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
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.
Himeji Castle – Japan
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.
Arg-e-Bam Castle – Iran
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.
Castillo de Chapultepec – Mexico
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
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.
Jagat Niwas Palace – India
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.
Hearst Castle – United States
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.
Read more about castles around the world:
- The 12 Most Beautiful Castles in Europe
- Castles of the Loire Valley
- 6 Coolest Castles in Spain
- 6 Creepy Castles Around the World
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