A James Bond flick is a heady cocktail of ingredients: fast cars, quirky gadgets, outrageous stunts, lethal weapons, glamorous women, over-the-top villains (and their extravagant lairs) and cheesy quips delivered by a martini-loving lead man who blends the suave and the savage with devastating (and sometimes comic) effect. Then you have the locations: for the most part, stunning and exotic, and designed to stoke the wanderlust of anyone who's ever (day)dreamed of following in 007's footsteps. With the release later this year of No Time To Die - the 25th official Bond movie and, apparently, the last to star Daniel Craig - now's as good a time as any to trigger your license to travel (OK, your passport) and indulge your inner globe-trotting spy. From pulsating cities to alpine getaways, regal hotels to flamboyant beach-side resorts, here are 25 places where 007 has made his mark.
Bond is often in the British capital for work, whether he's receiving assignments from his boss, M, at M16 headquarters or pursuing baddies along the Thames. With Monty Norman's signature Bond theme tune booming from the speakers, enjoy a high-speed RIB ride along the river like 007 in The World is Not Enough and Spectre (thamesribexperience.com). Some participants turn up in tuxedos in homage to their hero (you can look the part, too, by visiting the tailors of Savile Row, who've crafted suits for several Bond movies). If you're not too shaken and stirred, pop to Dukes Bar (dukeshotel.com), a favourite ex-haunt of Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, where dapper head bartender Alessandro Palazzi conjures 007-themed tipples, including the Vesper martini. Dine at Scott's of Mayfair, a high-brow fish and seafood restaurant that Bond frequented in Fleming's novels (scotts-restaurant.com), then stroll across St James' Park - make sure you're not being followed - and check into St Ermin's Hotel (sterminshotel.co.uk), a historic hotbed of covert operations where British intelligence agents met Soviet spies. A secret tunnel is said to run underneath the lobby's grand staircase to the houses of Westminster. After more? Join a guided walking tour to other Bond London locations (visitbritainshop.com) then hit Covent Garden's "Bond in Motion" exhibition, which showcases over 100 vehicles from the movies - including classic Aston Martins and the Lotus Esprit submersible from The Spy Who Loved Me (londonfilmmuseum.com).
THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE
Hire some wheels (classiccarhire.co.uk) and take a road trip, while listening to Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Duran Duran and others belting out Bond movie tunes. Fleming loved whizzing around the country lanes of Kent, the so-called "Garden of England", where he had a holiday home by the coast in St Margaret's Bay. In his novel, Moonraker, adapted for the 1979 movie, Bond came to Kent to track down Sir Hugo Drax, who had built a rocket base on the white cliffs between Dover and Deal (visitkent.co.uk). Kent also featured in Goldfinger, although another southern English county, Buckinghamshire, staged the epic game of golf between Bond and Auric Goldfinger. Play a round on the same course at the five-star Stoke Park Country Club, Hotel & Spa (stokepark.com), then send a postcard to loved ones. To mark the release of No Time To Die, the Royal Mail has released new stamps inspired by the Bond films' opening sequences.
THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
Follow the tyre-prints of Bond and M, who headed up to Scotland to visit 007's ancestral home in Skyfall. You won't find the Skyfall Lodge - a model was constructed on a set near London - but you can marvel at the film's misty highland scenery from the A82 road, notably the dramatic valley of Glencoe and the striking Buachaille peaks (visitscotland.com). Overlooking Loch Leven, Glencoe House Hotel would be right up Bond's street, a Victorian mansion where the suites have private hot tubs, log fires and seasonal multi-course menus (glencoe-house.com). Alternatively, stay in a cottage beside Eilean Donan Castle, sublimely located by another loch 130 kilometres further north. This 13th century pile served as the Scottish HQ of MI6 in The World is Not Enough and was where Q introduced Bond to a machine gun masquerading as bagpipes. Kilted pipers often play "Flower of Scotland" outside the castle (eileandonancastle.com).
