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I've been searching for hours in the game to find a Stronghold and haven't seen one. Apparently lots of mobs and treasures can be found there, but the question is where can we find those?

Can we find them near a ravine or abandoned tunnels?

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I believe it's random, and there's only one...so don't expect to find one quickly. –  Domocus Sep 14 '11 at 4:19
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@Domocus Correction - there are three now. –  Keaanu Sep 14 '11 at 4:46

8 Answers 8

up vote 55 down vote accepted

From a Reddit thread about stronghold distribution, it was reported that Jens (the development lead on Minecraft) said at PAX that strongholds spawn within a 500 block radius, centered around your initial spawn point.

As of 1.8, the number of strongholds spawned per world was increased from one to three, which makes them rare, but not egregiously so like they were in 1.8-pre1. Combined with the 500 block radius spawn parameter, if you do any amount of exploring, you should hit one by sheer dumb luck.

If you're impatient, there are alternatives depending on the version of Minecraft you're using:

Beta 1.9

As of 1.9-pre4, you can use Eyes of Ender to locate the direction of a stronghold by throwing them up in the air. Once thrown, they'll change direction to point to the stronghold.

Example usage from CaptainSparklez:

Beta 1.8

There is no in-game way to find a stronghold, but you can use a cartography program like MCMap Live (Mac) or Cartograph G (Windows) (see also this question for other alternatives) to look for tell-tale signs of a stronghold: iron bars and bookshelves.

Here's a render of a world I just generated, highlighting bookshelves (click to enlarge):

Minecraft World

The bookshelves are just barely visible at this resolution, but they're marked by the green circles.

Enhance!

Stronghold

Bam, stronghold. The render is from x=-750,z=-750 to x=750,z=750, so it appears the Strongholds are on the very cusp of the reported 500 block radius limit, if not a little outside.

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+1 for Enhance!, lol. –  Ian Pugsley Sep 14 '11 at 13:10
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So basically, in a world that can generate 12 000 000+ blocs, there can only be 3 strongholds ? –  Warface Sep 14 '11 at 16:15
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@Warface Correct. The purpose of the strongholds is to house bosses, which aren't implemented yet, so Jens sees no need to create more of them. –  user3389 Sep 14 '11 at 16:44
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Thanks for this excellent answer. Is a "500 block radius" a circle that's kludged onto blocks, or is it a 'square radius', ie a rectangle with an area of (500+500)*(500+500)? –  DanBeale Jun 17 '12 at 20:34
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Update - note that wiki Stronghold entry currently says, "All Strongholds are located at random in a radius between 640 and 1152 blocks from the origin, 0/0." I also note the difference in those two numbers is 512, so the spawn range seems to be a 512-block thick torus (or doughnut-shaped). –  Cyclops Jan 19 '13 at 14:40

It's pseudo-random, though you can probably find strongholds with something like MC Map Live, though it's only for Mac OS X. Here's the Windows equivalent, though I'm not sure if it'll work for 1.8. Cartograph.

Just explore your world and manually search for strongholds on the map.

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If you go here and click "upload with new input" and enter in your world seed (found by pressing F3 ingame.) it will output the coordinates for the strongholds and ruins in your world. This is the optimal way of finding them as they don't always spawn above ground.

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That's an excellent answer. You deserve more upvotes. –  fredley Sep 14 '11 at 19:44
    
Can someone verify this? I tried the coordinates and there was no stronghold there. It gives X, Z, respectively, right? –  John the Green Oct 12 '11 at 0:47
    
Any idea if this works on the Xbox version? –  ChargingPun Sep 20 '12 at 13:24
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An anonymous user chimes in noting that he's done some SCIENCE on the topic and found out that the coordinates given by the webpage are more of a good ballpark estimate (accurate to within 200 meters) than a precise point to dig downwards to. –  badp Jan 24 '13 at 13:51
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That link appears to have died, at least for me. :( –  mikeTheLiar Mar 21 at 21:07

There is an in game mechanic for solving this problem. Use Eye of Ender

If you want to get into the end, be sure and bring a bunch of them though!

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I take the seed (F3) from the world in which I want to find the stronghold, and start a creative map using the same seed. When you do this, you have an infinite number of eyes of ender to throw (throw by right clicking).

Once you find the stronghold by throwing the eyes of ender, and then following them (you will have to dig to get to it), write down the coordinates of the stronghold (F3), and then go back to your original map.

Head to the coordinates of the stronghold you found, and, if you used the same seed in your creative world as you did your original world, the stronghold will be there. This method makes it so you don't have to kill lots of endermen to get the eyes ender. Hope this helps!

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I tried this once and I had to give up after hour and half. –  Tomáš Zato Sep 6 '13 at 17:26

Lots of great answers here, but no techniques on practically finding the strong hold with eyes of ender.

The Bottom-Line is, eyes of ender are rare so you need to use a technique called 'Successive Overrelaxation'. In short, when you know the direction from the first throw, just run, and run and run for a long time. Then, throw again. And rinse and repeat. This technique preserves eyes, and it saves some time too.

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Actually there is a more efficient way according to wiki: the trianle method. I am not sure about the details, too lazy to google it myself but i think the idea is to throw two eyes from different locations and calculate their crossing points –  Yunus Nedim Mehel Jan 5 '13 at 21:37
    
purplefrog.com/~thoth/MinecraftStronghold/stronghold.html is a tool I created to help me locate strongholds using the in-game Eye of Ender and the triangulation method outlined in a youtube video. –  Mutant Bob Oct 2 '13 at 14:16

You can always use triangulation if you're inclined to work out to solve similar problems in real life too.

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Link-only answers are discouraged. If you move the information from the MC forums into your answer, this would be a fantastic alternative. –  mikeTheLiar May 16 '13 at 14:31

A lot of times strongholds are connected to ravines. Seriously every stronghold I've found was connected to a ravine, whether above or under ground. So look for a ravine, and the chances are good you will find a stronghold. If all else fails, use Eyes of Ender, they'll bring you to the Ender Portal room in the stronghold.

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Ravines are random, so it's just coincidence. If there is a ravine connected to a stronghold in a certain world though, that makes it easier to see the stronghold due to more air blocks – so you're more likely to associate ravines and strongholds, creating confirmation bias. Lots of strongholds aren't near ravines, though. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 8 '13 at 14:48

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