Or were the movies inspired by the holiday destinations? It’s a chicken or egg situation we’re keen to examine today…
Are you looking for inspiration for your next holiday from the comfort of your socially distanced sofa, staring at the TV screen and gushing over places far flung? Yep, Hollywood has certainly done some serious globe-trotting over the years, revealing exotic destinations to audiences who at one time could only dream of visiting, and shedding light on some truly stunning landscapes via their sets.
Fortunately, the world has since shrunk somewhat, and now these places are open and accessible to so many. Should you be wondering which film could give you inspiration for your next trip, then fire up the Skyscanner, keep a tab open for IDEAL, and turn on your television; here are 6 IDEAL holiday destinations inspired by the movies.
KOH PHI PHI, THAILAND
We had to start here, on the group of islands off Thailand’s Andaman Coast know as Ko Phi Phi. The two main islands, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le, are characterised by their gorgeous golden sounds surrounded by photogenic limestone cliffs, and the long tail boats which populate the waters.
The 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, was largely filmed here, and attracted some criticism for damaging the pristine landscapes of the islands. A rebuilding effort following the devastating tsunami of 2004 has led to further influxes of tourism, and sadly, Maya Beach, made famous by The Beach, has had to be closed by the Thai authorities, due to overcrowding and environmental damage. A cautionary tale of too much exposure perhaps, but we hope that Koh Phi Phi can regain some its charm in the next decade.
Here we go again! Skopelos, a gorgeous Greek island in the Aegean Sea, is famed for its superb dining options, feral cat population and beaches. But perhaps more than that, it’s well known throughout popular culture as the main set of Mamma Mia, referred to as Kalokairi in the movie. We also loved the episodes of British comedy The Trip to Greece which occurred here, revisiting some of the tavernas and sandy stretches which Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep et al sang, danced and made merry along.
Mamma Mia’s famous wedding scene was filmed here, at the Agios Ioannis Chapel near Glossa, a small village on Skopelos’ northeastern peninsula. Should you want to retrace the steps of the actors during their stay on the island, The Skopelos Village Hotel was a popular choice for the stars to bed down during the filming of Mamma Mia. Altogether now, ‘how can I resist you?’
THE HIGHLANDS, SCOTLAND
Scotland’s rural scenery is some of the most striking in the world, with the country’s famous Highlands the very highlight. The sparsely populated, vast and dramatic mountain ranges have been the scene of many of the Harry Potter franchise’s most famous moments, and to this day the film is one of history’s leading movies based on merchandise sales.
Perhaps the very most iconic setting of all is the Victorian Railway Bridge over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where the legendary opening scene from The Chamber Of Secrets occurs. Amazingly, you can actually relive the iconic scene on the Jacobite Steam Train, which takes you on a nearly 100 mile round trip, beginning at Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis and taking in the incredible scenery of the Highlands.
Other famous moments filmed along the train route include the Death Eaters’ attempted kidnapping of Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows I, which occurs near Rannoch Moor, as well as Harry’s first meeting with a Dementor, which happens at the head of Loch Shiel. Wow!
MATAMATA, NEW ZEALAND
Unless you’ve been living in a hole in the ground – not unlike a Hobbit, now we come to think of it – you should already know that a visit to New Zealand means a visit to Middle Earth itself.
The director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to host so many of the iconic moments and sprawling, glorious shots of desolate vistas for the movies, and perhaps the most iconic location of all is Matamata, on New Zealand’s north island.
The town, which sits in the shadow of the incredible Kaimai Mountain Range, is where you’ll find Hobbiton, the 1250 sheep farm which became the hobbit’s home for the movies. It is now the only remaining film set location still fully standing from the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit series. Guided tours range from around £50 to £150; not a bad price for the chance to bring out your inner Bilbo Baggins, we think!
AÏT BENHADDOU, MOROCCO
A hair raising, humbling three hour drive from Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains Gladiator will find you at Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ksar (a fortified, medieval, pre-Saharan village) and the site of several memorable scenes in Gladiator and Game Of Thrones. It’s an absolutely stunning archaeological site, all rendered in red clay and impressively well maintained houses.
Gladiator’s famous scene where Maximus yells ‘are you not entertained?’, made even more iconic by Jay-Z on the Black Album, occurred in Aït Benhaddou, as well as Daenery’s conquering of Yunkai in GoT. Care to create your own scene? Aït Benhaddou is well worth a visit.
NOTTING HILL, ENGLAND
If you don’t have the time, money or inclination to take several flights to reach New Zealand or the Thai islands, you can still visit the scene of some truly famous movie moments a little closer to home. Yep, Notting Hill was filmed (though not exclusively, we should add) in the London neighbourhood of the same name, with Will and Spike’s flat and its famous blue door located on the affluent Westbourne Park Road. Number 280, if you’re asking.
The travel bookshop which plays host to several of the film’s key scenes is on 142 Portobello Road while a whole load of other local locations are the set for other scenes. Sadly, the brilliant Notting Hill Carnival doesn’t feature – surely a massive oversight – but all it takes in a hop on the tube, and you could be touring the streets and sets of Notting Hill in no time!