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
In A View To A Kill - Roger Moore's last eyebrow-raising turn as 007 - Bond brought his charms across the Channel. Avoid trying to re-enact the scene where he parachutes off the Eiffel Tower, steals an exasperated Parisian's Renault taxi and causes mayhem along the banks of the River Seine. But you can lunch - and, like 007, request the Bollinger '75 - at Le Jules Verne restaurant on the tower's second floor. Boasting a Michelin star, it's now run by chef Frederic Anton and tasting menus include foie gras, langoustine and venison (restaurants-toureiffel.com). Post-Paris, Bond infiltrated the grand estate of Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken). It was really the Chateau de Chantilly, 50 kilometres north of the French capital. Have a nose around the chateau's art-filled quarters and sumptuous 18th century stables, built for Louis-Henri, the Duke of Bourbon, who believed he would be reincarnated as a horse. Visitors can arrange horseback rides through Chantilly's forest, enjoy walks in the lake-dotted gardens and devour cakes with the famous whipped local cream in the chateau's converted kitchens (domainedechantilly.com). Bed down at the nearby chic, five-star Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Late-night visits from femmes fatales - like Bond received from Zorin's bodyguard May Day (Grace Jones) - are not included in the room rate (aubergedujeudepaumechantilly.fr).
THE SWISS ALPS
Bond is half-Swiss - his mother, Monique, was from the canton of Vaud, north of Lake Geneva - and the country often crops up in the books and movies, most memorably in On Her Majesty's Secret Service when George Lazenby, in his solitary appearance as 007, is airlifted to Piz Gloria, the lair of cat-stroking foe, Ernest Blofeld. Crowning the 2970-metre Schilthorn mountain, accessible by cable car, it's a magnet for Bond fans, who come to tuck into the James Bond Champagne Brunch at a revolving restaurant with 360-degree alpine vistas. There's also the 007 Walk of Fame, which has photos, signatures and steel hand-prints of the movie's cast and crew, and an interactive exhibition with helicopter and bobsled simulators. Schilthorn also has pistes for real skiing and snowboarding - and your descent should be smoother than Lazenby's, who was pursued by Blofeld's gun-toting goons (schilthorn.ch/en). While rail is king in Switzerland, the country has rich road-tripping potential, too. Drive the exhilarating Furka Pass, where Sean Connery's 007 had a cat-and-mouse chase scene in Goldfinger (he used a gadget to shred Tilly Masterson's tyres). Pit stop in the alpine resort town of Andermatt, where ultra-luxe hotel The Chedi would definitely pique Bond's interest. Bankrolled by an Egyptian-Swiss mogul, it's designed in Asian-Swiss fusion style and has a cigar library, lavish restaurants and butlers who warm up your ski boots (thechediandermatt.com).
Remember 007's breathtaking bungee jump at the start of GoldenEye? You can do it in the same place: the Contra Dam in the Italian-flavoured canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland. Expect a heart-in-the-mouth drop of 220 metres, with a 7.5 second free fall (myswitzerland.com). Recuperate across the Swiss-Italian border on the shores of Lake Como - like Bond did after being tortured in Casino Royale. Take a taxi boat from the charming village of Lenno to Villa del Balbianello, a beautiful lakeside property hedged by manicured gardens where Bond convalesced before fleeing to Venice with lover Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). They arrived in La Serenissima by yacht, mooring outside Hotel Cipriani on Giudecca Island (belmond.com/hotel-cipriani-venice). This exclusive hotel is a five-minute private boat trip from Piazza San Marco, from which you can potter about Venice on foot, passing atmospheric little alleys, bridges and magnificent palazzi (in the movie, buildings crumbled into the Grand Canal using computer-generated imagery). Another ravishing Italian city, Siena, starred in Quantum of Solace, the follow-up to Casino Royale. Bond was too busy following a villain along the terracotta rooftops to watch Il Palio, the horse race that takes place twice annually - on July 2 and August 16 - in Siena's labyrinthine old town (discovertuscany.com).
BEHIND THE OLD IRON CURTAIN
The Cold War caused Bond a few headaches, clashing with KGB agents and Soviet generals in Moscow and St Petersburg, Bratislava and Berlin. In Bucharest, another city of the ex-Soviet bloc, there's a 007-themed "escape room" game, "Nowhere to Hide" (captive.ro/en). The premise: Bond, set up by a MI6 mole, finds himself wanted for murder and for selling secrets to the KGB. Your team (2-6 players) is tasked with tracking 007 down in a race-against-the-clock game promising "Martinis, expensive cigarettes, beautiful women and automatic weapons" (though not literally, we're assured). Meanwhile, in the quaint Czech Republic spa town of Karlovy Vary, you can stay at the elegant Grandhotel Pupp, which dates back to 1701 and doubled as Montenegro's Hotel Splendide in I (pupp.cz).
