Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away, a young filmmaker named George Lucas dreamed up the epic space opera, Star Wars, the first of its kind and the highest grossing film of its time.
The 1977 box office hit, A New Hope, began a cultural phenomenon that, along with two other films in the original saga, would inspire a multi-billion-dollar franchise, two more trilogies, a series of spin-off movies, and decades of fans.
Star Wars fans are some of the most dedicated around—take the 2012 outrage when Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced they would be writing their own Star Wars continuation (not mentioning the furious fans who still turned up at the box-office anyway, because, hey, it’s Star Wars).
Not surprisingly, the films have also led to a thriving Star Wars themed tourism industry, with fans traveling to filming locations in the far reaches of Tunisia, Norway, and China, among other sets around the world. The great news for Star Wars fans is that the crew shot on almost all the major continents, so wherever you are, you’ll be able to access some iconic scenery from the films.
Some sets are still out there, kept intact for the sole purpose of attracting tourists, while other sets hold natural or historical significance, but all of these otherworldly locations will have the biggest fans hopping into their podracers to get a glimpse of the Star Wars galaxy.
25 Luke Skywalker's Island Hideaway On Ahch-To Is A Protected Monastic Settlement
The closing scene for The Force Awakens stunned audiences with its epic panorama shots of Rey (Daisy Ridley) reaching out to hand Luke (Mark Hamill) his long lost lightsaber after discovering his hiding place on Ahch-To, home of the Jedi. The film brought international attention to Skellig Michael, a tiny island off the coast of Ireland.
In the following episode, Luke trains Rey among the stone huts he calls home, which are the real-life remnants of a 10th century Augustinian monastery. Monks were the only people to ever have inhabited the island, though they deserted it by the 12th century.
24 Tatooine Draws Its Name From Real-Life Tataouine
We're first introduced to protagonist Luke Skywalker on his home planet Tatooine, a barren planet with a surface comprised entirely of desert. Some early scenes in the trilogy are the most memorable, a young Luke naïve to his role in the destiny of the universe, the dual sunset at Luke’s family home, and our introduction to beloved droids, C-3PO and R2-D2.
Lucas drew the name for the planet from the Tunisian town, Tataouine, in late drafts of the film. Filming was never done in Tataouine, but the town isn’t far from some of the other Star Wars sites and its Berber architecture isn’t far off from something you might see in the movies.
23 Mount Etna Erupted During Revenge Of The Sith Filming
Although no shots of Mount Etna itself were used in the Star Wars series, it appears to an extent in Revenge of the Sith as Mustafar, a lava-covered hostile planet where Anakin Skywalker and his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi battle, resulting in the creation of Sith lord, Darth Vader.
The crew of Star Wars was shooting in Italy when Mount Etna erupted, spewing lava perfect for Mustafar’s flowing rivers of fire. So, Lucas packed up and sent for the lava flows to be filmed, which were then digitally added to the film to create the fictional planet.
22 The World's Largest Salt Flats Provided The Setting For The Planet Crait
Crait is one of the newest additions to the Star Wars universe, its first appearance in The Last Jedi as a hideout for the resistance. It’s an uninhabited planet covered in salt with a hostile environment due to sodium content, ideal for hiding from the First Order.
There are places on Earth that resemble Crait, called salt flats. The largest in the world is located in Bolivia, and is the remnant of a massive prehistoric lake. After rainfall, it can produce a mirror-like reflection, a dizzying illusion that might make you feel like you’re in another universe.
21 Obi Wan Kenobi's Home Is Actually A Tunisian Mosque
When the Republic collapsed, the legendary Jedi master who influenced two generations of Skywalkers went into hiding and spent decades living in a small, unassuming hut on Tatooine. There, he kept close watch over Luke and was the intended recipient of Princess Leia’s distress call in R2-D2.
Though it had little screen time, the exterior of Obi-Wan's home was shot at a mosque in Tunisia. You’ll find the former mosque in Ajim, a port town on the Mediterranean coast. Ajim is a must-see for any Star Wars superfan, and along with Obi-Wan’s hut, you can find the Mos Eisley set here.
