From the highlands of Scotland to the sheltered fjords of New Zealand, we made a list of amazing “film-ready” spots that have played a role in recent and classic movies—and ones that we visit on our small-group adventures! Check out six stunning locations that seem to be a work of green screens and CGI, but are the perfect backdrop for our cultural and hiking journeys as well blockbuster hits over the years.
With its mystical mountains, enchanting culture filled with song and dance, and an ancient heritage stretching back to Viking times and beyond, Scotland was simply made for the movies. Actually, Scotland has been in so many films, we weren’t sure if we should add it to this list or create its own. Some of our recent favorites are 007: Skyfall and Harry Potter, which both filmed scenes in the surrounding landscapes of Glencoe. The humble abode of James Bond is located in Glencoe as well as Hagrid’s hut. WT adventurers can also get their Glencoe fix on our Highlands and Islands of Scotland journey, where we’ll hike among the valley’s mystical moors, waterfalls, and woodlands.
Namib Desert, Namibia
Writer and director George Miller is known for his dramatic flair for the post-apocalyptic, so it makes sense that his resurrection of Mad Max films would be filmed in the surreal setting of the Namib Desert. It’s far from the earlier Mad Max movies, which were shot in the Outback of Australia, yet the endless stretches of sand create the ideal end-of-the-world backdrop. On our Namibia Expedition, you won’t see any big rigs racing across the desert, but you will see uniquely desert-adapted wildlife. We also set out on a three-day trek across the NamibRand Reserve, where we’ll walk across the majestic sands and sleep in comfortable “sky beds” beneath the stars. Our conservation safaris, In the Realm of the Desert Lion and Giraffe Conservation and Safari (both world-exclusive to WT!), allow travelers to help track the only species of desert lion in the world, or assist with the radio collaring of giraffes with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation team.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
The isolated island of Skellig Michael, off the western coast of Ireland, was the perfect place for a Christian monastery back in the 6th century. Now it sets the scene for the climactic ending to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Spoiler Alert: it’s at the top of this island where Luke Skywalker’s hideaway is, where the first “Jedi Temple” was built, and where WT travelers can find themselves on our Spirit of Ireland adventure.
Tom Cruise experienced the collision of western and Samurai culture in the 2003 film The Last Samurai, and travelers to Himeji can do the same. On our Japan: Castles, Samurai, and Legends adventure, we visit Engyoji Temple, perched high on a hilltop surrounded by pine forest. The temple sets the scene for part of the film when Captain Algren experiences the heart and soul of Samurai culture.
Indiana Jones, the brainchild of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, is the ultimate adventure icon. In The Last Crusade, you’ll most likely remember his search for the Holy Grail, which is located in Al Khazneh, Petra. Al Khazneh means “The Treasury” and its remarkable façade carved right into the sandstone earned it recognition as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. On our Pyramids to Petra adventure, we won’t search for Sean Connery, but will spend a full day exploring Petra’s desert canyon wonders.
South Island, New Zealand
The wonderful stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were beautifully brought to the big screen by Peter Jackson beginning in 2001. When deciding on film locations, Jackson didn’t need to look far and settled on his home country of New Zealand. He worked with the New Zealand government (they even hired the New Zealand Army to help with early construction), and numerous location across the North and South islands became the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. On our New Zealand: South Island Adventure, we head out on hikes in Mt. Aspiring National Park, the same place where Isengard is located in the film, and spend time exploring Fiordland by kayak, boat, and on foot. Fiordland sets the scene for multiple locations in the films, so it seems everywhere you look, you’re bound to experience some connection to “Middle Earth.”