Read the books and seen the shows? Visit the iconic locations from George R. R. Martin’s fictional land of Westeros on your next holiday. The best part: all these locations have local companies that offer special Game Of Thrones tours so that you don’t miss a single site.
The Ballintoy harbour and coastline features in the television show as Pyke. Photo: Grace Smith/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
Northern Ireland’s rugged castles, gnarled woods, and stark beauty make it the perfect setting for many Westeros locations. Let’s begin with the residences of House Stark, one of the primary families in the saga. The walled area of Castle Ward, complete with haunting woodlands and the beautiful Strangford Lough, is used to show the Stark’s home of Winterfell. But it isn’t just the Starks who call parts of Northern Ireland home. House Greyjoy has their halls in the stunning Northern Irish harbour of Ballintoy, which represents Pyke and the Iron Islands in the television series. The foothills of the mighty Mourne Mountains served as the location for the sweeping grasslands of Vaes Dothrak, the city of the Dothraki people. Many other parts of Northern Ireland also featured in iconic Game of Thrones-scenes including Tollymore Forests where we first see evidence of the ghoulish White Walkers and the caves of Cushendun, where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow baby.
The city of Dubrovnik was used to film scenes set in King’s Landing. Photo: Víctor González/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
One of the most important locations in all of the Seven Kingdoms, the capital King’s Landing can be found in the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. The city’s stone walls and well-preserved forts feature throughout the series. Fort Lovrijenac, located on steep cliffs outside the city walls, doubles up as the Red Keep, the royal residence in King’s Landing. There’s also the Trsteno Arboretum which was used as the lush palace gardens for the shoot. Another Croatian coastal city, Split, often features in the show. Daenerys Targaryen, she of dragon ancestry, plotted her comeback in the rooms of the Kliss Fort and the magnificent Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress of Kliss was the part of the slave city of Meereen that Daenerys frees on her road to building her army.
The areas around Iceland’s Lake Myvatn are used as settings for regions north of The Wall. Photo: David Bacon/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
What better place to shoot an enormous, fictional wall of ice and the freezing lands beyond it than Iceland? The frozen landscapes are where constant-brooder Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch, the Wildlings and the White Walkers spend a lot of their time. The lava stacks of Dimmuborgir are where Wildling leader Mance Rayder made camp. Then there’s the area around glacial Lake Myvatn and Godafoss, or the Waterfall Of The Gods, that served as the set for most of the scenes set north of The Wall. The Svínafellsjökull glacier in the Vatnajökull National Park was also used to shoot many scenes involving the Night’s Watch.
The citadel of Aït Benhaddou is a popular location for Hollywood films, having also appeared in films like “The Mummy Returns”. Photo: Maureen/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
Two Moroccan destinations feature in Daenerys’ narrative through the series – the coastal town of Essaouira and the walled citadel of Aït Benhaddou in the Sahara Desert. Both locations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Essaouira, as the city of Astapor, is where she gains her army of highly-trained warrior slaves called The Unsullied. She then moves on to Aït Benhaddou, or Yunkai from the series, and lays siege to the settlement with her newly acquired army. Fun fact: Aït Benhaddou has also featured in other Hollywood productions including The Mummy Returns and Gladiator.
The Azure Window in Malta was used as the backdrop for Karl Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding. Photo: Berit Watkin/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
For a tiny island, Malta offers the Game of Thrones production team a wide variety of landscapes to shoot in. The beautifully preserved medieval cities of Mdina and Valetta were used in the initial shoots of King’s Landing and the Red Keep before the filming was moved to Croatia. Then there’s Fort Manoel which serves as Sept Of Baelor, one of the holiest spots in all of Westeros. This is also where Joffrey and Ned Stark face off in Season 1. An iconic piece of Malta’s coast, the Azure Window, also featured in the series as the venue of Daenerys’ and Khal Drogo’s wedding.
To know more about Game Of Thrones filming locations, check out this interactive map.
You can watch the trailer for Game Of Thrones Season 6 below:
This story has been updated in March 2016.
is Features Writer on National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She's partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.
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