12 'Star Wars' Filming Locations That Make for Amazing Vacations
May the force be with you... and may you book these trips ASAP.
No movies more famously transport their audiences to locales far, far away than the Star Wars franchise. Now at 12* installments and counting—not to mention shows like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett (aka The Mandalorian Season 2), and the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries—the films have been shot on a ton of green-screened sound stages... and some of the prettiest freakin’ places on this planet.
It’s not everywhere on Earth, after all, that can stand in for remote moons in ancient galaxies. (Weirdly, the prequels were great at finding amazing filming locations. Perhaps to distract from the scripts.) You don’t have to jump into hyperspace to meander along the craggy, wind-battered trails of an Irish island, look high up in wonder at the world’s tallest trees, or explore pre-Columbian ruins in Central America.
George Lucas may not be able to direct dialogue to save his life, but he sure as hell knew how to scout out rad places for a film shoot. Here are twelve Star Wars filming locations around the world and how to visit them yourself.
*Editors note: Out of respect for the fans, we choose not to acknowledge the cultural black hole that was the Holiday Special.
Death Valley National Park, California
Appears in: A New Hope (1977) and Return of the Jedi (1983)
It's widely known that Tunisia set the stage for Luke's home planet, Tatooine—but Death Valley National Park, which sits on the California-Nevada border, did its fair share of the scenic heavy lifting. Footage from several famous sections of this behemoth national park was combined with shots from North Africa to create the landscapes of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.
When R2-D2 and C-3PO split after crashing their escape pod; when R2 gets kidnapped by Jawas; when Mos Eisley debuts with a sweeping establishing shot—the list goes on!—it’s Death Valley you’re seeing.
If you’ve got a bad feeling about this location, worry not: the name (and the heat) are the scariest thing about it. And if you can believe it, the landscapes here may look even more impressive in real life than they do in George Lucas’s masterpieces. Keep an eye out for the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artists Palette, the Artist’s Drive, Desolation Canyon, Dante’s View, and more, all of which played host to the cast and crew.
Villa del Balbianello, Italy
Appears in: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Attack of the Clones might be one of the worst Star Wars movies, and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman may have had the worst chemistry in the history of film. Still, it has its moments, especially on mute. For instance: the balcony scene with Padme and Anakin in the lake retreat of Varykino.
The Varykino scenes were mostly shot in the glacial lake retreat of Lake Como, Italy. Villa del Balbianello in Lenno is famous for its awe-inspiring panoramas of Lake Como and intricately designed terraced gardens. A bit of CGI rendering may have been added to goose the villa’s interiors, but it’s still a stunner that has appeared in other films, such as 2006’s Casino Royale.
Open for guided tours of its exquisite gardens, Villa del Balbianello offers enthralling views. Slip into a lazy rhythm and take your time.
How to get there: Take a water taxi from the commune of Lenno.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
Appears in: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Return of the Jedi introduced us to the ass-kicking alien teddy bears known as Ewoks, who in the final moments got their act together and helped the Rebels repel the Empire from their native forest moon of Endor.
The Ewoks might’ve been a shameless George Lucas merchandising grab, but it turns out they totally knew how to pick their spots: The Redwood parks in California are some of the most gorgeous natural places on this or any other planet. It’s been said that both the Tall Trees Redwood Grove in the Redwood National Park and the Avenue of the Giants in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park were used as filming locations for the sanctuary moon and the epic battle sequence.
The parks, home to the legendary herculean redwood trees, abound with walking paths, backcountry hiking trails, and campgrounds. Consider setting up camp and roughing it for a few days and nights. California’s weather is absolutely perfect for sleeping outside and watching pieces of the Death Star trickle down through the atmosphere.
(Also worth mentioning: The Bigfoot Capital of the World also sits about an hour from the park, and if you ask us, he and Chewie don’t really look all that different, do they?)
How to get there: Rent a car and drive up from San Francisco or Sacramento. Both cities are about six hours away.
Hardangerjøkulen Glacier and Finse, Norway
Appears in: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
As far as landscapes go, perhaps one of the most striking shifts in Star Wars scenery happens at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, when the desolate, sandy expanses that helped established Star Wars’ visual identity in A New Hope are replaced by the frozen, impassable tundra of the planet Hoth.
