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One of the best ways to fill your travel itinerary? Look to Hollywood for inspiration. Here are some of the most spectacular spots made famous for playing the backdrop to your favourite films.
1. Phi Phi Islands
Movie/s: The Beach
Stay: Villa 360, Phi Phi Island
Thailand’s dreamy island archipelago off the coast near Phuket – and more specifically, the island of Ko Phi Phi Lee and Maya Bay – is a tourist hotspot for being Leonardo DiCaprio’s breathtaking secret island cove in the 2000 film adaptation of Alex Garland’s adventure novel, The Beach. Though the beach is partially hidden within one of the coast’s jungle-like archipelagos, you won’t be hard pressed scoring a lift out there – many boats offer day trips to Ko Phi Phi and a swag of other dreamy islands for a small fee.
2. New Zealand
Movie/s: Lord of the Rings
Stay: Evergreen Lodge, Queenstown
With its rolling green hills, steep snow-capped mountains, barren volcanic plains and a wealth of other Instagram-worthy natural landscapes, New Zealand was an obvious choice as fictional realm Middle Earth for Peter Jackson’s epic three-part Tolkien fantasy flick, Lord of the Rings.
3. Bernese Alps
Movie/s: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Stay: Hotel Eiger Swiss Q, Muerren
What better place to plant 007 and his swathe of adventurous cronies than a panoramic lair atop one of Switzerland’s highest peaks? The Schilthorn, in the breathtaking Bernese Alps, played host to Bond for the 1969 spy flick, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (starring one-time Australian 007, George Lazenby). To this day, there are several homages to James Bond enroute to the Schilthorn summit, including cut-outs of Lazenby for happy snaps and the Bond theme being played before you exit the cable car. Slightly corny? Yes – though the view is anything but.
Movie/s: Into the Wild
Stay: Best Western Country Lane Inn, Juneau
While the film based on Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book about young adventurer Christopher McCandless showed off some of America’s most astonishing landscapes – from Lake Tahoe to Oregon, South Dakota, the Grand Canyon and Slab City, the notorious squatters utopia in the Californian desert – all paled in comparison to the striking backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, where the real McCandless saw out his days in an abandoned bus. A monument to McCandless’ adventurous spirit, which stands as a hiker’s attraction to this day.
Movie/s: Lost in Translation
Stay: Park Hyatt, Tokyo (the hotel from the movie)
Along with shoe-horning Suntory whisky into the sub-conscious of everyone who saw the movie (“For a relaxing time, make it Suntory time”), the 2003 film about an ageing Hollywood star (Bill Murray) who sparks a pseudo-relationship with a young expat (Scarlett Johansson) showed off the never-sleeping buzz, weird and eccentricity of Japan’s capital. And its delicious whisky.
Stay: Hotel Modera, Portland
Like Into the Wild, this flick starring Reese Witherspoon as American novelist Cheryl Strayed highlights the breathtaking surrounds of the Pacific Crest Trail, but in much more depth and cinematic beauty. Try watching Witherspoon trekking through Oregon’s ultra-lush forest vistas and not want to impulse-book a flight to America’s northwest.
Movie/s: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Stay: Miramare Sea Resort, Ischia
Yes, Matt Damon is a stage five clinger in this iconic thriller – but don’t let that stop you from getting lost in dreams of traipsing through beach umbrellas and sipping on aperitifs under the hot Mediterranean sun on the relaxing Italian island of Ischia, where the movie was filmed.
Movie/s: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Lawrence of Arabia
Stay: Intercontinental, Amman
Already an iconic landscape to begin with for its archaeological roots, Jordan’s historic ‘Lost City’ of Petra was used as the backdrop for Harrison Ford escaping imminent doom in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Nearby, the seemingly never-ending desert plains of Jordan (from Aqaba right to Wadi Rum) was where the iconic Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.
9. Monument Valley
Movie/s: Back to the Future Part III, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Forrest Gump
Stay: Holiday Inn, Cortez
On the desert end of the United States, no expanse has been used more to portray a striking, dry and barren landscape than Colorado’s Monument Valley. From Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s epic train chase escapade in Back to the Future Part III, to the setting for holiday hijinks in National Lampoon’s Family Vacation, Monument Valley is a prized jewel in Hollywood’s location crown.
10. Angkor Wat
Movie/s: Tomb Raider
Stay: Pacific Hotel, Siem Reap
Sure, it wasn’t the most gripping movie – and when you’re dealing with a video-game adaptation of a wealthy, ass-kicking archaeologist with a penchant for wearing uncomfortably small items of clothing during combat, nobody expected it to be. But it did manage to reveal Angkor Wat’s beauty in the way of Ta Prohm – a breathtaking ancient Cambodian temple built in the late 12th century.
11. Alnwick Castle
Movie/s: Harry Potter
Stay: Royal Station Hotel, Northumberland
With its jutting turrets and expansive lush grounds, Britain’s giant Alnwick Castle was the ideal filming location to portray a magical realm in the first two Harry Potter films. Fans of TVs period drama Downton Abbey might also recognise Alnwick as ground zero for the show.
Movie/s: The Sound of Music
Stay: Arthotel Blaue Gans, Salzburg
Anyone who’s travelled through Austria’s sweeping green mountains can attest that the hills really are alive – and the most iconic of those spots to visit is the Alps city of Salzburg, where The Sound of Music was originally filmed.