Tuesday 25 October 2016

Top 10: Star Wars movie locations you can visit here on earth

The tourism force awakens

Published 16/12/2015 | 11:38

Star Wars filming locations: Kylo Ren with Skellig Michael (composite image). Photo: Deposit
Star Wars filming locations: Kylo Ren with Skellig Michael (composite image). Photo: Deposit
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Skellig Michael. Photo: Deposit
The troglodyte homes in Tunisia, where Star Wars was shot
Norway. Photo: Deposit
Film character BB-8 arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
A still shot from the new Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens', which is to be released next month
Eruption and lava flow in Italy
Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter. Photo: Deposit
Caserta Palace, Italy. Photo: Deposit
Tikal Temple, Guatemala. Photo: Deposit
Redwoods State Park, California. Photo: Deposit
Phang Nga, Thailand. Photo: Deposit
Northern Lights in Iceland. Photo: Deposit

Fancy some intergalactic travel? Pól Ó Conghaile rounds-up 10 Star Wars filming locations that actually exist.

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1. Skellig Michael, Ireland

Phew. Tourism Ireland, set to base a whole marketing campaign around Star Wars 7, will be breathing a sigh of relief following this week's release - as it turns out the Skelligs (pictured above) have made the cut.

"Skellig Michael looks epic on film," writes Chris Wasser in Independent.ie's first review of The Force Awakens (no spoilers), although it remains to be seen how the Unesco world heritage site copes with extra visitors.

The Skelligs are "one of the country's most mystical places," as The New York Times said during a recent visit, but their remote location and difficulty to access (just 13 local boatmen have licenses to make the weather-dependent trip) has meant relatively few visitors actually make landfall.

2. Iceland


The exact filming locations used in Star Wars Episode 7 have yet to be revealed, but IMDB has said Iceland's Mycatn region and Krafla volcano feature.

In truth, almost any corner of this jaw-dropping island (pictured above) could pose as a galaxy far, far away. JJ Abrams' decision to focus less on green screen effects and more on practical magic and stunning landscapes fit Iceland to a tee (Northern Lights, anyone?). The Force is strong with this one.

Read more: How to see the Northern Lights

3. Redwoods State Parks, California


The green screen effects from Return of the Jedi may not have stood the test of time, but the giant trees used as a location for Endor sure have.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park has been mooted as a filming location for the Ewok's home planet, though there's some debate about exactly where.

Incidentally, scenes for Steven Spielberg's 'Lost World: Jurassic Park' were filmed nearby at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

4. Finse, Norway


Looking for a Hans-on Star Wars holiday destination?

Central Norway doubled as Hoth in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes back, setting the unforgettable scene for the AT-AT Walkers' attack on the rebel base.

The Hardangerjøkulen glacier and snowbound landscapes made for the ideal Star Wars filming locations - but don't expect to find much in the way of facilities. The average temperature during the year is -2 degrees... Sir Ernest Shackleton used Finse to prepare for his expedition to the Antarctic.

5. Rub' al Khali, Abu Dhabi


Look familiar? Abu Dhabi is home to one of the world's biggest desert seas, the perfect supplier for the sands of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sir Wilfred Thesiger famously explored the Empty Quarter here, long before Disney's cast and crew ever landed to create the new Tatooine... home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, and the headquarters of the dastardly Jabba the Hutt.

Abu Dhabi is home to Ferrari World... could pod-racing be next?

6.  Tikal, Guatemala


This Mayan temple complex and its thatch of jungle featured as  the Yavin IV Rebel Base in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

This is the point from which the Rebels launch the attack that finally destroys the Death Star... apparently George Lucas thought it a super fit for a "jungle moon".

Similar to Skellig Michael, that other iconic Star Wars Episode VII filming location, it is a Unesco world heritage site.

7. Tunisia


Scenes from The English Patient, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Life of Brian were filmed in Tunisia, but for movie buffs, there is only one star attraction.

Around 21km into the Sahara Desert outside Tozeur lies Luke Skywalker's home village. Sure, it's made of wood, chicken wire and plaster (not to mention accessible only by 4x4). But make the journey and you'll feel like you've landed on Tatooine... via A New Hope and The Phantom Menace.

Over the salt plains, also in southern Tunisia, Matmata is home to 700 troglodyte homes. These cool, covert domiciles provided the blueprint for Luke's family home in Episode IV. Nearby, our hero hooked up with Han Solo and made merry with denizens of the galaxy in the subterranean Hotel Sidi Driss.

Sadly, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to deem Tunisia unsafe to visit following the terrorist attacks of June 2015. More travel advice here.

8.  Mount Etna, Sicily


According to the delightfully-named Wookieepedia (the Star Wars wiki), Mount Etna captured plate photography for backdrops in the key fight scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. The good news? Europe's largest active volcano erupted while it was shooting, so lava flows could apparently be used as moving backgrounds.

9. Caserta Palace, Italy


Caserta Palace, a former residence of the Bourbon kings of Naples, was built to rival Versailles. The 18th-century pile featured as Queen Amidala's abode in Naboo - adding to the Italian Renaissance-style aesthetic of the planet.

Caserta also doubled as the Vatican in Angels and Demons, and you'll recognise features like the throne room (the large window is the point from which Padmé watched Trade Federation troops approaching the palace doors).

Scenes from Episode II - Attack of the Clones, which feature Anakin and Padmá going into hiding on Naboo, were filmed at Villa Balbianello on Lake Como.

10.  Phang Nga Bay, Thailand


Hirsute Chewbacca is one of Star Wars best-loved cast members, and his home Planet Kashyyyk - seen in Revenge of the Sith - was partly inspired by Phang Nga Bay.

The limestone peaks of this filming location are its most eye-catching draw (they also appeared in James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun), and were combined with other locations in Guilin, China, to create the Wookiee homeland.

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