Well, Hoth IRL is certainly a frozen tundra, though not an impassable one—not by a long shot. Found in southwestern Norway, the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier (the sixth largest on the Norwegian mainland) once set the scene for Episode V. Today, though, it’s not so much a site to scramble away from AT-ATs as it is to strap on some skis, sip wine, and enjoy the views.
Located about 2.5 hours from Bergen, check into the scenic Hotel Finse 1222, which overlooks the glacier. You’ll want to visit in winter to see Hoth come to life (as well as to ski and snowshoe around the area) but summer season stays are the furthest thing from “disappointing” a trip could get. If you haven’t seen the fjords before, trust us: at any time of year, they’ll make you want to stick around.
How to get there: The glacier is only accessible on foot, by bike, or by train. Assuming you’re probably not really feeling up to—or rather don’t have half a week to accomplish—the latter two, you can take the Bergen Railway straight from its namesake city to Hotel 1222, which is the very last stop on the line.
Appears in: A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars fans have a deep-rooted fondness for Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine. It was, after all, where Luke’s life of adventure started. So a visit to where it all began amounts to a true movie pilgrimage.
Impressively, the home Luke shared with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru still stands, in a small Tunisian Berber town. Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata served as the filming location for their home, and it’s still a place worth crossing the hot desert for. The troglodyte (i.e., cave-based) hotel is also open for business, so a stay here is an option if you don’t mind the modest accommodations.
As a perk, the town is a known magnet for travelers, thanks to its traditional troglodyte structures. Tour a troglodyte house, stop by the small museum, and visit with some of the locals. If there’s time, also stop by the town of Tamezret, about 6 miles away.
How to get there: Take the train or a bus from Tunis to Gabes then catch a louage or group taxi to Matmata.
Royal Palace of Caserta, Italy
Appears in:The Phantom Menace (1999)
The royal residence of Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace is one of the most impressive locales in the Star Wars universe. The Theed Royal Palace in Naboo is spectacular with its sea-foam green domes, marble columns, and grand towers set on a lofty cliff trimmed with thundering waterfalls.
Its real-world counterpart may not be as extraordinary, but the Royal Palace of Caserta is still magnificent and certainly worth a visit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for one. And it’s the largest royal residence in the world by volume, featuring a Versailles-inspired garden, several beautiful fountains, cascading waterfalls, 1,200 splendid rooms, and 34 stairways including the Royal Staircase.
For less than $20, visitors can tour the royal apartments, walk the painting galleries, see the Palatine Chapel, and explore its enormous gardens. Take a languid pace and breathe in the crisp air of the rural idyll.
How to get there: The palace is about 30 minutes away from Naples, a quick day trip. Rent a car or join a guided tour.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
Appears in: The Force Awakens (2015)
Who could forget that last scene from The Force Awakens when Rey finally finds the missing Luke Skywalker on an island on the oceanic planet of Ahch-To? Everything about that moment was epic, including the rock island she had to climb to get to him.
That location is a craggy rock jutting 715 feet out of the Atlantic about 8 miles off the southwestern coast of Ireland. The untrammeled Skellig Michael, the largest Skellig island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the ruins of an abandoned Gaelic Christian monastery from the 8th century. Mobs of puffins and gannets now live there, a spectacular sight in their own right.
A tour of this island is not for the faint of heart, as visitors are required to climb a steep and winding ancient stone staircase—the same steps Rey had to climb—to reach the monastery’s beehive cells. The ruins and the vista from the top are ample reward.
How to get there: Several tour operators offer landing tours from May through October, weather permitting.
Mos Espa, Tunisia
Appears in: The Phantom Menace (1999)
The general consensus is that The Phantom Menace is the worst Star Wars movie ever. That might be true, but it also had some pretty dope sets, some of which are still open to visitors today. Take the site of Mos Espa, for example, created solely to be used as one of the shooting locations for its spaceport city namesake.
Not far from the famous hill of Onk Jemal outside the small oasis community of Tozeur, Tunisia, the abandoned movie set of Mos Espa is fast losing its battle with the harsh desert elements. So pop by Anakin and Shmi Skywalker’s home city while you can to get the Instagram snaps you so crave.
If you’re really feeling like driving under twin suns, head to the city of Tataouine, not to be confused with Luke’s desert planet of Tatooine. It’s about five hours by car from Tozeur. From there, the Mos Espa filming locations Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hadada are short hops away.
