The province of Skyrim is big, deep, and beautiful. And even then, we’re still flirting with some major understatements. You could spend days upon days roving the map and still find yourself coming up short in terms of seeing what it has to offer in its entirety. After all, most players are only going to take a single trip from one locale to another, proceeding to utilize fast travel to cut down on the brutality of the time sink. And really, who could blame you for it?
There’s at least one thing to be said for that, though. You’re gonna miss out on a few things when you take the shortcut. That’s just the way it is.
Whether it’s a nook or cranny into which the developers have tucked away an interesting bit of scenery, a funny easter egg, or even a fully fledged and epic boss encounter with a dragon, time was definitely taken to ensure that curiosity, exploration and a preference for the scenic route were entirely rewarding traits to possess.
We decided to do some of the footwork for you here, and highlight some of the bits you might have skimmed over in your travels. We’re focusing on the two polar extremes for this list, the little things and cool locales easily missed by most folks, punctuated by some big, epic boss fights that your average player probably never tackled during their journey.
So grab a good sword, put on your best hiking boots and tell Lydia to grab an extra backpack, because she’s about to carry a burden or twelve. Here are twenty-five easily missed locations and eight less than obvious boss battles to consider on your next Skyrim adventure.
32 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Swallowed Skeleton
Though there’s no loot to be had for this one, sharp-eyed players might have had a laugh at the expense of these poor souls if they were adventuring a short ways north from the Sleeping Tree Camp.
Close examination of what would appear to be your average, everyday mammoth fossil reveals a whole human skeleton inside of it. This poses a fairly interesting question. Did the mammoth just happen to collapse on top of the poor guy, or was he truly swallowed whole by the great beast? Maybe we’re better off not knowing.
31 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Poached Horker Poachers
Poaching horkers is no laughing matter, and this is evidenced quite well by this unmarked locale a short jog to the southeast from Bleakcoast Cave. These two hunters obviously bit off a little more than they could chew, having poached one horker but finding themselves less than prepared to deal with his avenging comrades.
Don’t forget to dig through the inventories of the unfortunate hunters, though. You’ll walk away with a nifty treasure map. It’ll lead you to some hidden loot near Dragon Bridge farm.
30 BOSS FIGHT: Uderfrykte
You'll get your chance to take a swing at this brute in following the Dark Brotherhood quest "The Cure for Madness," while you're giving chase to slippery old Cicero.
Trolls can be a demanding encounter unto themselves, and Uderfrykte is significantly stronger than his garden-variety cousins. But he also shares in their extreme aversion to fire, so it's suggested to turn this to your advantage if at all possible. As a fun tidbit, one incarnation of Uderfrykte or another has appeared in both Morrowind and Oblivion.
29 HIDDEN LOCALE: Rundi's Altar
Southeast from the College of Winterhold you can find a glacier with an altar erected on top of it, along with the eponymous Rundi standing nearby. Well, less standing and more frozen into place, honestly. And quite a gonner. Be mindful of several icy traps as you approach.
This was a part of a quest entitled “The Missing Apprentices,” which was never finished. However, its broken bits and all of the necessities for completing it survived onto the finished release of the game.
28 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Less Fortunate Spartan
This… is… Skyrim! Just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? Head a ways south from the Shrine to Peryite to feast your eyes on this ode to the sandals-and-abs epic that made yelling and kicking people into a pit the highest form of righteous indignation.
One of the opening scenes of the flick is recreated with a skeleton seeming to have lured a sabrecat into a narrow ravine before thrusting a sword through it. The whole scheme seems to have worked out a lot better for Leonidas than this poor fellow, seeing as he’s now a skeleton and all.
27 HIDDEN LOCALE: Friends Forever
Southeast from Winterhold, and below the bridge leading to the college, you might run across this desperate, yet somehow uplifting scene of a friend refusing to abandon his companion in need. One skeleton’s had his leg caught in a beartrap, and the other has clearly endeavored to free him until the bitter end.
Now that is the very definition of friendship.
It’s unfortunate that these two met their demise in such a way, but at least you can scoop up an alchemy skill book along with a few ingredients from the nearby satchel. It’s not stealing. You’re just preserving their legacy!
26 BOSS FIGHT: Karstaag The Giant
Getting the chance to take on this Morrowind throwback will be a process, but it's totally worth the effort. You'll need to have the Dragonborn DLC installed, for starters, then travel to the Glacial Cave on Solstheim and locate Karstaag's Skull, towards the back. Then just haul the thing over to the Castle Karstaag Ruins and ready yourself for a fight.
