Thanks to the ancient Greek myth of King Minos, Theseus, and the Minotaur, labyrinths and mazes have been seared into human culture. (We’re especially grateful for David Bowie’s 1986 film “Labyrinth.”) But life-size mazes aren’t limited to the realm of stories. There are thousands of winding pathways around the world that are perfect for a leisurely – or frustrating – day of wandering. Here, we pick eight of the best mazes in the world that you can visit.
Longleat, Warminster, United Kingdom
Located between Salisbury and Bath in the English countryside, the stately Longleat house is the seat of the Marquesses of Bath—and a major tourist attraction. On its grounds are the first safari park outside Africa, as well as 1,000 acres of parkland designed by famed landscape architect Capability Brown. The seventh (and current) Marquess of Bath, Alexander Thynn, installed several labyrinths and mazes on the property, including the one shown here.
Leeds Castle, Maidstone, United Kingdom
Also in the English countryside is the historic Leeds Castle, which was first mentioned in writing in 1086. Home to six medieval queens, and also Henry VIII’s (first) wife Catherine of Aragon, the castle sits on 500 acres of parkland and gardens. In 1988 a maze comprising 2,400 yew trees was planted. Once visitors get to the middle of the maze, they exit through an underground grotto filled with sculptures of mythical creatures.
Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze, Wahiawa, Hawaii
Quite a ways from the U.K. is Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Garden Maze on the island of Oahu. The three-acre maze was declared the largest in the world in 2008, and is one of the U.S.’s only permanent botanical mazes. It features over 2.5 miles of paths between 14,000 Hawaiian plants.
Hampton Court, Molesey, United Kingdom
In 1926 historian Ernest Law declared, “It is the most famous Maze in the history of the world, and immeasurably the one most visited.” The iconic maze at the historic Hampton Court Palace was commissioned by William III around the year 1700 and designed by George London and Henry Wise. Though only a third of an acre in size, it is the U.K.’s oldest surviving maze.
Villa Pisani Labirinto, Stra, Italy
The maze at the grand Villa Pisani near Venice actually predates the villa itself, being designed by architect Girolamo Frigimelica de’ Roberti prior to the home’s construction. Napoleon seized the villa in 1807, and it’s rumored that even he wandered the maze—and got lost in it.
Peace Maze, Castlewellan, United Kingdom
Northern Ireland is home to Castlewellan Castle, on whose grounds is the three-acre Peace Maze. The goal here is simple—get to the center and ring the bell. Prior to the Dole Plantation’s maze being planted, the Peace Maze was the world’s largest permanent maze.
Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Unlike the majority of mazes on this list, Ashcombe isn’t tied to a castle or villa. Rather it’s located on the grounds of a cattle and sheep farm. Today the land has been dedicated to gardens and includes a 40-year-old hedge maze and a lavender labyrinth.
The Maze at Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
The resplendent summer palace of the Habsburgs does, of course, have a proper hedge maze. Originally planted around 1720, the first maze was cleared in 1892 after years of neglect. In 1999, however, the maze was reborn, planted on the same plan as the original.