If you’ve felt a disturbance in the Force lately, you’re not alone: millions of film fans are eagerly awaiting the December release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But even if you don’t know a lightsaber from a blaster pistol, you can still enjoy the real-life places featured in that galaxy far, far away.
Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
Just one filiming location for the ninth installment of the Star Wars anthology has been revealed and it’s a familiar one. Wadi Rum – Jordan’s breathtaking, rust-colored sandy oasis – was previously used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s rocky terrain and dry conditions make for the perfect backdrop to an alien world.
The film-makers of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens could have plonked their cameras almost anywhere in Iceland, such is the otherworldliness of its landscape. Rumors suggest the Star Wars crew focused its attention on the northeast Mývatn region, which is a good bet: home to a spectacular lake, the Krafla volcano, and more gurgling mud pots, steaming fumaroles and weird lava formations than you can shake a stormtrooper at.
The oh-so-huggable Ewoks once frolicked in California’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, but insiders say they’ve taken up residence amid the ancient trunks of Puzzlewood, deep in the Forest of Dean. It’s certainly a hallowed spot for fictional worlds,
Jav sex having inspired Lord of the Ringsauthor JRR Tolkien and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, among many others. Walk, cycle or paddle your way through England’s oldest oak forest and look for a telltale pair of furry ears.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
It’s not hard to see why Skellig Michael was a filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The atmospheric, wind-scoured rock, which is home to a Unesco World Heritage-listed monastery, is a perfect spot for a jedi to hide. The crossing to the island is choppy but worth it: catch a boat from the mainland between May and September.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tunisia supplied the sand for Star Wars sets of years gone by, but the city of Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens were shot near Abu Dhabi. This city built on oil money boasts space-age malls, but director JJ Abrams was more interested in the restless, romantic dunes of the Rub’ al Khali (also known as the Empty Quarter) – one of the world’s largest and, oh yes, emptiest desert seas.
Head north from the remote village of Finse and you’ll end up on the ice-bound planet of Hoth, backdrop of arguably the greatest battle scene in Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (OK, OK: in reality, it’s the Hardangerjøkulen icecap). Finse, which is accessible only by train, bike or foot, is one of the best places in Norway for a pure Arctic-like wilderness experience. But remember that you’re more likely to spot a reindeer than a wampa.
Han Solo’s shaggy sidekick had to come from somewhere special; Guilin fitted the bill for Chewbacca thanks to its verdure-draped karst limestone mountains. These jagged rock forms are one of China’s most popular tourist attractions, and Guilin (aka the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk from Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) is a major gateway to the intriguing Guangxi region.
Death Valley, USA
Various desert destinations have stood in for Tatooine, perhaps the most important planet in the Star Wars saga. Tunisia has supplied backdrops, as has Abu Dhabi. But the film-makers also found inspiration in their own backyard.
The panoramic view from Dante’s Peak in Death Valley, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth never mind the USA, appears in Episode IV – A New Hope. The surrounding national park is a wonderland of water-sculpted canyons, sand-surfing boulders and palm-shaded oases.
George Lucas felt Guatemala was a fine stand-in for a “jungle moon” when he made the original Star Wars film in the mid-1970s (now somewhat confusingly known as Episode IV – A New Hope). We can only agree. The forest-clad base from which the rebels launch an attack that ultimately destroys the Death Star is, in fact, Tikal – the ruins of an ancient Mayan empire. Star Wars trivia aside, this Unesco World Heritage-listed site full of temples, altars and artifacts is a bonafide highlight of Central America
Mt Etna, Italy
Fire your enthusiasm for the franchise with a guided tour of grumbling Mt Etna, the bad-tempered volcano on the east coast of Sicily. This 10,922-foot (3329 meters) mound of trouble doubled as the planet Mustafar in Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were set to square off on its fiery slopes (or rather, they appeared to … in reality, Lucasfilm sent camera crews to film one of Mt Etna’s regular eruptions, then used the footage as the backdrop for the pair’s dust-up).