Star Wars is back with a bang with the release of the barnstorming The Force Awakens. The seventh instalment in this epic intergalactic cinematic odyssey is destined to become one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The good news is that if you want to follow in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, you don’t need your own Millennium Falcon. Here, we’ve put together some earthly locations for you to visit following each film in the series. These are places where you can swing your lightsaber around, get out your action figures and fulfil your very own Star Wars fantasies. May the force be with you…
First of our close encounters with other worlds is Tunisia, where the desert doubles up as the barren planet Tatooine in the film. Onk Jemal is where a lightsaber duel between Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Sith apprentice Darth Maul, takes place. The best way to explore the dunes today (if you don’t have a landspeeder handy) is to whisk around on a 4X4 tour.
Across to the other side of the Mediterranean for a touch of romance now, to the site of Anakin and Padme’s wedding scene in Attack of the Clones. The grand venue is the eighteenth-century Villa del Balbianello on the wooded western shores of Lake Como in the north of Italy, which spectacularly stands in for the Naboo lakeside. This is surely the ultimate setting for similarly besotted Star Wars fans to get married. Eagle eyed film buffs might also recognise the villa from the Bond movie, Casino Royale.
When famously volatile Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily erupted during the filming of Revenge of the Sith it was too good an opportunity for the Star Wars producers to miss. A crew was dispatched to film the spectacular eruptions and lava flows. The footage captured was enhanced with CGI and all sorts of visual trickery to create the scorching backdrop of the planet Mustafar. This was the setting for the lightsaber showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
We’re off in our X-Wing across the Atlantic to the dramatic environs of Death Valley in the USA. This famous corner of California stood in for a number of Tatooine scenes, with the sand-strewn wilderness of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes a real star. A key scene here sees the our favourite droids fall out as R2D2 breaks away from C3P0 after their escape pod crashes. Take your own models here and you can film your own version with the identical desert backdrop. Embarrassingly poor droid impressions are strictly optional.
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Snow and ice were called for in The Empire Strikes Back, so in stepped Norway as the setting for the landmark Battle of Hoth, the Empire’s biggest battlefield success over the Rebels. The focus was on the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, the sixth largest glacier in mainland Norway. Mercifully these days you can hike or cross-country ski the wild landscapes here without the fear of being crushed by the foot of a lumbering AT-AT walker.
We're taking you back across the Atlantic to California for Return of the Jedi. The Redwood National and State Parks were the setting for the forest moon of Endor, where the series’ cutest goodies (the Ewoks) came into their furry own and a slew of stormtroopers came a cropper on the local hardwoods. You can hike around the epic forests today looking out for the oversized teddy bear warriors getting up to their usual tricks. The real danger for once does not come from the Empire, though, but the black bears and coyotes who patrol these ancient woodlands.
The filming locations of the latest Star Wars epic have been something of a jealously guarded secret, but we have it on good authority that the UK has an outdoor location to show off, not just its usual studio shoots: the Isle of Skye in Scotland, which also recently starred in the Hollywood version of Macbeth with Michael Fassbender.
Star Wars producers are said to have been impressed with the jagged mountains of Skye, with their rock pinnacles and otherworldly natural formations. If you head up to hike there soon you will be amongst the first rebel supporters to explore this breathtaking location. Watch out for any stray stormtroopers as you go.