20 Star Wars Movie Locations You Can Visit in Real Life
By Rudie Obias
While most of the Star Wars saga has been filmed on sound stages in England and Australia, the filmmakers behind the ongoing space opera have sometimes traveled to real-life places to create the alien worlds of a galaxy far, far away. Here are 20 Star Wars movie locations you can visit in real life.
1. AJIM, TUNISIA
George Lucas used various locations around Tunisia to film exteriors for the desert planet Tatooine, most notably the ferry port town of Ajim. The town was used for the exteriors of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s home, which was actually an old mosque, plus the Mos Eisley Spaceport in A New Hope.
2. THE HÔTEL SIDI DRISS // MATMATAT-AL-QADIMAL, TUNISIA
The Hôtel Sidi Driss in Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Tunisia was used as the Lars homestead (Luke Skywalker’s childhood home) in A New Hope. The hotel consists of five pits, four of them reserved for lodging and sleeping, the fifth dubbed the “Star Wars pit.” Guests can dine in the Lars family dining room, now the hotel’s restaurant. The set dressings were removed after filming in 1976, but returned in the year 2000 in order to film scenes for Attack of the Clones. Ever since, the decorations have remained. Fittingly, it's more commonly known as the "Star Wars hotel."
3. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
George Lucas used Death Valley National Park for pickup shots after shooting in Tunisia for A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. The area between Sierra Nevada and the Mojave Desert, along with Tunisia, were used to make the desert planet of Tatooine come to life, most notably in the scene when Obi-Wan Kenobi meets Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and R2-D2 for the first time.
For Return of the Jedi, Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley was used to film the scene in which C-3PO and R2-D2 travel to Jabba's Palace.
4. HARDANGERJØKULEN GLACIER, NORWAY
The Empire Strikes Back's snowy opening battle scene on the ice planet Hoth was filmed on the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, the sixth largest glacier in Norway.
5. FINSE, NORWAY
At the foot of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier is the small railroad town of Finse, Norway, which is located between Oslo and Bergen, and was used as the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. While shooting in 1979, a snowstorm hit the small town, allowing director Irvin Kershner to shoot two key scenes: Luke Skywalker's escape from the Wampa cave, as well as the young hero's interaction with the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi before he is rescued by Han Solo. Both scenes were shot just outside of the Finse 1222 Hotel.
6. TIKAL NATIONAL PARK // TIKAL, GUATEMALA
In A New Hope, Lucas used ancient Mayan ruins, located in Guatemala's Tikal National Park, as the exterior of the Rebel Alliance’s Massassi Outpost.
7. YUMA DESERT, ARIZONA
Instead of returning to Tunisia for Return of the Jedi, the film's producers chose to shoot Buttercup Valley in Arizona's Yuma Desert for the Sarlacc Pit sequence. Jabba's Sail Barge and the Sarlacc Pit took more than five months to build, and more than 5500 cast and crew members lodged in Yuma during filming in 1982.
8. REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS, CALIFORNIA
California's Redwood National and State Parks portrayed the Forest Moon of Endor, the Ewoks’ home world, in Return of the Jedi. Several scenes, such as the speeder bike chase and the Ewok ambush, were shot in the parks’ many redwood groves in Marin County, which is close to Lucas’s home at Skywalker Ranch.
9. GRINDELWALD, SWITZERLAND
Most of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were shot at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney using green screen. However, Lucas would occasionally send crews out to capture scenery in various locations around the world for the plate photography used in background shots.
One of the real-life places shot for Revenge of the Sith was the beautiful mountain range of Grindelwald, Switzerland, which was used as the backdrop for the planet Alderaan, Princess Leia’s home.
10. VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO // LENNO, ITALY
The Lake Retreat where Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala go into hiding in Attack of the Clones is located at the Villa del Balbainello in Lenno, Italy. Originally built in 1787, the villa overlooks Lake Como and served as a monastery before it was turned over to the National Trust of Italy in 1988. Villa del Balbainello makes another appearance at the end of Attack of the Clones, as the location for Anakin and Padme’s wedding.