20 Jabba The Hutt's Ship Was Once Accessible To The Public In California's Imperial Sand Dunes
Although Tatooine was based largely on the Tunisian Sahara, some scenes were filmed in the deserts of California. The Imperial Sand Dunes area on the border with Arizona made for one of the most famous scenes in all of the Star Wars series.
Space gangster and giant slug Jabba the Hutt loved throwing his prisoners into the Sarlacc pit in a gladiator-like spectacle, which is exactly what he planned for Luke and the gang when he escorts them to the pit in his luxury barge. For a time, the huge wooden prop was left out in the desert, and a few lucky fans made it to the set.
19 The Real Island That Became Ahch-To Limits Tourists
So many fans were enthralled with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi that tourism to Ireland skyrocketed after the releases of the two films, and especially to the relatively unexplored Skelligs.
There had been a moderate tourism industry to Skellig Michael before its appearance in Star Wars, but once it was known to be the home of Luke Skywalker, fans flocked by the thousands to County Kerry’s Iveragh peninsula, where many were refused entry.
Due to its UNESCO designation and often treacherous docking points, Skellig Michael strictly limits visitors. The tourist season runs from May to October, weather permitting, and companies often have a waitlist for reservations.
18 Italy's Palace Of Caserta Is The World's Largest Royal Residence
The planet Naboo is arguably one of the prettiest fairy-lands in the Star Wars universe. The lush world was home to Padme Amidala, later a senator in the Galactic Senate before its collapse. While there, she lived and ruled in Theed Royal Palace on Naboo, which you might remember from shots of its throne room and grand staircase.
The interior shots of the palace were filmed in the Palace of Caserta, an 18th century building near Naples, Italy. The sprawling palace offered many rooms for the crew to choose from, being our world’s largest royal palace.
17 D'Qar's Resistance Was Filmed At A Real-World Base
D’Qar is an Outer Rim planet, out of the radar of the First Order and the base for Leia’s Resistance. The Resistance was eventually found out when they retreated back to D’Qar after attacking the First Order’s Starkiller Base. The most recognisable point on D’Qar was undoubtedly the Resistance Base.
The real location for the base was actually England’s Greenham Common, a WWII army base used by the RAF, and later, US forces. Now, it’s a public recreation area with some of its original features open to visitors.
16 Hardangerjøkulen Glacier Is So Isolated, The Only Way To Get To It Is By Train
Norway played a huge role in The Empire Strikes Back, as ice planet Hoth. The opening scenes of the film were shot near the railway town, Finse, on the track between Bergen and Oslo, and near to Hardangerjøkulen glacier, Norway’s sixth largest glacier and so cold and expansive it makes for a convincing Hoth.
The glacier itself is difficult to get to, as no roads lead to it, but if you take the train to Finse, you’ll see Finse station, where more filming of Star Wars took place. Timing is essential when visiting Hardangerjøkulen as it is snowy year-round, and proper gear is necessary to access the glacier.
15 Fans Are Preserving The Set Of The Lars Family Hut
The Lars homestead was a small hut in the Tatooine desert, unremarkable except for its status as the childhood home of Luke. The farm was owned by the Lars family for generations, and its final owners were Owen and Beru Lars, Luke’s aunt and uncle before it was destroyed by Stormtroopers.
Fans have a soft spot for the scenes in which Luke frolics at home, and we all felt sympathy when Imperial forces burned the little hut. The dome-shaped building was deserted after filming for the series concluded, but with the help of fans, who raised nearly $12,000, it was restored in 2012 and can be seen in Nefta, Tunisia.
14 The Original Forest Moon Of Endor Has Been Almost Entirely Harvested
Star Wars is known for having a fair share of quirky characters, but perhaps none so much as the Ewoks, small, teddy bear-like forest dwellers seen in Return of the Jedi. The heroes are sent off at the end with these little creatures in their treehouses, leaving audiences with a fuzzy feeling.
