Star Wars fans have been counting down the days until December 20th, 2019 for Episode IX to meet its release date. Until then, we have to take a walk down Memory Lane and explore all the lands from far off galaxies. Though the idyllic planets of Star Wars seem like they are like something out of science fiction, they were actually filmed in some of the most exotic locations on earth.
Since the late '70s, Star Wars has literally traveled through these far-off fantasy locations that make it all seem unattainable for us here on earth. But as luck would have it, Star Wars fans don’t have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to experience the franchise’s alien worlds. Though CGI has played a role in making these real-life filming locations appear more fantasy than anything else, Star Wars fans can see these places in real life.
If you are a true mega Star Wars fan, then you definitely need to make a pilgrimage to at least one of these 20 filming locations at least once in your life (and possibly act out your own mini-series while there). May the force be with you on your travels.
*Warning! There are spoilers.*
Skellig Michael in Ireland is a tiny island that was used as a backdrop to capture Luke Skywalker's hideout in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The earliest historical reference to the islands dates back to 1400 B.C.; the Skelligs were home to one of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland, according to People.
The area's history is fitting to its appearance in relation to Luke Skywalker's character arc in the film.
There are tours given to cruise around and explore the island, but it's only accessible May through September. The weather there is unpredictable so plan accordingly.
The Plaza de España is one of the key tourist attractions in the entire country of Spain. It is a massive circular structure located in the heart of Sevilla, one of Spain's most ancient cities, which makes for perfect romantic walks.
Although it is only seen for a mere 48 seconds in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, there is an extended deleted scene called "Extended Arrival on Naboo." It is a shame that most of these scenes shot in the Plaza de España were deleted because the site is breathtaking and totally sets the stage for some epic action.
Four of the Star Wars movies were partially filmed in southern Tunisia (the planet Tatooine in the movies). Throughout the series, this is the city that was home to Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker as a child.
In fact, the building that was used to film the home of Luke Skywalker's upbringing is now a hotel.
Tourists can wander around the desert, bumping into moisture evaporators and other Star Wars memorabilia. The beauty is that Star Wars is not well known in Tunisia, so references will fly over the locals' heads when you start making cheesy comments.
You don't always have to plan for some big and pricy international trip in order to see a Star Wars filming location. In fact, Del Norte County in California provided the land of Endor backdrop where rebels and Ewoks fought the evil Empire in Star Wars Return of the Jedi in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. And despite its reputation for beaches and surfers, CA has plenty of rustic scenery, too.
In an interview in 1982, George Lucas said that he wanted a more primitive look for the Ewoks on the Moon of Endor: "A jungly kind of place, the color of life, a cradle of life environment."
Norway's claim to fame in Star Wars history is that its glaciers served as an important backdrop in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Mind you, this was shot in a time before there were any CGI effects or blue screens, making these scenes all the more impressive. Apparently, the extensive travel was worth capturing the perfect "planet."
The Hardangerjøkulen glacier is located in the small town of Finse, which portrayed the frozen planet of Hoth.
The key scenes were shot near the beginning of the film during the battle scene between Luke Skywalker’s Rebel Alliance and Darth Vader’s Imperial forces.
The beginning scenes in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens reveal an icy landscape that is left unsettled by a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Though many of the up close and personal battle scenes were shot in the studio, these two locations shared the privilege of all the battle action.
The Krafla volcano and Myvatn lakes in Iceland are just 14 miles apart in Northern Iceland. The entire area is densely populated with craters, lakes, and active volcanoes. Krafla is currently a dormant volcano, with the last eruption in 1984, but there are residual lava fields where the jets of steam still manage to escape the earth.
The isolated planet of Jakku, a land of rolling dunes and endless desert plains, was actually shot in Abu Dhabi in the United Emirates. The first filming location for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens took place in the westernmost region of Al Dhafra, which is the world's largest uninterrupted sand mass.
J.J. Abrams spoke about the area: "Filming in Abu Dhabi was an incredible thing. Star Wars is a Western and a fairy tale... shooting in Abu Dhabi was just that!"
The perfect combination of diverse desert landscapes and sand flying everywhere made for some eye-catching scenery.
The limestone peaks are the standout features of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand, which is north towards Phuket. The bay between Phuket and Krabi is a national marine park in Thailand where tourists can explore the deep caves and clear waters by renting a canoe. But not many tourists know that the area has a connection to the epic films.
Postproduction for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was done there and was also the backdrop for the arrival at the Battle of Kashyyyk—home of the Wookies. Everyone always had to wonder where Chewbacca came from- now the mystery has been unveiled.
The planet of Tatooine was also shot in California's Death Valley, which became a key location for the filming of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.
But it wasn't just a couple of dunes that set the stage for Star Wars.
The specific locations of each filming spot include Golden Canyon (though hiking is not recommended in the hotter months), Artists Drive/Palette, Desolation Canyon, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Dantes View, and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The endless desert of varied landscapes is enough to keep you on your toes.
