Considering the Star Wars saga takes place ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’, it sure does look familiar. Of course, while it would be very cool to film in space, unlike the protagonists of the films, the filmmakers have been very much Earth-bound.
Still, though the distant planets and galaxies of the series might lie across the cosmos, one needn’t travel that far to experience them. The deserts of Tatooine, forests of Endor, and beaches of Scarif are all places visitors can go. Whether you recreate your favourite scenes from the movies is up to you, though.
In the lead-up to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi we’ve rounded up some of the best Star Wars locations you can actually visit in real life.
Of course, many iconic scenes were filmed in various studios or on green screen, so not all of your favourite moments will be accounted for. Still, the ones that are accessible are pretty awe-inspiring! Be warned, we’re going to be diving into some very lore-heavy territory here, so read up on your Star Wars history before proceeding!
Appearing in both the original trilogy and the prequels, Tatooine is one of Star Wars‘ best-known planets. Tatooine is where both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader grew up, so it’s very important in Star Wars lore. It’s actually based on Tataouine, a real city in Tunisia. Much of the filming of Anakin Skywalker’s home took place in Tunisia around Tataouine. The exact locations are as follows:
- Ksar Hadada, Ghoumrassen and Ksar Ouled Soltane – the slave quarters where a young Anakin Skywalker grew up in The Phantom Menace.
- Onk Jemal, Tozeur – a street near Anakin’s home where the iconic lightsabre duel between Darth Maul and Qui Gon Jinn takes place in The Phantom Menace.
- The Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata – Lars’ homestead where Luke Skywalker grew up.
- Chott el Djerid, near Nefta – Used for general desert shots and also briefly as Lars’ homestead.
- La Grande Dune, near Nefta – The Tatooine desert where R2-D2 and C-3PO land in their escape pod.
- Ajim, Island of Djerba – Various shots of Mos Eisley on Tatooine, an old mosque in the town was used for exterior shots of Obi Wan Kenobi’s house.
- Shubiel Gorge, Sidi Bouhlel (or Sidi Bou Helal), near Tozeur – This gorge became various canyons on Tatooine. It’s where R2D2 was kidnapped by Jawas and where Tusken Raiders attack Luke Skywalker in A New Hope.
However, Tatooine wasn’t entirely filmed in Tunisia. The desert planet was also partially filmed near Hollywood itself. Some of the shots in Tunisia were spliced with shots from Californian deserts to capture the scale of Tatooine’s deserts.
- Death Valley National Park, California – Specifically, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artists Palette & Golden Canyon, Artist’s Drive, Desolation Canyon, and Dante’s View. These all stood in for Tatooine in various recognisable scenes.
- Twenty-Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, California – This canyon is the road to Jabba the Hutt’s palace which C-3PO and R2D2 trundle down in Return Of The Jedi.
- Buttercup Valley, Yuma Desert – This is where the scenes around the Sarlacc Pit were shot in Return Of The Jedi, so watch out for any gaping mouths at the bottom of sand dunes waiting to gobble you up!
The home of the original rebel base in both A New Hope and Rogue One, Yarvin IV is a moon orbiting a gas giant. It was also established as the birthplace of The Force Awakens‘ fan favourite Poe Dameron. However, unlike with Tatooine, it’s difficult to get a full ‘Yavin IV experience’ because of the way it was shot.
The interior scenes set in various hangars were filmed at RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire, a former WWII airbase. The sheds that became these hangars appear in other films too. You can spot them in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Inception, and every single one of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
However, Luke and co. are not looking out over the Bedfordshire countryside as they gaze out over Yavin IV. Instead, the ruins of the ancient city of Tikal in the Guatemalan jungle where used for the panoramic exterior shots of the base.
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One of the most iconic Star Wars scenes was watching the giant camel-like AT-AT walkers stomping across the snow on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.
While much of Hoth was filmed using miniatures and used baking soda to stand in as snow the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near Finse, Norway provided many exterior shots. Filming took place in sub-zero conditions, so if Harrison Ford looks freezing, that’s why.
The homeworld of Star Wars‘ cutest creations, the Ewoks. It’s also the place where the Rebel Alliance finally manage to defeat the Galactic Empire.
Scenes were filmed around the Del Norte County just North of San Francisco, in various places. Tall Trees Redwood Grove was George Lucas’ major place to go for filming in the area, but shots come from all over the place.
In the prequel trilogy, the forested Naboo became a major location. Home to Anakin Skywalker’s wife, Padmé and Star Wars‘ fans most hated character, Jar-Jar Binks, the planet appeared many times. George Lucas used locations in Europe to stand in for Naboo, mostly in Italy.
The Palace of Caserta near Naples became the Naboo Royal Palace. Meanwhile, the Villa del Balbianello on the edge of Lake Como became the site of Anakin and Padmé’s wedding scene.
The capital city of Naboo, Theed, was Plaza de España in Seville, Spain.
Finally, the forests of Naboo where Jar-Jar Binks first appeared were in Watford, UK. Visitors to the Whippendell Woods in Cassiobury Park will find the location where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi first meet the irksome Gungan.
The Wookie home world was essentially filmed on a sound stage so there’s not a lot to say about this one. However, composite shots of Phang Nga Bay, near Phuket in Thailand and Guillin in China became parts of the backdrop.
