It may be set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but a lot of the settings from the Star Wars movies can actually be found in real life. Sure, it’s true that much of the newer movies were shot on sound stages with green screens so all kinds of special effects could be added in later. But there are still plenty of Star Wars filming locations that remain intact. In fact, many of the most iconic otherworldly locations you see throughout the films were shot on location around the world.
From the wooded forests of California and England, to the barren deserts of Tunisia and Abu Dhabi, the creative geniuses behind the Star Wars films have done extraordinary work bringing their spectacular galaxy of exotic planets to audiences everywhere. So, if you want to have a Star Wars experience that’s a little more tangible than sitting in your living room playing Battlefront in your homemade Jedi robes, then pack your bags and plan a trip to visit some of these awesome real life Star Wars locations.
15. Luke Skywalker’s Home Village on Tatooine (Episode IV) – Matmata, Tunisia
Still to this day, the North African country of Tunisia remains the most recognizable and iconic location from the first two Star Wars trilogies. If you want to visit the place Luke Skywalker called home before he joined up with the Rebel Alliance, head over to the Sidi Driss Hotel in Matmata, where you’ll feel like an honest-to-goodness moisture farm as you enjoy your stay in traditional troglodyte accommodations.
Fans even went so far as to rebuild the little sand igloo where Luke lived with his adoptive aunt and uncle. You can find it at these coordinates 33°50’34.5″N 7°46’42.8″E.
14. The Ice Planet Hoth (Episode V) – Finse, Norway
The ice planet Hoth serves as the location for one of the most memorable battles in all of Star Wars. All of the shots for the planet’s frozen landscape in The Empire Strikes Back were filmed in the tiny Norwegian town of Finse, with the actual Hoth battle scenes being filmed nearby on the Hardanger Jokulen Glacier.
If you’re up for a little adventure in the cold wilderness, Finse is home to some breathtaking snowbound vistas and has plenty of opportunities for cross country skiing, sail skiing on frozen lakes, and expedition training. Just make sure you take a tauntaun with you in case you get stranded and need something to make a sleeping bag out of.
13. The Rebel Base on Yavin 4 (Episode IV) – Tikal, Guatemala
The fourth moon of Yavin has a rich history in the Star Wars universe. Its temples were built by mutated slaves to honor an ancient Sith lord before it became the location of the main base for the Rebellion, and was almost destroyed by the first Death Star. Fittingly, the real world location is also an awe-inspiring place of rich cultural history.
Tikal, Guatemala is home to one of the largest complexes of Mayan civilization in the world. Those towers you see when the Millennium Falcon makes its landing on the forest moon aren’t CGI; they’re actually real stone structures that date back centuries.
12. The Naboo Forest (Episode I) – Whippendale Woods, Watford, England
Used to portray the forest of Naboo, Whippendell Woods in Watford, England served as the place where Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi had their first encounter with the most disliked Star Wars character of all time — Jar Jar Binks.
In The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar’s Gungan race lived in underwater cities that were connected to the forest; however, since there are no actual bodies of water within Whippendell Woods, all the water scenes were created using digital effects.
11. Anakin’s Home Village on Tatooine (Episode I) – Medenine, Tunisia
Even before the set designers came in and prepared the location for shooting, Medenine was already a visually fascinating place full of wondrous architecture. The major Tunisian town that became the setting for Anakin Skywalker’s home is basically a man-made maze on the outskirts of the Sahara. In pre-colonial times, it was the most important trading town for hundreds of miles, and merchants would risk their lives crossing the Sahara desert just to get there.
Star Wars fans will also be delighted to note that roughly 400km away, in the capital city of Tunis, there’s a hotel that many people speculate was the inspiration for the jawa’s sandcrawler in A New Hope.
10. The Planet Alderaan (Episode III) – Grindelwald, Switzerland
Yes, everyone is well aware that Princess Leia’s lush home world was famously obliterated in A New Hope, but the real-life location they used for filming is still very much intact. The shots of Alderaan you see in Revenge of the Sith were actually filmed at a gorgeous ski resort in Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Apart from featuring a stunning view, Grindelwald is a wintry paradise for outdoor adventurers, featuring tobogganing, hiking, and great skiing for people of any skill levels. And if you happen to be a fan of other movies like The Golden Compass or the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, you’ll be delighted to know that both of those films were shot there as well.
9. The Mos Eisley Cantina (Episode IV) – Ajim, Djerba
Many Star Wars fans might be surprised to learn that the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy is actually an abandoned Berber bakery located in a tiny sponge fishing town on an island off the coast of Tunisia. And if you visit Ajim, you’ll not only be able to find the place where Han shot Greedo, you’ll also be able to check out Obi Wan’s home and the stormtrooper checkpoint, which are both within walking distance. Just don’t be surprised if the Mos Eisley Cantina looks a little run down. It hasn’t been restored since the original filming in the 1970s, and, as such, is quite dilapidated.
8. Interior of Queen Amidala’s Naboo Palace (Episode I & II) – Royal Palace of Caserta, Naples, Italy
Many of the most impressive interior scenes in the entire Star Wars saga take place in Queen Amidala’s Royal Palace on Naboo. And unlike the exterior of the palace, which had a lot of CGI elements added to it in post production, almost everything you see in the interior was crafted by human hands. However, the set designers probably didn’t have to do a whole lot considering the scenes were being filmed in an actual Royal palace.
