8 places to visit if you love ‘Star Wars’
Tatooine and the forest moon of Endor may seem like they’re in a galaxy far, far away, but these Star Wars worlds are closer than you think. The fantastical environments of these fictional planets were inspired by and filmed in real-world locations, from the craggy peaks and windswept isles of the Scottish Highlands to the ancient ruins and whitewashed houses of Tunisia.
Luke Hull, the production designer on the newest original Star Wars series Andor, streaming on Disney , says filming on location rather than using CGI effects can be a core source of inspiration when filling out and expanding an imagined world.
“[Andor‘s] writing was so detailed, granular, and character based that you immediately think we have to do this on location because location will give it gravitas,” he says. “It [adds] this layer of depth and reality that you can’t always bring to a set.”
There’s no need for a Millennium Falcon to visit the otherworldly landscapes our favorite Resistance fighters and Imperial forces call home. Simply take a plane, train, boat, or car to these eight stellar Star Wars filming locations.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Ferrix, Star Wars: Andor
With rugged lava fields, golden and black sand beaches, and whimsically shaped rocks, the ethereal landscape of Lanzarote, the northernmost of Spain‘s Canary Islands, might feel like a different planet. In Star Wars: Andor, it doubles as one: the desert world of Ferrix, where protagonist Cassian Andor, a thief-turned-Rebel spy, is ambushed by Syril Karn, an Imperial officer.
“We didn’t start with an idea to go to [Lanzarote] because we didn’t want to do a desert, but as we built Ferrix, these colors just kept coming back in, these kinds of reds in this Martian-like landscape,” says Hull. “That’s why Lanzarote was a good place to start [Ferrix]” Hull says. ]”
Look out for scenes featuring Salinas de Janubio, the Canary Islands’ largest salt flat, and Lanzarote’s Green Lagoon, its acidic hue a result of algae.
Island of Djerba, Tunisia
Tatooine, various episodes
As the primary filming location for the planet Tatooine (based on the Tunisian town of Tataouine), the island of Djerba is home to some important Star Wars sites, including the iconic Mos Eisley cantina first introduced in A New Hope. If there’s time, hop back over to mainland Tunisia for more Star Wars locations, like the Hotel Sidi Idriss, a traditional Berber subterranean house that was used as Luke Skywalker’s childhood home (and is still open for guests).
Lake Como, Italy
Naboo, Attack of the Clones, Episode II
Several scenes on the planet Naboo, including Padme and Anakin’s stay at Varykino Villa, were filmed on the shores of Lake Como, Italy‘s third largest lake. Lavish mansions dating from the 18th-century line the lake, including Villa del Balbianello, used as the set piece for the couple’s secret wedding between Padme and Anakin in Attack of the Clones. Visitors can arrive by water taxi to explore the on-site museum housing explorer Count Guido Monzino‘s collection of art and travel mementos, or take a stroll through the elaborate terraced gardens to feel as regal as Queen Padme herself.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
The forest moon of Endor, Return of the Jedi, Episode VI
Redwood National and State Parks protect 45 percent of California‘s remaining old-growth redwoods–trees so tall, it’s hard to believe they grow here on Earth. At least four of the Redwoods State Parks–Humboldt, Jedediah Smith, Prairie Creek, and Grizzly Creek–were used to portray the forest moon of Endor, home of the spear-wielding Ewoks. Take a leisurely three-quarter-mile-long hike through Grizzly Creek’s Cheatham Grove, the site of the famed Imperial speed racing scene in Return of the Jedi.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Crait, The Last Jedi, Episode VIII
Stretching more than 4,050 square miles of the Altiplano, Bolivia‘s Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat–and a lucrative extraction site for salt and lithium, the element needed for powering laptops, smartphones, and electric cars. This beautiful, but harsh, landscape doubles as the rebel outpost of Crait in another universe. Stay during the rainy season (December through April), when the flats are transformed by water from nearby overflowing rivers into a stunning reflection of the sky.
Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean, U.K.
Forest of Takodana, The Force Awakens, Episode VII
With 14 acres of lush forest, secret caves, and ancient ruins, it’s no wonder the mystical woodlands of Puzzlewood made the ideal setting for the forests of Takodana in The Force Awakens. Take in the otherworldly scenery on a 1.5-mile scavenger hunt, where visitors search for Roman coins, animals, and other items hidden throughout the woods, or plan an enchanting stay at one of the Puzzlewood cottages.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
Luke’s Hideout, The Force Awakens, Episode VII
No wonder Luke Skywalker chose these beautiful Irish islands for his hideout. Located eight miles off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland, this UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the world’s second largest cormorant colony, as well as many other seabird species, including puffins. Once a sixth-century monastic settlement, Skellig Michael (Sceilg Mhichil in Irish) is only accessible by boat. When visitors arrive on the island, they can climb the 600 steps to the monastery. There are many hotels in County Kerry, but there aren’t any accommodations on the island.
Hardangerjokulen Glacier, Norway
Hoth, The Empire Strikes Back, Episode V
There won’t be any wampas waiting for you on this glacier, but you can still pretend to be part of the battle on the ice planet of Hoth. The glacier is close to Finse, a mountain village that is only accessible by train. A guided tour is required to access the glacier and is offered between July and September.
(The Walt Disney Company is majority owner of National Geographic Partners. )
Star Wars: Andor streams only on Disney starting September 21.
This story was originally published on December 11, 2017. It was updated September 20, 2022 to reflect new information.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.