Kalimdor, the ancestral home of the Night Elves and the current home of the New Horde, is at once both the oldest and newest part of Azeroth. Ten thousand years ago, the remnants of Night Elven society swam there from their sundered city to build a new world for themselves. And only five years past, Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore heeded the summon of the prophet Medivh to come to Kalimdor. Today, Kalimdor stretches from the forbidding slopes of Mt. Hyjal to the creepy bug caves of Silithus. And, as always, the land tells many stories ...
Ashenvale: Ashenvale is a forest-like area in northern Kalimdor. It's the "ancestral" home of the night elves, but not really, because their actual ancestral home is sunk under the sea. But they've been in Ashenvale for thousands of years, so it's close enough. Recently, the Horde has moved in and has been cutting down trees, which angers the hippie elves. The most notable event to happen in Ashenvale is the battle between the demon Mannoroth and Thrall and Grom Hellscream. Grom was leading the orcs who were deforesting the area when he was tempted to drink Mannoroth's blood. After some unfortunate events, he regained his sanity and he and Thrall confronted the demon. Grom managed to kill Mannoroth, but only at the cost of his own life. Today, there's a memorial to Grom (pictured above) in the aptly-named Demon Fall Canyon in the south part of the zone. Also in the south part of the zone are some barrow dens where Forsaken investigators are experimenting on driving night elf druids crazy, and there's a portal to the Emerald Dream (with guarding dragon) in the eastern end. Other than that, get ready for a lot of satyrs, a lot of furbolgs, and a lot of PVP as most of the Horde meets questing night elves for the first time.
Azshara: This zone is shrouded in mystery. It was once a part of the night elf capital of Zin-Ashari, ruled by Queen Azshara. But after the War of the Ancients, Zin-Ashari sunk into the ocean and left behind nothing but ruins. There's a monument to Lord Ravencrest, a night elf who helped fight the Burning Legion, on the tip of the southern "claw." There's also supposedly a shrine to Jarod Shadowsong, another famous night elf, in the west -- but it appears to have been taken over by ghosts. Way, way out in the middle of the sea, Duke Hydraxis and the Hydraxian Waterlords keep count of exactly how much of your life you've wasted in Molten Core.
Azuremyst Isle: Azuremyst Isle doesn't have a whole lot of history. It was basically a small island left to its own devices until this January, when the ship of a renegade band of Draenei crashed into it and populated the whole island with little blue men and women. The ship crash also spread crystals throughout the land, which poisoned a lot of the wildlife with radiation. The main feature of Azuremyst Isle is the Exodar, a part of the Naaru-built Tempest Keep which now serves as the Draenei capital on Azeroth. It is very, very pink and has holograms of the Draenei enemies. In the south of the zone, an Alliance expedition has crash-landed, which serves to introduce the Draenei to the other Alliance races. There are also some blood elf spies and a quest chain that leads you to discover a letter from Kael'Thas Sunstrider, vowing vengeance on the Draenei for stealing his ship.
The Barrens: Ah, the Barrens: because Chuck Norris is that cool and your mom is that easy. The Barrens is the largest zone in the game, both in size and in the amount of time neophyte Horde players spend there. As such, it's become known as a collecting pond for all the stupidity in Azeroth. The dry, dusty plains are populated with many different kinds of animals and quillboar, and the scattered oases are havens for wild centaur. The whole zone used to be a night elf settlement until the War of the Ancients, which destroyed the forests and scattered the elves. When the Horde arrived on Kalimdor (at the bequest of Medivh), they found the desert areas of central Kalimdor empty and claimed them for their own. There are even orc families in farms around the Barrens, which is the cutest thing ever. The Shrine of the Fallen Warrior is on a hill northwest of the Crossroads. While it doesn't serve a lore purpose, it memorializes Michael Koiter, a Blizzard employee who died during WoW's development. If you run to the monument as a ghost, you can see a spirit healer with his name. Fray Island, a city of warriors, and the goblin port town of Ratchet can be found on the east coast of the Barrens.
Bloodmyst Isle: Think Azuremyst Isle, but more red. This island used to be known as Silvergale until the Exodar's crystals polluted it, causing a red taint to descend upon the land. The crystals have also created some huge mutated monsters, like the spider pictured above. Aside from that, there's a lot of night elf ruins, some spying blood elves, and not a whole lot else.
