The June holidays are just around the corner, but instead of the usual shopping trips and beach stops, why not embark on a family adventure at a place with a dash of Hollywood history? After all, a little cinematic magic always makes a place more interesting. From castle-like compounds with a brush of magic to beaches with a splash of ’70s pop music, here are seven famous movie locations to explore. Invoking a famous line of dialogue from your favourite hero or villain when you are there is entirely optional!
TV Show: Game Of Thrones
Despite Game of Thrones’ infamous gore and violence, the fictitious continent of Westeros, where much of the show is set, is actually a peaceful place to live in, in real life. That’s because the TV series is shot in the serene expanse of the Iceland countryside. Öxarárfoss is a waterfall in the Nordic nation’s Þingvellir National Park. While much of the park is breathtaking in its own right, the sight of this icy-cold plunge is sure to thrill Game of Thrones fans in particular, since it’s here that the Bloody Gate starts. This rocky path was the site of one of Season 4’s most memorable moments – Arya’s maniacal laughter as she learnt of her aunt’s death.
Another place fans will find familiar is Vatnajökul – a seemingly boundless space of glaciers which is home to the largest ice cap in Europe. Scenes from North of the Wall were primarily filmed on those harsh-looking icy landscapes. However, don’t expect the overwhelming amount of snowfall as seen in the show; much of it was created using computer-generated imagery.
Finally, for those looking for a cosier, warmer and secluded place, Grjotagja is a gorgeous cave formed by centuries of volcanic activity. The cave also features a geothermally-heated pool. No prizes for figuring out the exact spot Jon Snow and Ygritte consummated their marriage. But careful, if you’re no nightwatcher or free folk of the north, the waters may be too hot for you.
Movie: Avengers: Infinity Wars
Where: Banaue Rice Terrace, Philippines
Carved into a mountainside in North-Central Luzon, Philippines, the Banaue Rice Terrace is a verdant, picturesque paradise. It’s no wonder that Avengers super-villain Thanos sought respite at this cosy, idyllic spot after “cleaning up” the world. Unfortunately – as you may have seen from Endgame, the latest instalment of the movie series – his “retirement” was frustratingly short-lived (for him anyway).
The terraces in Banaue are, and have been for the last 2,000 years, home to the Ifugao people, for whom rice cultivation has been integral to their survival. However, with more and more younger villagers migrating to the cities, many fields and terraces have been left abandoned and the culture risks dissolution. The terrace fields themselves are massive and can go up to thousands of feet in height, which make them popular among hikers. If you’re not comfortable navigating the slopes of greens by yourself, you can hire a guide, tell him what you want to see, and he’ll piece together a scenic trail for you.
Do visit the village of Batad, which sits in the middle of the terraces. It’s only accessible by foot, but the determined traveller will find that the village is a great base at which to spend a day or two. That’s because it’s surrounded by breathtaking waterfalls and vantage points that provide sweeping views of the terraces. For a truly Ifugao experience, keep an eye out for wooden carved statues of The Bulol, the native god of rice.
Movie: The Man With The Golden Gun
Where: Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Phang Nga Bay’s towering limestone, moss-covered karsts make the bay one of the most recognisable in the world. The bay comprises a number of islands, among which is the famous Khao Phing Kan, or “James Bond” Island. It was on the sandy shore of this very island that British superspy James Bond faced off with the villainous “man with the golden gun” – the assassin Scaramanga – in the 1974 film. Both had their backs to each other in that classic pistol duel scene, and the rock formation in the background can still be seen today. So if you’re keen on replicating the scene, all you’ll need is perhaps a nice, Bond-looking suit – and a shiny golden gun, of course.
The James Bond site is not the only one worth visiting in the area, however. Nearby islands like Koh Panyee and Ko Yao Yai offer crystal-clear emerald waters, coral-clustered lagoons and massive caves. You can either take a boat tour or paddle around the bay yourself in a rented kayak.