The real forests of Endor are none other than the redwoods of northern California, where the trees are so huge, they hardly belong on Earth. Most of the original filming locations for the Ewok forests have been harvested, as they were shot on private property where the crew could clear out a bit of the brush, but similar landscapes can still be seen at Redwoods State Park.
13 Yavin's Rebel Base Towers Are Authentic Mayan Ruins
Yavin 4 is a jungle moon that held a rebel base at its two temples, which, when approaching by spaceship, look vaguely Earth-like. That’s because they’re actually the ruins of a Mayan city in Guatemala.
The temples, called Tikal, are part of one of the largest Mayan cities to ever exist, and while its pyramids were huge for its time, were nothing compared to those seen on Yavin. The Star Wars version uses panorama shots of the real temples in the film, and the rebel hangar was filmed at RAF Cardington in England.
12 The Chase Scene In Rogue One Was Shot In A London Tube Station
With the right preparation, even the most basic of earthly places can be used as a backdrop for a distant galaxy—even a London Tube station. Spinoff movie Rogue One was filmed partly in Canary Wharf station on the Jubilee line.
The crew shot the distinctive chase scene, in which heroine Jyn Erso is pursued by Imperial Stormtroopers, late in the night at the station when trains were not running.
With a few costumes and some basic props (and just the slightest bit of imagination), the station is quickly transformed into the Death Star.
11 Scenes On Jakku Were Filmed In The World's Largest Contiguous Sand Desert
When we first meet the protagonist of the newest trilogy of Star Wars movies, Rey, the scenes are strangely reminiscent of the introduction to the previous protagonists, Luke and Anakin. Rey is an outcast, who scavenges for parts to trade for food on a sand, red, desert-like planet, almost like Tatooine.
Scenes from the planet Jakku were filmed in a similar environment to Tunisia, in the Rub’ al Khali desert in the Arabian Peninsula. Consuming one-third of the peninsula, it’s the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. The crew shot near Abu Dhabi and Al Qasr sand dunes in the “Empty Quarter,” a fitting name for desolate Jakku.
10 You Can Stay In Luke's Homestead At Hotel Sidi Driss
The exterior of Luke’s homestead may be an artificial hut out in the desert, but the interior was shot in a real hotel (and yes, you can stay in it). Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata-Al-Qadimal is the dome-shaped covered courtyard in Star Wars, though it’s actually an open-aired pit, one of five in the hotel.
The pit used in A New Hope and Attack of the Clones serves primarily as nostalgia for Star Wars fans. During filming for the prequels in 2000, the crew left some of the props in the hotel for staff to use for tourism purposes, and the pit still looks almost exactly like it does in the movies.
9 The Mos Espa Sets Still Exist... And One Is Buried In Sand
After the original Star Wars trilogy, fans were given a more intimate look at Tatooine as the home of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin grew up in poverty in the port city Mos Espa, where the talented young pilot stunned spectators by winning a podrace.
Mos Espa is one of the few synthetic sets built for the purpose of the movie and left standing after filming. The set is located near Tozeur, Tunisia, and is actually divided into two. An uncertain future lies ahead for Mos Espa in the wake of weather changes, with one part completely covered by a sand dune for a time.
8 Wookiee Planet, Kashyyyk, Was Based Exclusively On Asian Landscapes
One of Star Wars’ main characters and talking lapdog of the group doesn’t receive a lot of backstory in the initial storyline, but maybe that’s because we can’t understand his wailing roars. The Wookiee, Chewbacca, is often underrated despite his bravery and brilliance in co-piloting the Millennium Falcon, though we get to see a little bit more of these creatures in the prequels.
The home of the Wookies is on the planet Kashyyyk, a jungle-like paradise. Most of the planet was digitally created, but the beautiful and ethereal Phang Nga Bay, Thailand and Guilin, China were used as plate photography for the planet.
