What’s the recipe for a perfect mobile game? Shanghai-based developer miHoYo found the golden ticket to a successful game with three key ingredients: lore, character design, and worldbuilding.
Begin with a premise straight from a JRPG with an interdimensional Traveler on a search for their missing sibling. Next, get the player attached to a beautifully designed set of characters, each with their own detailed backstories.
Last but not least, send your players out to travel through the scenery of Teyvat, a strange world not so different from our own.
This combination of factors is the secret behind Genshin Impact, a free-to-play open-world RPG that’s been called a Breath of the Wild clone. The game is known for its crushing gacha system that made upwards of $15 million within its first 6 months of existence.
But before you get mad about in-game gambling, let’s take a step back and look at the locations in Teyvat that make Genshin Impact worth coming back to for 18.6 million players — and the real-world places that inspired them. These locations in Genshin Impact have such a close resemblance to real-life locations that you can even take photos in Teyvat with your characters and match it with a photo of yourself.
Monstadt Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Starsnatch Cliff: The Isle of Skye, Scotland
Located just outside of Monstadt, Starsnatch Cliff gives players a panoramic view of the ocean all the way to snowy Dragonspine. Its dedicated soundtrack perfectly captures the sense of awe you get when you first make your way to the peak.
It’s easily one of the best places in Teyvat to watch the sunrise and sunset, making it no wonder that the location is known in Monstadt as a popular dating spot.
But Starsnatch Cliff shouldn’t get all the credit. It takes its stunning views from a real-life location in our world.
Though the Genshin Impact‘s team didn’t explicitly share their inspirations for the Monstadt map, it’s easy enough to find the places they based their map on with a bit of geography. The sharp peak of Starsnatch Cliff bears a striking resemblance to the Isle of Skye, an island in Scotland that features the same stony cliff faces and tranquil shoreline surrounding the edge of the Monstadt map.
Monstadt City: Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Face away from the ocean in Starsnatch Cliff and you can see Monstadt City, the main settlement on the first map of Teyvat. The small medieval-style city is located in a lake connected to the rest of the map by a cobblestone bridge.
Monstadt City bears a striking resemblance to Mont-Saint-Michel, the same city that inspired the rather unfortunately named Kingdom of Corona in Tangled (2011).
Despite the lack of a stone bridge connecting it to the mainland, Mont-Saint-Michel shares a lot of similarities with Monstadt’s layout.
The streets of Mont-Saint-Michel also give way to sweeping staircases that lead tourists up to a Gothic church, the same architectural style used for the in-game church. Just like the Church of Favonius, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey commands the very top of the historic settlement.
Dragonspine: Matterhorn, Switzerland
If snow levels are your favorite part of video games, we need to leave Monstadt City and head south toward Dragonspine.
Players who take their first step into Dragonspine will be left in awe of the ethereal vibe of the mountain. But before you end up staying too long in one spot while listening to the soundtrack, remember to light a fire.
Despite its serene atmosphere, the snow-swept paths of Dragonspine feature a sheer cold mechanic that puts a player’s character at risk of dying from hypothermia.
With its imposing size and formidable reputation, Dragonspine might remind you of Mt. Everest at first. The real-world mountain is known for taking more than a few hikers’ lives each year, proving its treacherous beauty. That said, miHoYo made it clear that Mt. Everest wasn’t what they had in mind for Dragonspine.
In Snow-Covered Path, a behind-the-scenes video released by miHoYo, Dragonspine concept artist Bu Yiding shared how they considered several mountains in Europe before settling on the Swiss Alps. This was further narrowed down to Matterhorn due to its imposing peak.
Liyue Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Wangshu Inn: Yangshuo, China
Head South in Teyvat and Wangshu Inn is the first landmark you see when you reach the nation of Liyue. Its whimsical architecture, a traditional Chinese building built on top of a millennia-old tree, is nothing short of attention-grabbing. Its style is reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli film.
Already, we get a sneak peek of everything the Liyue region has in store for us. Rolling plains, winding rivers, and limestone mountains can all be seen from the viewing deck at the top of Wangshu Inn.
The Genshin Impact team dedicated a ton of time and attention to designing Wangshu Inn and the surrounding area of Dihua Marsh. Since it’s the first thing we see in Liyue, the design team wanted to encapsulate the atmosphere of Eastern fantasy to make it entirely distinct from the Monstadt map.
