Solo, the latest cinematic expansion of the Star Wars universe, brings the saga to new worlds. And that means scenic hotspots on our own planet are now in the spotlight, thanks to the parts they’ve played in the film. Some are brilliant for holidays too – alongside favourites from previous episodes. Whether you’re a Han fan or a Skywalker stalker, here are eight to add to your hit-list.
1. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Han Solo’s home
The trailer for Solo shows Han reaching for his gun, cowboy-style, in the face of some angry-looking aliens. In the background spread the battered, metallic igloos where he grew up – a settlement built from space-junk on the planet Corellia. Only it’s not Corellia: it’s a sand-swept mountainside on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. Last summer the Solo production teams descended on the Parque Natural de Jandía for two weeks to shoot key scenes.
Following in their footsteps is easy enough. The park is set on the southern tip of this spectacular, sun-drenched island, near Morro del Jable, and is visited by daily jeep safaris from the main resorts. Of these, Corralejo in the north is the buzziest, and has some of the loveliest seascapes, which you can explore on snorkelling trips to the Isla de Lobos, or scuba diving off the island’s northern tip. This is a great place to try windsurfing too. But if all you want is simple, splashy fun, head to the Acua Water Park.
Where to stay: chic, spacious and just a little bit arty, the H10 Ocean Suites in Corralejo are ranged round a palm-fringed courtyard, and share a beautifully-tiled lobby bar.
2. The Dolomites, Italy
Train raid in Solo
Han’s first job in Solo ends in a laser-blazing raid on a futuristic elevated train as it cuts through the mountains. That’ll be the Dolomites in northern Italy: a dramatic landscape of former coral atolls that’s hugely popular with skiers in winter and hikers in summer. The crew based themselves in photogenic lakeside ski town Misurina. This is close to 1956 Winter Olympics host Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you can still skate around the Olympic Ice Stadium rink, or head to the mountain walking trails via cable car.
Other areas that were cordoned off for filming include the Tre Cime di Lavaredo – three tooth-like mountains on the Austrian border – and the 5km of First World War trenches between Lagazuoi and the Tre Sassi fort. They form part of a giant, open-air museum commemorating the treacherous war waged in the mountains by the Austrians and Italians between 1915 and 1918.
Where to stay: Homely, wood-panelled, and family-run, the Hotel Menardi is a chic three-star hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
3. Tikal, Guatemala
Rebel base in the original Star Wars film
Remember when the Millennium Falcon thundered over the top of the jungle, towards the Yavin 4 rebel base? That’s actually Tikal in northern Guatemala – and it’s one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. Here, a great Mayan city was carved out of the rainforest, and in the original 1977 movie its colossal stone temples doubled as lookout towers.
Tikal had a second celluloid outing in 1979, when it starred as Drax’s lair in James Bond’s Moonraker. But it’s just one of many magnificent Guatemalan sights – making it a worthy destination for a one or two week tour, which includes the gorgeous colonial architecture in Antigua, active volcano treks near capital Guatemala City, and cruises on Lake Atitlan.
Where to stay: On lake Peten Itza, an hour’s drive from Tikal, the Hotel Isla de Flores is a crisp and pretty refuge.
4. Redwood National Park, California
Home of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi
Come to the Redwood National and State Parks in search of cute critters, and you’re more likely to find gophers or mountain beavers than Ewoks. But this verdant slice of northern California is better known for giant trees than small furry things. Trees up to 115 metres tall made them the perfect shooting location for heavily forested Endor.
The Parks – laced with several great hiking trails – are best tackled as part of a West Coast driving holiday between San Francisco and Portland or Seattle. Star attractions on the way include seafood and craft beer-crazy Mendocino, the Victorian throwback town of Eureka, and Sea Lion Cave – the largest sea cave in the US – on the Oregon coast.
Where to stay: View Crest Lodge is bypassed by the main road, but only 20 minutes’ drive from the Redwood National Park Visitor Centre. Accommodation is in quaint, self-contained cabins.
5. Palace of Caserta, Italy
Royal Palace in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones
Think Naples rather than Naboo if you want to find Padme Amidala’s lavish palace home. The Palace of Caserta is a gargantuan baroque masterpiece built as a residence for the Kings of Naples, 16 miles north of the city. The cleaning droids would have quite the task – the palace has 1,200 rooms, and by volume it’s the largest royal residence on earth. It also played a starring role in Mission: Impossible 3.
Star Wars fix over, it’s time to try out the region’s other highlights. These include Roman Pompeii, boat trips out to the cave-studded, fashion-conscious island of Capri and arguably the world’s greatest pizza in its Neapolitan birthplace.
Where to stay: Just above the harbour in the seaside suburb of Chiaia, the Hotel Paradiso offers spectacular views over the Bay of Naples.
6. Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi
Planet Jakku in The Force Awakens
The first act of The Force Awakens, bringing Rey, Finn and BB8 into the saga, takes place on the desert planet Jakku. Or, as it’s better known, the wild, dune-filled deserts of Abu Dhabi.
Cast and crew holed up in the ultra-luxurious, palace-esque Qasr Al-Sarab hotel, which offers everything from sand surfing and camel treks to fat-tyre biking over the dunes. But day trips into the Liwa Desert from the city are a more affordable alternative for Jakku junkies – these usually involve 4WDing over the sand, oasis picnics and gazelle-spotting.
Then, back in urban Abu Dhabi, high octane thrills come courtesy of the Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest rollercoaster in the Ferrari World theme park. And if you want culture beyond the Lucas movie universe, then there’s the recently-opened branch of the Louvre on Saadiyat Island.
Where to stay: For a taste of the movie-star lifestyle, the Qasr Al-Sarab Desert Resort is hard to beat.
7. Laamu Atoll, Maldives
Imperial base in Rogue One
The dreamy planet of Scarif – which the rebels attack to get hold of the Death Star plans at the end of Rogue One – is home to several exceptionally expensive resorts. These include the COMO Maalifushi and Six Senses Laamu, which cost hundreds of pounds a night. But the white sand islands of this tropical Maldivian atoll are not exclusively for movie star budgets – the cute, three-star Reveries Diving Village has double rooms from as little as £58 a week. It’s a magical spot for dolphin-watching cruises, snorkelling and diving. Those who prefer a rod in their hands to a lightsaber can indulge in deep-sea fishing outings, too.
Where to stay: The Reveries Diving Village is proof that the Maldives needn’t be expensive.
8. Skellig Michael, Ireland
Luke’s hideaway in The Last Jedi
The green, porg-filled island that Luke Skywalker skulked away to in the Last Jedi can be found off the coast of County Kerry. If you want to be like Rey and head there to learn the ways of the force – or, alternatively, check out the monastery ruins – you’ll need to hop on a cruise from Port Magee.
The wisest Jedi masters would combine it as part of a one-week road trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Other cinema-worthy highlights include the towering Sliabh Liag sea cliffs of Donegal, the huge colony of Atlantic grey seals on the Erris Peninsula, and Killary Harbour, on the Ireland’s only fjord.
Where to stay: The Royal Hotel Valentia is on the quay at Knightstown, and has been welcoming guests since the 1830s with stirring views of Kerry’s wild, weather-beaten coastline.
Published May 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only on 21 May, 2018 and are subject to change and/or availability.