Mustafar is, in many ways, the birthplace of Darth Vader. This is the site of his final battle with Obi Wan Kenobi which cripples Anakin Skywalker, forcing his to don the famous Darth Vader armour. While much of the imagery is computer generated, it was filmed on location at Mount Etna on Sicily.
The volcano actually erupted during filming. George Lucas ordered the camera crew to film the eruption and it can be seen in background shots on Mustafar.
When the planet returns in Rogue One, however, it is entirely CGI.
The first film in the new Star Wars trilogy, The Force Awakens was accused of aping A New Hope when it was first released. To be fair, both begin with a lost orphan living on a desert planet. Instead of Tatooine though, Rey is alone on Jakku. And sure, to the uninitiated, Jakku might look a lot like Tatooine. But it is a very different planet. And just in case anyone was confused, director J.J Abrams chose a different desert to film in.
Rub’ al Khali in the United Arab Emirates is the stand-in for Jakku. Though, considering it looks almost exactly like Tatooine, it might have been easier to just return to Tunisia/California.
Another forested planet like Naboo, Takodana was most filmed in the Lake District in the UK. Derwentwater provided the backdrop for Maz Kanata’s castle, although visitors might struggle to recognise it due to some of the fells in the background being edited a little.
In addition, Thirlmere, just down the road from Derwentwater provided the backdrop for the dramatic scene where the X-Wing craft skim over the lake. Interestingly though, the background was flipped for the film. Who knows why?
However, while the lakeside scenes were filmed in the Lake District, the Puzzlewood in the Forest Of Dean was the location for the scenes where Kylo Ren pursues Rey through the forests of Takodana. The Puzzlewood has plenty of associations with popular culture. It inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings series as well as the Forbidden Forest in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Episodes of Doctor Who and Merlin have also been filmed at the location.
Another rebel base on another actual airbase. The Resistance’s headquarters in The Force Awakens was filmed at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, UK. The scenes are filmed in the Ground Launched Cruise Missles Alert and Maintainance Area.
Fans of Beyoncé might also recognise the location from the music videos of her self-titled album. It also appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Top Gear.
Otherwise known as the Death Star 2.0, Starkiller Base was a hollowed out planet filled with a giant ray gun. So far, so Star Wars. However, the outer crust of the snowy planet still exists. Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren battle on the planet’s surface towards the end of the film.
Eyjafjallajökull in South West Iceland became the surface of the planet. This volcano was actually the same one that erupted in 2010, grounding a tonne of flights and causing chaos for those travelling to and from America. Starkiller Base destroyed holidays and business trips as well as the New Republic!
Spotted at the very end of The Force Awakens, Ahch-To is Luke Skywalker’s refuge. Trailers of the upcoming The Last Jedi show it in more detail. Rey and Luke will be training together on the planet surrounded by two new races: the adorable Porgs and the all-female Caretakers.
Ahch-To was filmed on Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Ireland. The place is full of puffins and other sea birds. These real-life creatures were actually director Rian Johnson’s inspiration for the Porgs.
Eadu and Lah’mu:
The Star Wars crew went back to Iceland for the filming of Rogue One. Both the imperial base research station on Eadu and Jyn Erso’s home planet of Lah’mu were filmed on Iceland’s south coast.
Lah’mu was filmed on the black sand Hafursey beach, Myrdalssandur on Iceland’s southern coast. Meanwhile, filming for Eadu scenes took place around the mountains of Hjörleifshöfði. The Krafla area with its volcanic crater and around Lake Mývatn’s rock formations were also filming locations in Iceland.
A holy planet for those attuned to the force and the source of kyber crystals which power lightsabers. Once again, it was another desert planet. However, it does have a bit of a unique look compared to Tatooine and Jakku – this desert is red.
The scenes on Jedha were filmed in the Valley Of The Moon in Jordan. This is a popular filming location and has been the site of extra-terrestrial adventures before. It stood in for Mars in The Red Planet, The Last Days On Mars, and The Martian. It was also an alien world in Prometheus.
For the first time ever, Star Wars broke the desert-forested-icy-lava mould with Scarif. The tropical planet was the scene of Rogue One‘s final battle. Background scenes were filmed the islands of Gan and Baresdhoo of the Laamu Atoll in the Maldives.
However, the main part Scarif is the military base. And, of course, Star Wars has a great history with military bases. This time it was the RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire which stood in for Scarif’s base. Some interior shots were also filmed late at night at Canary Wharf tube station in central London.
In The Last Jedi:
At the time of writing, The Last Jedi is yet to be released. However, it is known that the crew filmed for a few days in Dubrovnik in Croatia. It is unknown where this location will stand in for. However, for popular-culture fans, there’s plenty to see in Dubrovnik as it also the place where the King’s Landing scenes were filmed in Game Of Thrones.
The majority of other Star Wars filming was done at various UK studios just outside of London. Ealing Studios, Elstree Studios, Leavesden Studios, Pinewood Studios, Shepperton Studios have all been home to various Star Wars films over the years. The swampy planet, Dagobah for example, was filmed entirely at Elstree Studios.
How much would it cost to visit all of these places?
A heck of a lot. According to loans company Opploans the entire cost of a trip to visit every single one of these Star Wars filming locations would be $10,899.94. That is, if you started from… umm… Chicago. We’re not sure why they picked Chicago, but go with it.
Oh, and none of this includes accommodation, so you may have to make like a porg and just build yourself a nest whenever you get a chance.
Created by Opploans