Darkshore: Like Ashenvale, Darkshore has had night elves in it for thousands of years -- after all, it was on the shore of the Well of Eternity. Unlike Ashenvale, a lot of those night elves are now dead, leaving tons of haunted ruins behind. The elves of Ameth'aran, Bashal'Aran, and Mathystra were killed or forced to flee when their nobles became corrupt, and their cities were abandoned. The night elf Athrikus Narassin uses the spirits of some of the dead elves to power his magics in the Tower of Althalaxx. He runs the local chapter of the Cult of the Dark Strand, which is part of the reformed Shadow Council (bad warlock dudes.) One very interesting thing in Darkshore is a giant octopus-like skeleton in the Master's Glaive. The skeleton has a sword sticking in its head, and there's a popular theory that this commemorates where one of the Old Gods was killed by the Titans. The skeleton is infested with Twilight's Hammer cultists, who worship those gods.
Desolace: The name is appropriate. Desolace is a gray area full of kodos and centaur, with nothing to recommend it but a couple of Horde outposts and some good fishing. This is where the centaur tribes established themselves after being driven out of night elven lands. The Burning Blade orc cult, which serves the Burning Legion, has some small strongholds in Desolace as well.
Durotar: This desert wasteland is the new home of the orcs and the trolls. The continent was named by Thrall after his father, Durotan, and contains the Horde capital of Orgrimmar (named for Orgrim Doomhammer.) Durotar is a fairly quiet place for young Hordelings, with only a few quillboars, harpies, and the remnants of the Alliance forces of Admiral Daelin Proudmoore to fight. The Darkspear troll city of Sen'jin Village is also in Durotar, and trolls can help retake their old home of the Echo Isles from an evil zombie warlock troll who is, like, level 12. But yet the trolls still don't go home.
Dustwallow Marsh: This swampy area is the home of the only major human settlement on Kalimdor, Theramore Isle. The mage Jaina Proudmoore helped found the city after she was convinced to go to Kalimdor and help Thrall and the night elves fight the Burning Legion. Theramore is officially ruled by the Alliance Assembly, and despite Jaina's presence, the city is still hostile to the Horde. A small war of espionage is going on between the Horde-aligned Brackenwall Village and Theramore. The mysterious hermit Tabetha -- who some suspect is Medivh's mother, Aegwynn, in disguise -- has a shack in the middle of the marsh. Alcaz Island, off the coast of Theramore, used to contain the prison of the missing king of Stormwind, Varian Wrynn. It is now home to the mad Doctor Weevil and large numbers of angry elites. The southern portion of the zone is infested with black dragons, led by Deathwing's daughter Onyxia. The Onyxia raid encounter is a good way to test whether or not your raid leader is insane.
Felwood: Felwood was just another forest in Kalimdor until it was corrupted by the Burning Legion. Tichondrius the Darkener used the Skull of Gul'Dan to destroy the area, up until Illidan showed up, consumed the skull, and killed him. Now the wildlife is tainted with death, and green ooze bubbles out of every orifice in the ground. A lot of the demon/satyr cults have bases in Felwood, particularly the Shadow Council, whose main stronghold lies in the caves of Jaedenar. You can go down there to meet with its leader, Lord Banehollow, but it's probably a bad idea.
Feralas: Feralas is another lush jungle filled with wildlife. The Woodpaw furbolgs and the Gordunni ogres have overrun the area, including the many night elf ruins. The ancient city of Eldre'Thalas, which held the arcane secrets of the elves, is now known as Dire Maul and is a dangerous dungeon for the unwary. The night elves have the fortress of Feathermoon Stronghold, run by General Shandris Feathermoon, off the west coast of Feralas. The Green Dragonflight guards a portal to the Emerald Dream in the far north.
Moonglade: Moonglade is the home of the druids. There, tauren and night elves can find a whole city for them (Nighthaven), including their own flight path and questgivers. Any non-druids who venture in might get a chilly reception, but they can at least buy some of the neat tailoring patterns for sale. Moonglade is very small, but has a few interesting places. The Stormrage Barrow Dens commemorate where Malfurion Stormrage meditated in the Emerald Dream for a thousand years before the Third War. Malfurion is probably still in the dens, as he's lost in the Dream for now, but players have no way to see him. The mad canine demigod Omen resides in Lake Elune'ara, but he only comes out during the springtime Lunar Festival.
Mulgore: There is a cow level! Mulgore is the land of the taurens and their capital of Thunder Bluff. A quiet, peaceful place, Mulgore may be the most serene land in Kalimdor. The nomadic taurens settled in Mulgore once Thrall helped them in their battle with the centaur. However, the usual villains of quillboars, harpies, and opportunistic goblins means that no one can sleep easy. On the plus side, it's really, really hard for Alliance to attack Thunder Bluff, since it's only accessible by elevator.
