As Liz Lemon once said, “I want to go to there.” That “there” is Pandora — aka the world of
Avatar. Anyone who has seen the first Avatar film or plans to see Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters can agree that Pandora is a breathtaking and gorgeous location. While most of the actual Avatar filming locations are movie sets and CGI, Avatar’s Pandora was inspired by real locations you can visit.
For those wondering where
Avatar was filmed, you may be disappointed to hear that the two main filming locations for The Way of Water were MBS Media Campus in California and New Zealand at the Stone Street Studios and Kumeu Film Studios. If you visit those places today, you most likely won’t be able to see any floating mountains and bioluminescent waters. However, Pandora was also inspired by real locations around the globe that should be on everyone’s wanderlust bucket list.
From glowing caves in New Zealand to rainforests in Hawaii, here are the real-life locations you should visit if you’re a fan of the
Avatar films. 01
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park In China
Hongjie Han/Moment/Getty Images
The main source of
inspiration for Pandora is the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Zhangjiajie, China, according to USA Today. The mountains that fill the park look almost identical to the floating ones you see in Avatar. To get the best view during your visit, take the cable car to Huangshi Village. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to snap gorgeous pics and take stunning videos to share on Instagram and TikTok. 02
The Rainforest In Kauai, Hawaii
The cast of
Avatar: The Way of Water and director James Cameron reportedly prepped for filming by going on a “ sense-memory odyssey” in Kauai, Hawaii. By spending “a few days” in the Hawaiian rainforest, the actors were able to get a feel of what it would be like to actually live in Pandora.
Since Hawaii provides the same experience as Pandora, you should add it to your list of
Avatar locations to visit IRL. While you’re in Hawaii, feel free to spend as much time as you’d like on the beach. After all, Avatar 2 follows the Metkayina, who are the ocean-based Na'vi on Pandora. 03
Waitomo Caves In New Zealand
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Anyone who has been to
Pandora — World of Avatar at Walt Disney World knows that, other than the floating mountains, the most beautiful thing about Pandora is its bioluminescence. It’s what makes the land glow at night in magical ways.
Avatar was filmed on studio sets in New Zealand, the country did provide some inspiration for Pandora as well. The Waitomo Caves on the North Island are a great example, because they are home to one of the most popular bioluminescent destinations in the world. Similar to the Na'vi River Journey attraction at Disney, you can take a boat tour through the Waitomo Caves to see its bioluminescence — which are actually glowworms. 04
Waipoua Forest In New Zealand
Also in New Zealand, you’ll find the Waipoua Forest, which is supposedly another location that inspired Cameron when he was creating Pandora. The
Tāne Mahuta, which is the largest kauri tree in New Zealand, is located in the forest. It’s like the real-life version of the Tree of Souls from the first Avatar. 05
Ashikaga Flower Park In Japan
Chengfeng Chiang / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
Of course, the Tree of Souls actually looks more like
Ashikaga’s wisteria tree in Japan. This massive purple and pink tree in the Ashikaga Flower Park is a must-do if you’re planning a trip to Japan. However, you’ll only want to visit when the wisteria is in full bloom. That will be in the spring, from April through May. Luckily, that is also cherry blossom season in Japan, so if you’re thinking pink, you can check off a few Barbiecore destinations while you’re there as well. 06
Angel Falls In Venezuela
Angel Falls in Venezuela is also a location that inspired Pandora, according to Travel + Leisure. Disney fans will instantly recognize this famous waterfall as the inspiration for Paradise Falls in Pixar’s Up as well. So, if you’re like Carl and Ellie, you may want to save up some money in your own Paradise Falls jar so you can also visit this Avatar location. 07
Luminous Lagoon In Jamaica
Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images
Another stunning bioluminescent location that inspired some scenes in
Avatar is the Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica. Since The Way of Water takes place in the ocean more than the first Avatar film, it may just inspire you to book a trip to Jamaica to see the glowing water for yourself.
The best time to visit the lagoon is when it’s not going to rain, which means you should try to avoid going any time between June and November. Apparently, full moons will also dull the glow of the bioluminescence as well, so be sure to check the lunar calendar.
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