From Princess Jasmine’s home town to the Joker’s playground, the settings on the big screen are, surprisingly, actual, real-life locations… with a little CGI thrown in for good measure. This year, the blockbusters are rolling in, so get off the sofa, step into the story and let these film-set locations inspire your next adventure.
1. Aladdin: Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan – fly from £130
Release date: 24 May 2019
Not only was the original animated version 1992’s highest grossing film, but it opened up – sing it – A Whole New World – of fancy-dress possibilities for the 90s. Cut to kids everywhere screaming for Princess Jasmine makeovers. Now, it’s getting a modern-day, live animation makeover thanks to director Guy Richie. To bring it to life, the film crew took to the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan and turned it into the fictional city of Agrabah. With burnt-orange sands, sweeping dunes and Martian-like mountains, it’s no surprise that this vast desert is often called the Valley of the Moon, or that it’s had a starring role in loads of movies. It was awarded its big break in Lawrence of Arabia back in 1962 and went on to become Planet Jedah in Star Wars: Rogue One.
Before the desert auditions for its next blockbuster, visit in early spring or late autumn for the best weather. Wadi Rum covers 300 square miles so the only way to take it all in is with a day’s jeep tour with a local Bedouin guide. If you’re sticking around for a little longer, factor in a visit to Burdah Rock Bridge. It’s the largest of three arches in Wadi Rum and it’s precariously perched 80 metres above surrounding rock formations. It’s a challenging hike over steep, rocky terrain, but among the locals, it’s known as the most rewarding hike in the desert.
Where to stay:
If you’re visiting Wadi Rum as part of a bigger trip to Jordan, spend a night sleeping under the stars in the desert with a luxury stay at the Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp. Opt for either a luxury tent complete with solar-powered amenities and a private terrace overlooking the mountains, or a futuristic ‘pod’ with an ensuite. Each ‘bubble’ gives you a clear view of the night’s sky from your four-poster bed. You don’t even need to pop your slippers on to see the sunrise. Or if you can manage with a little less luxury, a night at the Jamal Rum Camp will cost you as little as £10 a night. The accommodation may be on the basic side but no matter where you stay, those unforgettable views won’t cost you a single Jordanian dinar.
2. Lion King: Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya – fly from £354
Release date: 19 July 2019
If you’re thinking the Lion King was ‘just’ a cartoon and purely fictional, you’d be wrong my friend, very wrong. Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya, so named because of the intense geothermal activity taking place inside the park, provided the inspiration for the original film 25 years ago. A quarter of a century later, and the new live-animation movie is set to hit the screens in July, so it’s high time you visited the film set. True, the animals won’t burst into well-rehearsed song and dance in the voices of Beyonce and Donald Glover, and meerkats and warthogs probably don’t hang out together in reality – dreams crushed forever – but how many people can say they’ve been to Pride Rock? In fact, this park is less about the animals, and more about its unusual topography, with rock towers, volcanoes and deep canyons.
It’s recommended to visit on a day trip from Nairobi so wear your comfy shoes to explore. Make your way to Fischer’s Tower, the focal point of the park and a favourite among visitors for rock climbing. From Hell’s Gate and, in fact, anywhere in the local area, you’ll be able to see Mount Longonot in the neighbouring National Park. A dormant volcano that last erupted in the 1800s, it now dominates the landscape at 750 metres above sea level. If you fancy some more hiking, you can reach the rim of the crater in two hours for impressive views across the park. You’ll need to be relatively fit but it’s still suitable for a novice hiker, even though the pros use it as a pre-climb for Kilimanjaro.
Where to stay:
If you book a room at Sarova Stanley, you can get a five-star hotel experience for as little as £96 a night. In a great location near City Square and Nairobi’s Central Park, it’s also close to the main shopping areas. Plus, there’s a fantastic, heated pool, just in case the African heat isn’t enough for you.
3. Joker: The Bronx, New York – fly from £202
Release date: 4 October 2019
Still get shivers thinking of Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Joker back in The Dark Knight? Us too. Now Joaquin Phoenix is taking up the mantel and embracing the heavy clown make-up. Gotham City may look a little grittier and more menacing on screen but the criminal mastermind is actually just roaming the streets of New York, specifically The Bronx. If you didn’t know, this neighbourhood is the home of ‘step streets’ – that’s streets made up of just steps, funnily enough – and the backdrop for an iconic scene in the trailer. Head to 167th Street, throw on your craziest smile and whisper, ‘Why so serious?’ to passers-by – it’ll be an Oscar-worthy performance for sure.
