): A remote mountain valley high in the Himalayas once housing Mongul emperors.

Valle de la Luna (Argentina): The rock formations are what make the “Valley of the Moon” so amazing.

Valley of Desolation (South Africa): Nothing exists here except huge rock formations reaching for the sky.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (U.S. – Alaska): This ash-filled valley is up to 700 ft deep in some places.

Venice (Italy): Built on 118 islands and a series of waterways, this amazing city may eventually be swallowed up by the rivers.

Vesuvius (Italy): The volcano that buried Pompeii.

Warrens’ Occult Museum (Monroe, Connecticut): Haunted artifacts by the same people featured in the movie “The Conjuring”.

White Sands National Monument (U.S. - New Mexico): The name says it all.

Wreck Beach (Vancouver, Canada): One of the oldest clothing optional beaches in the country, of course at it's warmest, temperatures barely reach the upper sixties.

Yunnan Rock Forest (China): The giant limestone rocks are the trees.

Zen Garden of Kyoto (Japan): A very old zen rock garden that becomes more beautiful the quieter it is.

Travel Idea - Paris, France - There's a reason it's a top vacation travel destination.

Although this video shows only ten popular Paris destinations, you can really do yourself a favor by researching twenty or thirty more. I always like to find up to fifty cool places per country or state. Variety is the key. You'll likely find something that not many other people know about.

Another strategy is not to research a destination at all. Go there with the intentions of getting lost and finding things on your own, just keep in mind that there is some risk with this method of thinking.

© 2013 Don

Have any suggestions on interesting places to visit (or places you have visited)? - Vacation and travel ideas are welcome as long as they're interesting.

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    • tipen2985 profile image

      Tina Pendleton 5 months ago from USA

      Great suggestion.

    • profile image

      tiffany 9 months ago

      Any time I pick a setting for a story I like to pick out sites in the city or town that are not on everyone's list (this is a good strategy when actually traveling as well). You'll find all kinds of hidden destinations if you are willing to go off the beaten path and get local suggestions instead of only looking at a travel guide or listening to a travel agent.

    • profile image

      Killer Croc 20 months ago

      I once did the art for a comic which took place at the Karni Mata Temple in India (the one with all the rats). Even though the story was never published, I still have the artwork for it. It would've have looked amazing in color.

      This was the first time I really had to concentrate on the setting in a story with such focus. Ever since then, I have tried to build up my skills at drawing places, because it makes my artwork look even better.

    • profile image

      TinaH 3 years ago

      I once used the above ground cemeteries of New Orleans as a story setting for a comedy I filmed back in college. Graveyard settings don't have to be used for only scary stories.

    • profile image

      Ben10 3 years ago

      I'm not really a well known author, but I do love to write short fiction. The importance of a good story setting can't be overemphasized enough. Ideas don't seem to come as easy as people think to writers, so lists like these are quite helpful. Short stories can seem so much more interesting when the writer uses an exotic or esoteric location.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 3 years ago

      All these are cool and interesting places. I personally would like to see Himalayas! It would be a memorable trip, no doubt about that!

    • ControlledChaos1 profile image

      Don 4 years ago from Tennessee

      @Merrci: People don't realize that the setting in which your story takes place can take on a life of its own, especially if it's an interesting place.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Love your list! It instantly brings to mind ideas for mysteries. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Montego Bay was a lot of fun. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Great writing suggestions!