Get the Bond experience at these destinations without having to give up your identity:
1. Location: British SIS Headquarters, Vauxhall, London
Better known as: MI6 Headquarters
Photo: Jim Bowen
The real-life headquarters of the British Secret Service has been Bond’s headquarters many times over, making appearances in Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day.
The £135,000,000 building is in Vauxhall, England, and much of its design specifications remain classified due to the security measures in place to protect it. You can’t blame them: it was badly damaged in September of 2000 after being struck by a rocket attack.
Judging from their history of innovations, like Bond’s mechanical alligator in Octopussy, they’re always on top of their security game.
2. Location: Piz Gloria, Schilthorn, Switzerland
Better known as: Ernst Blofeld’s headquarters
Photo: Paul Stephenson
From England, we’ll take the world’s longest aerial cable-car system to the summit at Schlithorn in the Swiss Alps, where the iconic villain Ernst Blofeld and his creepy cat made their hideout in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Blofeld has since fled the area, but today you’ll find one of the world’s first and tallest revolving restaurants, Piz Gloria, at 2,970m (9,744ft).
At the summit, the sight of more than 200 mountain peaks and glaciers is your revolving backdrop as you sip your shaken martini from the Bond Bar that pays homage to its Hollywood doppelganger. In winter the Schilthorn hosts the start of the world’s longest downhill ski race, the Inferno, that spans 16 kilometers and attracts more than 1,800 competitors.
3. Location: Jökulsárlón, Iceland
Better known as: Site of Bond’s icy car chase in Die Another Day, among other appearances
The movie’s title may not have been referring to the otherworldly ice lagoons in Jökulsárlón, but this destination featured in the opening scene of A View to Kill certainly feels like a site for Armageddon. The stillness of the river and its icy lillypads invokes the spirit of the spot’s former glacial giants that have since melted, leaving traces of their majesty in the jagged, black-and-white ice formations.
Despite its remote locale, Bond has visited Jökulsárlón a number of times, most famously in Die Another Day (feat. above) where a car chase across the ice lagoon in an Aston Martin brought him to the Ice Palace.
4. Location: Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, FL
Better known as: Setting for “man talk” in Goldfinger
The Fountainebleau is what James Bond would be if he died and was reincarnated as a ridiculously ballin’ beach resort. Stylish yet dignified. Modern yet timeless. Glamorous yet mysterious. These paradoxes of the Bond persona are the essence of the Fontainebleau: the snobbiest French-named hotel in America with more celebrities, style, and reputation than any other.
Staying at the Fontainebleau is a trip in itself. Facing the Atlantic, the 1504-room resort just added two new towers, 11 restaurants and lounges, a 40,000-square-foot spa, and its signature free-form pool that’s about as big as a football field. Why would Bond stay anywhere else?
5. Location: Ko Tapu, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand
Better known as: Scaramanga’s secret island; James Bond Island
Photo: Rene Ehrhardt
Ever since The Man With the Golden Gun premiered, the sixty-foot monolith of Ko Tapu, or James Bond Island, has been one of the main tourist draws of Ao Phang Nga National Park. Day tours run from Phuket.
There isn’t much to do around James Bond Island. You could start a secret hideaway in case you ever become a villainous assassin, but it’s already been done. You’re better off touring the other attractions this otherworldly bay has to offer.
6. Location: Pão de Açúcar, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Better known as: Backdrop for Bond’s cable-car fight with Jaws
Photo: Alicia Nijdam
Typically, you’re supposed to ride inside the cable car on the way up to Sugarloaf, but if you’re going for the full Bond experience you can’t expect to get around like a normal person. Then again, if you’re really going to travel like Bond you’ve got to bring along a galpal with the last name “Goodhead.” Classy, James.
If watching Moonraker turned you off of the cable car, Rio’s 1,300ft Sugarloaf offers plenty of great climbing, as do the surrounding mountains of Morro da Babilônia and Morro da Urca. Together, they form one of the largest urban climbing areas in the world, with more than 270 routes.
7. Location: Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greece
Better known as: Kristatos’s hideout in For Your Eyes Only
Photo: Mike G. K.
Sometime around 1000 A.D., a bunch of hermits in Thessaly, Greece decided they wanted out of their caves, and set out to build a new home for their life of prayer and meditation. The best idea they could come up with was building twenty or so massive monasteries on top of extremely tall and narrow pillars. While not in the most convenient location, the Eastern Orthodox monasteries of Meteora are some of the most impressive combinations of man-made and natural architecture.
To get there, you can take a bus from Ioannina, Trikala, Thessaloniki, or Athens — or you can go Bond style and just use your bare hands. However, be sure to clean up before checking out the monasteries, because they’ll kick you out if you’re wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts. Besides, if you’re rolling with Bond, you roll in style.
8. Location: Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar
Better known as: Site of Bond’s descent in The Living Daylights
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
At the top of the famous Rock of Gibraltar pinned between Spain and Morocco, the British (who own the island) built an RAF airbase that the producers of The Living Daylights wanted to use for the film. The problem was, it didn’t “look military enough,” so fake barbed wire, security signs, and other defense accouterments were added to convince the audience that James Bond only messes around in top-level security clearance areas.
For centuries, the Rock has been an impenetrable stronghold during wartime, and has never even been close to being captured, allowing for the historical simile, “strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.” Today, you can visit as a tourist and take in the local flora and fauna (the only monkeys in Europe), the historical landmarks (like the first Neanderthal skull), or make like a real Bond and just head to the casino.
9. Location: Lake Palace, Udaipur, India
Better known as: Bond’s hotel in Octopussy
Photo: View From the Saddle
As we all know, when Bond travels, he only stays at the best. And by the best, I mean a 350-year-old palace-turned-hotel on a tiny slab of granite floating in the middle of a lake. In Udaipur’s Lake Pichola, the Lake Palace sits at a distance from the rest of the city, and its pristine white walls seem to glow amidst the rest of the sandblasted landscape.
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Also, make sure to check out Matador contributing editor Eva Holland’s blog Not Coming to a Theater Near You.