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7 most captivating mazes in the world
You don't need to head into the bowels of a strange city to get lost -- plenty of well maintained gardens offer that opportunity
Getting lost doesn't have to be scary -- it can be entertaining.
Mazes have fascinated designers since Cretans and Egyptians invented the first labyrinths thousands of years ago.
The garden maze emerged in Britain and France during the Renaissance and now modern maze-makers are creating puzzle paths out of mirrors and other hard materials as well as cutting them into cornfields and hedges.
Here’s a selection of the oldest, the newest, the loveliest and most notorious.
1. Hampton Court, England
For Londoners, this palace maze on the Thames just outside the city is a rite of passage, the place their parents brought them as children to test their orientation skills.
Commissioned around 1700, it’s the oldest surviving hedge maze in the United Kingdom, and the first designed to positively puzzle with a host of unexpected turns and dead ends.
In 2005, spooky sounds were added in an audio installation designed to heighten the experience of getting lost.
Fragments of music, laughter and whispered conversations echo down the paths, and even follow visitors onto the benches at the center, which have been made touch-sensitive.
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, England; www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace
2. Davis Mega Mystery Maze, United States
Given that mazes are inherently mysterious, investing one with a murder experience seems a stroke of genius.
Visitors trying to navigate the Davis Mega Mystery Maze also have to hunt down suspects and interrogate them en route.
And this is a physical as well as a cerebral challenge; the maze features a zip-line, rope course and double-decker bridge as well as the usual twists and turns.
This cornfield maze in Sterling, Massachussets claims to be the most complex of a new breed of “adventure” mazes, and is perhaps also the most high-tech, with Wi-Fi hotspots installed to enable those who bring their iPads or GPS devices to help find their way.
To encourage repeat visits, the solution to the murder is changed every day.
145 Redstone Hill, Sterling, MA, United States; www.davisfarmland.com
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3. Il Labirinto Stra, Italy
Everyone gets lost in Venice, but you can do it in a more structured way in Stra, just outside the city limits.
Here, the labyrinth of the Villa Pisani, created in 1720, has a rep for being the most difficult in the world to solve. Even Napoleon was floored by the challenge.
Part of the problem is the height. The hedges, which form nine concentric rings, are too high for anyone to peek over.
You get a perfect view only once you’ve figured your way through to the center and ascended a spiral staircase to a turret.
Fight your way out again to enjoy the beautiful 18th century palazzo overlooking a canal.
Villa Pisani National Museum, Via Doge Pisani 7, Stra, Italy; www.villapisani.beniculturali.it
4. The Tangled Maze, Australia
This one is a rather feminine maze, made of thousands of climbers and flowering shrubs.
So visitors trying to find their way through this path at the top of Victoria’s Great Dividing Range will be soothed -- and possibly thrown off course -- by the captivating scent of roses, including some ancient varieties dating back to Roman times.
Unlike your basic hedge maze, this one comes with seasonal variations -- ornamental grapes in autumn ring the changes with clematis and wisteria in the Australian spring.
It took four years of dedicated work by the horticulturists who own the maze to grow it tall and full enough to be fit to open to the public.
2301 Midland Hwy, Springmount ,Victoria, Australia; www.tangledmaze.com.au
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5. Fortress of No Hope, Japan
The maze aimed at kids claims to be the world's toughest.
Fuji-Q Highland theme park opened the Fortress of No Hope in July this year with a mission statement to make it impossible for visitors to figure out an escape route within the allotted 30 minutes.
This is an indoor maze constructed in the spirit of a video game -- visitors progress from simple to simply baffling levels of difficulty, encountering new invisible doors and other clues if they’re lucky.
Not to be confused with the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear in the same park, which despite the name, is a haunted mansion.
5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara. Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan; www.fujiq.jp/en/
6. Green Man Maze, Wales
Mazes have a mystical quality, so it’s fitting that this one was created in the shape of the world’s best-known pagan symbol.
It’s attached to Penpont, a mansion that has been in the same family since 1966, and was commissioned from a local artist to celebrate the Millennium.
Paths lined in beech and yew are said to be laid out “over an underlying grid of sacred geometry” and are punctuated with pools, secret gardens, lavender banks, tunnels and sculpted benches.
At the end is a wishing stone -- what else in a land famously steeped in magic and mystery?
Penpont, Brecon Beacons, Powys, Wales; www.penpont.com
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7. Dole Plantation Pineapple Maze, Hawaii, United States
This fragrantly fruity maze on the north shore of Oahu has twice claimed a Guiness World Record as the world’s largest.
It’s made of 14,000 native plants, including hibiscus, heliconia and pineapples, as well as the croton which shapes the giant pineapple motif at its center.
Unlike most puzzle paths, in which simply finding a solution is the reward, this one actually promises prizes to the fastest finishers, who also get their names emblazoned for posterity at the maze entrance.
The record time for solving the maze stands at seven minutes, about an eighth of the time the average visitor takes to complete the challenge.
64-1550 Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, HI, United States; www.dole-plantation.com