Ziyuan, a member of miHoYo’s art department, had this to say about Wangshu Inn and its inspirations:
“Eastern beauty is about striking a delicate balance — neither overdoing it, nor underdoing it. Aiming to achieve the same balance of content and empty space characteristic of Chinese landscape paintings, we constructed an array of peaks and stone forests in the distance behind that floral sea. The essence of Dihua Marsh we define as follows: vivid, expressive, and free.”
Qingce Village: Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China
If you ask Genshin Impact players what their favorite place in the world of Teyvat is, many of them will tell you it’s Qingce village. Located on the far upper right of the Liyue map, Qingce village is a feast for the senses, combining a breathtaking view of orange and azure rice terraces with what many players agree to be the game’s best soundtracks.
The vivid views of Qingce owe their looks to the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, located in China’s Yunnan Province.
These real-life fields on which Qingce is based are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a landscape photographer’s wet dream. In the summer, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces explode into a symphony of gold and orange tones, which is the version immortalized in Qingce village’s pixels.
Huagang Stone Forest: Zhangjiaje National Forest Park a.k.a Avatar Mountains
Another favorite Teyvat location among players of Genshin Impact, the otherworldy Huagang Stone Forest is home to key locations such as Mt. Aozang, Mt. Hulao, and Jueyun Karst. Its heavenly views, far above the reach of mortal eyes, are enjoyed by its resident “adepti,” the divine guardians of Liyue.
miHoYo, being a Chinese game developer, went all out when designing the map for Liyue with an emphasis on representing Chinese culture through the game’s aesthetics.
In a short 4-minute documentary, Travels Afar, miHoyo’s Environment Art Team Lead explained how their team collected field images of China’s landscape before deciding to use Zhangjiajie National Forest Park for Huagang Stone Forest. Genshin Impact shares this inspiration with Avatar (2009)’s Pandora which is why you’ll see Zhangjiaje National Forest Park be pitched in travel guides as “Avatar Mountains”.
The unique topography of Zhangjiajie features towering sandstone peaks interspersed with a colorful array of pine and maple trees. Scenery concept artist Qiang Ge shared the mystique of Zhanjiajie that lead it to become Huagang Stone Forest:
“The vistas of towering sandstone karst forests leave more room to the imagination due to being shrouded in swirling clouds.”
Looking at the sea of clouds curled around the mountains of Zhangjiajie, it’s not difficult to imagine mythical beasts roaming between its forests.
Mt. Tianheng: Tianmen Mountain, China
Before players can get to Liyue Harbor, they must first pass through the arch of Mt. Tianheng. The expansive mountain covers an area that stretches from one side of the harbor to the next, protecting it in a stony crescent formation.
A long series of stairs lead up to the passage, lined on both sides by golden trees. Walk a little further and you’ll start to hear the Liyue Harbor theme playing as you come closer to the city.
If you thought the steps leading to Liyue were tiring, then you’ll be in awe of its real-world counterpart.
Tianmen Mountain, which is also located in Zhiangjiajie, features a strikingly similar set of stone steps leading to a passage known as the Gate to Heaven. The 99 steps of Tianmen Mountain represent the Emperor, who is thought to be the Son of Heaven to Taoist practitioners.
Liyue Harbor: Hongyadong, China
Liyue Harbor is the beating heart of the Liyue map and serves as the major commercial hub in Teyvat. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki will definitely get Spirited Away vibes while walking up the steps of Feiyun Slope.
While the bathhouse and town of Spirited Away take their inspiration from Jiufen, Taiwan, Liyue Harbor bears more similarities to a newer Chinese location.
Hongyadong, which is located in the municipality of Chongqing, China, features the same iconic stairs from Liyue Harbor. A steep staircase juts out from the main streets of Hongyadong and winds its way up past traditional buildings and into a series of overhead walkways.
Its ancient looks, which stand in stark contrast with modern skyscrapers, are owed to the fact that Hongyadong is ancient.
With a history starting in 1046 BC, Hongyadong was one of China’s first and most developed piers. Just like Liyue Harbor, the pier of Hongyadong would have been a major trading hub in its prime, with hundreds of ships docking each day.
Though Hongyadong sees more traffic from tourists than ships these days, the wooden stilted houses of this historic harbor are still a feast for the imagination.
Luhua Pool: Huanglong River, China
Genshin Impact isn’t shy about flaunting how much their developers like Luhua Pool. Surrounded by high peaks with flat, open spaces, Luhua Pool easily lends itself to being gazed upon.
