7 Great Castles That Are Not in Europe

As we saw in a recent Bootsnall feature, many of the world’s most beautiful castles are in Europe. Turret and moat lovers needn’t despair, because unique castles that are just as gorgeous as their European counterparts can be found throughout the world. Here are some really beautiful castles that are not in Europe.

Krak des Chevaliers – Syria

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A gorgeous limestone fortress built between the mid-12th and late 13th centuries, the Krak des Chevaliers is a true gem here in rural western Syria. Given the many different tribes and cultures that have mixed throughout the ages in this part of the world, it is no surprise the castle is heavily fortified with massive outer walls and deep moats. The interiors are far less imposing and feature attractive gothic colonnades with Latin inscriptions, winding corridors, and a tiny Romanesque chapel which was converted into a mosque in the early 1700s. You can easily reach the castle via a day trip from Hama, Homs, or Tartus.

>> Find airfare to Damascus and book adventure tours in Syria

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Himeji Castle – Japan

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Commonly called the “White Heron Castle” by the Japanese due to its blinding white plaster walls, many say this is the most stunning castle in Japan. The building, constructed in the early 1300s, is actually a collection of 83 wooden buildings, and the plaster acts as a fireproofing mechanism. Overall, the castle is very well preserved – including the towers, ramparts, and earthen walls – due to the fact that it has escaped injury in any of the major wars. The interiors are a labyrinth of passageways and corridors – a defensive instrument in origin, but a complication to tourists today. Visiting the castle in Himeji City is a quick and easy day trip from Kyoto.

>> Find hotels in Tokyo and learn how to save money in Japan

Arg-e-Bam Castle – Iran

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This citadel was once one of the largest adobe buildings in the world until it was significantly damaged by an earthquake in 2003. The main fortress is surrounded by large walls that could be closed off from outside attackers; inside were gardens, wells, and other amenities allowed the village to remain self-sufficient for quite some time. The complex was somewhat technologically advanced for its time; for example, some buildings had vents which passed air through ‘wind-catchers’ that used water to cool the air and remove dust. It remains unknown why the castle was completely abandoned in 1850. You can reach Bam via bus or air from Tehran.

>> Find airfare to Tehran and book Iran adventure trips

Castillo de Chapultepec – Mexico

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Chapultepec Castle towers over Mexico City atop a hill in a park of the same name, the former site of an Aztec fortress. Built in 1784, its original purpose was a country house for the military leaders of Spain. Trading hands several times, the structure was bought by the government of Mexico City in 1806 and was subsequently a military academy, a science observatory, a official residence of the President, and now finally it has been declared by law as the seat of the National Museum of History. The interiors feature grandiose staircases and plush dining rooms. Stop in during your next visit to Mexico City; the venue is free on Sundays but closed on Mondays.

>> Find airfare to Mexico and read about eco-adventures in Mexico

Chateau Frontenac – Canada

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Quebec City is one of Canada’s most gorgeous cities, and the colorful walls of this castle are a relatively young entry on our list, opened in 1893. The building is a hotel, tourist attraction, a city landmark, and has three restaurants. The rooms in the hotel are all different shapes and sizes, but each retains furnishings true to the original style including elegant marble bathrooms and high-end regal furnishings. The hotel is often visited by royalty and film stars; its historical claim to fame was the setting for the Quebec Conferences of WWII. If you stay here during your visit to Quebec, don’t discount the lower priced rooms – any view from this hilltop is charming.

>> Find airfare to Montreal and book hotels in Canada

Jagat Niwas Palace – India

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As a royal residence and movie backdrop, Udaipur’s Jagat Niwas or “Lake Palace” has seen plenty of action since its construction, which finished in 1746. Udaipur is a castle-lover’s dream come true, as there is also the city palace, just as gorgeous as the one in the lake, as well as the Fateh Prakash Palace, which is another hotel. Each of these is a product of the Rajputs, a centuries-long ruling family who controlled much of northern India during their reign. The Rajput palaces are known for their ornate architecture, picture-postcard facades, and often quite well appointed interiors. Udaipur can be reached via air services from Delhi, Jaipur, and Mumbai. Express railway service is also now available from Delhi and Jaipur.

>> Book domestic flights in India and learn about temples in India

Hearst Castle – United States

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Surprisingly, there are literally hundreds of castle-like buildings in America, making it difficult to choose unless you’re interested in a specific region. Hearst Castle, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the California coast, is certainly one of the best. Perched atop a hill, it has unparalleled sea views and the location provided the Hearst family with much privacy. The castle highlight is the Neptune Pool, a swimming pool that was rebuilt three times to suit William Hearst’s taste; the ancient Roman temple next to it is not a replica but was instead bought in Italy and shipped to California. The castle has an incredible 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms, not to mention the world’s largest private zoo, airstrip, and movie theater. The estate’s elaborate building plan was slowed by Hearst’s exacting standards, and he died before the castle complex was finished.

>> Find tickets to San Francisco and find hotels in Los Angeles

Read more about castles around the world:

Photo credits:
Syria by Ai@ce on Flickr , Himeji by kevin (iapetus) on Flickr, Bam Castle from Wikicommons, Chapultec by Señor Lebowski on Flickr, Frontenac by Mario Groleau photo on Flickr, Lake Palace by nborun on Flickr, Hearst by sophie_pr on Flickr

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Older comments on 7 Great Castles That Are Not in Europe

Mia McCroskey
22 June 2009

That photo of Bam Castle makes we want to buy a ticket to Iran right now — perhaps not the most prudent course of action… But something about those smoothe adobe walls, the starkness of the crenelations and the searing blue sky pulled me in the moment I scrolled down to it. Thanks for the mental holiday!

Ian Rose
24 June 2009

Despite loving European castles, I’ve never been to any of these. That just won’t stand.

Don S
08 July 2009

Great start on the castles. You might add the Maiden’s Castle on the Med coast of Turkey; the little Qasr al-Azraq (T.E. Lawrence stayed here)in Jordan; and Saladin’s castle in Syria, which is said to be better even than Krac des Chevaliers. It’s cheaper to travel in these countries than in Europe.

Kerryah
09 July 2009

I loved Kerak and Shobak, both Crusader castles in Jordan, also Ajlun, built by Saladin’s nephew. Azraq is great, Roman in origin, and the other so-called Desert Castles in the desert east of Amman, though mostly inns and/or hunting lodges, are well worth visiting on a day trip from the capital.