After you've gained entry and bashed a few rieklings, place the skull upon the large throne and face down the ghostly giant. It won't be easy, as he's immensely strong, immune to frost, paralysis, and poison, can summon ice wraiths, and deals frost damage by simply being near him. Good luck!
25 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Lovers' Camp... Before The End
Skyrim has a penchant for ill-fated romance, it seems. This unmarked campsite is north of the Old Hroldan inn and south from Soljund’s Sinkhole, and you’ll find the expired lovers nearby. Might want to deal with the wild animal that did them in before combing the area, though.
You’ll find Karan’s journal near her final resting place, and thumbing the pages will reveal the whole ordeal to be an homage to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. These two may have met a less romantic end, to be sure, but the set up is too familiar to be a coincidence.
24 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Border Crossings
The largely impassable “border crossings” dotting the borders of Skyrim possess a nice bit of trivia and lore that you can impress your friends with. I know my friends were impressed. My cats do count as friends, right?
There’s one leading to Hammerfell, but of particular note are the crossings to Morrowind and Cyrodiil. One of the passes to Morrowind is east from Refugees’ Rest, and at the Rest itself is a short decree of particular interest to fans of The Elder Scrolls III. The passage to Cyrodiil, due southwest from Southfringe Sanctum, is likely the one your character was plucked from during the game’s introduction.
23 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Mournful Giant
If you’re just itching to catch a bad case of the feels, head northeast from Mistwatch, or east from the Sulfur Ruins, to take in one of the more depressing, yet somehow touching scenes that we’re going to cover today.
You’ll come across a giant standing next to a hot spring pond, where his favorite mammoth has met with an unfortunate and untimely end. He doesn’t even grow hostile if you approach, sparing you no more than a sideways glance before he returns to mourning the loss of his furry friend.
22 BOSS FIGHT: Yngol's Shade
Fancy a bit of tomb raiding? Well, let's kill two birds with one stone and tackle Yngol's Barrow, to the northeast of Windhelm. We'll even snag a super cool helmet while we're at it.
As always, grab some extra potions and check your equipment. He's no pushover.
You'll need to solve a puzzle or two, but Yngol's Shade will by far be the more dire impediment. Depending on your level, he can either appear as a draugr or dragon priest, but he will be equally donezo in either case. Fire is helpful, but remember that he will be highly resistant to both frost and poison. Don't forget to pilfer his helmet!
21 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Iceberg Explorer
Locate the “Tower” Standing Stone between Winterhold and Dawnstar and head north from there. You’ll eventually set eyes on a flag planted into an iceberg, with a skeleton clinging to it for dear life. Or afterlife? That probably makes a little more sense, given his condition.
As to what purpose planting a flag into an iceberg serves, or why he was there to begin with, there’s little indication. Perhaps the iceberg wasn’t always so near to shore, and he was signaling for rescue? In any case, there’s a heavy armor skill book to reward your efforts, as well as a chest containing some random loot.
20 HIDDEN LOCALE: Lost Treasure Of Purewater Run
This one won’t take you far out of your way if you have Purewater Run discovered. Just make a short trip to the northeast from there, and look for where the two waterfalls meet. Your curiosity and time will be rewarded with a coin purse, a leveled weapon, and a treasure chest. And a skeleton, of course.
Can’t have a hidden locale without a skeleton, it seems.
Anyway, sometimes all it really takes is a minimal stroll off the beaten path. Skyrim’s more than willing to reward the wanderers among us.
19 HIDDEN LOCALE: Lunar Forge
If you stumble across the Silent Moons Camp northwest of Whiterun, poke around the ruins outside of the cave system. At the top of the main structure, you’ll locate a forge, but this one’s a bit special.
After dealing with a bandit infestation, you’ll find several weapons bearing a unique enchantment laying about, as well as a book expanding on the lore behind them. While most of the explained lore behind the “Silent Moons” enchantment isn’t mechanically functional, it’s still pretty cool. Don’t forget to nab the smithing skill book on your way out.
18 BOSS FIGHT: Vulthuryol
In order to encounter this hidden dragon, you'll first need to reach Blackreach. Given that Blackreach is a massive underground hub area, you've got options - a lot of them. You can enter via Dwemer ruins at Alftand, the Tower of Mzark, Raldbthar, and others.
