This month sees the release of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’, marking the end of an era for the most successful book/film franchise of all time.
For those who might be mourning the departure of Potter and pals, Skyscanner invites you to cast reality away for a minute, and imagine this; what if we could holiday in the worlds of popular fiction?
What if we could jump on the Hogwarts Express for a Hogwarts tour; take Millennium Falcon Airways to the ice planet of Hoth from Star Wars, or go via Great Eagle to The Shire from The Lord Of The Rings?
Come with us as we explore how a fantasy travel brochure might read for holidays in galaxies, far, far away…
Harry Potter Universe
1. Visit Hogwarts
After years of being closed to the general public, this most famous school is now open to ‘Muggles’. Guided tours are led by genuine Hogwarts students where you’ll be able to visit parts of this ancient institution including each of the four houses, the grounds, and Hagrid’s Hut, where the giant himself offers dragon petting sessions every hour – great for kids! A magical meal in the Great Hall is included in the ticket price.
2. Watch a Quidditch Match
It’s well worth catching a game of this exhilarating sport which is the most popular in the wizarding world. There are local league games played most weeks all over the Potter universe, but if you’re lucky enough to visit during a world cup year, then you’ll see Quidditch at its best. Book early as tickets get snapped up fast.
3. Shop in Hogsmeade
This delightful medieval village has over 1000 years of history to enjoy. Take a cup of tea at Madam’s Puddifoot’s Tea Shop; those with a sweet tooth should visit Honeydukes, and if you’re brave enough, visit The Shrieking Shack, reputedly the most haunted building in Britain.
Hazards: most visits to the Harry Potter Universe occur without any trouble, but there is an ongoing threat of violence from ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ who is thought to have orchestrated indiscriminate attacks on Muggles. The Potter universe also has numerous dangerous creatures at large including Basilisks, Dementors and various species of dragon, so do not venture off the beaten track without a knowledgeable local guide.
Real World: many of the locations for the HP films can be visited in the real world (see: 13 Harry Potter Holidays), but the closest you can get to the Harry Potter experience is a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando Florida. There is also a real world International Quidditch Association, though in the absence of magical powers, this is basically just a bunch of people running around with brooms between their legs, and somewhat lacks the excitement of the real thing.
Hogwarts image: Warner Bros
Middle Earth, Lord of the Rings
1. Rivendell spa holiday run by Elves
Rivendell is a popular spa retreat located in a beautiful elfin kingdom, sat in a narrow gorge in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. The Elves run courses in meditation and yoga all year round, though Rivendell is best visited in spring or summer, when the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed to the full. Though English is spoken fluently in Rivendell, learning a few words of Elvish will certainly be appreciated by the locals.
2. Relax in The Shire
The Shire is a pleasant land of rolling hills, forests and rivers, inhabited by the Hobbit folk. The locals here revel in life’s simple pleasures; namely eating, drinking and smoking. Be sure to try a puff of ‘longbottom leaf’ at one of the coffee shops (which are exempt from the smoking ban) and a home-brewed ale or two at the Green Dragon Inn. A visit to Hobbiton, home of local celebrities Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, is well worth a visit.
3. Explore the History of Minas Tirith
The capital of Gondor and one of the greatest cities in Middle Earth, this magnificent settlement rises from the Pelennor Fields. Built on seven levels, join a tour that reveals its fascinating history where you’ll explore its secrets and learn about the many battles that have scarred the city over the ages.
Hazards: parts of Middle Earth are politically unstable and violence can flare up quickly. Be on your guard for hostile wizards, orcs and trolls. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery such as gold rings which can attract the attention of muggers. The British FCO currently advises against all but essential travel to Mordor.
Real World: all of the LORT films and the two new Hobbit movies were filmed in New Zealand, and you can take a LORT tour to see some of the set locations. Tolkien based The Shire on areas of the West Midlands countryside including Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and Rivendell was based upon Lauterbrunnental in Switzerland where Tolkien once visited for a hiking holiday.
Star Wars Galaxy
1. Ewok Eco-retreat on Endor
Popular with outdoor enthusiasts, the forest moon of Endor is home to the Ewoks who run eco-tourism holidays. English is not widely spoken so it’s worth taking an Ewokese phrase book, but the locals are very hospitable and a stay in an Ewok tree house is a great way of experiencing their simple way of life. Though originally a hunter-gather society, following their appearance in the Star Wars films, the Ewoks now rely on tourism as their primary source of income.
2. Ski Hoth, the Ice Planet
Hoth’s endless winter means that snow sports are possible all year and the planet has become popular with the adventurous ski set. As there is no permanent population, fresh tracks can always be found, and the only completion for snow comes from an occasional member of the Rebel Alliance or the odd Imperial probe droid. With no civilisation to speak of, the après ski is low key and accommodation is either a snow cave or the rebel’s slightly more upmarket Echo Base. AT-ATs are also available for hire.
3. Safari on Alderaan
A beautiful planet characterised by grasslands, prairies and mountain ranges, Alderaan is extremely popular with nature enthusiasts. Join an Alderaan safari where you can see more than 8000 species of wildflowers, and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the ‘big five’: Nerf, Grazer, Thranta, Stalking Bird, and Manka Cat.
Hazards: Most visits to the Star Wars universe are trouble free, however there is an underlying threat of being caught up in violence, and entire planets have been destroyed with the Empire’s Death Star. Respect local customs and avoid discussing politics when visiting imperially controlled regions. Smuggling is rife so do not accept any offers to carry anyone’s bag, especially when flying Millennium Falcon Airways.
Real World: Endor was filmed in a redwood forest at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California, and Cathedral Grove in Vancouver Island. The snowy wastes of Western Norway were used as the setting for the Ice Planet of Hoth. The mountains of Grindlewald in Switzerland were used to capture plate photograph for the beautiful backdrops of planet Alderaan.