Real life 'Star Wars' destinations you can visit


Has the news that Star Wars Episode VIII is now filming got you as excited as an Ewok on man-flesh night at the Endor Steakhouse? Sure it has. Problem is, the movie won't hit theaters until December of 2017, which is far too long to wait to see the light and dark sides engage in space fisticuffs yet again. What's a fanatic to do?

You could get your Star Wars fix by scouring the internet for amusing fan theories — Jar Jar Binks is Supreme Leader Snoke, Rey is the lovechild of Chewbacca and Maz Kanata — that sort of thing.

You could revisit The Phantom Menace and try to bend the Force to make young Anakin crash into a boy-eating Bantha right before he squeals, "Now this is podracing!"

Or, best yet, you could scratch that intergalactic itch by traveling to some of these real-life, visitor-friendly Star Wars locations (in a galaxy not far away):

Tunisia

Tunisia is to Star Wars what New Zealand is to Lord of the Rings. The scenic, touristy country at the northern tip of Africa is home to several Star Wars locations you can visit, including:

Hotel Sidi DrissHotel Sidi Driss in southern Tunisia is traditional troglodyte accommodation and was used in the making of the Star Wars films
David Stares / Alamy

The sacred cow of Star Wars locations, Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Tunisia has been dubbed "Star Wars Hotel." A centuries-old, traditional berber structure in the middle of the desert, it served as Luke Skywalker's boyhood home in A New Hope.

The hotel consists of five underground pits, four of which you can sleep in and the fifth (the restaurant) being the place where the filming took place. Year-round, you can find fan-boys having dinner in the Lars Dining Room, complaining to their uncles about how they want to transmit their applications to the Academy this year instead of tending the family farm.

Ajim

A small fishing port on the island of Djerba, Ajim plays host to several legendary Star Wars structures, including Chalmun's Cantina (beware disfigured bar patrons with the death sentence on 12 systems), Obi-Wan's hut, and Falcon Blast Off Alley, where the good guys escaped Tatooine.

A ferry connects Ajim to the mainland, so no need to bring your own flash speeder.

Chott el Djerid
sunrise over the salt flats chott el djerid tunisia skywalker viewRadharc Images/Alamy

Site of arguably the most well-known Star Wars shot, Chott el Djerid is a dried-up salt lake, a stone's throw from the Dune Sea, where Luke's igloo house still remains. With the right kind of eye, you can almost see the two moons of Tatooine.

The igloo is reachable by car (just follow the line of vehicles with "Vote for Vader - 2016" and "I Have a Boba Fett-ish" bumper stickers).

Europe

Much of the prequel trilogy was shot at various locations throughout Europe, including:

Royal Palace of Caserta

How would you and your other half like to reenact the Anakin Skywalker-Padme Amidala romance from Attack of the Clones (minus the awkward as hell dialogue, of course)? Then book a room or take the self-guided tour of the awe-inspiring Palace of Caserta in Southern Italy. The world's most spacious royal residence, it served as the Theed Royal Palace in Episodes I and II.

Villa del Balbianello

Site of Annakin and Padme's first kiss, Villa del Balbianello is a popular wedding destination overlooking Lake Como. The villa reappeared in Attack of the Clones as the sight of the doomed lovebirds' wedding. Hop aboard the ferry from Bellagio to Lenno for easiest access.

For your Force Awakens fix:

Skellig Michael
View of Little Skellig from Skellig MichaelGetty Images/Axiom RM

Home to 7th century monastery ruins and breathtaking Atlantic Ocean views, Skellig Michael in County Kerry, Ireland, was site of Rey's unforgettable climb to meet Luke at the end of The Force Awakens. It will reportedly feature heavily in the next episode as well.

Once a hidden gem, the island has exploded with tourist activity in the past year. To join the throes of Star Wars fanatics flocking there, check out the Skellig Experience Visitor Center, and start building up your cardio to climb the hundreds of ancient steps like Rey did.

United States

Some of the most memorable Star Wars scenes were filmed at locations in our own backyard, such as:

Redwoods National Park

Home of the world's largest trees (and once upon a time a population of cute, cuddly, man-eating Ewoks), Redwood National Park on the northern tip of California served as the forested moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Take a leisurely drive down Avenue of the Giants freeway and the scenery will make you feel like you're on a speeder bike, chasing storm troopers through the dense forest canopy.

Death Valley National Park
Star Wars moutains - Death Valleydavidherzhaft/Getty

Famed and historic Death Valley National Park, between the Mojove Desert and Great Basin, took a turn as Tatooine as well.

At the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, you can see the spot where R2D2 and C3PO parted ways after their robotic lover's spat. Swing by Desolation Canyon to see where the Tuscan Raiders prepared to waylay Luke before Obi-Wan emerged to scare them off. Or, check out Dante's View, where Luke and Obi prepared to meet the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" that constitute Mos Eisley.

Star Wars Museum

Okay, so unless something goes terribly wrong with the filming of Episode VIII, George Lucas's planned Star Wars Museum in Chicago won't open until well after the movie is released. But it's so cool that it bears mentioning anyway. Lucas's personal trove of props and memorabilia, the museum hopes to open in 2019 in a futuristic spaceship-shaped building adjacent to Soldier Field.

Fans worldwide are hopeful the museum will include rare and iconic props, costumes, artwork, sets, and the remains of Jar Jar Binks.



Marcus Whelchel lives and writes on the planet St. Louis, with his wife and daughter. He just realized that those really were the droids he was looking for.