Silithus: Agggh! Second only to Blackrock Mountain in my hatred, Silithus is one of the new frontiers of Kalimdor. The Cenarion Circle has an outpost here to fight the kingdom of the Qiraji, a buglike race commanded by the Old God C'thun. The Qiraji once tried to attack all of Kalimdor, but the night elves and the Bronze Dragonflight managed to contain them within the walls of the Ruins and the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj. The aftermath of that war is scattered around the area -- the bones of the bronze dragon Grakkarond are found south of Cenarion Hold, and Fandral Staghelm, the archdruid of Darnassus, holds a special hatred for the area since his son was killed by the Qiraji. The Twilight's Hammer cult has several bases in the area. There are also a lot of really creepy silithids around, which move and buzz just like wasps and freak out those of us who are allergic to the real thing.
Stonetalon Mountains: These mountains are the home of the harpies. However, recent years have brought invaders in the form of night elves and tauren, who worship on Stonetalon Peak; goblins, who are cutting down trees in the east; and the Horde, who have established a camp in the center of the zone. Stonetalon Peak is where night elves and tauren used to worship together in peace, although those days seem to be over. The "evil" taurens of the Grimtotem tribe have a base in the south. The mountains are also where the Horde and Alliance temporarily united to fight off the Burning Legion, and where Thrall and Jaina met with Malfurion and Tyrande to formulate the plan for the Battle of Mount Hyjal.
Tanaris: The desert of Tanaris is the base of goblin operations on Kalimdor. The neutral city of Gadgetzan provides a home for adventurers, and engineers and explorers are constantly experimenting in the desert. There are two big lore places in Tanaris. The Caverns of Time, by the eastern coast, is where the Bronze Dragonflight helps keep time in order. Players can help keep the timelines of Thrall's escape from Durnholde, Medivh's opening of the Dark Portal, and the Battle of Mount Hyjal free from interference in the three dungeons inside. The unopened instance of Uldum is in the south of Tanaris. This is a research lab built by the Titans, who created Azeroth, and is probably inhabited by some form of stone creatures.
Teldrassil: By all rights, Teldrassil should never exist. This "island" is actually a tree created by the night elves. Archdruid Fandral Staghelm convinced the elven leadership to plant the tree in hopes of getting their immortality back. This plan failed, and the tree has become corrupt. Since Teldrassil is a recent creation, it doesn't have much history, but it does house the night elf capital of Darnassus and its leaders, Staghelm and Tyrande Whisperwind. Darnassus is usually a ghost town, except for occasional Horde attacks.
Thousand Needles: Yes, another Horde-populated desert. Enjoy. Thousand Needles is so named because of the spires that rise high into the sky in most of its western area, probably as remnants of an ancient lake. Tauren tribes used to live on top of the "needles" to stay away from the centaur, but as Mulgore opened up to tauren repopulation, most of them wisely ditched the canyon for the gentler plains. Only the Grimtotem tribe remains on the needles. It is not advised to jump off the needles, unless you are a paladin or think you can evolve wings very quickly. In the eastern part of "1k Needles" is the Shimmering Flats, where goblins and gnomes run the race track/gambling mecca Mirage Raceway. Thousand Needles is generally considered a good place for Horde to level to avoid the ganking of Ashenvale and Hillsbrad Foothills.
Un'Goro Crater: Un'Goro Crater is supposed to be a lost land of Azeroth, a mysterious crater teeming with dinosaurs, gorillas, flower things, and absolutely no humanoid monsters. The effect kind of got spoiled by adding a flight path, but there's still lots of fun stuff to do here. Mysterious crystals and stone pylons are scattered around the zone, and they may mark where the Titans might return to Azeroth. A volcano marks the middle of the zone. All in all, the zone is rich in resources and enemies, and a good place to farm if you can put up with attacks from the Devilsaurs (the world's stealthiest 50-foot tall dinosaur.)
Winterspring: Winterspring is the traditional home of the blue dragonflight, led by the slightly crazy Malygos. Night elves also used to live here for some ungodly reason, and the ruins of their city of Kel'Theril can be found haunted by spirits. Recently, the goblins have taken over the astrologically-based city of Everlook, which is under constant siege from the elements and from the local wildlife. Darkwhisper Gorge, in the south, is the entrance to Mount Hyjal (which is currently blocked off and thus has not been covered in this guide.) It is infested with dangerous elite demons, and thus not a good path to Hyjal. Unfortunately, the night elves currently won't let anyone into Hyjal by other means. Despite their best efforts, though, anyone with a little patience and creativity can get into Hyjal ... if you're willing to climb mountains, that is.
Gallery: Know Your Lore