How to get there: Rent a four-wheel-drive car and drive yourself, or take a private day tour, to visit Mos Espa and the other two locales.
Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
Appears in: Revenge of the Sith (2003)
We’ll keep it real with you: Mount Etna only makes the list on a technicality. When Europe’s tallest active volcano began erupting during the making of this film, George Lucas sent a crew over to capture footage of the lava flow, which helped create perhaps one of the most iconic lightsaber battles in the entire series: the dramatic showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
While the pair didn’t actually travel to Italy to duel on a red-hot lava field—in other words, no Ewan McGregors or Hayden Christensens were harmed in the making of this film—you might want to check out Etna and Sicily (or any of Italy’s idyllic islands) for yourself.
Not only can you hike to Mount Etna’s summit—which sits 10,912 feet above sea level—so long as there’s no volcanic activity standing in your way, but you’ll also find that the mountain's surroundings are equally as stunning.
How to get there: From mainland Italy, fly to Sicily's Catania Airport, then take the train to Taormina, the closest town to Etna. From there, you can take a car or bus to the volcano's base.
Plaza de España, Spain
Appears in: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Royal Palace of Caserta provided the interior shots for Naboo’s Theed Royal Palace. But it was the intricate, ornate Plaza de España in Seville, Spain, serving for the exterior shots of the city of Theed in Attack of the Clones.
Nestled inside Seville’s Maria Luisa Park, Plaza de España is a terrific example of Spanish Regionalism, boasting an excellent blend of Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival with traces of Art Deco and lots of natural elements. Although its 1928-vintage building is now mainly used as government offices, it’s still wildly beautiful and it still holds that unmistakable beauty of Moorish architecture.
Meander about in the square; take a quiet, romantic wooden boat ride in the river; and admire the gorgeous tilework of the building’s Provincial Alcoves. Later, see the manicured gardens, ponds, and tiled fountains of Maria Luisa Park.
How to get there: You really can’t miss this sprawling plaza if you find yourself in Seville.
Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan
Appears in: Rogue One (2016) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
It hardly gets more otherworldly than Jordan’s copper-colored Wadi Rum Desert, perhaps the most Mars-reminiscent destination in the galaxy outside of the Red Planet itself. Cinematographers agree: Star Wars aside, Wadi Rum has created the backdrop for dozens of films, including Dune, John Wick, Prometheus, The Martian, Aladdin, and Lawrence of Arabia.
But if you’re looking for Wadi Rum’s appearance in this particular space opera, there are two films you can turn to. It appears first in 2016’s Rogue One, in which it’s the setting for the sacred moon Jedha, before returning in 2019’s TheRise of Skywalker as the planet Pasaana, where Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and BB-8 go head to head with the First Order.
You can’t get a one-to-one experience out here—there are no land speeder rentals or ancient Jedi temples to discover—but you can get pretty damn close with a Jeep tour of the Wadi Rum Desert and a visit to Jordan's best-known attraction, which sits just nearby. Roll through the sands on a 4x4, camp out beneath the stars, and spot monumental rock formations—then, head north to the ancient red-rock city of Petra, which has existed for more than 2,000 years.
How to get there: Jeep tours are really the way to go, although camel tours will also get the job done.
Appears in: A New Hope (1977)
Once home to the headquarters of the Rebel Alliance and the site of one of the most significant battles in the Galactic Civil War, the jungle moon of Yavin IV plays a major part in the Star Wars universe. There’s little surprise, therefore, that George Lucas would pick an equally important site to serve as a filming location.
In the rainforests of Guatemala is the ancient Mayan city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal. Tikal’s most notable landmarks are the Temple of the Great Jaguar (as known as Tikal Temple I) and the Temple of the Masks (Temple II). Beyond those two, there’s so much more to see. The site encompasses more than 200 square miles of verdant land and is imbued with many temples and complexes, as well as several altars, Stelae, and tombs.
As the site is massive, it’s worth at least half a day’s trip. However, some visitors stay from sunup (6 am) to sundown (6 pm) for the photogenic, picture-perfect panoramas.
How to get there: There are buses, taxis, and minivans from Flores and Santa Elena to Tikal.
Tiana Attride is Thrillist's associate travel editor. If anybody from Lucasfilm is reading this, she is begging you to please, PLEASE let her audition for the next Star Wars production.