Tours That Take You Behind the Big Screen

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On location for Game of Thrones and (bottom right) The Lord of the Rings.

Behind the Big Screen

Dedicated fans find cinema verité at filming locations around the globe.

Bond's Aston Martin DB5 at the London Film Museum.

Originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler.

The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to bring an influx of would-be Jedi to locations such as Abu Dhabi, where much of the megahit was filmed. But the UAE capital isn’t the only place where moviegoers can follow in the footsteps of revered characters and recreate their favorite scenes. Just ask Virtuoso travel advisor Grant Bevin of New Zealand, which served as the setting for both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies.
“Having the entire country as a movie studio is remarkable,” says Bevin, who’s based in Auckland. “Because the films were shot in many small towns and rural locations, ‘trilogy tourists’ are seeing more diverse parts of New Zealand than most other visitors.” Working with Virtuoso’s local tour operators, your travel advisor can craft a visit to a favorite TV or movie location as part of a tailor-made tour to the overall destination. Here are a few on the marquee.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies
On Location: New Zealand
Featured Scenes: Hobbit holes, the Green Dragon Inn, and other Shire sites on the Hobbiton movie set; the Hutt River, standing in for the Anduin, which carries the Fellowship to Amon Hen; Harcourt Park, or the Gardens of Isengard, where the Orcs fell the trees; Fernside’s lake – aka Lothlórien – where Sméagol and Déagol fight for the ring.
Game of Thrones
On Location: Northern Ireland
Featured Scenes: Tollymore Forest Park, where the White Walkers’ ambush takes place and the Starks find the dire wolf pups; the Dark Hedges’ King’s Road, where Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing dressed as a boy – in real life, the beech-lined avenue leading to eighteenth-century Gracehill House.
Special Feature: Your travel advisor can arrange for the serious fans in your group to dress up as the Starks of Winterfell during the tour.
The Sound of Music
On Location: Austria
Featured Scenes: Mirabell Gardens, where the von Trapps dance to “Do-Re-Mi”; Nonnberg Abbey, which finds Maria late for mass; Hellbrunn Palace and its glass pavilion; Mondsee Cathedral, where Maria and the Baron marry.
James Bond Series
On Location: England
Featured Scenes: Ian Fleming’s former home in Belgravia, where a “secret agent” provides guests with “classified” information; Covent Garden’s London Film Museum to see Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, Lotus Esprit S1 submersible, and other vehicles; a RIB speedboat ride on the Thames (Bond music included).
Special Feature: Virtuoso travelers can have the day’s adventures photographed and filmed, and professionally edited.