Ten of the world's most enchanting forests

Travel News from Stuff - 26-12-2022 stuff.co.nz
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Forests appear in folklore and legend as mysterious places of refuge, transformation and adventure, and a walk through a forest still provides a special enchantment.

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Fourteenth-century outlaw Robin Hood supposedly lived in Sherwood Forest with his Merry Men, and robbed the passing rich to help the poor. The forest is real enough: a former royal hunting reserve and one of few remaining medieval forests in Britain, full of giant oak trees. You can walk, mountain bike and attend music concerts here, happily without fear of being by waylaid by bandits. See

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This rugged peninsula in the Kumano Mountains south of Osaka is cut through by the ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrim trail and dotted with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Join pilgrims and hike through tea plantations and cedar forest. Lie on meditation logs along the way to contemplate the mysteries of Shintoism. In the shivering forest's silence, the only sound your footsteps, nature-worship seems apt. See

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These hills, once dense with dark pine forest, are full of legends of ghosts and goblins, and became famous after the Brothers Grimm produced their 1812 fairy tales, in which the forest appears as a land of magic and transformation, peopled with characters such as Snow White and Rapunzel. These days, the Black Forest features rolling farmland, small lakes and forest patches through which hiking trails meander. See

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Monkeys lope through this forest near Ubud in central Bali, and at night insects and frogs chirrup. The forest is considered sacred: a symbol of the harmonious interaction of humans with nature, and important to spiritual wellbeing. Small temples hunker under the trees, where ancestral spirits are believed to wander. Some trees are considered holy, and their wood is used to make traditional Balinese masks. See

Myths set in this legendary French forest first appeared in twelfth-century chronicles. It notably features in Arthurian romance stories and is said to hide the magical fountain and tomb of the wizard Merlin. Château de Comper has a museum dedicated to King Arthur; the adjacent lake supposedly conceals a crystal fairy palace. Walkers will come across ancient megalithic sites, beautiful groves and cottages scarcely changed in centuries. See

This national park in Northern California protects the tallest trees on Earth. Numerous Native American groups have historical ties here, and traditionally used the redwood for building canoes and houses, thus transferring the spiritual power of the trees to their homes, which are considered to be alive and protected by guardian totems. The famous Tall Tree Grove, reached on a half-day hike, feels like nature's cathedral. See

Australia's largest rainforest in tropical north Queensland provides a shadowy home for pythons, cassowaries and tree kangaroos. The landscape combines rugged mountains and gorges with waterfalls. There has been rainforest here for 160 million years, the world's oldest, and the Kuku Yalanji people consider it of great cultural and spiritual significance. Their stories of this ancient land date back 40,000 years: among the world's oldest forest legends. See

Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan Province, where valleys cup stunning lakes and waterfalls surrounded by hills dense in trees and bamboo, is the last haunt of wild pandas. Autumn is fantastic, when birch, sycamore and hornbeam turn orange and yellow. Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups believe the lakes and forests are home to spirits, a goddess and sleeping dragons. Jiuzhaigou is also a movie setting for fantastical martial-arts epics. See

The planet's last significant coastal temperate rainforest is characterised by its giant cedar trees, towering Sitka spruce and abundant wildlife, including bears, wolves, deer and cougars. The T'simshian people consider the rare white Kermode bear sacred. Hiking here is a primordial and atmospheric experience, enhanced if you take a forest-bathing tour on which you'll learn to tune into the forest environment's soothing power. See

Many African communities revere the boab for its protruding root system and broad spread of branches, a symbol of knowledge or family. The boab forest of western Madagascar is a national monument; some trees are 800 years old. Two of the boabs, twisted together, are said to represent star-crossed lovers from opposing villages: another example of how forests are associated with myths and legends. See

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