9 of the World’s Coolest Mazes You Can Visit

The Longleat hedge maze
The Longleat hedge maze
Niki Odolphie, Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

It’s one of the most memorable scenes in film history: an ax-wielding Jack Nicholson chasing his son through a hedge maze outside the Overlook Hotel during the climax of 1980’s The Shining. But the building that inspired the Overlook (and the Shining story in general)—the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado—never actually had a hedge maze until 2015, when its owners finally gave in to public expectations and installed one. Visitors expecting the towering greenery of the film will be disappointed, however—the Stanley’s maze is only three feet high, to prevent children from getting lost, let alone attacked by psychos.

Hedge mazes have been a fixture of imposing estates for centuries, and have more recently been joined by corn mazes, straw mazes, and other confusing adventures in vegetation. Below, a selection of the most interesting and eye-catching from around the world.

1. Longleat Maze, Warminster, Wiltshire, England


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Constructed from more than 16,000 English yews, the maze at Longleat is the longest hedge maze in the world, stretching for close to 1.7 miles. It’s part of 8000 acres that have belonged to the various Marquesses of Bath since the 16th century, 900 of which were beautified by famed landscape designer Lancelot “Capability” Brown (so nicknamed for his tendency to describe landscapes as having “great capabilities”). The estate also now includes a Safari Park, said to be the first outside Africa, as well as three smaller garden mazes.

2. Masone Labyrinth, Parma, Italy

The Masone Labyrinth
The Masone Labyrinth
Labirinto della Masone

The world’s largest maze, the Masone Labyrinth, is located in an Italian town better known for giving the world Parmesan cheese. It’s also the result of a dare, made between Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci and author Jorge Luis Borges after Ricci declared he wanted to build the world’s largest maze and Borges said it couldn’t be done.

The star-shaped maze, which opened in May 2015, was constructed using 200,000 bamboo plants and stretches for 20 acres. The septuagenarian Ricci used fast-growing bamboo, as opposed to more traditional trees and shrubs, so he could see the maze completed before his death.

3. Andrássy Castle, Tiszadob, Hungary


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Located along the Tisza River near the Hungarian-Slovakian border, the hedge maze at the Andrássy Castle is supposed to resemble a squid. The castle itself was constructed in the 19th century for Count Gyula Andrássy, complete with the boxwood maze decorated by yew trees.

4. Dole Pineapple Maze, Wahiawa, Hawaii

Aerial view of Dole Plantation's Pineapple Garden Maze
Aerial view of Dole Plantation's Pineapple Garden Maze
slobo/iStock via Getty Images

The world’s largest permanent maze until the Masone Labyrinth came along, the Pineapple Maze at the Dole Plantation includes 14,000 varieties of Hawaiian vegetation (many deliciously fragrant) crafted into two-and-a-half miles of paths. Not surprisingly, there’s a pineapple at the center, as well as eight “secret stations” and awards for those who travel through it the fastest.

5. Villa Pisani Labyrinth, Stra, Italy

The labyrinth at Villa Pisani
The labyrinth at Villa Pisani
Patrick Denker, Wikimedia // CC BY 2.0

Often said to be the most difficult maze in the world, the Villa Pisani labyrinth is also among the most photogenic—and the most historic, having been constructed in 1720. Even Napoleon tried to complete it, after he seized the estate in 1807. (Rumor has it that Napoleon was stumped by the winding paths and their many perplexing dead ends, and he gave up.) Hitler and Mussolini also had their first official meeting at the villa, but had other things on their minds besides mazes. Visitors who successfully navigate the labyrinth are rewarded with lovely views from an 18th-century turret.

6. Richardson Corn Maze, Spring Grove, Illinois


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The world’s largest corn maze involves not one, but four, separate “a-maize-ing” mazes inside 28 acres of live corn. The design is rebuilt each year—2018's celebrated the bicentennial of the state of Illinois. The maze is also part of an adventure farm that features rides, treats, and of course, a gift shop.

7. Peace Maze, Castlewellan, Ireland


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At 2.7 acres, Northern Ireland’s Peace Maze is one of the largest permanent mazes in the world. It also has one of the coolest backstories—it was planted in 2000 to celebrate the signing of the Good Friday agreement and the end of the region’s “Troubles.” The hedge height is lower than normal for mazes, in order to encourage interaction while the maze is completed. The maze has two halves, and completing the maze requires crossing both. Those who finish are encouraged to ring the “Peace Bell” in the center.

8. Ashcombe Maze, Victoria, Australia


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The unique soft textures of Australia’s Ashcombe Maze are provided by more than 1000 Monterey cypress trees, maintained with careful trimming several times a year (each trimming session lasts an entire month). Visitors must traverse two halves, each with a separate layout, and there are no straight lines anywhere in the maze. The grounds also boast a lavender labyrinth constructed out of more than 4000 lavender plants—which sounds like one of the most relaxing places in the world to get lost.

