Ever since the first movie came out in 1977, fans have always been dreaming about living in that galaxy far far away. While that may be difficult in some cases, there are still a lot of places existing in the real world where the movies have been filmed and that can be visited. In this blog series we explore these locations by country with an extra focus on the country’s backgrounds and what else is worth your time before or after visiting the locations.
In this first part we start with the small town of Finse in Norway that was the site of the Battle of Hoth and where Luke met the Force spectre of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The Kingdom of Norway (Norge or Noreg in Norwegian) is a Nordic country occupying the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Norway is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe with a population of about 4.8 million spread around a total area of 385,252 square kilometers (148,747 sq mi).
The majority of the country shares a border to the east with Sweden; its northernmost region is bordered by Finland to the south and Russia to the east; and Denmark lies south of its southern tip across the Skagerrak Strait. The capital city of Norway is Oslo. Also belonging to Norway are hundreds of small islands near the coast and the bigger islands of Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen Island in the Arctic Ocean.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country have been a major tourist attraction for years. Fjords are long narrow inlets flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. Besides the beautiful nature, which is ideal for hiking trips, Norway has become quite a popular winter sport destination. Various places like Finse, Trysil, Hafjell and Hemsedal are ideal places for skiing and snowboarding.
Official languages: Norwegian, but most speak English
Government: Parliamentary democracy under constitutional monarchy
Currency: Norwegian krone (NOK) subdivided in 100 ore
Time zone CET (UTC+1) in summer CEST (UTC+2)
Roads: Drive on the right / some toll roads
Climate: South/Middle: Oceanic
Coastal area: Lot of rainfall in the spring time, less in the summer months.
Best time to visit the shooting locations: December to April/May, when there is snow.
How to get there & other useful links
Norway: Scandinavian Airlines flies regularly from Europe to Norway and has many domestic flights as well. Oslo Gardermoen Airport is the main connection hub for larger airlines.
Finse: Traveling to Finse is only possible by train from Oslo or Bergen on the Oslo-Bergen track. It takes four to five hours and during this you will experience the amazing scenery of Norway.
Domestic destinations: Many of the major cities like Bergen and Trondheim also have an airport.
Norway Travel Office: http://www.visitnorway.com/us
Hotel website: http://www.finse1222.no/en
Finse is a small village consisting of little more than a railway station, a nearby hotel and a few surrounding buildings. The railway station is located on the highland plateau named Hardangervidda / Hardanger Jokulen Glacier at 1222 meter above sea level.
Despite it being a small village, Finse offers possibilities for cross-skiing, sail skiing (due to its location on the edge of a frozen lake) and expedition training in the winter. There is one small drag-lift which allows for downhill skiing on one slope back into town. Hiking is another great activity that can be done in both the winter and the summer.
In March 1979, Finse was the location for the exterior scenes of the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. The cast and crew slept in the Finse 1222 Hotel, which still shows its connection to the movie with a guestbook and a wall with behind-the-scenes pictures. Also on display in the lobby is a prop of a Rebel trooper hat used by one of the many local extras.
Outside the hotel are the first two locations you will visit. Due to snowstorms, director Irvin Kershner and the crew shot the scenes with Luke escaping from the wampa (the wampa cave was an interior shot in England) and reaching out to the spirit of Ben Kenobi from the back door of the hotel.
A bit further to the left (when facing the back of the hotel) is the location where Han cut up the tauntaun to keep Luke warm.
To visit the other locations it is advised to hire a guide who can bring you to the locations and who can tell all about the scenes filmed there with interesting background information. You can book a guide trough the website of the hotel. Please note that the route you take depends on the weather and conditions on the glacier. The best time to visit would be March or April so you have clear skies and plenty of snow.
When going on the hike it is best to pack warm clothing, thermal underwear and good hiking shoes. Also advisable is to prepare yourself by brining lots of food and warm drinks with you. To counter the effects of snow blindness you also should pack tinted sunglasses. Snowshoes and hiking sticks can be provided by the guide.
Location #1 – Lake – GPS location 60°35’16.57″N, 7°28’25.98″O
This is the place where Luke attacks an AT-AT by hanging underneath it and dropping a thermal detonator inside. During filming Colin Skeaping, stuntman standing in for Mark Hamill, was hanging on a cable from a helicopter. Also shot here are troopers rushing forward and snowspeeder backgrounds. Close by is Norman’s Folley where the production team had a tent with food and drinks set up. This is generally the place for a longer break during the hike.
Location #2 – Crevasses & Shooting Area – GPS location 60°34’53.99″N, 7°28’19.94″O
This is the probot landing site and when you turn around some you see the background for the Imperial Walkers on the Northern Ridge scene.
Location #3 – Plateau Area Shooting Location – GPS location 60°34’6.52″N, 7°28’30.03″O
Quite a few scenes were filmed upon the glacier, the most important of them being the main Hoth battlefield. As with most of the mountains and surrounding area that you see, it was also used a reference for matte paintings.
Location #4 – Red Cross Hut – GPS location 60°34’12.73″N, 7°29’10.15″O
This is not really a shooting location, but you can see a hut here that the Red Cross uses. This wooden hut can be seen in some of the behind the scenes photos of the Snow Tracks on their way to the glacier. This is another spot used to rest during hikes.
Location #5 – Blue Ice – 60°34’39.76″N, 7°30’5.46″O
One of the matte paintings of the Echo Base entrance was superimposed with live action of the turret and a trooper that was filmed here.
Location #6 – Near Blue Ice
The rock from which Han Solo destroys the probot is around here. Where exactly is not really known, as the rock is completely covered in snow and due to the process of natural erosion it has lost some of the way to be recognized. However, for most of the locations it is still possible to line up your shots to what you see in the movies. And even if you miss some shots to line up, which can be difficult, you still get a great feeling and sense of being on Hoth.
What else to do in Norway?
Norway is first and foremost famous for the fjords. Fjords are formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. The best-visited fjords are Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord (which is part of the Storfjord).
Hardangerfjord is almost 900 meter deep and with a length of 179 km (111 miles) the second largest fjord of Norway and third largest in the world. If offers a spectacular view and beautiful nature. This fjord is best visited from the nearby city of Bergen.
Sogneford is 1300 meter deep and with a length of 200 meters, it’s the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. The surrounding area offers skiing possibilities in the summer. Also worth mentioning is the possibility to take a cruise from here to the Nigard Glacier.
Geirangerfjord is one of the most impressive fjords of Norway due to its completely vertical fjord walls and waterfalls. A bit further up north is Trondheim, the third city of Norway.
Other places worth to visit are: the North Cape, which is the most northern part of Europe and is reachable by regular busses from the nearby town of Honningsvåg. This is also a stop for cruise ships. A small airport connects trough Tromsø to Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. Most tourists also visit the town of Spitsbergen in combination with a trip to the North Cape.
The 3 major cities of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim are cultural and nice shopping cities to go to.
Join us next time for a trip to Italy to meet Padmé’s family and enjoy a lake retreat!
The author would like to thank Stefan Pfister for his contributions to this article. And to Kim and Cris Knight for their panorama pictures of Finse.
Picture of the Hardangerfjord courtesy of Fjord Norway.
Sander de Lange (Exar Xan) from the Netherlands does research for the Rogues Gallery feature in Star Wars Insider under the supervision of Leland Chee. He is an editor for TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub, he’s an administrator for the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook and has written the backstory for Niai Fieso through “What’s the Story?”. Recently he finished his Tourism Management study and he cannot wait to work in the tourism industry.