Today, Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases in cinemas. I was lucky enough to head to a preview last night and aside from the usual questions I had ("How delicious would a Porg be?") one of the (many) things I was thinking was "Damn, Luke lives on one of the most stunning islands I've ever seen, I want to go there."
And I can.
Because it's a real place on Earth.
The Star Wars universe has been built on incredible, imagined worlds but it's still just a movie, shot with digital cameras on Planet Earth and fancied up with a huge special effects budget and CGI.
While a lot of the interior locations - the Death Star, cockpits, Starkiller Base, the Falcon - are built in a studio, the exterior locations are actual places that human beings can visit. If you've seen the movie and want to visit a little slice of Star Wars on your home planet, here's a few tips on where to go and an idea of the best time to go courtesy of Skyscanner.
Luke's Hideout on Ahch-To
Even if you haven't seen The Last Jedi, you're no doubt familiar with the island in the middle of an ocean where Rey finds Luke Skywalker hiding out (a thing that old Jedi love to do). The lush greens and rugged browns cascade down from the island's peak and framed by clear skies, the island is a sight to behold. It's total isolation on the water planet Ahch-To gives it a legitimate otherworldly feel.
The real world location for Luke's hideout is situated just off the south-western coast of Ireland and is known as Skellig Michael. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can get to Skellig Michael via a range of different tour operators who run boat tours to the island between May and October. In the film, the island is filled with the presumably-tasty Porgs, but in the real world it's the not-so-tasty puffin that calls it home.
To get there, you'll need to schedule a flight out of Australia to Dublin International Airport and then you'll have to make your way to Cork via rail. Courtesy of a friendly Lifehacker commenter - if you're flying in from Australia to Cork Airport, it's better to go via London or Heathrow because no flights go directly from Dublin to Cork (Thanks, Kathryn!)
From Cork, you can start your road trip across south Ireland and visit another filming location in Ceann
The best time to visit is in September, avoiding the crowds that build up in the slightly-warmer July and August.
The Mineral Planet of Crait
Crait is a centrepiece of The Last Jedi's third act, a mineral planet dotted with mines where the Rebellion and the First Order clash. In the film, the planet's soil is red but covered in a thick layer or salt, giving rise to some of the most impressive visuals the series has yet seen.
It's no surprise then, that the real world location is just as beautiful. The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is considered one of the most stunning locations in the world. Covering over 10,000 square kilometres, it is the world's largest salt flat. Besides some Instagram-worthy vistas, you can also stay at one of the most unique hotel experiences in the world - the Luna Salada, a hotel made entirely out of salt.
On this list, Bolivia is one of the cheapest places to visit with return flights from around $1800 out of Sydney. To get there, you'll need to fly to Santiago airport in Chile, then to Calama airport in Chile, where you can take a bus across to Bolivia.
The best time to experience the salt flats are during the dry season, between July and October.
The Casino City Of Canto Bight
Canto Bight is a place of excess on the planet Cantonica. In describing it, Rian Johnson has previously called it a "little James Bond-ish" and that feeling certainly infiltrates the few scenes on the coastal city. Canto Bight is also a four-part novella series that delves a little deeper into the city's characters.
Back on Planet Earth, the Canto Bight scenes were shot in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a place well-known to the Game of Thrones fandom as the location of King's Landing. The Old Town is enchanting, it's red terracotta roofing stretching for miles paints a unique, captivating picture. While Canto Bight is dimly-lit and Monte Carlo-esque, Dubrovnik is a rich mixture of old facades and stone buildings that feel like they've been transported through time. It feels like a medieval city, so you'll be using a little bit of imagination to craft the sci-fi fronts that were constructed for The Last Jedi on the city's main street of Stradun.
Getting to Dubrovnik will be one of the more expensive location visits you can attempt from Australia. There are plenty of flight options that will carry you from Australia to Dubrovnik via a stopover in places like Doha or Dubai. The best time to go is in the shoulder seasons of September/October and May/June, which will limit the crowd sizes you'll be dealing with. Though based on how great The Last Jedi is, you might struggle to find a time when the crowds disappear at all.