15 STUNNING PANDORA DESTINATIONS EVERY AVATAR FAN SHOULD VISIT

Na’vi.
Avatar.
Pandora.

Three times Oscar awarded movie, directed by James Cameron.

Avatar is a science fiction American film that brought Pandora to life. Since then, Avatar fans have been in search of the best places on Earth to visit and experience the fantastical world they had just seen on screen. Places that inspired James Cameron. There are real-life travel destinations Avatar fans can visit. So, Avatar is real. Not only by Pandora destinations but also in the message of natural resources and indigenous people. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, you are missing out. It was nominated in nine Oscar categories. And won in three. This American movie won an Oscar for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects at 82nd Academy Awards.

Avatar is a story is about Jake Sully, a disabled marine. Het gets to live out his life as a giant blue Avatar in another world called Pandora. It is a fiction story but has a lot of reality in it.

Now would be the best time to watch it (again), since the second part of the Avatar franchise, Avatar: The Way of Water is coming end of the year. 

Below you can find a list of 15 stunning Pandora destinations every Avatar fan can visit in real-life, that served as an inspiration to Avatar creators for Pandora and Na’vi people. 

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Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit.
Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit

1. Varanasi, India

Varanasi in India is one of the oldest cities in the world. Varanasi, known also as Benares or Kashi, is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. Hindus believe, that if you die in Varanasi, and your ashes are laid in the Ganges, you will no longer be reincarnated. Instead, your soul will go directly to heaven or Moksha.

Varanasi, with many temples, museums, and ghats, is the religious capital of Hinduism. The title of the sci-fi blockbuster ‘Avatar’ comes from a Hindu name. It means ‘descent’ in Sanskrit, or incarnation of a powerful goddess or spirit on Earth. In one of his interviews, James Cameron said that the blue color of the Avatars could have a reference to Hindu myths and epics.

Decide for yourself if there are similarities between Hinduism and Avatars.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Hinduism and Avatars.

2. Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya & Tanzania in East Africa

If you travel to Eastern south Sudan, Western Ethiopia, or Northern Kenya you will come across Nilotic people. They are indigenous people of the Nile valley. They speak Nilotic languages and follow traditional beliefs and Christianity. Today, Nilotic people are the tallest blue-black people in the world.

The visual image of the people of Pandora, Avatars, was created based on them and a dream Cameron’s mom had. The dresses pandora People wear follow a pattern of the Nilotic people. To get a feeling of how tall they really are, you can travel to Tanzania and Zanzibar and meet with Masaai. Masaai people are a part of a Nilotic group that live in Kenya and northern Tanzania.

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You decide if those two look alike.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Na'vi and African people.

3. Rotorua, New Zealand

Māori are indigenous Polynesian people who first settled in the land of New Zealand (Aotearoa). They speak their own Eastern Polynesian language, called Te Reo Māori (‘the language of Māori’), which is related to the local language of Cook Islands, the one spoken on Tuamotu, and Tahitian. 

Director of Avatar, James Cameron used Māori language as an inspiration for the language spoken by the Na’vi people of Pandora. If you want to experience the Māori culture, their practices, and traditions, visit Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. You can attend their cooking class hāngī, practice their hongi greeting and see their famous haka dance.

Find the intruder! 3, 2, 1, go!

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Na'vi and Maori people.

4. Aurora Borealis or Northern lights, Tromso, Norway and Iceland, Finland, Sweden

Aurora borealis or northern lights are a natural phenomenon that can be seen in winter months in Nordic countries. Arctic’s sky light show appears predominantly in green colors in various shapes; from rays, spirals or curtains. Northern lights occur when the electrons from the Sun clash with nitrogen and oxygen in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Aurora was said to inspire the sky of Pandora. To catch a glimpse of the dancing sky lights you can also try your luck by skygazing on the southern hemisphere. Southern lights or Aurora Australia are the same phenomenon happening in areas closer to Antarctic. They are visible during winter season, from March to September, in Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and southern parts of Australia. The waves mostly come in green, red and violet shades.

Pandora’s sky was inspired by the Aurora borealis or Northern lights.