Change into tropical-casual attire for a trip to GoldenEye, where Ian Fleming penned the original 007 stories (naming his protagonist after the Caribbean-based ornithologist James Bond). Fleming's former writing retreat is now an upscale resort on Jamaica's north coast, comprising a collection of villas, cottages and beach huts (goldeneye.com). A special four-night package, priced at $US3660 for two, includes a private boat trip and picnic lunch at the palm-fringed beach from Dr No, where you can recreate that scene: bikini-clad Ursula Andress, as shell diver Honey Ryder, emerging from the sea, spied by Sean Connery's 007. You'll also get a copy of Matthew Parker's book, Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born, and a guided tour of Fleming's bungalow, where he beavered away on his typewriter, chain-smoking, with breaks for swimming, socialising and cocktails. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, plunge into, and snorkel in, the Thunderball Grotto - a limestone cave on the west coast of Staniel Cay in the Bahamas that featured in the 1965 Bond movie (bahamas.com).
A short hop across the Straits of Florida brings you to Key West, where in Licence to Kill, Timothy Dalton's 007 has his licence revoked by M ("a farewell to arms", he calls it). The quip was fitting as filming occurred at the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where the American writer once lived. Explore this French colonial-style property - and its lush gardens - on public tours, but don't tread on the cats. Around 50 polydactyl (six-toed) felines, descendants of Hemingway's cats, live on the premises (hemingwayhome.com). Continue up Florida's east coast and stay at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, where Bond caught Goldfinger cheating at cards by the pool before bedding his assistant Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). A celebrity magnet since 1954 - it was a favourite of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack - the Fontainebleau has had a face-lift, with contemporary chandeliers by artist Ai Weiwei and hip bars and eateries serving steak and seafood and modern Cantonese (fontainebleau.com).
Quantum of Solace concluded with explosive scenes in the parched, other-worldly landscapes of the Atacama in northern Chile (it's supposed to be Bolivia). Cameras rolled at the ESO Paranal Observatory (eso.org), perched 2635-metres above sea level and billed as the world's most advanced optical observatory. Free tours of the facility run every Saturday, but you can't stay at the observatory's "eco hotel" which, in the movie, was the villain's hideout but is actually a residence for scientists and engineers and dubbed a "boarding house on Mars" due to its Martian-esque surroundings. The port city of Antofagasta, 90 minutes away by road, has good Pacific-facing hotels, but for the desert experience, with spellbinding stargazing, make the bumpy four-and-a-half hour drive to San Pedro de Atacama, a funky town with plush lodge-like options like Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa (tierrahotels.com/atacama).
Another desert where Bond diced with death was the Sahara, which stood in for Afghanistan in The Living Daylights when Dalton's 007 had rogue arms dealers, opium smugglers and horse-riding Mujahideen for company. The most dramatic scene has him fleeing a Soviet base and dangling from an airborne cargo plane while battling a knife-wielding assassin. You (probably) won't find a tour operator replicating that experience, but you can book desert 4x4, quad-biking and camel trips from the town of Ouarzazate, plus a visit to Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO-listed citadel that doubled as a Mujahideen hideout - and later featured in Gladiator and Game of Thrones (sahara-desert-dream.com).
This Turkish delight was said to be Ian Fleming's favourite city, and has starred in three 007 flicks, including Skyfall, when Craig's Bond tears through the Grand Bazaar on a motorbike, and The World is Not Enough, when M is held hostage in the Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul first appeared in From Russia With Love, with Connery's 007 breaking away from his tour group in the hallowed Hagia Sophia museum (goturkeytourism.com). He later departs the city on the fabled Orient-Express. The regular Istanbul-Paris service was cancelled years ago, but a glamorous private train, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, plys the route twice annually, replete with 1920s-era cars and fine dining. The six-day journey via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary is priced from £15,500 ($30,000) per person, based on two sharing a cabin. See belmond.com
A majestic white-marbled getaway on Lake Pichola in the Rajasthani city of Udaipur, the Taj Lake Palace was the "floating palace" of female cult leader Octopussy. While 007 (Moore) travelled here in a submarine disguised as a crocodile, most regular guests arrive by speed-boat and have a choice of 66 rooms and 17 suites and a licence to chill in the enchanting public areas. This one-time royal island retreat has an alfresco pool, courtyard with a lily pond and a bar and billiard room (tajhotels.com). If things get too quiet, zip back to the mainland for a 007-inspired tuk-tuk ride through Udaipur's colourful, market-filled streets and to the hilltop Monsoon Palace, where mischievous monkeys roam (incredibleindia.org).
