Over the course of seven glorious (and some not so glorious) installments, the Star Wars saga has captured the imagination of its legions of fans. Of course, the series’ fantastical narrative is grounded in real world locations that are as magical as the Force itself. Here are fifteen Star Wars filming locations you can actually visit. Spoiler Alert: We’ll be talking Episode VII locations throughout, so if you’re the one person who hasn’t actually seen the newest installment in the most popular science fiction franchise in movie history, be ware of spoilers ahead.
1. Luke’s Homestead, Tatooine – Episode IV
You may not be aware, but Luke’s homestead has actually been turned into a working hotel. The Sidi Driss Hotel, in Matmata, Tunisia retains the original flare of the ’70s film for guests to wander through. That said, the reviews aren’t great. It’s considered a mediocre hotel where you’ll be treated to a bare minimum of luxuries, just like a real working moisture farm. But you’ll get bragging rights for staying there.
2. Surface of Tatooine
In one of the most iconic shots in film history, Luke Skywalker ascends to the surface of Tatooine to contemplate his future as the planet’s twin suns set over the sprawling desert. The shot was made in Chott el Jerid, Tunisia, one of the most gorgeous environments in the world. If you can take the heat, it’s well worth a trip for the vistas alone.
3. The Lake Country Retreat
Remember Episode II, when Anakin Skywalker and Amidala hide out on that gorgeous planet? It’s that place where all those cheesy romance scenes take place against a backdrop of pastoral splendor. Well, that place is real. It’s Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como, Italy and it’s so beautiful you just might weep without shame.
4. The Fourth Moon of Yavin
In the original film, the Rebel Alliance has set up their headquarters on the fourth moon of Yavin, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The lush jungles and ancient buildings are wonderful to behold. You don’t have to leave the planet to visit them in person. They’re in Tikal, Guatemala amid the ruins of an ancient Mayan city.
5. Mos Eisley Spaceport
Cinema’s most wretched hive of scum and villainy is actually a fishing village in Tunisia. A sponge fishing village, that is. Yep, Star Wars’ desert world is actually right on the Mediterranean coast. Fishing (particularly for the sponges growing along the country’s shore line) is one of Tunisia’s biggest industries.
6. The Forests of Naboo
The lush forests of Naboo, the hideout for the stupid Gungans in Episode I, is actually an ancient forest in Whippendell Wood, in Watford, UK. The entire forest is brimming with tree roots coiling out in tendrils, huge centuries old trees grown squat and strong. It’s the kind of place where you just know fairies hang out when no one’s looking.
7. The Ice Planet Hoth
Finse, Norway is home to the opening battle in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. While there are no AT-AT’s anymore, there’s still plenty to spark some snow battle nostalgia. Even better, the only way to get to the site is via a four to five hour train ride through Norway, one of the most naturally beautiful countries on the face of planet Earth.
In the original film, Princess Leia’s home world of Alderaan is featured only briefly before it’s totally obliterated by the Death Star. In Episode’s I, II, and III, however, the planet’s verdant green exterior is potrayed in sweeping shots of lush vegetation and beautiful architecture. In real life, that’s just how Grindelwald, Switzerland looks.
9. Exterior of Queen Amidala’s Palace
Want to be really annoyed about the architectural decisions made by the people who designed and built America? Then just consider this: the exterior of Queen Amidala’s palace on Naboo is a real place, the Plaza da Espana in Seville, Spain. There was little to no green screen used in those shots, the place is just mind-numbingly pretty.
10. Interior of Queen Amidala’s Palace
Speaking of mind-numbingly pretty, the inside of Amidala’s palace isn’t too shabby either. The extravagant decor afforded the elected Queen of the Naboo is actually the Royal Palace of Caserta in Naples, Italy. Those aliens really know how to treat their politicians, huh?
11. Luke’s Hideaway
At the very end of the newest Star Wars film, Rey travels to an isolated ocean world to find Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, who’s been hiding out for the last few years because he’s not good at disappointment. Turns out Luke has been hiding on a gorgeous lonely island that’s all stone steps and sheer cliffs. That place is in Skellig Michael, Ireland. Beware: wear shoes with good traction.
12. The Rebel Base
Another Episode VII location, Greenham Common in the United Kingdom plays host to another Rebel Base erected in secret in the aftermath of the Empire’s defeat and the wake of the First Order’s rise to prominence. It’s a gorgeous base — because Rebel base architects know that just because you’re on the run doesn’t mean you can’t look good doing it.
13. The Dune Sea
Another of Tunisia’s filming locations, Episode IV’s iconic Dune Sea is the place where C-3P0 and R2D2 wander in search of Obi Wan Kenobi just after having escaped a captured Rebel ship. The Dune Sea is actually a place called Dunes de sable, near Nefta, Tunisia.
14. Tatooine (again)
The only American location that subbed in for Tatooine was Death Valley, the parched patch of rocky Earth in America’s Southwest. The lowest dry point in North America subbed in for the desert planet in certain scenes (like the Jawa attack) when the film’s producers needed a little more variation in Tatooine’s terrain.
15. The Forest Moon of Endor
We’ve saved the best for last. One-half of Return of the Jedi’s climactic battle takes place amid the towering forests of the Endor moon. In real life, these same trees can be found in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California just outside San Francisco. Try not to walk through the place without imagining the high pitched whine of speeders or the cry of blasters hitting tree trunks.