Pandora destinations, Avatar, Aurora borealis and northern lights on sky
Pandora destinations, Avatar, Aurora borealis and northern lights on sky

5. Hawaii, United States of America

Hawaii are a volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, making the top corner of the Polynesian triangle. The Hawaiian archipelago consists of eight major islands, smaller islets, and atolls. The largest one is Big Island or Hawai’i (thus the name), followed by Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, and others. The isolated location helped with the development of a unique ecosystem, full of native flora and fauna.

It is no wonder that Cameron sent the cast of the Avatar to Hawaiian tropical rainforests, to get the feel of the rainforest before the shooting. This is one of the six vegetation zones found in Hawaii, which helped with the creation of plants on Pandora. They are a mix of plants and animals or ‘plananimal’ as Cameron names them. The most memorable one must be an orange, spiraled plant that hides when touched, a helicoradian.

Flora on Pandora and on Earth!

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between flora on Pandora and Earth.

6. Waitomo Glowworm caves, New Zealand

Glowworms are real-life animals but they are not worms. They are larvae from an insect that is similar to a mosquito. Or a firefly. Their bioluminescent blue-green glow is a natural process. Chemicals and enzymes from their bodies react with oxygen, making light and to attract pray. The ones in Australia and New Zealand are carnivorous.

You can find them all around New Zealand, even walking the trails at Fox glacier at night. The main glowing attraction are Waitmoto glowworm caves where you will see them glitter like blue stars. It will be like traveling to Pandora, or the scene when Jake Sully was chosen by Eywa, and hundreds of woodsprites, seeds of the Tree of Souls, landed on him.

Any resemblance between woodsprites and glowworms?

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between woodsprites from Eyva and glowworms.

7. Bioluminescent mushrooms, North America, Asia, Brazil

Nature on Earth is not as luminous as seen on Pandora moon, but there are phenomenal fungi that glow in the dark. In fact, there are over 80 bioluminescent mushrooms. They are not ‘new’ species. Aristotle wrote about the “Foxfire” glow phenomenon back in 382 B.C. Mushrooms glow because of the luciferins. The same compound found in fireflies and underwater fauna. Luciferins illuminates when paired with an enzyme and oxygen.

Armillaria mellea is the most widespread and Panellus stipticus, “bitter oyster”, is one of the brightest-glowing fungi. They are found throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Rainforest bioluminescent mushroom Mycena luxaeterna, “eternal light mushroom”, can only be found in Brazil.

Glowing flora on Pandora and on Earth!

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between glowing plants and bioluminescent mushrooms.

8. Bioluminescent lagoons, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico

Glistening water or bioluminescent lagoons are only found in a handful of places around the world. These water lights are best seen at ‘New Moon’ phase. White or blue glistening water occurs when millions of algae called Noctiluca scintillans (aka “sea sparkle”)  react and illuminate when another object touches the water. 
 
To see the sparkling lagoons and get the feel of the waters in Pandora, make your way to the Caribbean and Latin America. Some of the better-known places are Puerto Mosquito, Vieques, Puerto Rico, Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica and Manialtepec Lagoon in Mexico. Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico was even listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the brightest bioluminescent bay.

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Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit.
Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit.

9. Wisteria vines at Ashikaga Flower park, Ashikaga, Japan

In Ashikaga Flower Park you can find more than 350 wisteria trees. The oldest one is close to 200 years old. In springtime, usually from late April to early May, wisteria vines are in full bloom. These stunning trees can produce flowers of different colors. They range from lavender, purple, pink, violets, shades of blue, white, and yellow.

To experience the real-life version of Avatar’s Tree of Souls, visit Japan in Spring. Blooming of wisteria in Ashikaga flower park follows the cherry blossom season. That way you will tick off two things from your Japan bucket list. It will be just like walking under the Vitraya Ramunong, but on Earth, not on the moon Pandora.

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Similarities between Tree of Souls and Wisteria tree.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Tree of Souls and wistera tree.

10. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hunan Province, China

The quartz-sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, in the Hunan province. This is actually one of the seven parks in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, that was added, to the UNESCO World Heritage site list. This natural phenomenon is a result of erosion, weather condition, expanding ice, and plants growing on the pillars. The standing stone giants are home to more than 3000 endemic species.

Director of the movie, James Cameroon, visited China in his younger age and was inspired by the natural formations in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Maybe his visit was not the reason but gigantic, sandstone pillar-like rocks, some more than 200m high, were an inspiration for the Hallelujah mountains or “Floating Mountains” seen in the Avatar movie. In honor of the movie, 1,080 m (3543 ft) tall “Southern Sky Column”  was even renamed to ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountain’.

