70 years of James Bond: The scene-stealing destinations 007 put on the map

The world is certainly not enough for James Bond, probably one of fiction’s best-travelled characters. Here, we take a look at the most iconic destinations he visited from both the films and books…

Jessica Reid
13 April 2023

When Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published on the 13 April 1953, we are sure the 007 author could not have predicted what was to come. Seventy years on, the James Bond fanbase is larger than ever. Although his bloody shootouts and womanizing traits are nothing to be desired, Bond’s exotic worldwide travels – especially once projected onto the big screen – have transported viewers to nearly every corner of the globe, often introducing people to places for the very first time.

Here, we look at the James Bond destinations which stole the show and put these countries, cities, islands and landmarks on the map, from Jamaica’s sandy shores to Japan’s iconic castles.

Thailand

The striking limestone formations on ‘James Bond Island’ (Shutterstock)

During the Roger Moore era, we see Bond roam some of Thailand’s most magical scenery in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. Film director Guy Hamilton later claimed to have put ‘Phuket on the map’, and it’s true that many viewers were introduced to some of Thailand’s wondrous landscapes for the first time. Most notable is Khao Phing Kan – rebranded after the movie’s release to ‘James Bond Island’ by savvy tour operators. Here, giant limestone karsts coated in green moss can be seen towering out of the shallow ocean waters, with one formation in particular captivating visitors as the rock appears to defy gravity.

After such popularity, Bond returned to Thailand in the late 1990s, this time with Pierce Brosnan taking the lead role in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Matera, Italy

(Frabrizio Conte/Shutterstock)

In the opening scenes of Daniel Craig’s No Time to Die, the latest Bond movie, viewers were mystified by the extraordinary scenes of a beautiful, prehistoric town, not familiar to many. Matera, the world’s third oldest city sitting in southern Italy, is best known for its ancient cave dwellings and fascinating backstory, even in recent years. In fact, the Italian government moved residents out of Matera during the 1950s due to its extreme poverty and diseases, leaving the crumbling city abandoned for the first time. But recent years have seen its fortunes turn around, with its old town being forever preserved with its UNESCO World Heritage status in 1993, followed by its appearance in the 2021 Bond film. But don’t worry, you shouldn’t be knocked down by any violent car chases while you wander its cobbled streets and remarkable ruins.

Himeji Castle, Japan

Sean Connery visited ninja training school at Himeji Castle (Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock)

During a time where long-haul travel was not yet accessible for many, the Japanese culture captured in 1967’s You Only Live Twice opened viewers’ eyes to a completely new world. One of the most iconic scenes is filmed on the grounds of Himeji Castle, where Sean Connery is shown around Tiger Tanaka’s ninja training school. The hilltop castle, also called White Heron Castle, can be found in the Hyōgo Prefecture, a couple hours from Kyoto. It’s now a well-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of Japan’s 12 original castles that has not been destroyed by war or a natural disaster.

Jamaica

Views out from San San Bay in Port Antonio (Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock)

Known as Bond’s ‘spiritual home’, Jamaica appears in not one, but four of Ian Fleming’s novels, and subsequently several film adaptations. It’s no wonder, as author Ian Fleming wrote most of his spy stories while living on the Caribbean island. Jamaica made its first appearance in the 1962 debut Bond film, Dr No, where Sean Connery first sets his eyes on Honey Ryder who emerges from the ocean singing. After this, Laughing Waters became one of the island’s most-loved beaches, but not just for its soft golden sands and clear seas. What makes it extra enchanting for travellers is its gushing waterfalls that flow through the jungle greenery, across the beach and into the ocean. Laughing Waters is just a 20-minute drive from the port town of Ocho Rios on the north coast.

But that’s just one of Jamaica’s noteworthy appearances. In the 1973’s Live and Let Die, Roger Moore ventured into Dr Kanaga’s secret lair, which was actually filmed inside the island’s Green Grotto Caves. More recently, a retired James Bond can be seen in his waterfront home during No Time to Die (2021), which can be found along the private Coco Walk in San San Bay, Port Antonio. The capital, Kingston, also makes a fleeting appearance in the film.

Scotland

In the 007 novels, it was revealed that Bond attended private school in Edinburgh and his father originated from Glen Coe. Inspired by Bond’s heritage, several films also cast Scotland as the main star. Its enchanting highlands and lochs may not have been anything new to people from the UK, but for fans watching around the world, it was another exotic destination that went straight onto their Bond bucket list.

Daniel Craig’s Skyfall in 2012 was a box office hit, with most scenes filmed in Scotland. Bond’s family home was set in the countryside setting of Glen Etive. The house doesn’t actually exist, but it’s incredible natural surroundings are very much real. Craig returns to Scotland in his final film No Time To Die, with another dramatic car chase through Britain’s biggest national park, The Cairngorms, and past Loch Laggan.

Craig wasn’t the first Bond to introduce Scotland to his global audience. Loch Gare made an appearance as a naval base in Roger Moore’s A Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, and Loch Craignish gave its best impression of Turkey in 1963’s Kisses From Russia, starring Sean Connery. Finally, and perhaps most notably, Piers Brosnan visited Eilean Donan Castle in 1999’s The World is Not Enough. Scotland is littered with castles, but 13th century Eilean Donan is often called one of the country’s most beautiful.

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