Pose with an imaginary pistol on Khao Phing Kan, where 007 had a duel with three-nippled gunslinger Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in The Man With the Golden Gun. Now known as James Bond Island, it's the most-visited of the 100 or so islands dotting Phang Nga Bay near Phuket. Characterised by its greenery-cloaked limestone outcrops, the bay also featured in Tomorrow Never Dies, when Bond sought the stealth boat of megalomaniacal media mogul Elliot Carver. Savour the beautiful bay scenery on canoe trips, long-tail boats and traditional Siamese junks (phukettoursdirect.com).
Embrace ninja culture like Connery's Bond, who attended a ninja training camp at Himeji Castle near Kobe in You Only Live Twice. Your best bet is to stealthily make your way to the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, about 65 kilometres from Kyoto (iganinja.jp). Ninja guides lead you through a house riddled with revolving walls, trick doors, moveable floorboards and secluded passages before demonstrating hand-to-hand combat, katana swords and ninja stars. Another of Blofeld's lairs was hidden in the Shinmoedake volcano on Kyushu island. Don't try to peek in; it has erupted several times in recent years, with ash and lava flows scuppering any best-laid hiking plans (in any case the lair's interior was built at England's Pinewood Studios, where so many Bond films were produced). However, off Kyushu, from the city of Nagasaki, you can sail to - and wander - around Hashima Island. Strewn with eerie, abandoned concrete buildings, it's known as Battleship Island and was used in Skyfall (japan.travel).
FIVE MORE BOND LOCATIONS YOU CAN VISIT
Buzz through the alligator-strewn waters of the Louisiana bayous and swamps, like Bond in Live and Let Die. See airboatadventures.com
Rub shoulders with crowds in skeleton masks and costumes for the Day of the Dead parade like 007 in Spectre. Staged each November, the parade inspired that movie's opening scene. See visitmexico.com
Book into the plush Peninsula Hotel, where Bond rocked up with Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) in The Man With The Golden Gun. Arrange trips in the hotel's yacht, helicopter and Rolls Royce Phantoms. See peninsula.com/en/hong-kong
Rock-climb up the surreal, monastery-speckled formations of Meteora like Bond in For Your Eyes Only, then rest up on Corfu, where 007 admired the coastal views from the balcony of the Achilleion Palace, built for Sisi, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. See visitgreece.gr
Nicknamed "El Radar", Arecibo Observatory doubled as the villain's jungle-shrouded Cuban lair in GoldenEye. Its visitor centre reveals how it scans the skies for asteroids and extraterrestrial intelligence. See naic.edu
FIVE OTHER GREAT BOND DESTINATIONS
RIO DE JANEIRO
Enjoy vistas of the Marvellous City from the Sugarloaf cable car, where 007's ride with Holly Goodhead in Moonraker was sabotaged by metal-toothed nemesis Jaws. See visitbrasil.com
Kayak or take Zodiac boat trips across the awe-inspiring glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon, which hosted the villain's Ice Palace in Die Another Day. See inspiredbyiceland.com
The Living Daylights kicked-off with a chase scene down the Rock. You can drive its hairpin bends, hike on its rugged trails with stirring Mediterranean views and encounter Barbary macaques. See visitgibraltar.gi
Take a spin along the neon-drenched strip like Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (but try not to attract the police) - then try your luck at the gaming tables of the Circus Circus casino. See circuscircus.com
Moore's tenure as 007 ended with him gripping to an out-of-control fire-truck in San Fran's hilly streets before crashing a blimp airship into the Golden Gate Bridge in A View to a Kill. Stick to riding the historic streetcars and helicopter trips over the bay. See sftravel.com