9. Hampton Court Palace Maze, Surrey, U

Commissioned by William III around 1700, the Hampton Court Palace Maze is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the United Kingdom. Its original hornbeam has been replaced by holly and yew, but that hasn’t made it any less difficult—it’s known as a puzzle maze, and has a reputation for being devilishly difficult to complete. Supposedly, the key is to turn left on entering, and then stay to the left, even through the apparent dead ends.

This list first ran in 2016 and was republished in 2019.

Eagle Creek's Durable Caldera Line of Suitcases Can Digitally Track Your Travels

Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek's Caldera line of bags comes in both black and green.
Eagle Creek

I always have a little anxiety when I check a suitcase for a flight. What if it gets damaged, or worse—lost?

Eagle Creek is taking on both challenges with its new Caldera line of suitcases. Thanks to a polycarbonate back shell and a body made of recycled Cordura poly that is tear-, abrasion-, and water-resistant, the bags are lightweight but tough.

They’re also full of smart details: reflective, water-resistant zippers; a proprietary system that keeps the handle from being crushed; personalizable rubber side handles; side straps with aluminum hardware that can be tucked away; and a “coat keeper” that allows you to secure your coat to the top of the bag as you’re rolling through the airport.

The Eagle Creek Caldera Wheeled Duffel.
The Eagle Creek Caldera's "coat keeper" in action.
Eagle Creek

But the thing that really got me excited about the Caldera line is TripSync. Each bag in the Caldera line is equipped with an NFC chip that allows you to report your bag if it’s lost and tracks your trips for a cool digital reminder of where you've been.

Eagle Creek sent me the 100-liter wheeled duffel to test, and I brought it along with me on a trip to Israel. I wasn’t able to check out TripSync (which was still in beta at the time of my trip) but here’s how it works: First, if your phone requires it, download an app that will read the NFC chip. Then, hold your phone near the luggage tag, which will launch a video describing the features of your bag and how to care for it. (There’s also a handy diagram that will tell you which Eagle Creek packing cubes you need, and the way to orient them, to get the most space out of your bag.)

After the video, you’ll sign up for an account. Don’t forget to register your bag—it’s the only way you can report it as lost if it goes missing. You may also need to adjust your settings to allow TripSync to get your location so it can accurately track your travel.

Before you check your bag or hop on the plane, scan your bag and make sure you’re logged in, then click “start trip.” After that, you’ll need to scan your bag and click “add stop” or “end trip” to log your travels. (These steps are important—the bag isn’t actively being tracked by GPS, so trip length is based on the points you log and determined by “the most direct path between the points,” according to Eagle Creek’s website. “The total miles traveled between each point you create become your total miles traveled for that one trip.”)

If you need to report your bag lost, you do so by logging in and clicking the “report lost” button. When someone finds the bag, all they need to do is scan it with their phone to contact you; none of your information will be revealed. When your bag is back in your hands, you can mark it as found.

Eagle Creek Caldera luggage.
If your bag gets lost, whoever finds it just has to tap their smartphone on the ID tag and you'll be contacted.
Eagle Creek

Though I wasn’t able to try TripSync, I was still impressed by the physical features of the bag. The bag is durable as promised, and spacious—I had plenty of room for everything I wanted to bring, with space to spare for souvenirs. (The suitcase is also expandable via a zipper, but I didn’t have to use that feature this time.) Thanks to the sturdy handle and rugged wheels, the bag handled great both empty and when it was fully loaded, both on smooth streets and uneven terrain. And as a person who struggles with what to do with her coat when wheeling all of her luggage through the airport, I found the coat keeper to be especially helpful. I can’t wait to take the bag on another trip to try out TripSync for myself.

If you’re not in the market for a carry-on or checked suitcase, Eagle Creek also has a Caldera backpack as well as a convertible bag that can be both worn as a backpack and rolled like a traditional carry-on suitcase.

The bags come in black and green; they start at $279 for the backpack and go up to $569 for the four-wheeled 100L model. You can buy them on EagleCreek.com.

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10 Enchanting Places That Align with the Vernal Equinox

A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On Thursday, March 19, the vernal equinox heralded the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Ancient civilizations built calendars and observatories to track the movements of the stars and mark this monumental time. Now, people still partake in a variety of traditions and rituals to honor the day when light and dark become equal. To take your celestial celebrations to the next level, here are 10 places that align with the spring equinox.

1. On the vernal equinox, a massive snake appears on the temple at Chichen Itza.

Legend says that on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Maya city of Chichen Itza receives an otherworldly visitor: Kukulcan, the feathered serpent deity. On these days, a shadowy snake slithers down the side of the god's namesake pyramid. As the temple darkens, a single strip of light stretches from the top of the northern staircase to the snake head resting at the bottom, creating the illusion of a wriggling reptile.

