Treasury building in Petra, Jordan
Petra, Jordan
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Nature & Wildlife

Globetrotting Through Your Favourite Movies

11 min read
Published on Mar 31, 2020
Aren Bergstrom
By Aren BergstromManaging Editor, Globetrotting Magazine

If you love to travel, odds are you also love the movies. Movies shape how we see the world and specifically places beyond the horizon we’ve never been to. They feed a love of travel as watching a movie set in a fantastic location across the world will make you want to pick up your passport and venture there yourself. 

In order to cater to an intertwined love of movies and travel, we’ve highlighted some of the most popular movie locations in the destinations Goway sells. There is always far more to these destinations than their movie tie-ins, but it’s also hard to oversell the appeal of being able to walk into a location straight out of your favourite movie. Considering that we’re all cooped up indoors right now riding out the pandemic, it’s the perfect time to do a bit of daydreaming and explore faraway lands through the movies.

So without further ado, let us take you on a journey across the world to explore the locations from popular movies.  

Romance and Fantasy in Africa

House of Karen Blixen seen from the front, Ngong Hills, Kenya
The former home of Karen Blixen, now the Karen Blixen Museum outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

When it comes to Africa, it’s hard to beat the appeal of a safari. There’s romance to a safari and an undeniable sense that you’ve left behind the confusions of the modern world to appreciate nature at its most vibrant and alive. Few movies capture the romance of safari better than Out of Africa, Sydney Pollock’s Best Picture-winning adaptation of Karen Blixen’s memoir, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. The movie was filmed and set in the Ngong Hills in the Langata district of Nairobi. Today, you’ll find the Karen Blixen Museum there, which transforms her old farmhouse into a historical landmark. The movie was also filmed in Shaba National Game Reserve in Central Kenya, as well as the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, which is an essential stop on most Goway safaris through East Africa.

However, not all movies shot in Africa play into the romantic safari imagery. The recent Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s 2015 action masterpiece, shot in the Namib Desert in Namibia, using the wide stretches of sand dunes and rocky desert as the setting for the film’s action-packed car chases. The original Star Wars also took advantage of Africa’s unique geography to create a fantastic world. The Berber village of Matmata in Tunisia was used as the Tatooine home of Luke Skywalker in the film’s early scenes. If you visit Matmata, you can still see the Hotel Sidi Driss, which was used in both the original Star Wars and Attack of the Clones.

Desert Splendour in the Middle East

Taking a camel ride through Wadi Rum, Jordan
A camel ride through the sands of Wadi Rum.

Jordan has some of the most spectacular spots in the entire Middle East. However, few landmarks compare to Petra, the ancient city carved into the rock walls of a canyon in the country’s southwest. Petra’s Treasury features prominently in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third film in Steven Spielberg’s popular franchise about archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). Spielberg used the Treasury as the exterior of the temple holding the Holy Grail in the film’s climax. Although you cannot enter the Treasury as Indiana Jones does in the film, it’s still an extra delight to follow in the footsteps of cinema’s treasure hunter while seeing this spectacular creation.

In the far southeast corner of Jordan, you’ll also find Wadi Rum, a massive desert home to Bedouin tribes, which features prominently in David Lean’s historical epic Lawrence of Arabia. The red rocks and stark stretches of desert in Wadi Rum are so visually spectacular, filmmakers have continued to shoot here over the years. For instance, J.J. Abrams’ final movie in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, shot the desert world Pasaana just outside Wadi Rum. Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune shot here as well. So look forward to seeing more of this beautiful desert on the silver screen. 

Otherworldly Beauty in Asia

Tropical island with resorts on Phi Phi Island, Krabi Province, Thailand
View from above the resorts on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

Asia produces so many movies and has become so central to the global film industry that you could go to Hong Kong or Tokyo and find dozens of locations from beloved movies. However, for more mainstream North American moviegoers, it’s best to venture beyond the metropolises. Although the movie has faded from the popular consciousness, the beauty of the setting in Danny Boyle’s The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has given the film something of an afterlife in the minds of travellers. The film was shot on the stunning island of Koh Phi Phi and although the original beach used in the film has been closed due to an excess of tourists, the rest of the island is a beautiful, beguiling place to visit. 

No movies dominate modern pop-culture quite like comic book movies. Scott Derrickson’s Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange sets a substantial portion of the film in Kathmandu, as Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) tracks down Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One in the Nepalese capital. Key locations include Pashupatinath Temple and Patan Durbar Square. 

Although it was entirely filmed in studios, James Cameron’s Avatar was hugely inspired by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province, China. The floating mountains in the movie were designed to look like the breathtaking spires of Zhangjiajie. 

South America’s Historical Wonder

Machu Picchu, Peru
The classic view of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Few movies capture the overarching appeal of South America better than Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries, which follows Gael Garcia Bernal’s young Che Guevara on a motorcycle ride across the continent. The film was shot in sequence in the actual locations Guevara visited, such as Buenos Aires, the Lake District of Argentina, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu—all locations you can easily visit with Goway. Evita, Alan Parker’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about Eva Peron, starring Madonna, also prominently features Buenos Aires and locations central to Peron’s life, such as Casa Rosada and St. Stephen’s Basilica. 

