As well as thrilling car chase scenes and hair-raising stunts, James Bond movies are also famous for their utterly glamourous locations. From Europe’s finest cities to postcard-perfect tropical beaches, Ian Fleming’s hero finds himself in some of the world’s most dramatic destinations. Why not follow in his footsteps?
OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA
With its twinkling aquamarine sea and impossibly white sands, Ian Fleming’s beloved Jamaica is arguably the most important destination in the world when it comes to the subject of James Bond. The writer loved the Caribbean isle so much that in 1946 he built a home on the north coast of the island – at the time, a rugged and remote spot. The result was GoldenEye, in Oracabessa Bay 10 miles east of Ocho Rios, and it was here that Fleming invented perhaps the most famous action hero of all time. He wrote all of the Bond books in his study, starting with Casino Royale in 1952 and churning one out each year afterwards, until his death in 1964.
“I wrote every one of the Bond thrillers here with the jalousies closed around me so that I would not be distracted by the birds and the flowers and the sunshine outside… “ Fleming said. “Would these books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday? I doubt it.” (www.ianfleming.com)
The exotic landscape of Jamaica also gave Fleming inspiration for many of the far-flung places where the Bond books are set, as well as being the location for Dr No, the first 007 film, filmed on the island in 1962. The movie, of course, features perhaps one of the most iconic Bond moments of all time. Shot on Laughing Waters beach near Ocho Rios, Ursula Andress – as Honey Rider – famously emerges out of the sea wearing a white bikini and holding a conch shell and thus setting the trend for the essential, drop-dead gorgeous Bond girl.
As well as being the ultimate writer’s retreat, GoldenEye was a hotspot for Fleming’s glamourous friends, including Truman Capote, Cecil Beaton, and Noel Coward, who all visited him at the address. These days, the party continues thanks to Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records. He has turned the writer’s original house into the ultimate holiday home – renaming it Fleming Villa. Found at the heart of the GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, it is now the flagship of Blackwell’s Island Outpost properties.
Stretching over 52 lush acres, this is bare-foot luxury at its best. A choice of villas and cottages offer outdoor showers, straight-to-sand access, simple and elegant décor (think expansive, all-white rooms with teak furniture and a splash of of creole colour). The resort is also home to secret coves, powder white private beaches, verdant forests, and a seawater lagoon. Factor in the spa and two restaurants – and you have the perfect Caribbean hideaway.
True Bond aficionados will no doubt check in for the Following in the Footsteps of Fleming package, which offers the ultimate 007 experience. Check in for seven nights in the Fleming Villa and enjoy specially curated activities, from a guided snorkeling tour of Fleming’s beloved reef (the inspiration for Octopussy) to dinner in Fleming’s favourite spot – the Sunken Garden – overlooking the ocean. Martinis are a must.
GoldenEye’s The Footsteps of Fleming package starts from US$8,822 in a one-bedroom villa, +1 876 6229 007; GoldenEye.com
The Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur is one of the most decadent destinations to be made famous in a Bond film. The all-white marble palace, with its ornate turrets and scalloped arches, is built on a four-acre island called Jag Niwas – one of four on Lake Pichola – and looks as if it is hovering on the surface of the shimmering water.
The Floating Palace, as it is also known, was bought to life on screen as the home of Octopussy – Bond’s nemesis – in the 1983 film of the same name. Despite 007, played by Roger Moore, arriving disguised as a crocodile (not the most suave of his entrances, it has to be said) the majesty of the place takes the spotlight. Bond, of course, soon returns to form when he discovers the amount of attractive women living under Octopussy’s elaborate roof.
The Taj Lake Palace was originally built in 1743 as a royal summer palace for Maharana Jagat Singh II but was taken over by Taj Hotels in 1971. These days you arrive by boat to one of the most dreamiest hotel welcomes – by being showered with a cascade of rose petals. One of the most well-known and romantic hotels in India, its grandeur is legendary. Rich silks, carved wood furniture and opulent murals give a nod to its history. Individually designed suites include The Chandra Prakash Suite, which has decorative gilt mouldings, sculpted marble columns, and beautiful fretwork screens.