Floating mountains of Pandora and ‘the originals’.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Halleluyah mountains and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

11. Huangshan Mountain or “Yellow mountain”, Anhui province, China

Huangshan Mountain is another Chinese magnificent landscape that earned a spot on UNESCO World Heritage site list. It is found in Anhui province in Eastern China. Huangshan Mountain, which literally means ‘Yellow Mountain’ is known as ‘the loveliest mountain of China’, because of its role in art and literature in Chinese history.

Granite peaks and pine trees of Yellow mountain range contributed to the actual image of the legendary Floating Mountains of Pandora. James Cameron combined the photos of Zhangjiajie with those of Huangshan Mountains and created the digital image of rocks floating in the air. In the movie, those Floating Mountains are home to clans and home of dragon-like mountain banshees.

Floating mountains of Pandora and ‘the originals’.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Halleluyah mountains and Huangshan Mountain.

12. Mount Roraima, Venezuela

Mount Roamira or Heaven on Earth is one of the oldest mountains on our planet. It is a table mountain, located on the border between Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. Her signature features are a flat top and 400 to 1,000 meters high vertical cliffs. This highest mountain in Venezuela (2810 m/9219 ft) is located in Canaima National Park, which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site.

Because of its table land features, height, and vertical edges, it looks like a “floating island”, amongst the clouds. Besides being an inspiration for the landscape in Avatar, it was also featured in Pixar & Disney animated movie Up.

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Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit
Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit

13. Angel Falls, Bolivar state, Venezuela

Angel Falls is the world’s highest free-falling source of water from 979 m (3,212 ft), with an uninterrupted drop of water of 807 m (2,648 ft). It is located in Bolivar state, in the second largest national park in Venezuela. Canaima National Park, where the water drops over the edge of Auyán-tepui mountain, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Angel Falls got the name after Jimmie Angel, an American aviator, who first flew over the falls.

Scenery and the waterfall drop resemble a location in the Avatar movie. The one where Jake Sully and Neytiri are trying to catch a mountain banshee or ikran. They are a bird-dragon like predators, whose wings resemble the ones of a bat and a bird.

Waterfalls at Banshee rookery and Angel falls.

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Halleluyah mountains and Angel falls.

14. Socotra, Yemen

Socotra is an island in the Indian Ocean, around 340 km (210 miles) southeast of Yemen. It is a land of mystery and an ancient piece of supercontinent Gondwana. Isolated location is the reason that almost a third of Sokotra plants are endemic. Because of high plant diversity and endemism was Socotra archipelago was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage and UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.

The most famous one is Socotra dragon tree or dragon blood tree. It looks alien-like like a tree turned upside down. This is the tree that may have inspired Hometree on Pandora moon. Dragon blood tree can grow more than 9m (30 feet) in height and can live for over 600 years. They got the name after the red, blood-like color, sap. 

Do they look similar to you?

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between home tree and dragon blood tree in Socotra.

15. TeamLab Borderless and TeamLab Planets, Tokyo, Japan

TeamLab Borderless and TeamLab Planets are unique exhibitions unifying art, nature, science, technology, and visitors. The colors, sounds, images are changing based on the people in the room, so the individuals and exhibition are in interaction. Borderless aims more on discovery and exploration, while Planets pays more attention to feelings.

So just like everything in Pandora is connected and communicates with each other, so can you when visiting one of these exhibitions. You can walk through the water, change the color of the lamp and be one of the flowers in the garden. It is a unique and amazing multi-sensory experience, that everyone should try.

*TeamLab Borderless closed on August 31, 2022, and will be reopened on a new location in 2023. Until then, you can visit TeamLab Planets and buy tickets here.

Sensor the surroundings like Na’vi in TeamLab Planets or TeamLab Borderless?

Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit. Similarities between Pandora and TeamLab borderless.

Real-world Pandora destinations, in a nutshell

Avatars’ amazing Pandora landscape was inspired by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China. The title of the movie, Avatar, came from Hindu epics. Na’vi people were inspired by indigenous people in Africa and the way they speak from Maori language. Glowing animals can be seen in the caves in New Zealand. And the mighty Tree of Souls is resembling Wisteria Tree in Japan.