In nearby Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, you can ride the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain or join in the festivities of Carnival similar to James Bond in Moonraker. Roger Moore’s Bond visits Rio midway through the film, chases down bad guys during the Carnival parade, and even fights the towering, steel-toothed henchman Jaws on the cable cars that take people up Sugarloaf. 

Middle-earth and Mad Max in the Land Downunder

Hobbiton Door view, Hobbiton, New Zealand
View from inside a Hobbit Hole in Matamata, New Zealand.

Few movies have defined a country more than Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Jackson transformed his native New Zealand into Tolkien’s Middle-earth and took advantage of its famous natural beauty. You’ll come across locations from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit across New Zealand, but no spot is more essential for Tolkien fans than Matamata, where the film crew constructed the Hobbit holes of Hobbiton, which have remained in the countryside ever since production. 

If you cross the Tasman Sea to Australia, you’ll find another landscape taken advantage of by filmmakers across the world. Sydney was a popular shooting location in the late 1990s and two massive blockbusters were shot there. John Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2, starring Tom Cruise as superspy Ethan Hunt, took place in and around Sydney, with key locations at Bare Island Fort at the entrance of Botany Bay, Argyle Place in The Rocks, and the coastal road near Boora Point, where the famous motorcycle chase was filmed. The Wachowskis’ The Matrix was also filmed in Sydney, with most of the scenes set within the computer program of a generic western metropolis circa 1999 being filmed in the Central Business District. 

If you leave behind Sydney, you’ll discover locations from other popular films like George Miller’s Mad Max Trilogy. Mad Max was shot in and around Melbourne, with key chase scenes taking place near Little River, northeast of Geelong. The Road Warrior was shot in and around Broken Hill. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was largely made in the opal mining town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. 

Blockbuster Island Getaways

Cascading rice terraces outside Ubud, Bali.

It’s no wonder filmmakers love to shoot on the beautiful islands of the world; they’re visual feasts. Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts featured extensive scenes shot in Ubud on the island of Bali, which is as lovely a destination for an island escape as you can get. Similarly, halfway across the world, the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! shot on the Greek Islands of Skopelos and Damouchari, both islands you can visit on a journey through Greece. 

Hawaii has always been a popular shooting location for movies and TV shows. The recent blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle starring Dwayne Johnson shot on Oahu Island. Going back a few years, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park also took advantage of Hawaii and shot key scenes on Kauai. In fact, Manawaiopuna Falls, which are featured in the film, were even named Jurassic Falls because of the film’s popularity. You can only see the falls on a helicopter ride, which can make you feel like Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum in the opening of the film as they approach the fictional island of Isla Nublar. 

Magical UK and the City of Lights

Narrow cobbled street among old traditional parisian houses in Latin Quarter of Paris, France
The Latin Quarter in Paris, France.

Like Asia, Europe is chock-full of famous movie locations. Almost every city you visit or landmark you photograph will have been featured in one movie or the other. It’s hard to compete with the love of the Harry Potter series, which was shot across the United Kingdom. In London, you can stop at King’s Cross Station to visit the real Platform 9 ¾, which transports Harry and his friends off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the movie. You can also swing by Oxford Christ Church Cathedral to see the inspiration for Hogwarts’ Great Hall. If you really want to deep-dive into the series, Warner Bros. Studio Hertfordshire offers behind-the-scenes tours that showcase sets and props from the series and give you a glimpse into the movie magic. 

If you head north of England into Scotland, you’ll reach the Scottish Highlands and a stunning stretch of landscape featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig. Later in the film, Bond flees back to his childhood home in the Highlands and the film crew shot in Glen Coe and Glen Etive to capture these scenes and showcase the stark, hilly landscape. 

Paris has featured in more films than you can count, but among the most popular are Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which recreates the Paris of the Lost Generation in the 1920s as Owen Wilson’s hapless writer travels back in time and meets the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Salvador Dali. Restaurants such as Polidor and bridges like Pont Neuf feature prominently in the film. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie is another beloved film about Paris and you can visit Café des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, which is where Amelie works in the movie. 

Movies continue to shape how we see other countries and envision the world we live in. They also encourage us to explore beyond the horizon and see the places we visit onscreen. Thus, a vacation across the world is not only an opportunity to learn about other cultures, visit beautiful landscapes, and delve into the past, but also a means of exploring the worlds of our favourite movies. And for globetrotters who are also movie buffs, this fact makes travel only more exciting.

Related Topics
Nature & Wildlife
New Zealand
Australia & New Zealand
South Pacific
Central America
South America
Arctic & Antarctica
Middle East
Aren Bergstrom
Aren Bergstrom
Goway - Managing Editor, Globetrotting Magazine

You might say that Aren was destined to become a globetrotter after his family took him to Germany two times before he was four. If that wasn’t enough, a term spent in Sweden as a young teenager and a trek across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand confirmed that destiny. An independent writer, director, and film critic, Aren has travelled across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. His favourite travel experience was visiting the major cities of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, but his love for food, drink, and film will take him anywhere that boasts great art and culture.

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