The Reggia di Caserta is one of the largest and most magnificent 18th century buildings in existence. It was originally built for the kings of Naple,s but today it’s open to the public and remains one of southern Italy’s most popular tourist destinations.
7. Exterior of Queen Amidala’s Naboo Palace (Episode II) – Plaza da Espana, Seville, Spain
Oddly enough, Going from inside the palace to outside the palace actually involves a trip halfway across Europe — from the Royal Palace of Caserta in Southern Italy, to the Plaza da Espana, in Southern Spain. Using a little movie magic, the Star Wars special effects team was able to double the size and perspective of the Plaza de Espana, which was used as the exterior for the Theed Royal Palace where Anakin and Padme arrive.
The actual Plaza de Espana is a semicircle surrounded by a moat with four bridges. In Attack of the Clones, digital artists expanded the plaza to make it a full circle and also added in some towers and green domes to give it that distinctive ‘Naboo’ look.
The Plaza da Espana was built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition and today it features over a half mile of tiled fountains, walls, and pavilions populated with ponds and orange trees. Some of the pavilions from the exhibition have also been converted into museums to showcase all of the city’s amazing archaeological collections.
6. The Road to Jabba’s Palace (Episode VI) – Death Valley, Eastern California
Although most of the scenes that take place on Tatooine were shot in Tunisia, a couple key moments in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi were filmed in California’s Death Valley National Park. One of those scenes occurs when Luke Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi for the first time. That scene was actually filmed between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mojave Desert. Another location that’s become a popular tourist attraction is Twenty Mule Team Canyon, which was used as the road that C-3PO and R2-D2 take to Jabba the Hutt’s Palace in Episode VI.
5. The Great Pit of Carkoon on Tatooine (Episode VI) – Yuma Desert, Arizona
Another iconic Star Wars moment taking place on Tatooine that wasn’t filmed in Tunisia is the fight above the Great Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi. The Great Pit of Carkoon, of course, is home to the sarlacc — a dangerous carnivorous creature that Jabba likes to feed his prisoners to from time to time.
Although Jabba met his end at the hands of Leia during skirmish, the ultimate fate of his pet sarlacc remains unknown. So if you’re a Star Wars fan and ever happen to find yourself wandering around in Arizona’s Yuma Desert, be sure to make your way over to Buttercup Valley where they filmed the scene. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find signs of Boba Fett’s escape.
4. Anakin and Padme’s Lakeside Retreat on Naboo (Episode II) – Como Lake, Italy
In Attack of the Clones Anakin and Padme hide out at a beautiful lakeside haven which, in reality, happens to be one of the world’s leading destination wedding locations. Villa del Balbianello is located at the end of a peninsula on Como Lake in Italy. It was originally built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini in 1787 and is still only reachable by boat.
If you visit Como Lake you’ll find that it’s surrounded by numerous waterfront villas that have been built over the centuries by the internationally wealthy. Ferries frequently travel up and down the lake and the region is world-renowned for its cultural and gastronomic attractions. Seriously, the place is so staggeringly romantic you’ll probably want to recreate Anakin and Padme’s balcony kiss the moment you arrive.
3. The Planet Jakku (Episode VII) – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Rather than return to Tunisia for filming all those desert scenes in The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams decided to use the Rub’ al Khali desert in Abu Dhabi as the setting for Rey’s home on Jakku. Unfortunately for any die hard Star Wars fans interested in making the journey there, unlike some of the Tunisian sets that were left intact after the filming of the first trilogy, word has it that all of the Jakku sets were torn down and removed.
2. Luke Skywalker’s Hermitage (Episode VII) – Skellig Michael, Ireland
J.J. Abrams might have devoted almost the entirety of The Force Awakens to finding the place where Luke Skywalker was hiding, but thankfully your search won’t have to be quite so strenuous. Skellig Michael is an island off the coast of southwest Ireland used as the filming location for Luke’s secret sanctuary. It’s a stunningly beautiful place that has been recognized as a Unesco world heritage site and is also home to a 17th century monastery. Although tourists are allowed access to the site, getting there might be a little tricky. The remote location is difficult to access and there’s only about a dozen local boatmen who have the licenses required to make the weather-dependent trip.
1. The Forest Moon of Endor (Episode VI) – Redwoods State Parks, Northern California
Of all the peculiar puppet creations and animatronic aliens in the original Star Wars trilogy, few are remembered as fondly as the furry hunter-gatherer teddy bear-like race known as the Ewoks. To portray the Ewoks’ home world on the forest moon of Endor, the Return of the Jedi film crew shot in and around northern California’s Redwood National and State Parks.
To find the location of the second Death Star’s shield generator, look no further than Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Or if you want to recreate that famous speeder bike chase with Luke and Leia, grab some mountain bikes and check out both the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
All of the Redwoods State Parks have miles and miles of hiking and nature trails, and are home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including black bears and mountain lions. The trails can be explored either on foot or by bike and should provide enough adventure for any Star Wars fan.