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The Lands Between are rather inhospitable. Almost every creature you meet is intent on ending your life, and while you’ll return time and time again, defeat is no less frustrating. This has always been the way with Soulsborne games, a genre almost exclusively inhabited by its creator FromSoftware, but while previous titles set you off on an almost linear path to the final showdown, Elden Ring shoves you out of the door and into an open world right after its tutorial.
Roughly half of the sprawling map is available to you right from the start, even if it might be foolish to march right up to the gates of the first castle you see — after all, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For quite some time the only barrier to exploring the overworld is whether you can outrun stronger foes, which of course becomes much easier once your spirit steed Torrent is at your beck and call. It is only when you reach the northernmost part of Liurnia of The Lakes that you come across a real barrier to your progress in the form of a sheer cliff face.
The opening areas of Limgrave, the Weeping Peninsula, the aforementioned Liurnia of The Lakes and the hellish Caelid are large and diverse enough to last you upwards of 30 hours alone — perhaps even double that. They’re so expansive, in fact, that I have personally yet to venture further. While the gameplay is fun and supremely challenging, it’s the exploration of the Lands Between that keeps me coming back again and again. Following a hidden path to a long-forgotten catacomb, plumbing the depths of a monster-ridden cave system or simply stopping to take in the gorgeous vista ahead… I can’t think of a game world I have been so enthralled by in quite some time.
To celebrate the beauty of the world that FromSoft has created with its latest title, I decided to treat you all to the ten most picturesque locations from the first half of Elden Ring. Enjoy these ten beauty spots for some virtual sightseeing, whatever your level, and please be aware that there are some location and mild game spoilers ahead!
The shores of Castle Morne (Weeping Peninsula)
Walking (or riding) up to Castle Morne is lovely in itself. A traditional yet imposing gray stone stronghold, built atop a severe rocky outcrop, this location would not be out of place on a postcard. I doubt the words ‘Wish You Were Here’ would adorn the image though, as it most certainly isn’t somewhere you’d encourage a loved one to pay a visit to.
While the castle itself is worthy of a holiday snap or two, it’s what lies behind it that makes it onto my list here. On the southern shores of the Weeping Peninsula you come across what can only be described as a solemn monument. Ruins, graves and signs of battle are dotted around the southernmost tip of the Lands Between, but it is the giant, grave-like stone monument and the thick-limbed tree behind it that draw the eye. With the sea glistening on all sides, this feels like a somber place of reflection. You will have to take out a Great Enemy boss to really ponder life here, but with a little help from a friend (or random co-op partner), this could be your new meditation spot.
Beach By The Stormfoot Catacombs (Limgrave)
Another area by the water, this particular spot gives you an intriguing early view of the next location on our journey, as well as the area you start the game in. Built on columns of jagged rock out to sea, this precarious location is known as the Chapel of Anticipation. While this could mean the anticipation of the player before they set foot in the world proper, looking at the location from this angle it’s hard not to wonder whether it actually refers to the anticipation of its inevitable collapse into the waves below. Just look at how it leans, and that rickety bridge! Someone fire the architect.
Seeing Stormveil Castle from this vantage point is a treat too. The rock formations below it are gorgeous, and it’s hard to miss the scars of a great attack on the outer walls and towers. With the early morning sun bathing the structures in almost divine light, this has to be one of the most breathtaking views mere moments away from The First Step. Well worth a look.
Stormveil Castle (Limgrave)
This particular view of the first legacy dungeon is only possible to achieve upon beating the very first major boss encounter, Margit the Fell Omen. Many people struggle with this encounter, so if you don’t fancy taking it on just yet, you can get a decent look at this ornately built location from many other places in the surrounding area.
However, this is probably one of its best views. Those gilded towers rising behind your Tarnished, both the grandeur and the decay palpable as you drink in the incredible facade. Much awaits you inside, but never pass up the opportunity to appreciate beauty where you find it.
Liurnia Of The Lakes
Yep, I’m essentially putting a whole darn area into this list. Wanna fight about it?
It’s not hard to see why I’ve chosen this particular vista. The mist-covered lake below, littered with trees and ruins. The grand white building off in the distance. The improbably sharp and craggy mountain. The bridge and towers tantalizingly close by. There’s just so much to take in, and so much detail even for things so far away. I could honestly stare at this landscape all day, but I’d probably get invaded and murdered as I zoned out, knowing my luck.
Just to add, it’s totally possible to bypass Stormveil Castle to get to this part of the map, so if you just want to explore without taking on larger encounters, you absolutely can.