There are many places on Earth that Pandora took inspiration from and landscapes that made the shot portrayed in the movie. All you have to do is go and see them.

Long awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, will tell a story about the Sully family and reveal more about the marine world of Pandora. We know that James Cameron dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Was that visit the light of inspiration for the marine world of Pandora?

Or maybe the marine world of Pandora was inspired by rich marine life around the Galapagos islands, attracted to an electromagnetic field? Will we see something similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Maybe the landscape in Avatar 2 will be similar to the brine lakes and an extinct volcano in the Red Sea? Perhaps we will see icicle-like stalactite formations like in Great Blue Hole on Belize? Perhaps some shipwrecks, like President Coolidge found around the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, or the ones you can find around Bonaire and Curacao in the Caribbean?

We will only have to wait and see what destinations inspired Avatar: The Way of Water or will inspire the next movies in the Avatar franchise. But based on the first one, we can agree that they will all be epic.

Eywa ngahu,
Anja

If you could choose, which would you like to visit the most?
Let me know in the comments!

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Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit.
Stunning Pandora Destinations Every Avatar Fan Should Visit

Want more interesting travel content?
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Do you want to travel like me?
Here are some of my favorite travel tips and resources;

FLIGHTS: I use Google Flights or Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. The destination everywhere feature is perfect to find some cheap deals!

ACCOMMODATION: Booking.com is my favorite site for finding great hotel deals.

TOURS & ACTIVITIES: I like to wander around on my own, but when I want to explore with a group I book a tour with GetYourGuide.


Skipped to the good part? Here is the gist

Avatars’ amazing Pandora landscape was inspired by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China. The title of the movie, Avatar, came from Hindu epics. Na’vi people were inspired by indigenous people in Africa and the way they speak from Maori language. Glowing animals can be seen in the caves in New Zealand. And the mighty Tree of Souls is resembling Wisteria Tree in Japan.

There are many places on Earth that Pandora took inspiration from and landscapes that made the shot portrayed in the movie. All you have to do is go and see them.

I hope this helped you to learn about some real-life Pandora destinations.

If you found this blog helpful, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. Here you will find a lot of travel tips, itineraries, and packing hacks completely for free. If you want to see more of it and would like to encourage me to post even more, you can say thanks and buy me a coffee.


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About Anja On Adventure

anja on Adventure

Anja On Adventure is a travel blog, a collection of insider tips and information on destinations, that I visited as a solo female traveler, tour guide, teacher, yacht stewardess, and Survivor challenge tester.

Anja, is a thirty-something adventure-seeking, sun chasing, beach hopping, gin-loving, tropics enthusiast with a creative mind and sarcastic spirit, who loves coconut and mango but doesn’t like chocolate and sweets. I am passionate about all things travel, maps, and puzzles. Click here to learn more About me.

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10 thoughts on “15 STUNNING PANDORA DESTINATIONS EVERY AVATAR FAN SHOULD VISIT”

  1. What a gorgeous trip around the world this would be! Some places look out of this world. I’ll pin it for later as I’d love to travel to some of these sights.

    Reply
  2. I didn’t realise James Cameron was inspired by so many places. I have been to the Glow worm Grotto in New Zealand which I loved and I look forward to visiting many more.

    Reply
  3. This post is magic! I love all these places, and sometimes it’s crazy to think how truly incredible earth really is. I have wanted to see the Bioluminescent lagoons of Mexico for a long time!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! Yeah, Earth really is stunning. I experienced bioluminescence in the water in Australia. Stunning! If you ever get the chance, go and do it!

      Reply
  4. I had absolutely no idea there were so many places that made you feel like you were really inside the Avatar movie. These destinations are absolutely stunning! I would love to see the waterfalls and the bioluminescent caves, I’m sure you feel like you are in another world there!

    Reply
    • Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between real world and the movie. I am looking forward to the second sequel, to see what was the info for that part. Angel waterfall is highly on my list too!

      Reply
  5. I love this article! It’s so unique and creative. I’ve wanted to visit the glow worm cave in New Zealand for as long as I remember. Now there’s like 3 more I need to add to my bucket list from this post!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! When you will be at the caves, go to Rotorua, they are close 🙂 seeing those worms is an amazing experience. it kind of looks like Christmas lights hanging from the sky.

      Reply

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