Once you've gained entry, you'll want to look for a large, glowing orb near the center building. It shouldn't be hard to get eyes on. Once you're near enough to it, it's as simple as using your "Unrelenting Force" shout on it. Afterward, Vulthuryol will make his appearance. Maybe wait a minute before you engage, as he will promptly go on a rampage and take care of many of Blackreach's inhabitants for you if left to his own devices.
17 HIDDEN LOCALE: Fossilized Giant Mudcrab
What would The Elder Scrolls be without mudcrabs these days? Probably not that different, honestly. Maybe a few less delicious steamed crab legs. Mmh. Crab legs. A world without those isn’t a world we want to live in, virtually or otherwise.
Speaking of crab legs, take a light jog west from Broken Fang Cave and feast your eyes on this behemoth, if you haven’t already been directed there during the “Kyne’s Sacred Trials” quest. Just imagine how much butter you’d need to slather on these bad boys.
16 HIDDEN LOCALE: Fool's Gold Island
This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered a skeleton hugging a flagpole over the course of this list. What gives? Are they all getting their tongues stuck to the frost on a dare? Is there a serial “lick the flagpole” darer on the loose in Skyrim, leaving these poor souls to their fate once the deed is done?
This island is located to the west of the Broken Oar Grotto, and make sure to pack your pickaxe and alchemy satchel if you’re planning a trip. There’s gold ore and ingredients aplenty if you’re up for a visit.
15 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Chill
You could definitely be forgiven for never seeing this one. For one, it’s in the far end of the map, due north of Winterhold. It also doubles as Winterhold’s prison, and as we all know, going to jail isn’t high on anyone’s priority list.
Whatever your excuse is, you’ve definitely missed out.
It’s probably the most unique and awesome of Skyrim’s prisons, if just a bit on the brutal side. I mean, it’s a frozen cave filled with a few rusty cages and guarded by frost atronachs. The College really doesn’t screw around when it comes to delinquents.
14 BOSS FIGHT: Kvenel The Tongue
If you're in the mood to fight an angry ghost and scoop up a couple of unique weapons in the process, just set out north from Whiterun. Your destination? The tomb of Volunruud.
Upon entering, you'll stumble across a collection of notes that will begin the quest "The Silenced Tongues." Conveniently, you're here to complete it. Press on, your objective won't be hard to find, though he'll be well guarded and well equipped. Take care during the fight, as it's possible a frost atronach or two will be summoned over the course of it.
13 HIDDEN LOCALE: Hunter, Hunted
Yet another case of the poacher’s prey turning the tables can be witnessed to the west from Drelas’ cottage. Once you arrive on the scene you’ll witness a fallen hunter and mother nature’s victorious champion looming over him.
Deal with the feisty critter in the manner of your choosing and make sure to check the hunter’s inventory, you know, just to ensure that his possessions don’t go to waste. You’ll walk away with whatever valuables he’s got on him in addition to a light armor skill book.
12 HIDDEN LOCALE: Kagrenzel
Located far, far on the eastern edge of the map, Kagrenzel can be a tough find. Taking a long shot north from Riften should get you there. From the outside, it looks like a typical Dwemer ruin. And you’ve seen them a dozen times over, you know what to expect, right?
The thing is, you really don’t. Not this time, anyway.
Head inside and interact with the glowing orb at the center of the room. We usually don’t shy away from spoilers in these situations, but this one really just needs to be experienced. You may want to take a cue from the defeated bandits and save your game first, though. It’ll be a wild ride.
11 HIDDEN LOCALE: Altar Of Xrib
Southwest from Winterhold, on a mountaintop overlooking the Sightless Pit, you'll locate this sacrificial altar. Judging by our friendly neighborhood skeletons, it's seen quite a bit of use in its day.
There's a conjuration skill book to be had here, as well as some other loot. But be wary as touching anything in the proximity of the altar is going to wake up a few skeletons, and they're usually not too enthused about being roused from their nap. You've probably dealt with worse, though.
10 BOSS FIGHT: The Pale Lady
Southwest of Dawnstar is a cozy little crypt called Frostmere, inhabited by a merry band of bandits. Well, not really merry. They're just as bloodthirsty and crass as the rest of them. Outside of it, they're attacking one of their own, one Eisa Blackthorn. If she should fall, you can read her journal to begin the quest "The Pale Lady."
The Pale Lady herself is an optional boss, as you could simply return a certain sword to its pedestal in order to appease her, but most of us can't resist a challenge. She's a wispmother, and has the ability to transform her accompanying wisps into copies of herself in combat.
