set jetting to the filming locations of 12 iconic sci-fi movies

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Capturing the atmosphere of a place can be one of cinema's most powerful qualities. One way to achie


  • Set Jetting to the Filming Locations of 12 Iconic Sci-FiMovies

    Capturing the atmosphere of a place can be one of cinema's most powerful qualities. One way toachieve this is by shooting on location, although when the location is a planet in a distant galaxy thatmight be a little ambitious. But some directors have made exceptionally creative use of the strangediversity of landscapes found on earth, integrating them into their otherworldly films in fascinatingways. Here are 12 of the best uses of real-world settings in sci-fi films, as chosen by the Hopperteam.

    12. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China, can be seen in Avatar

    ZhangjiajieNational Forest, by GrumpyWolf

    Jagged pillars of rock rise from this fantastical landscape of crags and forest, reaching as high as3,500 feet. Suspension bridges cross chasms and the more adventurous can rappel down into thedark, cool depths of gorges and canyons. The scene is especially mystical when fog descends,swathing everything in a dewy mist, a sight fans of Avatar will recognize - Zhangjiajie was theinspiration for the film's astonishing backdrop of floating mountains.

    11. The San Rafael Reef, Utah, can be seen in Star Trek

  • San RafaelReef, by arbyreed

    Try this road trip on Utah's Highway 12 to see more otherwordly scenery in Utah

    A wild country of bare rocks, hidden canyons and sharp-edged mountain peaks, the San Rafael Swellhas the kind of barren majesty that many sci-fi imaginations have envisaged on a distant planet. Itwas specifically used as the setting of Vulcan in 2009's Star Trek. With the Swell's stone daggersreceding into a misty distance, Spock sees Vulcan destroyed by Nero, in act of Grecian vengeancefor the annihilation of Romulus.

    10. Keahua Arboretum, Kauai, can be seen in Avatar


  • Arboretum, by harryalverson

    Read Hopper's travel spotlight on Hanalei to get some more ideas of what to do on Kauai

    Avatar's fictional moonscape, Pandora, provided a pointed contrast to the bare landscapes of Vulcanand myriad other sci-fi films. Lush rainforests covered the moon's surface, inhabited by a ragged,blue-skinned tribespeople who shared a collective consciousness with the entire planet's ecology.The live action scenes involving this memorable landscape were filmed in Hawaii's KeahuaArboretum. As fans of the film will note, the incredibly varied and verdant ecosystem of this serenewoodland is an apposite contrast to the incessant activity of Hawaii's highly developed beachresorts.

    9. Tikal, Guatemala, can be seen in Star Wars: A New Hope

  • Tikal, bybrongaeh

    This fascinating archaeological site hardly needs the affirmation of a famous sci-fi film to attractvisitors. It is one of the most incredible artifacts of Mayan civilization, a deeply evocative and bone-shivering network of temples, palaces, public squares and stone walkways, with smaller dwellingsdotted through the surrounding jungle. It is the largest excavated site in the entire Americancontinent. Oh, and it was also used as the rebel base in Star Wars: A New Hope, the epicenter of thefight to revitalize a galaxy. So yeah, it's a pretty decent spot to visit, in fantasy or reality.

    8. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, can be seen in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

  • Jedediah SmithRedwoods State Park, by Buzz Hoffman

    Explore more of the great outdoors with stops at one of California's top 8 hidden travel gems

    This mighty redwood forest, threaded with 20 miles of hiking trails beneath the vast sky-highcanopy, was the setting for Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Endor, of course, was the nativehome of the film's ewok population, a cute but extremely tough forest-dwelling species. GeorgeLucas reportedly modeled their strategic warfare on the tactics of Viet Cong fighters, which givesvisitors two options when exploring the park: they can either enjoy its immersive tranquility or turnit into a playground for enacting guerrilla war.

    7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, can be seen in Journey to the Center of the Earth(1959 Version)

  • CarlsbadCaverns, by LarryB08

    It's debatable whether a Journey to the Center of the Earth is a challenge anyone would want toundertake - treacherous counts, scorching magma flows, giant lizards and deadly rockfalls are allpossible obstacles. For a more predictable excursion, you can visit the site where the 1959 classicwas shot, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Yawning mouths in the Guadalupe Mountains lead into aphenomenal underground world, a maze of rocky pathways, subterranean lakes, sudden cathedral-esque caverns and a myriad of crazy rock formations. You could just as easily be in the Mines ofMoria, for those more inclined to Middle Earth fantasies.

    6. Devils Tower, Wyoming, can be seen in Close Encounters of Misty Stone the Third Kind

  • Devils Tower,by smithat

    Staying on a guest ranch is a great way to explore the rugged Wyoming scenery. See America's 10best guest ranches here

    The Devils Tower is a tall rectangle of grey rock that rises out of the rolling forest and prairie land ofWyoming. Its stars in the iconic image of an iconic film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where itdoes an excellent job of playing itself. Its height and thin ridges of parallel rock also make it apopular if challenging crack climbing site, though this was not a skill the aliens needed when theyhovered above it in their intergalactic spacecraft.

    5. Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, can be seen in Contact


  • Observatory, by amelungc

    When you're not exploring the jungle, take a look at some of the sights in San Juan, the capital ofPuerto Rico

    Contact is one of those films that should have been terrific. It's based on a highly-praised novel byCarl Sagan, the great astronomer, who also advised the film's production team until his death in1996. Much of it is also set in the magnificent Arecibo Observatory, surrounded by Puerto Ricanjungle and containing the largest radiotelescope in the world. Unfortunately the film turned out tobe a bit rubbish. The Arecibo Observatory, however, is undoubtedly still worth a visit.

    4. Djerba, Tunisia, can be seen in Star Wars: A New Hope

    Djerba, byAlamagordo

    A peaceful island off the coast of Tunisia, Djerba boasts colorful markets, white palm-studded sandand a string of magnificent mosques. It also doubles as Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine, where,precipitating the turbulence of revolution, Luke Skywalker was born and first joined forces with hisfellow rebels. Fans of the film will recognize a great deal as they explore the island.

    3. Westward Beach, California, can be seen in Planet of the Apes

  • WestwardBeach, by dicksonk

    Climbers hang off the jagged cliffs, surfers ride powerful waves, skin-bronzers stretch out in theheat of the sun - and, wait, is that the tip of the Statue of Liberty poking from the sand? So manypilgrims have pretended, fans of Planet of the Apes who recognize this otherwise beautiful beachfrom that film's climactic scene. It is here, amid generalized post-apocalyptic dereliction, thatCaptain George Taylor falls to his knees and cries, "you damn dirty apes, you blew it up!"

    2. Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah, can be seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • MonumentValley, by ChuckHolton

    Monument Valley appears in one of the most surreal sequences in movie history, although you maynot recognize it. The squares and spikes of Utah sandstone flicker across the screen in trippy blackand blue, depicting the surface of an alien planet which Dave journeys through towards the end ofthe Stargate scene. Accompanied by a dissonant soundtrack, and joining a plotline of immensetension, it's a mesmerizing transformation of a familiar place.

    1. Samalayuca Dune Fields in Chihuahua, Mexico, can be seen in Dune

  • SamalayucaDune Fields, by Jose Felix Garcia

    David Lynch made more straightforward use of the Chihuahua Desert in his epic 1984 adaptation ofthe novel Dune. The Samalayuca Dunes, a field of giant sand hills that shape the horizon to the southCiudad Juarez, were used as the film's atmospheric backdrop. For much of the year, it's a wide,empty, silent expanse of windblown sand, giving plenty of space for fans of the film to meditate onits message.