In Tolkien's works Valinor is the home of the Valar (singular Vala), spirits that often take humanoid form, sometimes called "gods" by the Men of Middle-earth. Other residents of Valinor include the related but less powerful spirits, the Maiar, and most of the Eldar. Valinor lies in Aman, a continent west of Middle-earth. Ekkaia, the encircling sea surrounds both Aman and Middle-earth.
Valinor is located in the middle of Aman, in the tropical and subtropical latitudes. The land has a warm climate generally, though snow falls on the peaks of the Pelóri, the mountains that border Valinor. Every animal and plant found elsewhere in Middle-earth exists in Valinor along with species endemic to Valinor.
While Valinor proper is the part of Aman inside the Pelóri, the "shore of Valinor" where the Elves live is considered a part of Valinor as well.
Each Vala has its own region of the land where it resides and alters things as it pleases. The Mansions of Manwë and Varda, two of the most powerful spirits, stood upon Taniquetil, the highest mountain of the Pelóri. Yavanna, the Vala of Earth, Growth, and Harvest, resided in the Pastures of Yavanna in the south of the land, west of the Pelóri. Near-by were the mansions of Yavanna's spouse, Aulë the Smith, who made the Dwarves. Oromë, the Vala of the Hunt, lived in the Woods of Oromë to the north-east of the pastures. Nienna, the lonely Vala of Sorrow and Endurance, lived in the far west of the island where she spent her days crying about all the evil of the world, looking out to sea. Just south of Nienna's home, and to the north of the pastures, were the Halls of Mandos. Mandos was the Vala of the After-life. Also living in the Halls of Mandos was his spouse Vairë the weaver, who weaves the threads of time. To the east of the Halls of Mandos is the Isle of Estë, which is situated in the middle of the lake of Lórellin, which in turn lies to the north of the Gardens of Lórien (not to be confused with Lothlórien in Middle-earth). Estë and Lórien were married.
In east-central Valinor at the Girdle of Arda (the Equator of Tolkien's world) is Valmar, the capital of Valinor (also called Valimar or the City of Bells), the residence of the Valar and the Maiar in the realm of Valinor. The first house of the Elves, the Vanyar, settled there as well. The mound of Ezellohar, on which stood the Two Trees, and Máhanaxar, the Ring of Doom, are outside Valmar. Farther east is the Calacirya, the only easy pass through the Pelóri, a huge mountain range fencing Valinor on three sides, created to keep Morgoth's forces out. In the pass is the city Tirion, built on a hill, the city of the Noldor Elves. By the shore of the sea, north-east of Tirion, is the Telerin Elves' port Alqualondë.
Directly east of the shore of Valinor is the isle of Tol Eressëa, where the Elves later built the city of Avallónë and where the Teleri lived for centuries before moving to Valinor itself.
In the northern inner foothills of the Pelóri, hundreds of miles north of Valmar was Fëanor's city of Formenos, built upon his banishment from Tirion.
In the extreme north-east, beyond the Pelóri, was the Helcaraxë, a vast ice sheet that joined the two continents of Aman and Middle-earth before the War of Wrath. A long chain of islands called the Enchanted Isles were raised along the east coast Aman, to prevent anyone from reaching Aman by sea, without the blessing of the Valar.
After the destruction of Númenor, the Undying Lands were removed from Arda so that Men could not reach them. The Elves could go there only by the Straight Road and in ships capable of passing out of the spheres of the earth.
The size of Valinor is not specified in the text, and Tolkien created no detailed maps of Aman. The maps of Karen Wynn Fonstad, based on Tolkien's rough sketch of Arda's landmasses and seas, show Valinor about 800 miles wide, west to east (from the Great Sea to the Outer Sea), and about 3000 miles long north to south - similar in size to the United States. The entire continent of Aman runs from the Arctic latitudes of the Helcaraxë to the subarctic southern region of Middle-earth - about 7000 miles.
Valinor was established on the western continent Aman when Melkor (a Vala later named Morgoth, "the black foe", by the Elves) destroyed the Valar's original home on the island Almaren. To defend their new home from attack, they raised the Pelóri Mountains. They also established Valimar, the radiant Two Trees, and their abiding places. Valinor was said to have surpassed Almaren in beauty.
