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Wednesday September 26th 2018

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope | 1977

Star Wars film location: The Sidi Driss Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia
Star Wars film location: Set-dressing for Luke Skywalker's homestead at the Sidi Driss Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia

It's set in ‘a galaxy far, far away’, but that doesn't mean you can't visit the locations for George Lucas's groundbreaking fantasy.

For the home planet of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the desert planet of ‘Tatooine’, Lucas chose the landscapes and native architecture of Tunisia (Tataouine is a real Tunisian town, some miles south of the movie location).

Star Wars film location: The Sidi Driss Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia
Star Wars film location: Luke Skywalker's homestead: The Sidi Driss Hotel, Matmata, Tunisia

Luke’s sunken home was in the troglodyte town of Matmata, where homes are burrowed into the soft local sandstone from the sides of circular pits. The interior is one of the inner courtyards of the Sidi Driss Hotel, where you can still see the murals and some of the set dressing from the movie.

Disturbed by the tourist influx, or just tired of living in the traditional pit homes, many of the residents have moved to the recent development of Nouvelle Matmata a few miles to the north.

Star Wars film location: Chott el Jerid, Tunisia
Star Wars film location: surface of ‘Tatooine’: Chott el Jerid, Tunisia

The exterior of the homestead, where Luke contemplates the two suns, is part of the vast Chott el Jerid, the dry, white salt flat stretching across central Tunisia to the oases of Tozeur and Nefta. The site of Luke’s home, now a couple of filled-in circular pits, can be found a few miles south from Highway 3 on a turnoff just west of Nefta. The location was briefly revisited for the final scenes of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith.

The same turnoff, followed six miles north, leads to La Grande Dune, used for the ‘Dune Sea’, where C3P0 and R2D2 wander aimlessly. Take care on Highway 3, which leads into Algeria – if you inadvertently cross the border, you can end up in all kinds of trouble.

The gully, where R2D2 is captured by the Jawas, now known locally as ‘Star Wars Canyon’ (you can see it again in Raiders of the Lost Ark), is Sidi Bouhel, east of Tozeur on the edge of the Chott el Jerid.

‘Mos Eisley’, the sleazy spaceport where Luke and Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) meet Han Solo (Harrison Ford), is Ajim, a sponge fishing town near the Ile de Jerba. You can see the exterior of the Cantina here.

A little to the north, overlooking the Gulf of Gabes, is Obi-Wan’s remote home, and a mosque used as the entrance to ‘Mos Eisley’.

Extra desert scenes, featuring R2D2, Luke’s landspeeder and the banthas, were shot in Death Valley, central California, and cut in to match existing Tunisian footage. Underneath the bantha costume is an elephant hired from Marine World.

Star Wars film location:  Tikal, Guatemala
Star Wars film location: The ‘Massassi Outpost on the fourth moon of Yavin’: Tikal, Guatemala | Photograph: Wikimedia / PStreet

The rebel base, ‘the Massassi Outpost on the fourth moon of Yavin’, seen toward the end of the movie, is the giant Mayan temple complex at Tikal, Guatemala. The view seen in the film is of Temples I, II and II from Temple IV.

The spectacular ruins, 2,500 years old and set in the 222-square-mile rainforest of the Tikal National Park, are in northern Guatemala, about 40 miles from Flores (there’s a two-lane road, or you can travel by air from nearby Santa Elena Airport) and can be visited from the Tikal Visitor Centre. The site's pyramids can also be seen in 1979 Bond movie Moonraker.