Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in cinemas around Australia today. Those of us who haven't seen advance screenings (those lucky Bucketheads) will be getting our first look at the new Star Wars generation (and some old favourites) in the coming days.
One thing we'll all recognise better than 73-year-old Han Solo is the Star Wars universe with its unique planets and fascinating locations. It certainly beats out boring old Earth.
Or does it? Many of the places in the movies were filmed at or inspired by real-life destinations around our very own planet. Here are some you can visit, dressed in traditional Jedi garb or not.
1. Mount Etna, Italy
A few days ago Europe's most active volcano came back to life after 2 years of little activity! Mt Etna is Europes tallest volcano standing over 10,000ft tall. It has been erupting for four nearly 4 days now with rivers of lava flowing down the side of the mountain, and columns of hot ash being spewed into the air. My Etna is a stratovolcano located in Sicily, Italy in the province of Catania. the volcano lies on the convergent plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and the African plate. In Greek Mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder and king of gods, and the forges of Hephaestus were said to also be located underneath. How cool is that!! #volcano #Sicily #italy #catania #etna #mtetna #lava #flow #volcanology #ash #fire #hot #plate #tectonics #eurasian #african #convergent #stratovolcano #eruption #europe #instafollow #follow #followme #instagood #instapic Photo taken from: http://m.nydailynews.com/news/mount-etna-erupts-gallery-1.1550453
Italy's volcanic Mt Etna was used in the digital creation of the lava planet Mustafar, where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fought at the end of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
The tallest active volcano in Europe, Mt Etna is one of Sicily's main tourist attractions, with thousands of visitors traversing the mountain via car and cableway to access the crater at 2,920 metres high.
Regular volcanic activity is recorded most years, with eruptions occurring less frequently.
2. Tikal National Park, Guatemala
A photo posted by @alannaleahh on
The thousand-year-old Mayan ruins in Tikal National Park were used in the original Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) to set up the Rebel Alliance's Massassi outpost on the fourth moon of Yavin.
Tikal National Park is a 575-square-kilometre jungle that houses thousands of ruined structures. Its most popular central area is home to the two temples audiences see rising out of the trees in the film.
It's accessible by organising a guided tour after first flying into Flores, Guatemala City or Belize City.
3. Redwood National And State Parks, California
Redwood National and State Parks were used in one of the most remembered segments of the Star Wars saga.
The scenes on the moon, Endor, where violent chases on 74-Z speeder bikes and the battle between the Ewoks and the Galactic Empire took place were all shot within the towering redwoods.
Heavy logging has depreciated the current landscape, but it's still possible to feel like you're on Endor by driving along the Avenue of the Giants highway or walking through Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park or the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
More movie locations!
4. Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia
What Luke Skywalker must've seen every night, looking up at the stars and dreaming of something bigger. Don't we all? ### In nerdy anticipation of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens next month, I'll be posting a photo series under #FindingSkywalker, a virtual tour of Anakin and Luke Skywalker's homeworld of Tatooine in the real world: Tunisia. #starwars #tunisia #findingskywalker #night
This hotel was used to shoot the interior of Luke Skywalker's childhood home on Tatooine in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It was also used in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
After filming at the hotel for the second time, George Lucas left the set decorations in place. Fans are now able to visit the hotel and truly feel like they are standing inside Luke Skywalker's home, going so far as eating at the same table.
Tunisia boasts other scenes from Star Wars such as the igloo exterior of Luke Skywalker's house in Chott El Jerid and Anakin's slave quarters from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in the town of Medenine.
5. Villa del Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy
The historic Villa del Balbianello overlooks picturesque Lake Como from the tip of a peninsula, making it the perfect setting for the lake retreat where Anakin and Padme go into hiding during Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
The real-life villa is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. Although its exterior was digitally altered in the film, it's still possible to stand on the same balcony where Anakin and Padme kissed.
Lake Como is itself one of Italy's gorgeous natural sights best explored on a leisurely boat ride.
6. Buttercup Valley, California
STAR WARS Throw Back Way back in 1982 I stumbled upon the set of Return of the Jedi in Buttercup Valley located in The Imperial Sand Dunes aka Glamis. It was an amazing sight. Jabba the Hutt’s huge hover barge was 80 feet high, 212 feet long.#starwars #returnofthejedi #lucasfilm #southerncalifornia #glamis #imperialvalley #buttercupvalley #gordonswell #starwarsgeek #sanddunes #desert #desertlife #theforceawakens #starwarstrailer #darthvader #jabathehut #georgelucas #movielocations #yuma #yumaarizona #photooftheday
A photo posted by Peter Pasquariello (@petesdesk) on
Another memorable scene in Star Wars takes place at the Great Pit of Carkoon where Jabba feeds his prisoners to a sarlacc and where fan-favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett meets his doom.
This scene in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was shot in California's Buttercup Valley, which can be accessed from the town of Yuma, Arizona.
However, the actual barge from the film wasn't blown up here, so don't expect to find any remnants scattered amongst the dunes.