The surroundings are even more heavenly: dine on a floating, candle-lit pontoon or at the rooftop restaurant with views over the misty lake, dive into the swimming pool with the Aravalli Mountains as a backdrop and wander around the courtyard gardens complete with fountains, walkways and bamboo trees.
Best of all, the hotel’s scenic location is the perfect oasis from the buzzy city that is Udaipur, on the shores of the lake. The winding cobbled streets and white buildings, as well as the impressive City Palace, also feature in Octopussy and are well worth a visit. For the true regal experience, hire one of the hotel’s fleet of vintage cars and take your personal royal butler with you.
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, a Luxury Palace Room (Double Bed Garden Non Lake View) with breakfast is £180 + taxes per night, + 91 294 242 8800; tajhotels.com
PHANG NGA BAY, THAILAND
The otherworldly seascape that is Phang Nga Bay in Thailand has become so synonymous with its part in The Man with the Golden Gun that it has resulted in one of the islands, Ko Tapu, being renamed James Bond Island.
The spectacular emerald-green waters with nearly 100 dramatic limestone rocky outposts and islands are found off the coast of Phuket. Ko Tapu was made famous in the 1974 film as the hideaway of the movie’s baddie Scaramanga. Bond, played by Roger Moore, flies over Phang Nga Bay – giving viewers a breathtaking view of the area – to try find where he is hiding and ends up being challenged to a dual on the beach.
Because of its precarious nature – it is very wide at the top and thin at the bottom – the island is now protected under the National Park although there are many boat tours that sail nearby. To avoid the tourist hordes, however, the Kayaking by Starlight Tour (www.johngray-seacanoe.com) takes travellers to the more undiscovered islands, known as ‘hongs’. Many of these have hidden beaches full of wildlife and secret lagoons in their centres and travellers can disembark from their main sail-boat and enter the hidden sea caves on a kayak. The tour lasts until sun-down at which time you enter by candlelight when the sky around you is lit by fireflies. Straight out of the movies.
Nearby is Naka Yai island, known as the ‘Pearl of the Andaman’ and home to Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort. Once a refuge for fishermen, the villa-based retreat (all with their own private pool) offers idyllic ocean views and a standout spa. You can indulge with signature indigenous botanical treatments or channel the adventurous spirit of Bond by opting for bamboo rafting excursions, elephant trekking on Phuket or exploring the nearby Phi Phi Islands, including James Bond Island, by long-tail boat.
Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort, from £224 for a Tropical Pool Villa per room per night, +66 76 371 400, www.nakaislandphuket.com
The Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice’s 60-year-old grande dame, needs no introduction but it got the ultimate seal of approval when it appeared in Casino Royale in 2006, confirming its position as possibly the most glamourous hotel in the world.
Travel connoisseurs no doubt give a nod of recognition when the hotel makes its cameo appearance on celluloid, when Daniel Craig moors his yacht at the hotel’s private pier. Cipriani’s renowned restaurant Cip’s and its terrace over the water were also used to shoot scenes for the movie.
Just like Bond, guests arrive at the hotel (albeit a little slower) by boat and disembark on the jetty. Its location on the island of Giudecca, across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square, sets it aside from the other luxury hotels – and there are many – found in Venice. Set apart from central Venice, Guidecca is often referred to as ‘downtown’ by locals. It also means that the hotel is in the unique position to have enough space for gardens, a glam swimming pool and large rooms – all regarded as extravagant in this city. Palazzo Vendramin – where actor Daniel Craig stayed during filming – is a highlight. The sprawling, 15th-century private villa, connected to the hotel, has its own suites and stunning views across Venice.
Much of the unique city is shown in the film – including scenes of Bond on the famous canals and in St Mark’s Square. His love interest with Vesper (played by Eva Green) literally goes down the drain when the historic Palazzo Pisani appears to collapse into the water. In reality, the real 15th century palace (www.pisanimoretta.com) on the Canal Grande remains safely intact (thanks to special effects). Shaken but not stirred.
Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Double Garden View Rooms start from £490 per night, including breakfast and taxes, 0845 077 2222; belmond.com /hotelcipriani