The ancient sites of the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala have been in the spotlight for new age gurus. With the whole "end of the world" that would have happened in 2012 surrounding the Mayan calendar, the area earned plenty of historic (and other) interest.
Tikal was the Mayan capital city of the ancient Mayan civilization and it's now located in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo landed the Millennium Falcon on this jungle-y, rainforest-y moon known as Planet Yavin. It was here that the heroes launched their attack on the Death Star.
Out of all the Star Wars shooting locations on this list, this one has to be the most romantic. Die-hard Star Wars fans have flocked here for weddings to recreate the wedding scene between Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
On the Villa del Balbianello overlooking Lake Como was the last wedding scene.
In the meadows is where we saw them in prior scenes having a picnic and getting to know each other. Though not everyone was sold on the acting chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, they were sold on the beautiful location.
Italy is known for its stunning architecture and impeccable interior design that is so detailed and intricate. So what better location than the Palace of Caserta in Caserta, Italy to be the interior of the Palace of Naboo? Its Palazzo Reale is the largest royal palace in Italy (and, by volume, in the world), designed by Luigi Vanvitelli and built for the Bourbon King Charles III in the 1750s, according to Fandom.
The palace boasts over a thousand rooms and the surrounding property has endless greenery, fountains, and sculptures. The spacious interior is enough to host an army, which we presume it did at times in Star Wars!
In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Planet Scarif is depicted as a beautiful tropical paradise but with the presence of a major Imperial military installation, according to dreamingofmaldives.com. The planet is home to the Imperial war machine and enveloped in impenetrable deflector shields that are heavily defended.
The location for shooting the beautiful yet intimidating planet took place in Laamu Atoll, South Maldives.
It was shot on two major islands: Gan, one of the largest island in the Maldives, inhabited and the paradise Island of Berasdhoo, beautiful, idyllic, and completely deserted area planted with only coconut trees.
Guilin, China is a mystic land full of lush greenery and misty air. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the cast and crew set voyage for Asia for the first time. The dramatic limestone karst mountains around the city of Guilin located in Southern China portray the Wookie planet of Kashyyk.
Gulin is located in the northeast corner of the Guangxi Zhuang region of southern China. It’s a ‘karst’ landscape, formed by the action of acidic water on weakly soluble bedrock, according to movie-locations.com. This is place is perfect for a helicopter ride for a bird's eye view.
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia was portrayed as Planet Crait, the barren world covered in salt in Star Wars Episode III: The Last Jedi. Filmmakers had little choice but to choose the salt flats of this unique location to shoot to retain the authenticity of the scenes.
Tourists have the option of taking the 4WD road trip from the town of Uyuni in Bolivia, a trip which involves crossing the salt flat.
This is an ideal alternative for those who find rainforests to be too hot and claustrophobic. In this vast and spacious landscape, it's not uncommon to see alpacas roaming around.
The Whippendell Woods near Watford, England could arguably be one of the most beautiful but hated located for shooting any Star Wars scene. Why? Because that is where we are introduced to the least popular character: Jar-Jar Binks. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn encounter a strange creature that was ostracized from his own society.
The Whippendell Woods is located near the ancient woodlands and is a great place to hike and explore nature. The area is believed to be more than 400 years old and offers a wide variety of activities including horseback riding.
Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy is home to one of the most tragic scenes ever to be shot in Star Wars history. This is the fateful scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker have their final standoff in a battle scene in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
After that, it is all downhill and he turns to the dark side as Darth Vader. Sorry for the spoiler there.
Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. Although no scenes were physically filmed there, it was digitally scouted and enhanced to capture the backdrops of the scene.
The Bernese Alps around Grindelwald, Switzerland represent the mountains of Alderaan, which is Princess Leia's home in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Grindelwald is a village and popular ski resort at the foot of the Eiger north face, surrounded by an impressive mountain landscape, according to swissinfo.ch.
The picturesque location is full of mountains, snow, and blue skies that make a fairytale come to life. The Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) even maintains a partnership with Disney so that researchers collaborate to find high-tech solutions to bring aspects of the Star Wars films to life.
Dubrovnik, Croatia is not just a popular filming location for Star Wars, but also an important one for Game of Thrones. The location apparently lends itself to particularly otherworldy settings in both franchises.
In fact, the entire area has become an epicenter of fantasy tours for both Star Wars and Game of Thrones fans.
Dubrovnik played The Casino City Of Canto Bight in Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. Dubrovnik's iconic stone-wall defenses regularly invoke platitudes of otherworldly-ness, according to Time Out. Built in the 12th century to ward off invasions from seafaring foes, the Walls of Dubrovnik slot nicely into Star Wars multiverse.
Yet another western scene shot in the USA, the Imperial Sand Dunes of Arizona date way back to the old school Star Wars days. In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, we meet Jabba the Hutt for the first time in all of his greasy glory.
The pivotal scene was shot in Yuma, where Jabba was about to push Luke Skywalker from a sand barge. But then the young Jedi turned the tables on the villain, rescuing Princess Leia and Han Solo in the process, according to AZ Central. The sand dunes were a perfect match for the desert city of Tatooine.