Here’s where you should vacation based on your favorite Star Wars destination
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
If you are a Star Wars fan, today is a big day. It’s the official release date of the final installment in the Skywalker saga, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Over the past 43 years, the Star Wars franchise has given fans a wealth of beloved characters, interesting storylines, iconic characters (Yoda, both original and baby) and stunning worlds. From theme parks to themed planes, there’s no question Star Wars has become a part of our culture here on earth.
In fact, the Star Wars movies have been filmed in some of the most beautiful and captivating locations across the world. So while we might be saying goodbye to some of our favorite characters and places in the Star Wars universe, there is still an opportunity to experience many of those worlds in real life (outside of Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge).
In honor of this final chapter in the Skywalker saga, we’re walking through some of the real-world locations you should visit based on your favorite Star Wars destinations.
If you find yourself wishing to visit Luke Skywalker’s warm, dusty home planet of Tatooine (otherwise known as the Lars Homestead), you should add the small, North African country of Tunisia to your destination bucket list. The Hotel Sidi Driss, located in Matamata, Tunisia, was used in interior shots of the Lars Homestead.
The iconic exterior of the home was filmed to the west in Nefta, Tunisia. There are other assorted Star Wars related filming locations throughout the country.
While you won’t find any nonstop flights from the U.S. directly into Tunisia, you can fly JFK to Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN) with a connection in Paris (CDG) in Air France business class. Looking ahead at 2020, I’ve seen award flights as low as 53,000 FlyingBlue miles each way, but it’s not uncommon for one-way prices to creep from 70k to 130k miles each way. And you’ll likely have to add on $250+ in taxes and fees to your award ticket.
For a more affordable and closer-to-home way to experience some of the shooting locations used for Tatooine, try Death Valley National Park in California. Several scenes (including the exterior shots of Jabba’s Palace in “Return of the Jedi”) were shot near Route 190.
The fictional moon of Endor is home to vast forests and the teddy bear-esque Ewok species. It’s also the place where Luke Skywalker held a funeral for his father, Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader), after the Galactic Empire’s defeat during the Battle of Endor. Redwood National and State Parks in California is the real-life location used to portray Endor in “Return of the Jedi.”
You can book a campsite to stay within the park, but there is also a conveniently located Holiday Inn Express in Klamath that you can book for as low as 30,000 IHG Rewards Club points each night. If you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can also get your fourth award night free. Other lodging options nearby include an array of Airbnb or cabin-style rentals.
Episode II wedding scene
Be still my beating heart. Call me a hopeless romantic, but the secret wedding between Anakin and Padme in “Attack of the Clones” is still one of our favorite scenes, as C-3PO and R2-D2 stood witness. (Yes, we know it’s the Prequels, it’s still pretty.)
While Naboo’s Lake Country is unfortunately not exactly an option for us to visit, you can visit Villa Balbianello in Lake Como, Italy, which is where the iconic scene was filmed. While the villa’s exteriors were altered in the film, the balcony where Padme and Anakin shared a kiss is still easy to spot.
Lake Como is only about 50 miles north of Milan, which is probably the easiest city to fly into for a Lake Como visit. You have quite a few options to get from the U.S. to Milan on points, including flying JFK to Zurich (ZRH) to Milan Malpensa (MXP) in Swiss business class for just 55,0000 (plus ~$30 in taxes). Another option is to take advantage of the Avianca LifeMiles program to fly Lufthansa first-class from New York–Frankfurt–Milan for just 84,400 miles (plus ~$40 in taxes) one-way. You can also fly nonstop on American from both JFK and Miami (MIA) to Milan starting at just 45,000 miles round-trip in economy.
Luke’s secret Jedi island
The last time we saw Luke Skywalker, he was in hiding on his own private island with some pretty cute porgs. His island was not of the white sand beach and umbrella drinks variety but instead matched his mood. Isolated, dramatic, moody and fierce.
This was not a totally CGI created world, but instead a very real former home to monks. Skellig Michael is located off the southwest coast of Ireland and is visually accessible part of the year via a cruise around the island for about $40 (weather permitting). And while you won’t find porgs there, you could spot puffins, which are almost the same thing.
Ireland is accessible via numerous methods using points and miles. If you are coming from the East Coast, it can make sense to fly using a distance-based program, such as British Airways Avios. A nonstop flight from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus pricing as low as 13,000 Avios each direction on off-peak dates. Business class would start at 50,000 Avios each direction using that booking method. Other options include booking Aer Lingus award seats using United miles or Alaska Airlines miles.
If you are into snow, ice and roaming tauntauns, Hoth may be the Star Wars planet for you. The frigid ice planet that was featured in 1980’s “Empire Strikes Back” was filmed in a number of places, including Norway. Specifically, for some Hoth inspiration, you’ll want to look to the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, located between Oslo and Bergen.
If you make the trip, Norway is a fantastic place to redeem your Radisson Rewards points. In Bergen, you’ll find a Radisson Blu Royal hotel with awards starting at 70,000 points per night. In Oslo, you have the luxury of choice with at least eight Radisson properties bookable with points. All of the options seem way more comfy than the Echo Base, especially after Darth Vader and the stormtroopers showed up. If you make the trip to Norway, just be sure and avoid these common mistakes.
You might as well try and see the Northern Lights while you are in Norway. Even if they aren’t technically Star Wars-related, I think even Rey would be impressed.
Featured image by Mimi Ditchie Photography/Getty Images
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