It’s such a scenic spot in Teyvat that players can pick up a quest to help an NPC named after Johannes Vermeer find his painting materials, which he left scattered around the Luhua Pool area, presumably because he was trying to paint Luhua Pool.
Though the crystalline waters of Luhua Pool appear to come straight from a fantasy book, the views are just as real as the others on this list. Luhua Pool is based on the travertine waterfalls of Huanglong River.
Bu Yiding, Genshin’s environmental concept artist, described Huanglong River as having a “dreamlike essence” that made it ideal for creating an entirely one-of-a-kind location.
The real-life Luhua Pool, Huanglong Nature Reserve, is famed for its rare flora and fauna. The high altitudes of Huanglong are home to pandas, panthers, and even golden monkeys.
The Golden Apple Archipelago Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
The Golden Apple Archipelago map features tropical fauna such as banana tree-like plants. Its cool waters are also dotted with limestone islands that burst abruptly from the depths of the sea – literally. The location is a limited-time map that players can experience every summer. Each year brings changes to the map, but there are some things about the maps we’ve seen so far that are distinctive enough to give us a clue of what they might be based on.
The Limestone Islands of the 1.6 Version Golden Apple Archipelago: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, which is located a few hours from Hanoi, proudly sports the same relaxing vistas that the 1.6 archipelago has. Ha Long Bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its scenic mountainous islands and clear, tranquil waters.
The view and conditions make it a popular destination for a relaxing cruise on a bamboo boat. You know, just like cruising in a skiff in Teyvat’s seas.
Fischl’s Castle in the 2.8 Version Golden Apple Archipelago: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Zoomed out shots of the 2.8 version’s Golden Apple Archipelago give us a full view of Fischl’s castle, a location that later turns out to be a domain where we have to solve puzzles to help Fischl/Amy get through her personal struggles with identity and acceptance.
There’s a decidedly fairytale-like atmosphere to the place that makes it really hard to pin this Genshin Impact location to a real-life place, but its fantastical qualities point towards one real-life counterpart: Neuschwanstein Castle
Admittedly, Neuschwanstein Castle and Fischl’s castle aren’t an exact match in appearance, however, the motivations behind why the real-life castle was built make it the closest match to the fictional one.
Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 1800s by Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. The man was a dreamer with a deep love for fiction. In a letter he wrote to composer Richard Wagner, he talks about building the palace in three years in language that wouldn’t sound out of place in Fischl’s mouth.
“They will take revenge, the desecrated gods, and come to live with Us on the lofty heights, breathing the air of heaven.” The king told Wagner in his letter.
The entire castle is a love letter to fiction. Ludwig was a big fan of Wagner and dedicated entire features of his castle to flights of fancy.
Inazuma Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Tenshukaku: Himeji Castle, Japan
The 1.7 version of the game takes us on a trip to Teyvat’s version of Japan, complete with the country’s historic isolation policy, the Sakoku Edict of 1635. Ruled by the Electro Archon, a goddess known as the Raiden Shogun, Inazuma is closed off to the rest of Teyvat.
But when has that stopped adventure-hungry players?
Tenshukaku, meaning “heavenly protector,” serves as the seat of power of the Raiden Shogun and is the hub of Inazuma’s central government.
Its regal purples complement nicely the flora of its location, which features the famed cherry blossoms of Japan.
Tenshukaku bears a striking resemblance to Himeji Castle. This towering fortress, which is nestled in Kyoto, Japan, was completed in 1609.
Himeji Castle is also known as White Heron Castle, a name inspired by its elegant roofs and white color that remind onlookers of a heron. Despite its name, nothing about the function of Himeji Castle is remotely dainty.
It’s a maze of fortifications littered with defensive features around every turn. Enemy troops assailing Himeji Castle would have found themselves facing a rain of arrows coming down from slits in the walls.
Inazuma City: Kyoto, Japan
lnazuma’s feudal Japan aesthetic would have made it hard to line up with a real-life location if it were based on another country. Fortunately, Japan’s well-preserved historic districts give Genshin Impact fans the opportunity to walk the streets of Inazuma City in real life.
One such district is the famous Gion district, the geisha district of Kyoto. The district is packed with old-fashioned buildings and machiya, traditional Japanese townhouses, that visitors can book stays at on Airbnb.
