A walk way is in shadow as an old city built into the cliff is illuminated by light.

Explore the world like Indiana Jones at these 11 destinations

From Petra to Glasgow to a few surprising film locations, Hollywood’s favorite archaeologist inspired a generation of adventurers.

A well-preserved cobblestone road points the way to Jordan’s Petra, the UNESCO World Heritage site that was featured in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Photograph By STEPHEN ALVAREZ, Nat Geo Image Collection

The line that perhaps best sums up Indiana Jones is delivered deadpan, midway through 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Battered, bruised, and weary, the archaeologist-adventurer says: “It’s not the years… It’s the mileage.”

Five films and 42 years later, that mileage has seriously racked up. Aside from fedoras and Harrison Ford, one of the franchise’s now iconic visual hallmarks is a map—a red line scrolling across seas and continents as Dr. Jones excavates, romances, and punches his way across the world by boat, plane, bike, or submarine.

The character’s last cinematic crack of the whip, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is now set to inspire a new generation of adventurers—that is, if previous installments are anything to go by.

“Imagine how less wondrous things might be if you didn’t feel like there was a world of adventure and discovery beyond your building or the streets of your city?” says Albert Lin, a National Geographic Explorer, scientist, and presenter of Lost Cities with Albert Lin. “When I was a kid growing up with Indiana Jones, you saw those different worlds. And these places are really out there. There is a city built into the walls of cliffs in Jordan. There are mummies in the mountains of Peru. There are chambers under the desert in Egypt.”

But some of the locations—most, in fact—across the five-film series aren’t quite where they appear. Politics, logistics, and the complications of shooting required some innovative location scouting. The result is a trail of often unlikely destinations across the planet.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The “jungles of Peru” were actually filmed on United States soil on Kauai, Hawaii. Kalalea Mountain provided the very first shot in the drama. Other locations around Huleia National Wildlife Refuge and the historic Kipu Ranch near Puhi stood in for the territory of the Chachapoyan warriors.

The Egyptian street scenes—including that famous non-starter of a sword fight—were filmed in the Tunisian city of Kairouan (“little Cairo”), famous for its carpet making and historic mosque.

(Here are eight places to visit if you love Star Wars.)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The Club Obi Wan (a nod to Lucasfilm’s other franchise) wasn’t in Shanghai, as billed—nor was it on a studio backlot. The monsoon- and neon-soaked streets that host the opening scenes of Dr. Jones’s sophomore outing were actually in Macau, the island often referred to as the “Las Vegas of Asia.” Resplendent with flamboyant architecture and a glitzy gambling culture, Macau became a Special Administrative Region of China in 1999 after almost 500 years as a Portuguese colony.

Although set in India, The Temple of Doom shifted production south to Sri Lanka, due to sensitivities around potential cultural stereotyping (a criticism upheld by modern viewers). A tea plantation near the island country’s central city of Kandy was transformed into the rural village depicted in the film, which has since become the site of the Ceylon Tea Museum. The climactic rope bridge scene was filmed near the Victoria Dam on the Mahaweli River—a location today very much off the beaten track.

(These are some of the best places around the world to sip tea.)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

First glimpsed, as in the movie, through the Siq—a sandstone gorge—the resplendent Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) in Jordan’s ancient rock city of Petra exudes majesty and mystery. Historians believe this cliff-cut 2,000-year-old architectural triumph has links to the real Crusades, where it may have been used as an outpost in the 12th century. But beyond the door is no vaulted chamber, as in the film: A modest, bare room of uncertain function is all you will see.

Doubling for the Middle East, southern Spain had the infrastructure and arid aesthetic the production team needed for some key action sequences. Locations include the beach at Cala De Monsul and the spectacular Desierto de Tabernas, a dramatic badlands home to tarantulas, eagle owls, and north African hedgehogs. The region was also famously utilized by scores of “spaghetti” Westerns in the 1960s. A preserved Western set called Fort Bravo is now a surreal theme park.

Nowhere can convincingly double for Venice, Italy’s most distinctive city—and nowhere did. Shooting at the height of the tourist season in August, the production crew briefly gained control of the Grand Canal—from “7 a.m. to 1 p.m., on one day,” remembered producer Robert Watts, speaking in 1999.

But if the building hiding the bookish entrance to the rat-infested catacombs “doesn’t look much like a library,” that’s because it isn’t; it’s the church of San Barnaba, in the Dorsoduro district. The site has hosted a church since the ninth century, with the distinctive neoclassical frontage added around 1776.

(Here’s how to explore the wilder side of Venice.)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Professor Jones’s work place is a piecemeal of locations. But the wholesome university vibe that forms the backdrop to the motorcycle chase at the beginning of the fourth Indiana Jones movie has some authenticity. “Marshall College” is none other than Yale, the historic Ivy league university in New Haven, Connecticut.

One of America’s oldest cities, the cultural capital of the New England state has a historic harbor, a thriving restaurant scene, and a brace of important institutions—including the Peabody Natural History Museum and the venerable university itself. In the movie, spot the neo-Gothic Old Campus Courtyard, which dates to 1718.

(Did Indiana Jones help or hurt archaeology?)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

In the series ender, the towering architecture of St. Vincent Street in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, convincingly doubles for 1969 New York, where a ticker tape parade celebrating the successful Apollo 11 moon landing makes its way down this grand thoroughfare.

Farther south, England’s North Yorkshire Moors Railway has been recruited for some blistering train-top action. Another balmier location is the medieval city of Cefalù, Sicily, the set piece for a critical scene in The Dial of Destiny. Home to a 13th-century cathedral, dazzling spiaggia (beaches), and archaeological diversions aplenty, it’s an easy fit for Indy’s final bow.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in theaters June 30.

The Walt Disney Company is owner of Lucasfilm and National Geographic Partners.

Simon Ingram is a journalist and author based in the U.K. Follow him on Twitter.

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