There’s something magical about seeing the real-life setting of a beloved fictional world. These destinations draw travelers to places they might not otherwise go for the pleasantly jarring sensation of finding Tatooine in Tunisia or Narnia in Norway. Here are five of our favorite places that serve as intersections of invention and reality, mixing the familiar with the surprising.
Mdina, Malta: King’s Landing (Game of Thrones)
Westeros may be fictional, but Game of Thrones fans know the series films everywhere from Iceland to Croatia to recreate locations from the books. The medieval walled city of Mdina in Malta acts as King’s Landing in the show, and travelers may recognize the Mdina Gate as the entrance to the fictional capital. Mdina’s dusky stone buildings and mix of Norman and Baroque architecture lend it a mysterious and mythic quality that translates perfectly into the show. It’s known as the “Silent City:” No cars are allowed within the city walls, and only about 300 people live inside.
Prince Edward Island: Anne of Green Gables
Since Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908, children and adults have made the pilgrimage to Canada’s lovely Prince Edward Island, where the book is set. The Green Gables farmhouse that inspired L.M. Montgomery’s classic books still stands in Cavendish (named Avonlea in the books) and can be visited year round. Even Mindy Kaling is desperate to see where Anne grew up. In a recent interview with the LA Times, she said, “The other book world I would like to live in is Anne of Green Gables. Living on Prince Edward Island would be so badass.”
Petra, Jordan: Canyon of the Crescent Moon (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
It’s hard to imagine a more imposingly beautiful filming location for a grail quest than the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Although Petra was carved into sandstone 2,000 years ago, it only came to the attention of the Western world in 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt disguised himself in Bedouin costume to sneak into the site. The Treasury, Al-Khazneh, was most famously used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and is still open for visitors.
Angel Falls in Venezuela: Paradise Falls (Up)
Paradise Falls is the central destination Pixar’s Up. Carl’s beloved Ellie never gets to see it herself, but with the help of about 10,000 balloons, Carl and Russell manage to make the trip. Its real life counterpart is Angel Falls in Venezuela, part of the Auyantepui mountain in Canaima National Park. At a height of over 3,000 feet, it’s the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. The hike to see the falls from the top can be a multi-day journey, but the stunning view is worth the trek.
Matamata, New Zealand: Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings)
Perhaps the most famous fictional travel destination is the Hobbiton set of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. Nestled in the countryside surrounding Matamata in New Zealand, the set features over 30 hobbit dwellings as well as a mill and a double-arched stone bridge. After The Hobbit movies finished filming, the houses were left fully furnished for visitors. Truly devoted fans can even enjoy Second Breakfast at the nearby Shire’s Rest Cafe.