Some of the hottest tickets in travel today are film-themed excursions to destinations such as Harry Potter’s London, Woody Allen’s Barcelona or New Zealand starring as Middle Earth.
How many times when watching a movie set in a foreign locale has the beauty or intrigue of that location stirred your soul so much, that you can’t stop thinking about taking your next vacation there? Movies have a way of sweeping us off our couch and taking us to tropical islands, charming castles and scintillating cities. Well, maybe it’s time to turn fantasy into reality and make these film settings your next vacation odyssey.
The Rum Diary – Puerto Rico
In this quirky film, adapted from a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) travels to stunning Puerto Rico for a freelance job at the local newspaper. Set in the 1950s, Kemp struggles to understand the island culture as well as balance his job with his lust for provocative women and guzzling rum. Director Bruce Robinson takes viewers on a rum-fueled escapade, and throughout the journey the beauty of Puerto Rico is contrasted against Depp’s troubled-yet-sexy character. From its cerulean ocean views and swaying palm trees to its denizens dancing bomba in the streets, Puerto Rico is depicted as a vibrant island with rich culture and a fiery spirit. Today, wandering its streets feels like a walk back in time. And you, too, can enjoy this white sand paradise with its hip-moving music and fine rums. Of course snorkeling, para-sailing and kayaking are all par for the course. Nuyorican Cafe hosts the best bands for a wild night of salsa dancing and drinking fine rum.
Harry Potter – London
For all the Muggles who felt traumatized when Harry Potter came to an end this summer, a vacation inspired by the Hogwarts crew might ease the pain. Luckily, London is filled with the book and film series’ magic and home to several spots to get your H.P. fix. One spot at the local train station has become of the biggest photo-ops in the city, as everyone tries to walk through a wall just as a wizard could do. Platform Nine and Three Quarters is where the ride on the Hogwarts Express starts at King’s Cross railway station. As a tribute to the books and films, the National Railway Museum has decorated the secondary building between platforms nine and 11 with a cast iron “Platform 9 ¾” sign complete with a luggage trolley stuck halfway through the wall. After posing by the platform, fans and tourists can stop by Number 12, Grimmauld Place (the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix) and the Leaky Cauldron (a wizard pub). It’s not a typical lounge-by-the-beach vacation, but it’s certainly a “magical” destination for huge Harry fans.
Lord of the Rings – New Zealand
Obviously, Middle-Earth might be a bit tricky to travel to, but director Peter Jackson’s vision leads travelers to New Zealand for its pristine backdrops and mystical landscapes. The iconic hills of Hobbiton can be found in Matamata, a rural Waikato town. The New Zealand government decided to leave the Hobbit holes built seamlessly into the hills to dazzle tourists. In fact, visitors can take a look inside and view the countryside from a Hobbit’s perspective. Another necessary stop is Mount Ngauruhoe, which was transformed into the fiery Mount Doom where Sauron forged The Ring. Now, hundreds of people tread the same path as Frodo and Sam by walking the Tongariro Crossing, often described as one of the best day-walks in the world. Fans will feel like they’re in Middle-earth as they explore all New Zealand has to offer. Explore New Zealand on your own, or take one of the Lord of the Rings Tours for the ultimate insider’s trip.
Lost in Translation – Tokyo
Sophia Coppola’s moody brilliant film stuck a cord as so many of us have been in a foreign country where things have been “lost in translation.” Her tale is also an intriguing window into Tokyo, revealed through the eyes of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. Big city, bright lights, fast-paced—Tokyo, Japan is like New York City on steroids. With a marvelous mix of modern living and old-fashioned manners, the city pulses with its endless shopping or dining at magnificent restaurants. For a traditional Japanese dining experience, dine at Namiki Yabusoba near the Sensoji Temple. In a tranquil setting, diners can have their meals—plain and hot in a steamy dashi broth, or cold with tsuyu, wasabi and seaweed. After dinner, hit one of the hundreds of karaoke bars in Tokyo–for travelers in the know, the Fiesta International Karaoke Bar is the place to be.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Barcelona
Some people missed this Woody Allen gem,which flew under the radar in 2008, but if a little inspiration to travel to Spain is needed, this movie will make it happen. Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson sizzle in the sexy city and Allen’s filmic story is a love song to the charming city. With old-world elegance, incredible architecture and natural beauty, the magic of Barcelona calls. Palau Musica Catalana (Music Palace), a beautiful concert hall, has stood regally for more than 100 years to support Catalan music and culture. Daily guided tours and incredible concerts are a must. Be sure to stroll La Rambla, one of the most famous boulevards in the world. The mile-long road bustles with artists, human statues, fortune-tellers, dancers and musicians.