You may have noticed that Pandora is a bit like Earth but with lots more neon blue, as the New York Times did. But this alien planet didn't just spring full-formed from James Cameron's imagination; it took lots of inspiration from exotic places on Earth as well—the Congo, New Zealand, Indonesia and elsewhere, as Cameron himself wrote on Parallel Universe.
Cameron also told MTV that growing up in rural Canada and catching anything that moved to study it sparked his interest in the beauty of animals and plants. And thanks to his interest in scuba diving and all things undersea, Cameron is exceptionally well-versed in places and creatures most of us only glimpse in National Geographic.
To see some of those earthly critters, Thewondrous.com has over a dozen side-by-side comparisons of Pandoran fauna and their earthly counterparts—see thanator, think black panther, see helicoradian, think Christmas tree worm.
But let's stay focused on landscapes. There's wide agreement that China's Huangshan mountains inspired AVATAR's Hallelujah Mountains—so savvy tourism officials in Hunan province re-named one of their peaks AVATAR Hallelujah Mountain, blogs DOGONews, while Amusing Planet has some great photos of the spire in question.
The AVATAR Blog posts a photo of someplace on Earth that may have inspired Pandora, but then left us guessing where it is. Luckily io9 reveals it's somewhere in Scotland, which is packed with its own exotic landscapes. Meanwhile Mongabay features a Borneo rainforest photo that's remarkably Pandora-like, especially if you recall the shuttle landing during AVATAR's opening sequence.
Finally, if you thought bioluminescence was just for Pandoran life-forms, Ecorazzi blogs that you should try a night swim in Vieques, Puerto Rico to see how billions of glowing microorganisms light up the night, or head to Angel Falls in Venezuela to see a landscape that looks remarkably like where Jake and Neytiri approach the Banshees.
What places on Earth remind you of Pandora?