Sci-Fi Movie Buffs Need A Vacation To This Striking Destination Where Prometheus Was Filmed

Until space tourism becomes affordable, your best bet for a vacation inspired by the "Alien" movie series is right here on planet Earth. When Sir Ridley Scott, director of the original 1979 film, returned to the series to shoot the 2012 prequel, "Prometheus," he headed to Iceland. This is shown in the movie's first five minutes as the camera cuts through the clouds and soars over a prehistoric landscape. Soon, it arrives at a raging waterfall, where one of the Engineers, a muscular ancient alien, walks to the edge, drinks poison, and sacrifices himself to create the building blocks of life and human DNA.

Investigating the origin of life on Earth (or Scott's sci-fi horror version of it) is an excellent excuse to visit the actual waterfall, which only lacks the CG spaceship it had hovering over it in "Prometheus." The film's opening scene was shot in northeast Iceland at Dettifoss, a name that means "collapsing waterfall" or "tumbling falls."

Dettifoss is in Vatnajökull National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds 10 volcanoes and constitutes almost 14% of the country's total landmass. It's the largest national park in Europe, taking its name from the continent's biggest glacier. For its part, Dettifoss is said to be one of Europe's two most powerful waterfalls in terms of flow, the other being the Rhine Falls in Switzerland. The water, clouded with sediment, cascades down from Jökulsá á Fjöllum, Iceland's second-longest river.

Dettifoss waterfall access and Iceland's Diamond Circle

Dettifoss is a place of primordial power when viewed from any angle, but to see the "Prometheus" view, you'll want to access the waterfall from the east side. That could be easier said than done, depending on the weather and road conditions. The east side can be reached via Route 864, an unpaved road usually open from late May to early October.

Getting there is an off-road adventure, but there are jeep tours you can book through sites like Geo Travel and Guide to Iceland. The former might put you in snowshoes based on the time of year, while the latter can pick you up as far away as the lodging center of Akureyri (about an hour and 45 minutes away). Whichever option you choose, the destination will reward you with the sight of the mighty waterfall, Dettifoss, plunging 144 feet.

Most tours also include other sights like the smaller nearby waterfall, Selfoss, or the legendary "waterfall of the gods," Goðafoss. As the story goes, Goðafoss is where an Icelandic lawspeaker threw idols of the old Norse gods when he brokered the country's conversion to Christianity circa 1000 AD. It and Dettifoss are two of the highlights along Iceland's Diamond Circle, which loops around in the north much like Iceland's famous Ring Road encircles the rest of the country. Another Diamond Circle highlight is Iceland's oldest settlement, Húsavík, which often boasts a high success rate for whale-watching.

Fire and ice in a place 'better than space'

Beyond Dettifoss, Vatnajökull National Park has served as the backdrop for both science fiction and fantasy onscreen. Another of the park's glaciers, Svínafellsjökull, appeared as an ice planet in the blockbuster "Interstellar," starring Matthew McConaughey. The HBO series "Game of Thrones" also used the park to portray the snowy land Beyond the Wall, where the dreaded White Walkers dwell in the fictional world of Westeros. Coincidentally, the phrase "fire and ice" is one you'll sometimes hear used to describe the park, and not just because of its connection to that show, adapted from George R.R. Martin's bestselling book series, "A Song of Ice and Fire."

Part of what makes the park so unique and appealing to filmmakers is that it's a place where volcanoes and glaciers have come together to shape the landscape into an almost otherworldly mix of geological features. This has become a selling point for Iceland, with cheeky tourism videos promoting the country as Mars with hot tubs, an earthbound terrain where astronauts can feel at home when their space flight gets delayed. If nothing else, the slogan, "Iceland. Better than space," is more inviting than the "Alien" tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream."

If you're a billionaire like the character Peter Weyland in "Prometheus," maybe you'll have a chance to be a space tourist someday. In the meantime, it's probably more realistic to start saving for a trip to Iceland.