Later, the Valar heard of the awakening of the Elves in Middle-earth, where Melkor was unopposed. They proposed to bring the Elves to the safety of Valinor. However, to get Elves to Valinor, they needed to get Melkor out of the way. A war was fought, and Melkor's stronghold Utumno was destroyed. Then, many Elves came to Valinor, and established their cities Tirion and Alqualonde, beginning Valinor's age of glory.
There was a problem, however. Melkor had come back to Valinor as a prisoner, and after three Ages was brought before the Valar and he sued for pardon, with a vow to assist the Valar and make amends for the hurts he had done. Manwë then granted him pardon, but confined him within Valmar to remain under watch. After his release, Melkor started planting seeds of dissent in the minds of the Elves (particularly, the Noldor - the Vanyar would not hear him and Melkor considered the Teleri weak) in Valinor, saying that the Valar had brought them here so that they would control them and claim their lands in Middle-earth as their own and that they were prisoners of the Valar. He also created dissent between Fëanor and his brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin.
Belatedly, the Valar learned what Melkor had done. Knowing that he was discovered, Melkor went to the home of the Noldorin elves' High King Finwë and stole the Noldorin elves' prized jewels, the Silmarils, killing the king in the process. Melkor destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor with the help of Ungoliant, bringing an endless night to Valinor, then fled back to Middle-earth, to his other stronghold, Angband.
The Two Trees, from which all light both in Valinor and in Middle-earth came, were dead. The last flowers of the Trees were given to two Maiar, each in their own ship, to sail around the world at different times of the day so that neither Valinor nor Middle-earth would be in darkness. One was called the Sun, and it shone a bright yellow. The other was called the Moon and it shone with a pale white light.
As a result of the killing of king Finwë, the majority of the Noldor, led by Fëanor son of Finwë, the maker of the Silmarils, declared their rebellion and decided to pursue Melkor, afterwards known as Morgoth, to Middle-earth to win back their jewels and avenge their king. The Noldor would not listen to Manwë, the lord of the Valar, telling them that they had themselves come to Valinor of their own free will and that the Valar had no desire to rule or control any of them. But Manwë's messenger said also that if they choose to leave and to fight Melkor on their own, the Valar would not help them and that they would suffer great pain and grief on their journey.
Valinor took no part in the struggle between the Noldor and Morgoth, but when the Noldor were in total defeat, the mariner Eärendil convinced the Valar to make a last attack on Morgoth. A mighty host of Maiar, Vanyar and the remaining Noldor in Valinor destroyed Morgoth's gigantic army, destroyed Angband and cast Morgoth into the void.
During the Second Age, Valinor performed a single action: the building of the island Andor as a reward to the Edain (who had fought with the Noldor), where they established Númenor. Soon, the kingdom of Númenor grew powerful, and even invaded Valinor. Then Eru Ilúvatar was called upon by the Valar and the island was destroyed, Aman was lifted out of Arda, and the world was bereft of Valar. Arda then became spherical and was left for Men to govern.
During the Third Age, recognizing that an outright confrontation with dark Maia Sauron would be disastrous, the Valar sent the Istari to Middle-earth with the intent of giving counsel to Men in their resistance to the growing power of the Dark Lord.
It has been suggested that the concept may be based on Hy Brasil, a mythical island appearing on medieval maps that supposedly could be seen off the coast of Ireland for one day in every seven years, as well as other paradisiacal islands like Avalon and Saint Brendan's Island.
In the Arcanis Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting the word "Valinor" also refers to celestial servants of the Gods. Their names often are in the style of the god, such as the Mercy of Neroth or the Judgement of Nier.
In the 2003 pinball game (by Stern Pinball), Valinor is the game's final "Wizard Mode".
The Townes van Zandt song, "The Silver Ships of Andilar", makes mention of a land called Valinor, although it is unclear if it is meant to be the same location, since van Zandt describes it as a lifeless plain. The song could be telling the story of Númenóreans sailing the Encircling Sea to reach Valinor. Aldarion was not only a mariner, but a Númenórean king as well. Van Zandt also describes a "lifeless plain" as only immortal beings are allowed to live in Valinor.Tolkien, J. R. R. The Return of the King. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-00224-3. Tolkien, J. R. R. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. Letters. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-05699-8. Oberhelman, David D. (2006). "Valinor". In Drout, Michael D. C. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge. pp. 692–693. ISBN 0-415-96942-5. Fonstad, Karen Wynn (1991), The Atlas of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lothlórien, ISBN 0-618-12699-6