Continue your tour of the film sets at Brooklyn Army Terminal on 58th Street, also known as Arkham State Hospital. Then move onto Bedford Park Boulevard Subway Station which also features in the trailer. Then, to lighten the mood ever so slightly, finish your day in the Bronx by discovering City Island, an off-the-beaten-track sight that feels far removed from the Big Apple. You can access the island by a bridge at the edge of Pelham Park. Thanks to its waterside location, it’s embraced all things maritime and is brimming with seafood restaurants, ice cream shops and sailing opportunities.
Where to stay:
You’ll find the Opera House Hotel in South Bronx, a modern boutique hotel sat in between two subway stops and close to St Mary’s Park. It’s just over a mile from the Yankee Stadium so you can walk back from a game and spot the street art and graffiti the Bronx is known for. Rooms from £140.
4. Star Wars: Argyll, Scotland – fly from £50
Release date: 19 December 2019
Over the years, the Star Wars location scouts have scoured the planet turning holiday destinations into (literally) out-of-this-world film sets. From Padme’s family home on Naboo, filmed in Lake Como to Redwood National Park in California, which is now known as the home of the Ewoks, those fluffy teddy-bear-like characters in the Forest Moon of Endor (just don’t call them that in front of a true fan, it’s practically blasphemy), every corner of the world is a contender.
Now, for the highly anticipated ninth and final episode, The Rise of Skywalker, you don’t need to jump to hyperspace to embrace your inner Jedi. It may not scream Tatooine or Coruscant vibes, but the Scottish Highlands are a favourite set location among the Rebel Alliance. The cast have been spotted filming in Argyll once more. Cue dramatic ‘staring-into-the-distance’ shots against the wild, impressive landscape. It’s the best place to spot some wildlife, like golden eagles, red deer and puffins. You’ll need four wheels to get around the area – we’re talking rural Scotland here – so hire a car and head to Argyll Forest Park to spot the rare red squirrel. Fun fact: the park’s dramatic scenery is thanks to the Highland Boundary Fault. It’s a major fault in the surface of the Earth which marks the line between Lowland and Highland Scotland.
Where to stay:
Knockderry Country House Hotel is practically a fairy-tale castle with turrets, towers and authentic wood-panelled walls. Plus, it’s set against breath-taking scenery and in a great location for Loch Lomond so you can step outside and set off on a hike. We suggest walking along the Millennium Forest Path around the loch where, in summer, you’ll be rewarded by a carpet of bluebells and stitchwort. From £99 a night.
5. Wonder Woman 2: The Amalfi Coast – fly from £26
Release date: 5 June 2020
If you’ve already planned your holiday this year, get ahead and start organising the next one in line with the release of Wonder Woman 2: 1984. Fans of the 2017 epic now have to wait even longer for the sequel after the release was pushed back from November 2019 until summer 2020. Until June rolls around, visit the real-life home of Diana, better known as Wonder Woman. If you were paying close attention in the first film, you may have recognised one of the main sets as the lush Italian town of Ravello which cascades down the mountain, overlooking the stunning Amalfi Coast. Its Greek-Roman architecture and vibrant colours make it the perfect backdrop for Diana’s homeland, the fictional island of Themyscira, previously known as ‘Paradise Island’.
Once you arrive on the Amalfi Coast, you’ll be spoilt for choice with endless clifftop views of dazzling blue sea. Start in the town of Ravello and visit the cathedral and its bountiful gardens. Visit in July and August and the town becomes the setting for the Ravello Festival where you’ll find everything from ballet performances to film screenings. If you’re looking for a light refreshment, pop by Profumi della Costiera for a sip of their limoncello, made with local lemons and bottled in the back of the shop.
Where to stay:
Hotel Bonadies is close to the town centre and the main square with, you guessed it, postcard-worthy views of Ravello. The décor and rooms are simple, but the roof terrace, pool and classic Italian cuisine more than make up for it. Rooms from £133.
Get set-jetting and book your flights below:
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 21 May 2019.