I don’t know about you, but movies have always been a source of travel inspiration for me. I love a film where the setting is an integral part of the story. The imagery definitely stirs up the wanderlust and has me adding to the ever-growing travel bucket list in my mind. So travel with me from the islands of Greece to the sand dunes of Namibia, palaces of India, hobbit-holes of New Zealand, and more…
As someone who grew up listening to ABBA, I automatically loved this musical set in the stunning Greek islands. The primary filming locations used for Mamma Mia! were the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos in the Sporades archipelago. For the beautiful beach scene where Sophie and Sky sing ‘Lay All Your Love on Me‘, head to Kastani Beach in south west Skopelos. Some outdoor scenes were filmed in Damouchari in the Pelion region of mainland Greece.
In 2018’s sequel, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’, the filming location shifted to Croatia. More specifically the island of Vis – a two hour ferry ride from Split. Most of the filming was done on the western side in the village of Komiza and Barjoska Bay. Scenes were also shot in the island’s famous Stiniva beach, Barjaci in the far west, and Srebrna Bay. It’s safe to say, I’m definitely wanderlusting after the idyllic islands of both Greece and Croatia!
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
India has long been on my travel bucket list. From its colourful history to delicious food, vibrant culture, and more. And this film, I think, brought the beauty of Rajasthan to the (western) masses.
The real-life Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the 17th-century Ravla Khempur, located in the tiny town of Khempur near Udaipur. The ‘Viceroy Club’ scenes were filmed in the Narain Niwas Palace near Jaipur. The scene at the beautiful geometric stepwell was filmed at Panna Meena Ka Kund, a 10th-century well located near Jaipur’s Amber Fort. A larger and more-visited stepwell in Rajasthan is Chand Baori in Abhaneri. Scenes were also shot at Udaipur’s Jagat Niwas Palace, overlooking Lake Pichola and the famous Taj Lake Palace Hotel.
Pride & Prejudice
Whether you’re a fierce defender of the 1995 miniseries, prefer Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 feature film, or a purist who sticks to the book… This collection of beautiful historic manors is bound to inspire a journey around the English countryside.
Want to put yourself in Lizzie’s shoes and wander around Mr Darcy’s mansion? Head to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (pictured above), the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. This grand house is the filming location used for Pemberley in the 2005 film. The 1995 miniseries featured the Edwardian manor Lyme Park in Cheshire.
Rosing Park, the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, was filmed in two different Lincolnshire manors in the miniseries and the film. The miniseries featured 17th-century Belton House in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and the film featured 15th-century Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire. I definitely think Lady Catherine would approve.
The beautiful country estate of Groombridge Place was the filming location of the Bennet’s home in the 2005 film. The manor is a private residence, however there are lovely gardens and a treetop walkway that are open to visitors. In the 1995 miniseries, Luckington Court was home to Elizabeth and her family.
If you’ve seen Amélie – a.k.a. Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain – you know the filming location is Montmartre, Montmartre, Montmartre! Located in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, Montmartre is a charming neighbourhood home to the Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge.
During the Belle Époque, late 19th-century and the beginning of the 20th, many artists lived in or around Montmartre. These artists included Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mondrian, Picasso, and Van Gogh! So for an ex art history student like myself, it was definitely a must-see when I first visited Paris.
For quintessential Amélie, head to Rue Lepic, the home of Café des 2 Moulins. This is where Amélie worked and a large portion of the film was set. Fun fact, Van Gogh actually lived at 54 Rue Lepic from 1886 to 1888!
Mad Max: Fury Road
This post-apocalyptic action movie was filmed amongst the stunning orange ochre sand of the Namib Desert, Namibia. Other potential filming locations for Fury Road included Broken Hill in Australia, the Atacama Desert in Chile, Chott el Djerid in Tunisia, and Azerbaijan.
Namib-Naukluft National Park includes a large part of the Namib Desert, and is the largest game reserve in Africa. The park’s main attraction — and the main tourist attraction in Namibia — is Sossusvlei with its tall, bright orange sand dunes.
Call Me By Your Name
The opening credits of Call Me By Your Name feature an ambiguous line establishing the setting as “somewhere in northern Italy”. Warmth almost emanates from the screen as you take in the stunning scenes. The film is set amongst the Italian countryside, stunning nature and historic architecture combined.
The novel that the film is based on was actually set on the Italian coast. However, the director decided to film in Lombardy, believing it was “quintessentially Italian without being an idea of Italy”. Filming mostly took place in the small town of Crema, located an hour from Milan. Unfortunately the mansion where Elio and his family spend their summer isn’t open to visitors. But you can still visit Crema with its lovely square – the Piazza del Duomo.
Other places you see in Call Me By Your Name include Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione at the southern end of Lake Garda (the archaeological dig scene), Cascate del Serio (the waterfall Elio and Oliver visit), and the Piazza Padre Reginaldo Giuliani in the town of Bergamo (where they have a drunken night out).
There are so many charming real-life places featured in the Harry Potter films. If you’re travelling to the UK, you’re bound to run into something that reminds you of the magical story of Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
The Hogwarts Express is based on the Jacobite Steam Train which runs along the West Highland Railway Line in Scotland. The train crosses over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (also referred to as “the Harry Potter bridge”). You can book a trip on this historic train from Fort William to Mallaig from April to October.
Platform 9¾ is not an actual train platform (for muggles, that is), but you can visit the iconic wall that the young wizards pass through on their way to Hogwarts at King’s Cross Railway Station in London. Also in the capital, the exterior of Diagon Alley was filmed at Leadenhall Market, built in 1881.
Hogwarts was brought to life through the use of various locations at Oxford University, the oldest university in the English-speaking world (it was established around 1096)! Christ Church College seems to be the primary location used, but there are a number of Harry Potter focused walking tours which will take you to all of the must-see spots. Some Hogwarts scenes were also filmed in Gloucester Cathedral, southwest England, and in Durham Cathedral, northeast England.
While the Scottish city of Edinburgh doesn’t actually feature in the films themselves, it reportedly served as a huge inspiration for J.K. Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter series.
Lord of the Rings
Being from Middle-Earth myself, I couldn’t go without mentioning Lord of the Rings. My home country of Aotearoa New Zealand is very well-known for its dramatic and beautiful natural landscapes. Many places I visited for childhood holidays play a huge part in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
Although the South Island of New Zealand is generally what draws travellers to this little country in Oceania, the most recognisable filming locations from Lord of the Rings are actually on the North Island! Two must-sees for any big LotR fan are Mt Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park (a.k.a. Mt Doom!), and the Hobbiton movie set located near Matamata.
Other notable locations include the Kawarau Gorge (the Anduin River), Mt Sunday (Edoras), the Putangirua Pinnacles (Dimholt Road), Twizel (Gondor), Snowdon Forest in Fiordland National Park (Fangorn Forest), Paradise near Glenorchy (Isengard), Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell), and there are so many more!