2. A beam of light illuminates a petroglyph within Arizona’s Boulder House each vernal equinox.

The Boulder House in Scottsdale, Arizona, looks like a strange home wedged amid a jumble of rocks. But it’s actually a modern house built around a sacred Native American site. The Empie family, who bought the parcel of desert land in the 1980s, commissioned architect Charles Johnson to transform the cluster of 1.6-billion-year-old boulders into a functional house. Johnson crafted a unique structure, incorporating the rocks into the house’s foundation and preserving the prehistoric carvings. On the equinox, sunlight pierces between two boulders in the unusual abode, striking a spiral petroglyph on the wall to create a dazzling piece of home decor.

3. On the vernal equinox, a group of Moai on Easter Island stare directly at the sunset.

Seven Moai gaze face toward the horizon
On the equinox, these Moai stare directly at the setting sun.
abriendomundo/iStock via Getty Images

People aren’t the only ones who pause to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon on the first day of spring. On Easter Island, at a sacred site called Ahu Akivi, a line of seven Moai—the island’s giant, mysterious heads—gaze directly at the point at which the sun sets in the sky on the equinox.

4. Each vernal equinox, light drenches a petroglyph-filled cairn at Loughcrew.

The hills of Loughcrew, one of Ireland’s four main passage tomb sites, are crowned by 5000-year-old megalithic structures. At dawn on the equinox, sunlight fills Cairn T, a passage tomb carved with astoundingly well-preserved examples of Neolithic art. As the light dissolves the darkness, the cup marks that dimple its walls and the symbols adorning its back stones blaze into view. The illumination lasts for about 50 minutes, giving observers ample time to take turns squeezing into the cairn.

5. On the vernal equinox, light streams through one of the Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples.

The Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples on Malta’s southern coast are archaeological wonders. They were built between 3600 and 2500 BCE and are believed to be among the world’s oldest freestanding stone buildings. Not much is known about the people who created these megalithic masterpieces, though it’s clear they constructed one of the temples with an eye to the heavens. On the equinox, the sun streams through the South Temple’s main doorway, flooding the structure’s major axis with light.

6. On the vernal equinox, the sun sits directly atop the main temple at Angkor Wat.

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat would be a magical experience any day. Crowds hush as colorful hues paint the world’s largest religious structure with a gilded glow. Dawn at Angkor Wat is even more special on the equinoxes. Then, the sun rises behind the main temple before briefly seeming to balance on its tip like a fiery halo.

7. On the spring equinox, the sun rises through the entrance to Stonehenge Aotearoa.

Stonehenge has inspired replicas around the globe—including as far away as New Zealand. Stonehenge Aotearoa, which opened in 2005, was built by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. The structure is an astronomical tool for observing the local skies, and blends modern astronomy with ancient starlore. If you stand in the center of the circle on the Southern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, you can watch the sun rise directly through the Sun Gate, two carved pillars that flank the entrance to the henge.

8. The shadow of the intihuatana at Machu Picchu disappears at noon on the equinox.

A curious stone structure stands atop a temple at Machu Picchu. It’s one of the rare surviving intihuatanas that wasn’t demolished by the Spanish conquistadors. This “hitching post of the sun” is believed to have been an astronomical tool. At noon on the equinox, the granite pillar’s shadow briefly vanishes. Unfortunately, the invaluable object now looks a bit battered. In 2000, a crane toppled into the intihuatana during the filming of a beer commercial, smashing part of it.

9. At sunrise on the spring equinox, the sun bursts through the door of a temple at Dzibilchaltún.

Sunrise at Dzibilchaltún
Each equinox, the sun appears within the door of the Temple of the Seven Dolls.
renatamsousa/iStock via Getty Images

Though now reduced to a medley of ruins dotting the jungle, Dzibilchaltún was once the longest continually inhabited Maya administrative and ceremonial city. The star attraction here is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a building named for the mysterious human-like figures discovered inside. At dawn on the equinox, the sun shines through the temple’s main door. It’s believed the sacred structure was aligned with the equinoxes to mark the beginning of the planting season and the end of the harvesting season.

10. The 'Woodhenge' at the Cahokia Mounds aligns with the sunrise on the equinox.

During the Mississippian cultural period, Cahokia's population exceeded that of London. In addition to giant pyramids, the North American city also featured circles of wooden posts, since dubbed “Woodhenge.” The wooden markers were likely used to track the sun’s movements. One of the posts aligns with the equinoxes, as well as with the front of Monks Mound. On sunrise on the equinox, it looks as though the sun is emerging from the enigmatic earthwork.

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