From abandoned sets in the Sahara desert to a troglodyte hotel, here’s our guide on how to visit the Star Wars film locations in Tunisia
With over 1,000km of golden sandy beaches, non-stop sunshine and the glittering Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia has drawn flocks of tourists for decades. Beyond the beach resorts, there are superbly preserved Roman ruins, ancient towns with bustling medinas and, of course, the abandoned film sets of four of the six iconic Star Wars movies.
Tunisia’s Star Wars film locations
I recently visited Tunisia on a 5-day Star Wars Light Speed Tour with Mosaic North Africa to explore several of the country’s main sites as well as the famous film locations. Whether you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan or – like me – just have fond childhood memories of wielding toy lightsabers with your siblings, a tour of the franchise’s fictional desert planet of Tatooine (otherwise known as southern Tunisia) is a journey through a landscape of extremes.
There is the arid moonscape of Chott el Djerid salt lake, the rolling sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, the rose-red canyon of Sidi Bouhlel and the traditional Berber troglodyte houses cum Skywalker family home. Each otherworldly landscape forms a location on Tatooine, the epic space opera’s lawless desert planet located in the galaxy’s Outer Rim where settlers scratch out a living on moisture farms and spaceports hide criminals and smugglers like Han Solo.
Fortunately, the ‘real’ Tatooine is not as hostile. In fact, it’s remarkably easy to visit. To help you with your trip, we’ve put together the following not-to-miss Star Wars film locations in Tunisia.
Lars Homestead Interior
Known as the ‘heart of Star Wars’, Matmata is one of southern Tunisia’s most popular destinations – and for good reason. Hotel Sidi Idriss is one of the most recognisable Star Wars sites in the country. The traditional Berber troglodyte dwelling was transformed into a hotel in 1969, seven years before George Lucas and his crew rolled into town.
Atlas & Boots
Hotel Sidi Idriss aka the Lars Homestead Interior
The complex is spread over several pit courtyards connected by underground tunnels. It stood in for Luke Skywalker’s childhood home on Tatooine in the original 1977 movie and was used again in the prequel trilogy. The main courtyard has much of the original set dressing and memorabilia spread around the adjoining rooms, one of which has been transformed into a small museum.
Another courtyard houses the guest rooms, each named after the character portrayed by the actor that stayed in them. I opted for the Princess Leia room. Make time to scramble up to ground level to enjoy the remarkable views from above, looking down into the troglodyte complex.
Seen in: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
From Matmata, journey across the apocalyptic landscape of the Chott el Djerid. A causeway bisects the desolate pans where salt piles and acrid ponds line the sides of the road while the wan horizon stretches until it becomes an alien mirage playing tricks on the mind.
Once across the saltpans, near the town of Tozeur, head for Sidi Bouhlel, also known as Star Wars Canyon. Here, at the foot of a white-washed shrine of the same name, a trail threads its way up a narrow gorge where several scenes were shot including where Jawas kidnapped R2D2 and where Tusken Raiders attacked Luke Skywalker.
Seen in: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Ong Jemel, meaning ‘the neck of the camel’, is named after an unusual rock formation shaped like a camel that looms over the surrounding valley and dunes. It is the site of Darth Maul’s lookout where he landed in his Sith Infiltrator as well as several pod-racing scenes from the films.
The barren sandstone landscape can only be reached by 4×4 but, once dropped off, you can clamber up to the top of the escarpment to survey the scene from where Darth Maul stood. From there, you can scramble down to the valley floor and look back at the cliffs over which Darth Maul flies on his speeder bike.
Mos Espa film set
Seen in: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
From Ong Jemel, it’s a short drive to Mos Espa which is Tunisia’s best-preserved purpose-built Star Wars set. The settlement comprises around 20 domed buildings built for the Tatooine spaceport of Mos Espa. The film crew spent nearly five months on location here and even constructed the road between the set and the nearby highway.
In the films, the town is a bustling spaceport filled with aliens from around the galaxy. While some of the townscape was added in post-production using CGI, the major buildings featured in the movies can be explored on foot. Scattered among the buildings are a handful of souvenir stalls and hawkers. It’s best to visit as late in the day as possible to avoid the bigger tour groups.
Lars Homestead Exterior
Seen in: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This unassuming but iconic site is the original movie set home of Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist in the original Star Wars movie trilogy. Although the structure was first seen in the original film, it was dismantled after the first Star Wars movie was completed. It was reconstructed for the prequel trilogy with its location on the edge of the salt flats of the Chott el Djerid making for an incongruous blip on the horizon.
The simple domed design features just the one functioning doorway which, of course, leads nowhere, as the ‘real’ Lars Homestead is located some 260km away back at the Hotel Sidi Idris. For the real Skywalker experience, try to time your visit with sunset although you’ll never quite manage to recreate the twin suns setting in the background as Luke dreams of another life on a distant planet.
Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Haddada
Seen in: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Berber village of Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Haddada are also both worth visiting whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not. Both villages were used in The Phantom Menace as locations that stood in for the slave quarters where Anakin Skywalker grew up, but their unique architecture would put them on a tourist map regardless.
The buildings – known as ghorfas – are traditional vaulted rooms used by Berbers for storing grain, often stacked on top of each other reaching, as in Ksar Ouled Soltan’s case, up to four storeys high.
Star Wars film locations: The essentials
What: How to visit the Star Wars film locations in Tunisia.
Where: All accommodation is included in the tour package, including a night at Sidi Idriss, the troglodyte hotel that stood in for Luke Skywalker’s childhood home in the original 1977 movie and again in the prequel trilogy of the late 1990s. The cave rooms are dug into the surrounding landscape and reflect a Jedi’s abstemious character. Bathrooms are shared.
Aside from the rustic Sidi Idriss, hotels are either three or four-star affairs with breakfast and an evening buffet meal included. Accommodation can vary according to availability but I stayed at the Royal Salem Sousse, Ras El Ain and Le Sultan Hammamet. All were comfortable, quiet and had pools. The final stop at Le Sultan had access to the sea. I also spent an extra night in Tunis at the beginning of my trip and recommend Royal Victoria in the city centre.
When: The best time to visit Tunisia is during spring or autumn. Try to avoid the hottest months from June to September. The shoulder seasons of April and May or October and November are ideal. Keep in mind the religious holiday of Ramadan, the moveable Islamic month of fasting when restaurants and shops are likely to close during the day
How: I visited Tunisia on a 5-day Star Wars Light Speed Tour with Mosaic North Africa. Prices begin at $2,450 CAD ($1,850 USD) per person based on two people sharing and include all accommodation on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner), entrance fees, private transport, guides and airport transfers.
The tour visits all the major Star Wars film locations in Tunisia including the interior and exterior of the Lars Homestead, Sidi Bouhlel (aka the Star Wars Canyon) and the Mos Espa film set among others. It also visits the UNESCO-listed El Jem Amphitheatre, the ancient city of Kairouan with its ninth-century mosque and medina, the beachside resorts of Sousse and Hammamet and the Saharan oasis town of Tozeur.
The tours begin when you land at Tunis-Carthage International Airport but I chose to spend a night in Tunis as my flight arrived late evening. I flew from London to Tunis. Book through skyscanner.net for the best prices.
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