Beat Bond to paradise with a sortie into his most enviable sojourns of the last half-century – you'll be shaken and stirred by the results. From Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2012 – the best trends, destinations, journeys & experiences for the upcoming year.
1. KHAO PHING KAN, PHUKET, THAILAND
This self-styled 'James Bond Island' comes courtesy of The Man with a Golden Gun, the latter scenes of which were filmed in Thailand (Khao Phing Kan is baddy Scaramanga's hideaway in the film). Back in 1974 when the film was shot, the island was an undiscovered paradise. Now tourists flock by the busload, but the place is still idyllic, if completely devoid of almost anything tangibly Bond-related. Still, several other jungle-topped limestone promontories – which Bond would have obligingly skinny-dipped off – also rear out of the turquoise water hereabouts. Guess where everyone else isn't.
Outdo the day trippers with a serene sunset cruise to the islands of Phang Nga Bay on a Scaramanga-esque junk with June Bahtra (www.phuket-travel.com/cruises).
2. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
In a film series with West–East rivalry as a core theme, it would be wrong not to give the Communist Bloc a mention, and Prague was the first Bond locale behind the old Iron Curtain to be used as an actual setting. It is here in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale that a new-look Bond, played by a gritty Daniel Craig, gains his licence to kill. Plenty of city landmarks make an appearance, including the lavish baroque library of gorgeous Strahov Monastery. Karlovy Vary, a sedate old spa town in the country's northwest, stands in as the Casino Royale itself.
Wander rooms almost a millennium old and gaze upon ancient texts at the monastery. See www.strahovskyklaster.cz.
3. OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA
Those lucky citizens of Ocho Rios – of all the towns in all the world, Ursula Andress walked into theirs, and then into film legend. On the evidence of Dr No, she spent her most memorable moments nearby on the lovely Laughing Waters beach, and only in her bikini, too. Her screen entrance here puts Halle Berry's similarly scantily clad introduction in Die Another Day (and, indeed, almost every other subsequent Bond moment) into the shade. But it gets better for Bond fans. The spy's creator Ian Fleming built his dream villa just along the coast, and the inspiration for the secret agent's capers was purportedly gleaned here.
Stay at Fleming's villa (www.goldeneye.com), complete with its own private pool and barbecuing spots at secret coves within the grounds.
4. NASSAU, BAHAMAS
What hasn't Bond done in the Bahamas? Films from Thunderball to Casino Royale have been shot in this dreamy chain of islands, which for many represent paradise personified: palm-fringed beaches, glamorous waterfront bars, celebrity residents and even the odd casino. But colonial capital Nassau, with its past history of piracy and luxuriant debauchery, seems to be 007's favourite haunt. The precedent was set when the city's One & Only Ocean club starred in the original Casino Royale. If you walk around today, there's every chance you'll encounter someone with their very own Bond story, plucked from the filming of spy-related antics here over the past 50 years.
Learn to dive with the man who instructed Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again (www.stuartcove.com).
5. MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA
Remember when Jill Masterson is covered in gold paint and asphyxiated by Oddjob in Goldfinger, and Goldfinger himself cheats at cards? Arguably the Bond franchise's best-ever sequence came courtesy of Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel – or its Pinewood Studios mock-up. Florida also plays a less-touted yet still more crucial part in the films, too: up at Silver Springs is where many underwater Bond moments were shot, most notably those in Thunderball and Moonraker.
Follow in the footsteps of countless celebrities and book into the Fontainebleau yourself (www.fontainebleau.com).
6. LONDON, UK
What? No sun, casinos or beaches? Perhaps not, but without Pinewood Studios all bar one Bond films would not have existed. Then there's the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6) at Vauxhall, a hugely impressive building actually used as a location in all Bond films since GoldenEye. Last but not least, further down the River Thames in London's East End is where the opening boat chase scene of The World Is Not Enough took place. The river's 9mph boat speed limit was broken a few times...
You can delve into 007's London haunts with a spy tour of the capital through Brit Movie Tours (www.britmovietours.com).
7. HIMEJI CASTLE, HONSHU, JAPAN
The ninja training school in You Only Live Twice, Himeji Castle, headed a star cast of iconic Japanese locations for the film. The 17th-century fortress is one of Japan's fi nest buildings, with its brilliant white exterior and gracefully curved walls, parapets and roofs resembling an arrangement of oriental fans. It's also the place where 007 turns Japanese (martial arts, disguise, the lot) to discover where the evil Blofeld has his hideout, which (surprise surprise) isn't too far away – in a volcano in Kirishima National Park on Kyushu, in fact. Well, at least until the villain detonates his entire base at the end of the film, that is.
Himeji Castle (www.himeji-castle.gr.jp) is open 9am to 5pm from June to August and 9am to 4pm from September to May
8. AGHIA TRIADA, METEORA, GREECE
One of five hair-raisingly vertiginous clifftop monasteries in Greece's Kalambaka region, Aghia Triada's selection as a climactic finale in For Your Eyes Only didn't wash well with neighboring monks, who reportedly hung dirty washing out in protest at the film crew. Nevertheless, the building became part of one of the most memorable Bond scenes, in which Roger Moore scales the high summit and almost falls to his death when a henchman of archvillain Kristatos dislodges his crampons. To make Moore feel better, the way up was always tough; constructed during 14th-century Serbian–Byzantine wars, the monastery's original access route was via removable ladders that deterred all but the most intrepid. Meteora means 'hovering in the air' – and from afar Aghia Triada appears to do just that.
To get to Meteora take an Athens–Volos train, then connect with the train to Kalambaka, the nearest town to the monasteries.
9. ARECIBO OBSERVATORY, PUERTO RICO
Home to the most original final scene of any Bond flick, Arecibo is better known to 007 devotees as the satellite dish in GoldenEye where Pierce Brosnan, stepping into the heroic spy's shoes for the first time, triumphs over and kills defected agent Trevelyan (played by a loathsome Sean Bean). Even when there's no counterespionage going on, Arecibo, set in remote tree-studded karst hills, hosts the world's largest radio-telescope and has a fascinating museum introducing visitors to the ins and outs of outer space.
Plan your eye-opening visit to Arecibo Observatory at www.naic.edu.
10. SCHILTHORN, SWITZERLAND
Hats off to Bond's arch-nemesis, Blofeld: the man certainly knew how to pick dramatic spots for his hideaways. The revolving restaurant on this 2900m mountain in the Swiss Alps is his lair for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a film far hotter on location than acting (provided this time by George Lazenby). Filming at the restaurant, which was then not completed, was only allowed on condition that the film company contribute towards construction costs. The Piz Gloria restaurant is still going (and rotating) strong today. You can sample a James Bond buffet and there's even a ski run leading off from here, just like the film. Lazenby would approve.
Ski down Schilthorn like Lazenby in the film or simply enjoy the stunning views from the top. See www.schilthorn.ch.
This is an extract from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2012 © Lonely Planet. 2011 RRP: $24.99. lonelyplanet.com
Photos: Bond's best: top 007 locations