Many of us dream of stepping into the worlds of our favorite films, perhaps embarking on an adventure like Indiana Jones or soaking up the romance in an enchanting destination. Fortunately, many movies are far more than CGI, and there are plenty of real filming locations around the world that you can visit.
Relive the movie magic by planning a trip around any one of these destinations. From the Emerald Isle to Jordan and places closer to home, you’re sure to find something enticing on this list.
Skellig Michael, Ireland: Star Wars
Fans of “Star Wars” will want to put the tiny town of Portmagee on their must-visit list. Located along the stunning Kerry coast, this is where several members of the cast and crew hung out while filming the final scene in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It took place on the UNESCO-listed island of Skellig Michael, about an eight-mile boat ride away, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) extending a lightsaber to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the ruins of the ancient monastery that tops it.
While you’re here, you can enjoy a few pints at the Bridge Bar where Mark Hamill even pulled a few of his own. Live music is frequently hosted here, and accommodation is available at The Moorings Hotel which sits just above. Boat tours can be arranged through the property to bring you to Skellig Michael from late spring through early fall, provided the seas aren’t too rough.
Wicklow National Park: P.S. I Love You
Fans of the popular romance film, 2007’s P.S. I Love You will also want to explore the Emerald Isle. Several scenes were shot in Wicklow National Park, just a 40-minute drive south of Dublin. It’s a must-visit for anyone with its incredible natural beauty that includes sparkling lakes, meandering streams and soaring mountains blanketed in heather during the summer and early fall.
You'll recognize Sally Gap in the heart of the park as the location where Holly flashed back to when she first met Gerry, and it’s absolutely stunning with Lough Tay (also called Guinness Lake) and its white sandy beach tucked in the background. This is also one of the main filming sites for the History Channel series “Vikings."
Iceland: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The entire nation of Iceland is a stunner and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller took advantage of the landscapes that play a major role in the movie. While the story is set in New York, Greenland, Iceland, and the Tibetan Himalayas, the Greenland and Himalayan scenes were actually shot in Iceland.
One of the standout Iceland filming locations is Skogafoss, a large waterfall that has a width of over 80 feet and drops nearly 60, producing a thunderous sound and a rainbow-yielding mist when the sun is out. It’s located along the South Coast, home to many glorious cascades, a black sand beach, and the Glacier Lagoon where seals can often be seen lounging on the drifting icebergs.
New Zealand: The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings
Numerous films have been shot in New Zealand but there are none more famous than J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hobbiton Village is where many scenes were filmed and after it was all said and done, it was transformed into a tourist attraction so fans can experience the wonders of Middle Earth. It includes the hobbit holes and the Green Dragon Inn, the hobbits' favorite meeting spot, where visitors can sip on a range of hobbit ales, apple cider and ginger beer.
While in the country, be sure to hit some of the other famous filming sites like Glenorchy near Queenstown on the South Island. Nestled along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, it served as the gateway to Middle Earth and offers miles and miles of scenic hiking trails that wind through scenery that’s out of this world.
Monument Valley, Arizona: Forrest Gump
Straddling the border of Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is an enchanting wonderland of buttes, spires and red rock formations as one of the most enduring images of the American west. It’s been featured in many hit films, including Forest Gump. One of the best photo-ops can be found along Route 163 at Mile 13. This is where Gump (Tom Hanks) abruptly finished his ultra-marathon in the 1994 movie and it’s since become known as Forest Gump Highway. While the scene was short, it was one of the most memorable thanks to the jaw-dropping beauty of the location.
There’s a 17-mile loop road that will bring you through the incredible scenery or you can take a guided tour via one of the Navajo Nation’s tour operators. The narrated excursions include a number of landmarks that can only be accessed on a guided tour.
United Kingdom: Harry Potter
Harry Potter scenes were shot across the United Kingdom, making it easy to spend your entire vacation exploring them. Some of the most iconic include Alnwick Castle which served as Hogwarts Castle in the scene where Harry and his classmates learned to fly. Visitors can take part in broomstick “flight” training and try their hand at wizardry here. Of course, you’ll want to head to the magical train platform in London where Harry and crew were transported to Hogwarts first. Platform 9 ¾ can be found at King's Cross Station and you can even have your photo taken with the luggage trolley before embarking on your own adventure.
The Jacobite Train featured in the Harry Potter films famous crossed the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct near the scenic hamlet of Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands. It’s possible to take a ride on the train, round-trip from Fort William to Mallaig, but what’s even more memorable is watching it come around the bend with many other fans who gather near the viaduct. It arrives 40 minutes after the scheduled departure time from Fort William, providing the perfect opportunity for the ultimate photo-op.
Petra, Jordan: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
For those fascinated with Indiana Jones, a visit to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan is a must. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade scenes were shot at the Al Kazeneh temple which served as the location of the Holy Grail in the third movie. Of course, anyone interested in history, archaeology and mystery should visit as the lost city dates back to the first century BCE and is still believed to hold hidden secrets. The site includes hundreds of residences, tombs, a huge theater, temples and altars, but only 15 percent of the city has been uncovered to date.
Cypress Gardens, Moncks Corner, South Carolina: The Notebook
For lovers of romance, 2004's The Notebook often tops the list. After all, who wouldn’t want a love of a lifetime like Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams)? One of the most memorable scenes was filmed at Cypress Gardens in South Carolina. This site served as the location of the scene where the pair paddled through the swamp with countless swans. Visitors find that, indeed it is just as Allie said, “like a dream.”
Located about 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, the 175-acre Cypress Gardens offers swamp boat rides and miles of picturesque trails that wind throughout the lush landscape.