11. ROYAL PALACE OF CASERTA // CASERTA, ITALY
The Palace of Caserta in southern Italy, just northeast of Napoli, was used to shoot the interiors of the Theed Royal Palace on Naboo in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Originally built for Bourbon King Charles III in the 1750s, the Palace of Caserta is also the largest royal residence in the world.
12. PHANG NGA BAY // PHUKET, THAILAND
The beautiful island backdrop of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand was used as plate photography for the planet Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s birthplace, in Revenge of the Sith. For certain scenes, shots of Guilin, China were combined with Phang Nga Bay.
13. WHIPPENDELL WOOD // WATFORD, ENGLAND
Lucas used England's Whippendell Wood for two scenes in The Phantom Menace: In the first instance, it's where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet Jar-Jar Binks; the other shows the Wood as a sacred place for Jar-Jar's species, the Gungans.
14. PLAZA DE ESPAÑA // SEVILLE, SPAIN
The beautiful Plaza de España in Seville, Spain was used for the exterior of Theed on Naboo in Attack of the Clones. Anakin and Padme walk through the plaza before the pair go into hiding in the Lake Country.
15. MOUNT ETNA // SICILY, ITALY
Although Lucas actually didn’t shoot on Mount Etna, his team used Italy’s most active volcano for plate photography for the epic light saber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Mount Etna was actually erupting during filming, so Lucas sent a film crew to capture its flowing lava.
16. SKELLIG MICHAEL, IRELAND
The island planet of Ahch-To, which the exiled Luke Skywalker called home at the end of The Force Awakens, is actually the island of Skellig Michael, which is located about 7 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland. Around 600 CE, a group of monks built a monastery that sits more than 600 feet above sea level, along with hundreds of rock steps to reach the top. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction for Star Wars fans because it’s where Rey received her Jedi training in The Last Jedi.
17. RUB' AL KHALI DESERT // ABU DHABI, UAE
From Rey’s scavenger marketplace to Poe Dameron and Finn’s crash landing in The Force Awakens, the desert planet of Jakku was filmed in a large section of the Rub' al Khali desert known as “The Empty Quarter,” which is located a few hours away from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The Star Wars cast and crew filmed for six months in the largest contiguous sand desert in the world under the production title “Avco,” named after the L.A. movie theater where director J.J. Abrams watched the original Star Wars for the first time in 1977.
18. SALAR DE UYUNI // POTOSÍ, BOLIVIA
Located near the crest of the Andes is Salar de Uyuni, the Earth’s largest salt flat. It stretches more than 4000 square miles across southwest Bolivia and was used as the filming location for Crait, a mineral planet covered in white salt and red soil where the Resistance held its last stand against the First Order in The Last Jedi. The salt flat was created when prehistoric lakes dried up during the last Ice Age and left more than 10 billion tons of natural salt behind.
19. LAAMU ATOLL, MALDIVES
During the climax of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Rebel Alliance, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), breaks into an Imperial Base located on the planet Scarif to steal the top secret blueprints for the Death Star.
Director Gareth Edwards used Gan and Berasdhoo—two very large islands in the Laamu Atoll island cluster in the Maldives—as the filming location for Scarif, a remote tropical planet in the Outer Rim. "Scarif is based on a paradise world, so we had to go to paradise to film it," Edwards said during Star Wars Celebration in 2016.
In addition, the interior of the Imperial Security Complex on Scarif was mostly filmed in the Canary Wharf Underground Station in London, England. Film crews worked on an exciting chase scene through the subway station between midnight and 4 a.m. when it was closed to the public.
20. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
In The Last Jedi, Canto Bight is a casino city on the planet Cantonica, where Finn and Rose embark on a mission to find a master codebreaker to disable the First Order’s new weapon. Director Rian Johnson used the walled seaside city of Dubrovnik, Croatia as the filming location for the lavish city.
Dubrovnik, which is known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” was also used as the filming location for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. So the Croatian city gets double the nerd cred for Game of Thrones and Star Wars fans alike.