Movie: Infernal Affairs
Where: Hong Kong
The backdrop of this celebrated crime thriller (which spawned its own Leonardo DiCaprio-starring Hollywood adaptation in the form of The Departed) is none other than the hectic streets of Hong Kong. The action-packed drama follows two “moles”, or informants, one in the police force and the other in a local gang. How they attempt to discover each other’s identity forms the crux of the 2002 must-watch movie.
Relive the show’s violent chase through the crowded streets of Hong Kong. In Sheung Wan district, a tall building has the gilded words Guangdong Investment Tower embossed on its cold metallic front. At its entrance is precisely where Superintendent Wong – the American counterpart of whom is Captain Queenan – landed after being thrown off the building by mobsters.
In 2003’s Infernal Affairs 2, an epic police-triad showdown takes place at the ever-bustling Lai Yip Street Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar in Kwun Tong district. As you’re indulging in authentic Hong Kong delicacies, maybe stretch your mind and imagine your meal being rudely interrupted by a boisterous clash between the police and mobsters.
Where: Zhangjiajie, China
Unlike the mountains in Pandora, home of Avatar’s Na’vi tribe, the ones in Zhangjiajie National Park do not actually float. Nevertheless, the colossal sandstone pillars are still a marvellous sight. Because of the weather, the pinnacles are perpetually shrouded in a thin layer of fog, lending a supernatural feel to the entire park.
The hike to the peak is treacherous. You may therefore prefer to ride the 326-metre-tall Bailong Elevator, or the Hundred Dragons Elevator, to the top. The glass elevator is built onto the side of a huge cliff and was recognised in 2015 by Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest outdoor lift.
Alternatively, you can hop onto the world’s longest cable car, which starts at Zhangjiajie City, then passes through the pristine park, and ends at the top of Tianmen Mountain. As the cable car slices through the fog and glides over the peaks, you can easily picture yourself being on one of Avatar’s iconic dragons in the movie, albeit at a much slower pace.
Movie: Harry Potter
Where: Oxford, United Kingdom
If the magical academy of Hogwarts were an actual place, it would most likely be at Christ Church College in Oxford. After all, much of the set pieces drew inspiration from the archaic-looking institution. Stepping into the dining hall of the college, you’ll immediately notice its resemblance to the Great Hall in Hogwarts, with its long wooden tables and rows of table lamps.
A short distance away sits the Bodleian Library. The dark, eerie air that runs through the shelves of the old library makes it a perfect choice for the Restricted Section of Hogwarts Library. Just like its fictional counterpart, the Bodleian Library is a non-lending library, which means you can’t take the books out. In Goblet of Fire, the fourth instalment of the series, Mad-Eye Moody turns a recalcitrant Draco Malfoy into a harmless ferret. The scene takes place in New College’s courtyard around a giant oak tree. Surrounding the courtyard are cloisters characteristic of the castle-like appearance of the college.
Once Harry Potter’s charms have worn off, take some time to tour Oxford town itself. Its Pitt Rivers Museum is a collector’s heaven, with more than 18,000 exotic exhibits, among them blowpipes, “magical” charms, cloaks and animal heads. Also swing by the Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum, the United Kingdom’s oldest. Walled in in the centre of the city, it’s said to hold one of the most diverse collection of plants in the world.
Movie: Mamma Mia!
Where: Skopelos, Greece
Matching the timeless tunes of ABBA in Mamma Mia! The Movie is the pretty seaside town of Skopelos, Greece. Arriving on a ferry – the only way to get to the island – you’ll immediately notice the unique architecture of the town with its whitewashed houses and terracotta rooftop tiles.
One of the more memorable scenes from the movie is Sophie’s wedding. It took place in Agios Ioannis Chapel, a picturesque church that sits atop a small, outlying hill. But the good views from above don’t come easy – you’ll have to climb about 200 steps that zig-zag up the rocky hill. Skopelos is also home to some of the most immaculate beaches. Among them is the Kastani Beach where Sophie and Sky sang “Lay All Your Love On Me”. The clear, glistening sea waters and the surrounding cliffs and pine trees make the beach the perfect place for a relaxing evening.