From distant planets to dramatic countryside landscapes and high-tech metropolises – many of our favourite fantasy and sci-fi movies are brought to life by the technical wizardry of the visual effects crew. But, in many cases, real-world settings had to provide an outline for the CGI to achieve a more realistic effect. With so many movies utilising this modern technique, here are six fantasy destinations that may inspire you to pack your bags and explore their real-world backdrops.


Mount Doom – Lord of the Rings trilogy

In Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy, Mount Doom is a fiery, mountainous behemoth continuously spitting fire and smoke into the sky. In real life, the towering stronghold of Dark Lord Sauron is nothing but a snow-capped volcano in New Zealand called Mount Ruapehu, surrounded by forests and grassland.

How to access it: Simply check in at Whakapapa – a ski resort situated on the south-western slopes of the mountain.



King’s Landing – Game of Thrones

With its cobbled streets, stone walls and gothic, renaissance and baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains, Dubrovnik in Croatia seems to have been destined to feature as the fortified port city of King’s Landing, a citadel of the Lannister family in Game of Thrones. Listed as one of the cheapest places for South Africans to travel to–in our content partner,’s A Guide to Croatia–this city could give you more bang for your buck.

How to access it: Direct flights from European hubs, like London, Paris and Amsterdam, to Dubrovnik are available.


The floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora – Avatar

Pandora, in James Cameron’s Avatar, is a moon with a surreal ecosystem, including a range of foliage-covered mountains suspended in mid-air. In reality, these were modelled after the sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the Hunan province of China.

How to access it: The town of Zhangjiajie offers day tours to the national park where you can spend time mountain hiking and photographing the rock formations.

READ MORE: Go Backpacking in China


Luke Skywalker’s hideout – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Twelve kilometres off the southwest coast of Valentia Island, Ireland, the jagged edges of Skellig Michael protrude majestically from the Atlantic Ocean. This island, once a secluded home for 6th-century monks, became the fictional refuge for Luke Skywalker in the seventh instalment of the Star Wars franchise.

How to access it: Hop on a ferry from the picturesque fishing village of Portmagee in Kerry.


Alnwick Castle – Harry Potter

If you’re a Harry Potter fan still waiting to receive your acceptance letter from Hogwarts, you can now visit Alnwick Castle instead, as it was used as a backdrop in The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. Sign up for broomstick training, which takes place on the very spot where Harry had his first flying lesson, or become a dragon slayer during Dragon Quest.

How to access it: The East Coast main line from London to Edinburgh stops at Alnmouth, which is about six kilometres from Alnwick. You can hail a taxi or bus from Alnmouth.

READ MORE: 7 Things to do when touring London


The Magisterium’s church – The Golden Compass

The Old Royal Naval College in south London got a stunning, palace-like addition to serve as the headquarters of a religious organisation in the adaptation of the first novel in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials.

How to access it: The Old Royal Naval College hosts daily guided tours and is located a few minutes’ walk from Cutty Station and Greenwich Pier.


We’re sure you don’t need a mythical sword or magical ring to protect yourself from forces of darkness when visiting these fantasy movie settings, but we do recommend that you take out Travel Insurance to cover yourself against travel risks such as lost or stolen possessions and unexpected medical expenses.

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