Raya Lucaria Academy (Liurnia Of The Lakes)
That magnificent white building in the last image? That’s Raya Lucaria Academy. It requires a nearby item to gain access to, along with good steed riding skills to dodge many enemies, but you too can feast upon this incredible building without much trouble.
The level of detail here is astounding, and it’s hard not to compare this particular location to Bloodborne with the gothic architecture and dark aura around it. What’s inside might be a little too much for you to handle if you’re only here for a sightseeing tour and haven’t yet built yourself up sufficiently, but stay away from those guards at the door and you can stare at this place for as long as you’d like (unless you’re invaded and stomped into dust by another player).
Redmane Castle (Caelid)
Okay, this one might be a genuine challenge. Caelid is not for the faint of heart, despite being technically accessible as soon as you step out into the great wide world. I won’t sugarcoat it, this is one scary place! However, if you’re particularly adept at riding Torrent and don’t panic easily, you can ride to the Redmane Castle on Caelids’ south coast, ignoring any horrors along the way.
Yes, this is another castle, but to be fair Elden Ring has a rather high proportion of them. This one is particularly stunning due to the constant red sky that frames it and the huge archway that connects one part of the structure to the other. Just like the Academy, I wouldn’t rush to enter this particular building, and if you managed to get here at a relatively low level just to see what the fuss is about, make sure to fast travel back from whence you came to avoid losing all your runes in such a god-forsaken place.
Siofra River (Limgrave)
Found in the Mistwood area of Limgrave, just on the border of Caelid (shudder), this is an extremely special place. Don’t let the starry sky fool you, it’s completely underground.
This subterranean land is home to life, both non-threatening and very-threatening, as well as some incredible natural and manmade structures. Giant columns of rock stretch upward towards the roof of this ginormous cavern, while ridiculously large ruins dominate your vision. Most beautiful of all, however, is the structure sitting high above on the edge of a cliff. You may be able to access this area from a place we’ll talk about soon, but the view from all the way down here is pretty magical, and well worth the journey.
Grand Lift of Dectus (Liurnia Of The Lakes)
Remember how I mentioned a sheer cliff face preventing you from accessing the second half of the map? What might be the best way to ascend such a height? Why, a lift of course! Like many roadblocks in the Lands Between, there is a way to bypass the lift, but I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if you have been doing nothing but sightseeing so far. There’s no way you’ll be ready! The lift also simply doesn’t work when you get there — that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? You’ll actually need to play the game to figure out how to use it.
However, the building that houses the contraption is incredible. It reminds me of the buildings carved into rock in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, mixed with classical European architecture and (for me anyway) a little dash of the Sphinx Gate from The Neverending Story. Don’t worry, the giant statues flanking either side of this grand entrance won’t fire lasers at you — one thing not out to kill you in this game. They are pretty awe-inspiring nonetheless.
The Four Belfries (Liurnia Of The Lakes)
Another view of Raya Lucaria Academy, but who could tire of that place? It’s truly remarkable. However, the area of the Four Belfries is much more than just a pretty view of another building. As you can see, it gives a particularly epic view of the giant ethereal tree that dominates the skies over this land too.
Not only that, but as the name might suggest there are four belfries in this location (three visible in the shot I have taken). It can be a mission to reach this area the first time, with poison swamps and literal giants in your path, but the reward for arriving at this destination is worth the pain.
The highest belfry has a chest in front of the altar at its base, which contains a key that can be used to activate a portal. It just so happens each of the other belfries has such a portal, and a fairly cryptic clue as to where it might lead. Your key can only activate one portal (though there are two other keys to find across the map), so choose wisely. Two of the portals take you to locations I’ve mentioned in this list already, while the third, well…
Crumbling Farum Azula
Okay, so you’re probably thinking that I’m cheating here. This is an area I haven’t mentioned and is, in fact, late game. The only reason I have included it here is that this particular part of the Crumbling Farum Azula is only accessible from the portal at the Four Belfries. Essentially this is the only way to get this spectacular view of the area, and it can’t be reached by any other means.
Compared to what we have seen up until this point, this area is wild, even if you’ve been to Caelid, and this is only one of many other locations that await you if you continue through the game.
So I’ve shown you some of the places I’ve stopped and gawked at throughout the first half of Elden Ring, now it’s your turn. Go out into the world and check out as much of what The Lands Between has to offer as you can. There is beauty around almost every corner, and incredible secrets and discoveries to be found in every nook and cranny. This is one of the most alive and fully realized open worlds ever created, and it’s just begging for you to explore. Maybe report back with some of your own favorite areas or vistas?
I’ll see you again at the Altus Plateau.
Written by Andrew Dickinson on behalf of GLHF.