With the opening this week of Star Wars: The Force Awakens dedicated fans can start planning their holidays around some of the filming locations used by JJ Abrams and his team.

Skellig Michael, Ireland
One of the sites that appears in one of the film's key moments is a tiny island off Ireland's southwest coast. Skellig Michael, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is only accessible by boat, 12km from a tiny village called Portmagee in County Kerry, on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. At first locals were told the film crew were making a documentary but were soon let in on the big secret. "It was such a weird and wonderful experience for our small village to be part of the Star Wars story. We enjoyed evenings of music and dance in our bar with the cast and crew. Mark Hamill even learned how to pull a pint with our barman Ciaran Kelly," said Gerard Kennedy of The Bridge Bar and Moorings Guesthouse in Portmagee.

These days Skellig Michael is inhabited solely by birds, but monks settled here over a millennium ago and the beehive huts that they lived in are restored and can be visited from May to September each year

Myvatn Lake and Krafla Volcano, Iceland
It's believed that the snowy backdrop of the scenes set on the planet Sullust were filmed in the active volcanic region of Myvatn, northern Iceland, at Myvatn Lake and Krafla Volcano. Though the area has several active volcanos, Krafla has been dormant since the mid-80s, though just south of its caldera is the geothermal area of Hverir which has boiling mudpools and steaming fumaroles. Myvatn Lake is famous for its geothermally heated natural baths.

Krafla Volcano, Iceland. Photo / 123RF
Krafla Volcano, Iceland. Photo / 123RF

Rub' al Khali Desert, Abu Dhabi

The desert scenes on Jakku in The Force Awakens were filmed a couple of hours outside of the city of Abu Dhabi among the sand dunes of the enormous Rub' al Khali desert. This part of the largest sand desert in the world, known as the "empty quarter", is also used for camel riding, motorsport and falconry shows. We're not sure if you're actually allowed to slide down the dunes like Rey does on one of her spaceship scavenger hunts, but it looked like fun.

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The Rub' al Khali desert. Photo / 123RF
The Rub' al Khali desert. Photo / 123RF

Other travel options for those who want to follow in the footsteps of Luke and co.

Tunisia

The North African nation provided the sandy backdrop for much of the scenes set on Tattoine. At Sidi Bouhlel, east of Tozeur, you can visit the gully where R2D2 was captured by the Jawas. So many scenes were shot around this area that it's known locally as Star Wars Canyon.

In Matmata, Star Wars fans can not only visit Luke's homestead from the original movie - you can stay there. Crawl into your Star Wars pyjamas and curl up with your favourite Ewok teddy for a stay at the Sidi Driss Hotel - a converted underground Beber home.
When Obi Wan Kenobi said of Mos Eisley Spaceport "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy", he reckoned without Kuta Beach in Bali.

Nonetheless, you can't call yourself a real Star Wars fan until you've been to Ajim, a sponge fishing town in Tunisia that played the role of Mos Eisley.

The Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia. Photo / 123RF.com
The Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia. Photo / 123RF.com

Spain

Like all self-respecting

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fans with half a brain cell, we've pretty much blocked out

Episodes I

,

II

and

III

, but the exterior of Queen Amidala's Palace from

Episode II

is a seriously beautiful piece of architecture in a city worth visiting in its own right. The Plaza da Espana, in Seville, Spain features almost 2km of tiled fountains, walls, pavilions, ponds and Seville's famous orange trees.

Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain. Photo / 123RF
Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain. Photo / 123RF

Guatemala

The moon of Yavin was nearly destroyed by the first Death Star. You can visit the jungle form which the X-Wings were launched at Tikal, in Guatemala. It's home to one of the largest complexes of Mayan civilisation and the towers that featured in the movie are for real.

Tikal temple in Guatemala. Photo / 123RF.com
Tikal temple in Guatemala. Photo / 123RF.com

Norway

The ice planet Hoth, scene of perhaps the series' most epic land battle, is actually a secluded spot in Norway called Finse. Accessible only by train, bike or foot, it's a spot so grim and desolate, Captain Scott chose it as a training base for his Antarctic expedition. The cross-country skiing is reportedly excellent, but don't get lost - last Christmas the temperature get down to -30C and there are no Tauntauns to cut open and crawl inside.

Finse, Hordaland, Norway. Photo / 123RF.com
Finse, Hordaland, Norway. Photo / 123RF.com

California

Yes, the Ewoks tipped the whole series too far towards childish cutesiness, but few modes of transport in cinematic history are as cool as the Imperial 74-Z speeder bike. At Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, in California, you can admire the giant trees through which the speeder bikes raced. With around 30km of trails to be explored on foot or by mountain bike, there's heaps to do. Just keep in mind that if you see something it's more likely to be a black bear than a cuddly Ewok.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California. Photo / 123RF.com
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California. Photo / 123RF.com

Switzerland

Alderaan, the most boring place in the

Star Wars

galaxy, was - fittingly - filmed in Switzerland. Grindelwald, where Princess Leia's hometown was set, is an ideal hub for a European ski vacation, with tracks suited to all experience levels. Scenes from

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

and

The Golden Compass

were also filmed here.

Eiger Peak and Grindelwald Village, Switzerland. Photo / 123RF.com
Eiger Peak and Grindelwald Village, Switzerland. Photo / 123RF.com