9 HIDDEN LOCALE: Lucky Lorenz's Shack
Located near the base of a waterfall to the northwest of Fort Amol, the aptly named Lucky Lorenz has reached the end of his aforementioned luck, if he really had any to begin with. A fallen tree has crushed both his abode and his body.
Feel free to root around his former dwelling for supplies, a light armor skill book, and a treasure map. It’s not as if he’ll be needing them anytime soon. The treasure map will take you to a hidden bit of loot around Riften.
8 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Red Trail...
Head north and just the slightest touch east from Volunruud and you should eventually see a bit of crimson soaked snow. Just follow the trail it forms to its untimely end and you'll stumble over a pair of fallen bosmer. Looks like a tough break for our wood elf friends, here.
Remember, whatever they're carrying, they obviously won't be putting to use anymore. Lucky for you, one of them happens to have a treasure map tucked away, and it'll handily point out a hidden treasure outside of the Korvanjund tomb.
7 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Lady Of The Lake
If you’re a bit tired of all this nonsense about thanes and jarls, head northwest from Whiterun and participate in a farcical aquatic ceremony involving strange women lying in ponds and distributing swords in order to assign supreme executive power.
You might be a tad late, as this particular Lady of the Lake has dissolved into a skeleton, and wrenching the leveled sword from her grasp isn’t really going to do much to further your political campaign. It’s no Excalibur, but hey, it is a free sword!
6 BOSS FIGHT: The Ebony Warrior
Heading up our first epic boss fight is the mysterious man in black, the Ebony Warrior. He is randomly encountered at any major hold after reaching level eighty, so long as you have the Dragonborn DLC installed. His quest is quite simple - he seeks a warrior capable of besting him and sending his soul to Sovngarde.
After initially meeting him, he'll await you at his Last Vigil, which will be marked on your map. Just ensure that you're ready for the fight of your life, as he's decked out in a full set of enchanted ebony armor and weapons, can utilize shouts and several powerful spells.
5 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Hunters' Jacuzzi
Head west from the Eldergleam Sanctuary to peep on a few hunters that have decided to have a spa day. They won't be hostile unless you mosey into their makeshift camp and decide to help yourself to their belongings, though it should be pointed out that there's a smithing skill book available here.
It's a nice spot to kick back and relax, but it's a bit funny that in spite of themselves, the hunters will point out your lack of clothing if you decide to strip down and dive in with them.
4 HIDDEN LOCALE: The Ruined Toll & The Wispmother's Well
North and east from the hamlet of Ivarstead you can find a ruined toll gate harboring a conjuration skill book, as well as a strongbox with a bit of cheap loot inside. More interestingly, you may witness a few floating orbs of light, or wisps.
Take a trip up the hill to the nearby well to find out why they're hanging about. You'll meet their wispmother, and she'll be a little less than happy to meet you. Or maybe just jealous of the fact that you still have skin, and a pulse.
3 HIDDEN LOCALE: Ghost Barrow
While there's a shorter route to get here, we're gonna take the fun one. Head to the Kjenstag ruins east of Morthal and hang around between 8:00 PM and 4:00 AM to meet up with a ghost.
This friendly apparition will serve as your guide.
Follow his lead, and it'll become apparent that he wants you to deal with some local bandits. Oblige him, loot the bodies, search the area and you should find yourself walking away with a skill book, an enchanted weapon and perhaps some jewelry.
2 BOSS FIGHT: The Reaper
This secret boss is tucked away within the Soul Cairn of the Dawnguard DLC. To draw him out, you'll need to retrieve the three Reaper Gem Fragments that are hidden beneath the "Ideal Masters," floating, health draining crystals that hover around the Soul Cairn.
Place the gems on the altar in the Reaper's Lair and gird yourself for battle. He's tough and tricky, calling bonemen to his aid and occasionally dousing you in a gross green secretion. Did we mention how absolutely intimidating he looks?
1 HIDDEN LOCALE: Azura's Star
Azura’s Star is unique in the sense that it can’t be reached by conventional means, and it can only be visited once. It’s essentially the interior of a very special soul gem, which you can obtain and utilize by completing the quest “The Black Star.”
It’s going to be a lengthy undertaking, but you can obtain the quest from Aranea Ienith at the Shrine of Azura, which is south from Winterhold. From there simply follow the quest as directed, but remember to loot any enemies that you encounter once you're inside. You won't have a second chance.