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Story Setting Ideas for Writers: Cool Places for Fantastic Stories

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Heaphy Beach, Buller District, West Coast, New Zealand

Heaphy Beach, Buller District, West Coast, New Zealand

What Is A Story Setting?

Coming up with a list of cool places for your story to be set in should be one of the early exercises you do as a writer. If you can write a story and decide on an interesting setting, a lot of the work for creating something unique will have already been done because you'll have to make your story fit the surroundings. The place your character lives in is just as important as the story or character itself, and unique surroundings will give your world more depth and something your audience can relate to.

Because of the nature of this list, I'm sure they'll be people dropping in who are just looking for fun places to visit instead of writing ideas. The good news is that you'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 this article is from the point of view of a writer, with the express purpose of story improvement.

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.

Burning Man Festival

Burning Man is an annual gathering that takes place each year in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. A make-shift city is set up and fun is had by all with a focus on community and art. The event has mostly been held every year since 1986 and usually in Black Rock. It's a very cool place to visit as long as you don't mind diverse crowds and diverse lifestyles. While 2022 was a "bit" different due to the Coronavirus, I'm hoping things quickly go back to the way they were.

Cool Places to Visit: Story Setting Ideas for Your Tale

  • Abandoned Water Park (River County - Orlando, Florida): This was Disney World's first water park and a favorite for urban explorers. Just keep in mind that when you explore without permission, there's a possibility of getting arrested.
  • Abiod Valley (Algeria): A river running through a barren and desolate landscape.
  • Ahaggar Mountains (Algeria): Some of the oldest rocks in Africa.
  • Aland Islands (Finland): Islands 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 he and his soldiers had to do battle with fierce female warriors.
  • Angel Falls (Venezuela): Tallest uninterrupted waterfall on the planet.
  • Annapurna (Nepal): Realm of the gods. Wonderfully beautiful lands to explore.
  • Antarctica: Stark contrast is what you'll find here unless you wear white. What secrets will be revealed as the ice melts?
  • Arches National Park (U.S. - Utah): Eroding stone arches against an epic skyline.
  • 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

More Story Setting Examples

  • Big Sur (U.S. California): Delicate ripples of sand cover this Pacific shoreline.
  • Black Rock Desert (Nevada): Amazing scenery and shimmering geysers are just about everywhere you go in this dry environment.
  • Body Farm (Knoxville, Tennessee): This research facility helps criminal investigators by doing research on how a body decomposes over time.
  • 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.

Abandoned Places Make for Great Settings

Footbridge at Poplar DLR Station in London, England

Footbridge at Poplar DLR Station in London, England

Unique and Memorable Places to Visit

  • Danube River (Central Europe): Stretching from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, this river touches eight countries and has always been a staple 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 end 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 2019, 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.): The only place in the U.S. where four states meet. Be in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado all at once.
  • 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 stone formations 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.
  • Griffith Observatory's Tesla Coil (Los Angeles, California): This coil has been on display since 1937 and always puts on a light show.
  • 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 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 , vertical cities.
  • 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 Equal Good Story Ideas

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 beautifully ornate 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): A barren landscape known as the "Valley of Hell."
  • Kaieteur Falls (Guyana): A solid wall of water (due to heavy rainfall) that drops more than 300 feet.
  • Karni Mata, Temple of Rats (Deshnoke, India): Rats right at home here.
  • Lake Baikal (Russia): The world's deepest lake at 5,300+ 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): A magical place 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 (Mediterranean): This is where the Game of Thrones TV show was shot.
  • 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.

Dangerous Travel Destination Ideas?

Places to Go When You Need to Get Away

  • Mount Ararat (Turkey): Thought to be one of the possible resting places 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): This 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): Absolutely amazing rock formations that actually 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): Its 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 of this land mass 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): An active wound in the earth that never seems to heal.
  • Simpson Desert (Australia): Areas of green vegetation on a bed of 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 that once played host to Mongol 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): This is the volcano that wiped the city of Pompeii from the face of the earth.
  • 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 60s.
  • 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.

Cool Places For Stories: Japan (A Truly Unique Place to Visit)

Tips for Choosing That Perfect Destination or Setting for Your Adventure

  • Amazingly unique destinations are especially vital to road trip stories, as the destination has to be worth what you'll put your character through to get there.
  • Every story, no matter how small has a setting and will play a key role in your tale at some point; don't just gloss over it.

Some Simple Story Settings

  • Tattoo shops have a lot of ambiance and character.
  • Cornfields are a great way to cause confusion and fear.

© 2013 Don

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

Don (author) from Tennessee on April 12, 2018:

At GreatMemer,

Thanks for catching that, the change has been made. The only thing I can figure is that I was researching so many amazing cities and countries that I got them mixed up.

TheGreatMemer on April 12, 2018:

Malta is in the Mediterranean not Northern Ireland.

Tina Pendleton from USA on August 22, 2017:

Great suggestion.

tiffany on April 11, 2017:

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.

Killer Croc on May 22, 2016:

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.

TinaH on October 31, 2014:

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.

Ben10 on October 31, 2014:

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.

Takkhis on March 06, 2014:

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

Don (author) from Tennessee on January 09, 2014:

@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.

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on December 17, 2013:

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

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

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

RinchenChodron on April 25, 2013:

Great writing suggestions!