Certain areas of Gion are also close matches for Inazuma City such as the bridge over the Shirakawa Canal and Tatsumi Bridge which both resemble the one connecting half of Inazuma City to the half where Tenshukaku is located. Tatsumi Bridge even has sakura trees flanking it just like the bridge in Inazuma.
Grand Narukami Shrine: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Japan
Even the least eagle-eyed Traveler won’t be able to miss the obvious nod that Grand Narukami Shrine’s entrance path makes to the torii gate path of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. The real-life shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, and is littered with statues of foxes which are believed to be the god’s messengers.
Asase Shrine: Aoshima Shrine, Japan
Seirai Island is a gloomy place dominated by thunderstorms and purple clouds. The only spot where it looks relatively normal is the area in and around Asase Shrine, an abandoned shrine guarded by a black cat that has designated itself as its guardian. There are other cats on the island that you can take photos with, much like how you can snap photos with the cats of Aoshima, Japan’s famous Cat Island.
Aoshima is a quiet fishing village where cats seem to outnumber people. While other cat islands in Japan exist, the closest one to Asase Shrine is Aoshima given that its own shrine is the spitting image of the one in Asase.
Tatarasuna’s Bioluminescent Beach: Maldives, Puerto Rico, California, Germany, etc.
There are plenty of bioluminescent beaches in our world which makes it no surprise that it would make it into Genshin Impact. There’s a bioluminescent beach at the edge of Tatarasuna, Inazuma that you can teleport to. Head straight to the house that looks like a giant snail shell and set your clock to nighttime to see the faint blue glow of the beach.
If you want to see a bioluminescent beach in real life, you can check out Vaadhoo Island, Maldives, Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico, Pacifica, California, and Helgoland, Germany. Glowing waters can also be found in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, and Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.
Sumeru Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
Sobek Oasis: Ubari Oasis, Libya
Sumeru is by far the toughest map to match to a real-life location because of how fantastical the designs of Sumeru City and the verdant areas of the map are. The deserts of Sumeru, however, are a much simpler task.
If you’re wondering where Nilou’s trailer was filmed, it’s in Sobek Oasis. You can teleport there to snap a photo of your Nilou (or your friend’s Nilou) dancing. If you want to see it for yourself, you’ll have to book a flight to Ubari Oasis in Libya.
Ubari Oasis is a lake dotted with tall grass and date trees that is located in the Fezzan region of Libya. The oasis is nestled between the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.
The Mausoleum of King Deshret: The Temple of Isis and the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Mausoleum of King Deshret and its surrounding pyramids are another obvious reference to a real-world location, this time to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. What you may not have noticed is that the interiors of the mausoleum draw inspiration from the Temple of Isis from Philae, a Greco-Roman era temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. The walls of the temple tell stories of Egyptian mythology, much like how the walls of King Deshret’s mausoleum tell the story of the desert civilization that died with him.
The Valley of Dahri: Coloured Canyon, Egypt
The Valley of Dahri doesn’t feature heavily in Genshin Impact quests and doesn’t have a conveniently placed teleportation point. It’s a shame considering it’s one of the most breathtaking locations in Genshin Impact that you can see in real life.
If you teleport to the valley in the desert and look up as you walk, you will be treated by curving red stone formations that seem to shift in the light like the desert sand. Americans reading this might be reminded of several U.S. national parks like the Red Rock Canyon State Park in California or the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, but there’s a much closer real-life counterpart to the Valley of Dahri in Egypt — the Coloured Canyon.
The Coloured Canyon is located in Sinai, Egypt. The canyon consists of limestone rocks colored in red, yellow, and purple, giving the entire place a hypnotic appearance when you’re walking between its stone walls.
The Akademiya: The Palaces of India
As mentioned earlier, Sumeru City and the green parts of the map are difficult to match with specific real-world locations because of how heavily that side of the map leans into the fantasy aspects of the game. That said, you need only look at the architectural motifs of the Akademiya to figure out where Hoyoverse’s environmental team drew their inspiration from.
Just like how the interiors of the Sumeru desert feature columns from Egyptian architecture, the arches and domes of Sumeru Akademiya are borrowed from Indian architecture. Admittedly, Hoyoverse has been less forthcoming with its process for creating the region’s map and characters, resulting in a mishmash of cultures that are difficult to parse apart compared to the extra care given to the Liyue region.
Still, it’s a beautiful place and if you’d like to experience the real cultures that inspired Sumeru, you can visit the many exquisite palaces of India.