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12 Fabulous Destinations Made Popular By Films

April 17, 2015

From the awe-inspiring Temple of Angkor Wat to the gothic architectures of Savannah, Georgia, there are plenty of places that were once undervalued and under the radar, and are now praised and deemed as must-visit tourist destinations. And though most of these places have become well-known through word-of-mouth and advertising, there are others who have film producers and actors to thank for their fame.

Most of today’s TV shows and films are set in places that already famous to begin with, like Only You in Rome, Mamma Mia in Greece and Dog Day Afternoon in New York. But there are some instances when filmmakers would look for a little-known or remote place to film their scenes, for the sake of creating a more authentic feel for their projects. And luckily for some of these unheralded places, they will experience a surge of tourism as a result of these filming productions. Here’s a list of the real-life locations were made popular by films.

 

1New Zealand – Peter Jackson’s films

Peter Jackson’s blockbuster trilogies have definitely changed the way people think about the immensely beautiful New Zealand. What was once known as Australia’s thinly populated neighbor is now tagged as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, thanks to “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”.

Today, hordes of tourists come to New Zealand to experience the magic, charm and striking beauty of middle-earth.  As the people from Tourism New Zealand have reported, the country saw an increase of 50 percent in arrivals since the first Lord of the Rings flick hit the silver screen.

 

2Petra, Jordan – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Petra, even though it was inscribed in 1985 as UNESCO World Heritage site, wasn’t a big tourist draw, and was practically unknown to Westerners in the early 1980s.  But ever since “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” hit the theaters in 1989, endless seas of tourists have been swarming to Petra, to experience its breathtaking splendor and fabulous ancient ruins.

 

3Angkor Wat – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The action-packed 2001 blockbuster “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” not only made Angelina Jolie a global icon, but it also showcased the jaw-dropping beauty of Angkor Wat and its mesmerizing temples. As far as I’m concerned, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider transformed Cambodia from an isolated country into one of the top and most visited destinations in all of Asia.

 

4Savannah, Georgia – Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil

Unlike most of the films included in this list, Clint Eastwood’s 1997 crime-drama flick “Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil” wasn’t much of a blockbuster success, despite the presence of highly acclaimed actors like Jude Law, John Cusack and Kevin Spacey.  Adapted from the best-selling novel of John Berendt, this cinematic edition earned mixed reviews that resulted into an average score of 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Yet, for all its shortcomings in the box office, “Midnight” was able to help transform Savannah, Georgia from a sleepy town into a sensational can’t-miss major tourist destination in America. Showcasing an array of panoramic and unique sights of Savannah, this film literally brought the eccentricities and beauty of Savannah, Georgia to the national limelight.

 

5Dharavi, India – Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire, one of the most successful and critically acclaimed films in 2008, did not only bag dozens of prestigious awards, but it also helped popularize Dharavi, a chaotic yet vibrant slum in Mumbai.  A blighted area that was practically invisible on our radar, Dharavi was all of a sudden a tourist magnet, drawing an influx of tourists every day because of Slumdog Millionaire.

 

6Salzburg, Austria – The Sound of Music

Salzburg is a scenic, sweet and euphoric paradise where music truly thrives. Known as the cradle of Mozart, this beautiful city is also the filming location of one of the greatest and most outstanding musical films of all time – The Sound of Music.

In Salzburg, tourists get to relive some of the most notable scenes of this legendary movie musical. Trust me, it’s hard not to burst spontaneously into song when you climb up the Hohensalzburg fortress or walk leisurely along the gorgeous Salzach River.

 

7Doune Castle, Scotland – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I’m sorry my fellow Game of Thrones fans, but it wasn’t our beloved and epic TV show that made this historic Scottish castle a popular tourist attraction. The truth is, it was a British comedy film in 1975 entitled Monty Python and the Holy Grail that introduced Scotland’s Doune Castle to the masses.

 

8Rocky Steps in Philadelphia Museum of Art – Rocky 2

Are you a big boxing fan? I hate to bust your bubbles, but we’re not here to talk about the highly anticipated matchup between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Nevertheless, we still have something that might delight you. Yes folks, we’re talking about Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog in the fictional boxing world, and the place that he made famous – the “Rocky Steps”.

Every day, throngs of tourists come to the Philadelphia Museum of Art not just see its spectacular collections, but also to mimic Rocky Balboa’s iconic climb on its 72-stone steps. And as soon they reach the top of the Rocky Steps, they will be treated with commanding views of the Philadelphia City Hall, Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Eakins Oval. Also, the place has a beautiful bronze Rocky statue where tourists can take selfies with the Italian Stallion on the background.  Pretty cool, right?

 

9Alnwick Castle – Harry Potter films

Alnwick Castle, with incredible cinematography and cool computer graphics, was magically transformed into Hogwarts, the enchanting wizardry school in the celebrated Harry Potter films. Built originally in 1096, this historic English castle has been getting over 700,000 visits a year because of the tremendous global success of the Harry Potter films.

 

10Ko Phi Phi, Thailand – The Beach

Leonardo DiCaprio popularized the beautiful tropical setting of Ko Phi Phi Leh, with their 2000 adventure-drama movie “The Beach”.

 

11Gion, Japan – Memoirs of a Geisha

Most of the scenes in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha” were shot at the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California as well as a large set in Thousand Oaks, California. Still, the film was able to lure tourists from traveling to Gion, Kyoto, the sole surviving Geisha district in Japan, and the only place where you can meet and greet actual Geishas.

 

12Forks, Washington – Twilight

Did you know that Forks, Bella Swan’s hometown, is a real-life city in Clallam County, Washington? Though there weren’t any scenes filmed in this small American city, big-time Twilight fanatics can easily recognize Forks’ landmarks since they echo the locations in Stephenie Meyer’s novels and films.

Forks, frankly, is a relatively small and sleepy town with a modest population of less than 4,500 people.  The monumental success of these films, however, has made it an irresistible destination for Twilight fans who want to see and experience the beaches, forests and rivers featured in this series. In fact, Forks, Washington has become so popular that it sees more out-of-towners than local folks annually.

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Aldrich Infantado
Aldrich Infantado is a travel junkie and a writing aficionado who loves to share amazing travel tips to his fellow travelers.