If you were ever wondered what it would feel like to be Lara Croft or Indiana Jones traversing through the thick jungle looking for ancient artifacts, then read on because these places are where those iconic, butt-kicking, and even running away from dinosaurs scenes took place.
Although you might not be chased by a T-rex or find a time-stopping triangle here, there is one thing you will definitely find – an adventure!
Angkor Wat, Cambodia – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Arriving with guns, running through the jungle looking for pieces of a powerful artifact and fighting statues that came to life from a mysterious liquid were all done in the 12th-century temples of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat.
Ta Prohm, now known as the Angelina Jolie Temple, was where the iconic tomb raider temple scenes were shot. This amazing architectural place sits smack dab in the middle of a forest making it one of the best adventurous places to visit if you want to taste what it feels like to be Lara Croft or an archeological, butt-kicking Tomb Raider raiding through forest ruins.
Karnak, Egypt – The Mummy Returns
Mummies, curses, the beautiful golden color of ancient Egypt that graced the screen, and even Imhotep (though not evil in real history) were once very real. As real as some of the places shown in the movies.
Karnak is one such location. The Mummy Returns features this temple as a place for an overnight hideout when Rick O’Connel’s son escapes from the train, soon followed by Imhotep who chases and catches up to him very easily.
Located in Luxor, this temple was built 4000 years ago as a dedication to the mythical gods Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. It’s a vast place that showcases the core of Ancient Egypt. And it’s a must-visit for any Mummy fans who want to know what a real Mummy adventure would feel like.
Abu Simbel and Philae were also two places that were mentioned in the movie as glimpses. In reality, the visits to these places are a lot more exciting. So if you are around in Egypt, then don’t forget to make a stop there.
Patan, Nepal – Dr. Strange
Although the interiors of Kamar-Taj were created on soundstage in London, the exotic exterior scenes were shot in Kathmandu, Nepal. One of the prominent places was the Patan Durbar Square, a 3rd century UNESCO heritage site that was once part of a large kingdom.
This place is great not just for seeing a Dr. Strange filming location, but also for its rich history, culture, incredible buildings, statues, and religious aspects that are seamlessly woven into the archaeologically important kingdom. You might not master magic and find mystical artifacts but the real experience more than makes up for it.
Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii – Jurassic Park
Let’s be real. If we knew this place was crawling with raptors, T-rex, and other deadly dinosaurs, we wouldn’t set one foot into this place. Though some of you might. And for those who would love to explore the real-world counterpart of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, Kuai island awaits.
You can opt for the helicopter tour where you can see the famous Manawaiopuna Falls in the Hanapepe Valley that serves as the background to the iconic scene where the crew flies into the island.
Other places to visit are the Jurassic Kahili Ranch where Allan and Ellie see the dinosaurs for the first time although, in reality, this place is a vast green land with cattle. To feel as if you are running away and trying to get to safety from dinosaurs, hike to Ho’opi’i Falls by following Ka’apa Stream. This off-beaten path is not very known to tourists and there are no markings. The trial is also very challenging so it is advised to seek the help of a tour guide (not a paleontologist) to explore this wild side.
For adventure lovers who want to play it more safely, the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu is the place to be. It’s where Dr. Alan and the kids ran away from a dino stampede. The fallen tree where they ducked behind is still there with a Jurassic Park sign on it.
Petra, Jordan – Indiana Jones
This list won’t be complete without mentioning one of the most adventurous, trouble-finding archeologists of the movie world – Indiana Jones. And if you plan to follow in his footsteps, then Petra is where you should head to.
This rose city carved inside a mountain rock is famous for many reasons and one of them is for the “Holy Grail” action scene in Speilberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Although Indi made his way to the iconic Treasury on a horse, you can experience it in all its glory by walking 2km between mountains. Although if you do want to ride on horseback, you can do that too.
Matamata, New Zealand – The Hobbit
Home of The Hobbits, the magical world featured in Lord of The Rings, is now a place to visit in Waikato, New Zealand. This beautiful farm area in Matamata was used for the location of The Shire in Peter Jackson’s LOTR and The Hobbit.
To get a real sense of how it would be to live in Tolkien’s fantasy world, go on a Hobbiton tour to see the sets of the movie from the colorful Hobbit-holes, Bag End, Party Tree, Old Mill, and the Green Dragon Inn where you’ll get to taste some delicacies and drinks that belongs to the LOTR universe!
The Temple of Hatshepsut (Inspiration for Hamanuptra), Egypt – The Mummy
We had mentioned a famous location in The Mummy Returns at the beginning of this list and now it’s time to present the location that was the beginning of the terror in The Mummy universe – Hamunaptra! Also known as the city of the dead.
Although Hamunaptra doesn’t exist, the city is said to have taken inspiration from the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Built in 1479 BC, this temple was to commemorate the achievements of Hatshepsut and as her final resting place. This temple is known for its sun alignment phenomenon where the sunlight falls perpendicular on the holy shrine as if by magic. Perhaps that’s also where they got the idea of Hamunaptra being visible by sunrise.
But remember, curses by mummies were believed to be real so you might want to stay away and keep your hands to yourself from anything that could potentially be “a curse”.
Eyipantla Falls and Veracruz, Mexico – Apocalypto
A very underrated movie that uses the Mayan theme, Apocalypto was a heart-pumping action survival movie shot in the thick forests of Mexico.
When Jaguar Paw challenges the Mayan hunters to chase after him, he does that by standing at the foot of the Eyipantla Falls after leaping into its thick jets of water. It’s a great view of nature and the best place to know what the forest hero felt when staring at the faces of his killers.
Another location in the movie was the area of Veracruz, where the massive Mayan pyramids were built. Today you won’t find those pyramids because they were built as part of the studio set and have since been taken down but you can definitely explore the real Mayan ruins such as El Tajín, an important archeological site for travelers built between 600 to 1200 CE. There is also the 12th century Castillo de Teayo which could very well be the replica Mayan temple showcased in the movie.