Not Quite A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Where “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Was Shot

The Force is strong in these locations.  
Rub al Khali dunes desert sand
Rub al Khali’s other-worldly 1,000-foot-high sand dunes pass for the planet of Jakku in "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens". Photo: Julien Gracia/Age Fotostock/Dinodia

For a movie about fictional galaxies, much of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was shot on Earth. The seventh edition in the popular movie franchise, sees the return of classic characters like Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia travelling to fantastical planets. The spectacular locations have captured the imagination of sci-fi fans and travellers across the planet.

The island of Skellig Michael, just southwest of Ireland’s County Kerry, doubles up as the place where Luke Skywalker has been biding his time. The island, in real life, is home to a centuries-old Christian monastery that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can explore the rocky remains of the monks’ cells, the graveyard and St. Michael’s church. There are over a hundred crosses, in various shapes and forms, scattered across the island.

Abu Dhabi’s sand dunes are a major filming location in the new film too, standing in for the planet of Jakku. You can see the desert in the opening scenes of the official Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. The Middle-Eastern hub is no stranger to tourists, with its beautiful beaches, desert safaris, souks and family-friendly attractions like Ferrari world, making it a great holiday choice for every kind of traveller.

In the UK, Gloucestershire’s Puzzlewood forest (yes, that it the real name) features in the movie. Its knotted trees and lush green are said to have also inspired parts of The Lord Of The Rings. The forest has also made an appearance in popular television shows like Doctor Who. In the new Star Wars film, fans have speculated that the forests might have been used as the backdrop for the forested moon of Endor, home to the ewoks.

Iceland’s Myvatn-Krafla volcanic region has long been a favourite of filming crews from around the world, including for Game of Thrones. Its blue-green lakes, steaming craters and mudpools give parts of Star Wars its other-worldly feel.

Watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens below:

Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “The Force is Strong”.

The Power of Place

The first UNESCO World Heritage Site to feature in a Star Wars film was the Royal Palace of Caserta in southern Italy. The magnificent, large royal residence, built in the 18th century, includes a palace with gardens, woods and hunting lodges, and even a silk factory. It has served as the location for Queen Amidala’s Palace on Naboo in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as well as Queen Jamillia’s palace in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.


    Kamakshi Ayyar is Features Writer on National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She's partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.

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