Mazes have fascinated humans for thousands of years. The earliest recorded maze, dating to the fifth century BCE in ancient Egypt, was more of a labyrinth — a single, winding path designed as a spiritual journey rather than to confuse. During the Middle Ages, mazes started to be created as a way to amuse, typically in elaborate royal gardens. Today, you’ll find many mazes around the world where you can leave your map and GPS behind and have fun trying to solve the puzzle. Here are seven of the planet’s coolest mazes to visit.
Peace Maze – Castlewellan, Northern Ireland
The 2.7-acre Peace Maze — one of the world’s largest permanent hedge mazes — was planted in 2000 to celebrate the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which marked the end of 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland (known as the “Troubles”). Featuring one of Europe’s most picturesque shrub and tree collections, the maze comprises 6,000 yew trees, planted by people from all over Northern Ireland. Today, maze lovers arrive from across the globe to walk the two halves of the maze, both of which must be crossed to finish — a total journey which typically takes about 40 minutes. Once completed, maze-goers can ring the “Peace Bell” at the center. The maze is located in Castlewellan Forest Park; for a small entrance fee, visitors can not only explore the maze but also a peaceful lake, a majestic Victorian castle, and scenic walking trails.
Longleat Maze – Warminster, England
Located in the Longleat Safari and Adventure Park, Longleat Maze winds for over 1.5 miles and is made of more than 16,000 English yew trees. The goal of the maze is to find the central observation tower and then make your way back out. Depending on your skills, it could take as little as 20 minutes or up to 90 minutes to do so. The maze — the largest in Great Britain — was created in 1978, when Alexander Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath, decided to add it to Longleat Estate, which includes the Elizabethan-era Longleaf House. After checking out the maze, visitors can embark on walking and drive-through safaris to spot animals such as monkeys, cheetahs, giraffes, and elephants.
Villa Pisani Labyrinth – Stra, Italy
When thinking about Venice, many travelers envision the Italian city’s enchanting canals, but about 20 miles west of the city center is the 38,750-square-foot labyrinth at Villa Pisani in Stra. Created in 1720, the labyrinth has a reputation for being one of the world’s most challenging mazes and is said to have even stumped Napoleon. The challenging nature of the maze is mainly due to the hedges that reach so high that they are impossible to see over after entering the maze. The maze follows a classic medieval circular path with numerous dead ends and nine concentric repeating patterns. A small tower lies at the center that’s topped by a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, which can be accessed via a spiral staircase providing a magnificent view of the palazzo.
Andrassy Castle Maze – Tiszadob, Hungary
Located at Andrassy Castle in northeast Hungary, near the border with Slovakia, this maze was built in conjunction with the spectacular neo-Gothic castle in the late 1800s upon the order of the first Prime Minister of Hungary, Count Gyula Andrass. Set within a beautiful 20-acre park bordered by yew trees, the hedges are interwoven in a unique medieval lily-shaped boxwood labyrinth that resembles a squid from above. After completing the maze, visitors can also tour the castle and gardens.
Chartres Labyrinth – Chartres, France
Unlike the other mazes on this list, the Chartres Labyrinth — located about 50 miles southwest of Paris — is fully indoors. One of the oldest mazes in Europe, it is located in the nave of the grand Chartres Cathedral that dates to the early 13th century, when monks used it for meditation and contemplation. Today, the maze draws pilgrims from all corners of the globe who follow the path for a meditative experience. The labyrinth is only open on Fridays from the beginning of Lent through All Saint’s Day on November 1. The 11 circles within the labyrinth represent sin — walking it to the center is said to be what humans must do on Earth to reach the afterlife, taking the journey from sin to redemption.
Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze – Wahiawa, Hawaii
Once the holder of the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest maze on the planet, the Pineapple Garden Maze at Dole Plantation covers more than three acres and includes nearly 2.5 miles of pathways created by 14,000 native Hawaiian plants. Pineapples, heliconia, hibiscus, and other flora are all centered around a huge pineapple made from croton, a type of flowering plant. Prizes are given to those who can finish the maze in the fastest amount of time — it takes an average of 36 minutes to complete, but the record time is currently just seven minutes. The free Dole Plantation app will automatically track your time and the maze stations that you find. Afterwards, be sure to explore the historic pineapple plantation on Oahu’s north shore with a Pineapple Express train tour.
Richardson Corn Maze – Spring Grove, Illinois
The Richardson Corn Maze bills itself as the world’s largest corn maze, featuring four separate mazes that are nestled within 28 acres of corn crops. Part of the Richardson Adventure Farm north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin border, the maze debuted in 2001 and is rebuilt every year in a new design. The 2022 theme revolved around James Bond. Visitors to the farm can also enjoy a giant slide, an observation tower with an aerial view of the maze, and tasty treats like fudge and doughnuts made on-site.