7 Jordan's Wadi Rum Desert Contains Mars-Like Levels Of Iron Oxide
It's a wonder more of Star Wars wasn’t filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert. With its rusty red landscape, it’s the closest place we can get to Mars without actually leaving the atmosphere.
Wadi Rum’s distinctive red colour comes from high levels of iron oxide in the rock, the same as the red planet. While the filming location for The Martian was obvious, only a small part of the Star Wars universe, the planet Jedha, resembles our neighbour. You can see the desert in Rogue One with special effects enhancing some of its natural features.
6 No-Fly Zones Were Established In Ireland During Filming
The Star Wars reboot has been one of the most anticipated cinematic events of the century. Followed closely by fans and the media, production had to be closely guarded so as not to leak information. The crew even used code names for the film when shooting to avoid detection by outsiders.
When filming in Ireland, they received special permission from the Irish Aviation Authority to ban all aircraft for a short time in counties Donegal, Clare, Kerry, and Cork, primarily to ward off curious drone owners, but the no-fly zones applied to almost all aircraft in the area.
5 The Setting For Anakin And Padme's Lake Retreat Is Known For Its Presence In Film
Anakin and Padme’s lake retreat on Naboo was the single Star Wars location created solely with the intention of being a romantic spot, so naturally, the crew went for Italy, and found a secluded 18th century villa on the banks of Lake Como.
The balcony at Villa del Balbianello was famously dressed up for the interior shots to look fitting for an intergalactic queen, and popularised the villa as a wedding destination. The exterior, however, was created using CGI. You can see more of the villa in other movies, and perhaps already recognise it from Casino Royale.
4 The Sandcrawler In A New Hope Caused Tension Between Libya And Tunisia
Sandcrawlers were huge mining vehicles used by the Jawas on Tatooine, where the little creatures forged moveable towns within. For shots showing the entirety of the sandcrawlers, an enormous prop was made to scale and sent out to the Tunisian desert.
The crew had one minor issue with their sandcrawler as they filmed close to the Libyan border. Officials in Libya saw the hulking, rusty equipment and immediately perceived it as a potential threat from Tunisia. BJ Jones’ biography on Lucas describes the ensuing, slightly comical request from the Tunisian government that Lucas move his sandcrawler away from the border, lest Libya retaliate.
3 California's Death Valley Became A Backup For Filming After Tunisia
When production for A New Hope wrapped up in Tunisia and the Star Wars cast and crew headed to the studio for further developments, they needed a backup Tatooine in case something was wrong. Luckily, some parts of inland southern California are fairly Sahara-like, and were used for quick pick-up shots in both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.
You can see some famous settings at Artist’s Palette, Desolation Canyon, Golden Canyon, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Mesquite Sand Dunes, and Dante’s View, all within this national park.
2 Hoth's Echo Base Was Filmed At Norway's Highest Railway Station
Another example of the Star Wars crew’s craftiness is their near total transformation of Norway’s Finse Station in Hoth’s Echo Base. Finse is a tiny village in western Norway which would be overlooked by most tourists, but its train station alone is enough to draw Star Wars enthusiasts.
The station is the first site you’ll see, immediately upon arrival (the only other way to get to the village is by skis), and while here you may as well explore the rest of Hoth, from the Finse 1222 Hotel to Hardangerjøkulen glacier. Visit in the winter to get the full Hoth experience.
1 Norway's Worst Snowstorm In 50 Years Caused Severe Delays In Filming The Empire Strikes Back
As with most movies, filming didn’t always go exactly as planned. While shooting The Empire Strikes Back in Norway, a miserable blizzard hit Finse, snowing in the cast and crew. They couldn’t get out to the snowy glacial area, and were forced to suspend filming.
It became clear that they were going to have to completely rewrite the schedule, but to avoid wasting an excessive amount of time, director Irvin Kershner improvised and shot two very important scenes out the back door of the hotel: Luke’s escape from the wampa and communicating with the spirit of Obi-Wan, and Han rescuing Luke.
References: starwars.com, starwarsplaces.com, hillwalktours.com, The Guardian, Forbes