Besides travel, fiction is one of life’s great escapes. Whether read or watched, made-up stories take us on incredible journeys, and no genre nailing it quite like fantasy. While special effects have made the unreal mind-bogglingly realistic, the real world still functions as the imagination’s proverbial launch pad for fanciful places—in the case of these seven movie and television franchises, filming locations too. Get as close as humanly possible to living in The Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth or House of the Dragon’s Westeros, among others, by visiting these fantasy film destinations.
New Zealand: The Lord of the Rings
When you think epic settings, The Lord of the Rings sits atop the list, and prequel The Rings of Power just released on Amazon continues that tradition. Reportedly spending $465 million to produce, the series shot about 30 percent on location across New Zealand, and one of its most staggering is 11,000-foot Mount Kidd within Fiordland National Park. Executive producer Callum Greene told PEOPLE that its overwhelming beauty brought two actors to tears. Here, hunker down at the nearby Fiordland Lodge, and book a private guide for the day to take you on a tailor-made journey into the park of snow-capped peaks, towering waterfalls and glacial lakes.
Cáceres, Spain: House of the Dragon
HBO’s Game of Thrones also released its prequel, House of the Dragon which follows the Targaryen succession war 172 years before the birth of Daenerys. To replicate King’s Landing, the new series returned to Cáceres, Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a mix of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Speaking of powerful families, Hospes Palacio de Arenales, just 10 minutes from town, was once the summer residence of one, the Golfines. The 17th century retreat has, of course, been redecorated since then, but an air of regality remains. Perch by the pool and feel like the queen or king of Westeros.
Krabi, Thailand: Avatar
Slated for release by the end of 2022, the Avatar sequel The Way of Water was filmed predominately in Los Angeles on sound stages with some live action shot in New Zealand, where director James Cameron now lives. Fictitious Pandora pulls inspiration from all over the world—no singular place seems to capture all its otherworldly beauty. But Krabi, Thailand, with its turquoise waters, mangrove forests and limestone karsts, comes pretty darn close. Reached only by boat, Rayavadee feels very Na’vi.
Bhutan: Fantastic Beasts 3
This year, the third Harry Potter spin-off prequel film was released, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. London, England is the obvious first choice for any Potterhead, but with this latest addition to the Wizarding World canon, the Kingdom of Bhutan is put on the map. As Albus Dumbledore describes it, “It sits high in the Eastern Himalayas. It’s a place of indescribable beauty. Some of our most important magic has its origins there. They say if you listen carefully enough, the past whispers to you.” The past does indeed whisper—a place of traditional villages and not a single traffic light. The predominately Buddhist country truly feels magical—double down on that at Amankora, a 24-suite lodge at harmony with its mountain surrounds.
United Arab Emirates: Dune
Director Denis Villeneuve breathed new life into Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune last year. In addition to filming in Jordan’s Wadi Rum, the production used the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, outside Abu Dhabi, UAE for the vast dune scenes. A luxury oasis in the heart of it, Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara makes the best starting point for Paul Atreides-esque adventures, thankfully without colossal sandworms giving chase. But that’s not your only Dune-inspired desert escape to choose from.
Canyon Point, Utah: Star Wars
Speaking of deserts, Star Wars sure likes them. Collider.com calculated the percentage of time spent in the desert using every live-action film and series streaming on Disney+, from The Empire Strikes Back to Obi-Wan Kenobi and it all came to 12 hours and 33 minutes, or 26.8 percent of the franchise. To get those Tatooine or Jakku vibes outside of traveling to a galaxy far, far away (heck, North Americans needn’t cross an ocean), follow in the footsteps of the Kardashians and Biebers with a stay at Amangiri, a jaw-dropping resort nestled in Utah’s Canyon Point. If a lush Endor or snowy Starkiller Base look is what you’re after, check out our other “Stays Inspired by Star Wars.”
Hawaii: Jurassic Park
The Hawaiian Islands of O’ahu and Kaua’i are routine backdrops in the Jurassic Park franchise, with the latest being Jurassic World Dominion. While the sixth film also introduces some new locales, including Malta and British Columbia, Hawaii’s tropical foliage and towering volcanic mountains never fails as the go-to prehistoric oasis. As the oldest, lushest island in the chain, Kaua’i was always the natural fit for fictitious Isla Nublar. Here, Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort on picturesque Po’ipu Beach will help arrange helicopter and boat tours to get you closer to the Nā Pali Coast, Manawaiopuna Falls and Kipu Kai.