It’s that time of year again when the arrival of a new season of Game of Thrones brings an hour of dragons, treachery and bloodshed to our weeks. The epic and addictive TV series has a reputation for brutal violence, eyebrow-raising nudity and unpredictable plots, George R.R. Martin’s drama and mystical lands brought to life. Although incredibly enough, Game of Thrones doesn’t rely solely on computer generation for the show’s striking landscapes. The location scouts have the enviable job of searching the world for the locations to bring the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros to life.
The travel trend of set jetting is hardly new, however, it shows no sign of slowing down. Avid fans are continuing to dedicate their holidays to visiting the destinations immortalised on the small screen. We’ve pulled together a guide to the best places to visit for the ultimate Game of Thrones set jetting experience.
With its ancient walled fortress, picturesque coast and historical sites, it’s almost as if Croatia was made for Game of Thrones. Many of the settings have a history as intriguing as the stories dreamt up by George R.R. Martin. Dubrovnik easily becomes King’s Landing, the capital of Seven Kingdoms and home to the powerful Lannister family. Perched on the edge of a 37 metre high cliff is the Lovrijenac Fortress. It’s the perfect stand-in for the Red Keep which dominates the skyline in King’s Landing. This is where the tournament thrown in honour of King Joffrey’s name day was filmed.
Fans can retrace the footsteps of Cersei Lannister’s cruel and brutal walk of shame, the dramatic end to series five. The now iconic scene was filmed at the top of the Jesuit stairs leading up to the Church of St Ignatius. Cersei takes her walk of penance through King’s Landing to the Red Keep, however, if you were to follow her route it will take you to the city square of Poljana Rudera Boskovica.
The coastal town of Split is home to one of the world’s most imposing Roman ruins, Diocletian’s Palace. The previous military fortress covers 38,700 sq metres and is the heart of the city. Whilst the palace has seen much real-life drama since the third century, the underground rooms remain in good condition. They’re transformed into Daenerys’ Throne Room where she conquers Meereen and houses the more turbulent of her dragons.
Iceland is an incredibly picturesque country, the setting for many epic films and TV series. The north of the island is home to barren and snow-covered scenery. As a result it perfectly fits the description of northern Westeros and the lands Beyond the Wall. The harsh beauty of Vatnajökull National Park matches the desolate lands of the Frostfang Mountains traversed by Jon Snow. Although incredibly hostile and menacing on screen, these wild untouched places are truly a magnificent sight to behold. With the added bonus of not a White Walker in sight.
While it may seem like it, not every location needs to be the setting for gruesome violence or sensational treachery. Grjótagjá is a small cave near Lake Mývatn, the hot spring where Jon and Ygritte have their night of passion. With shimmering waters and rising steam from the volcanic-heated waters, Grjótagjá is one of Game of Thrones’ slightly more romantic settings.
Many film and TV productions choose to film in Morocco due to the good natural light and the vast desert landscapes. A place where winter never comes, Morocco is the filming location for much of Daenerys’ story. The enchanting 18th century town of Essaouira plays a big part, the fortified walls of the seaport holding the brutal Walk of Punishment. It’s here where any slave who shows insubordination is strapped to a cross and left to die as a warning to the others. While Essaouira is the setting for much of the pivotal action in Daenerys’ scenes from the episode ‘And Now His Watch Ended’, in reality the coastal city has a relaxed laid-back vibe.
The High Atlas Mountains is the setting for Daenerys’ passage to the narrow sea. If travellers journey south from the mountains they’ll arrive at Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazte. These sites appear as Yunkai and Pentos, the ancient appearance of both sites making them the ideal settings for a city of the Slaver’s Bay and one of the Free Cities.
Another favourite with the Game of Thrones location scouts, there are 25 filming locations in Northern Ireland. Similar to Iceland, it’s Northern Ireland’s nature which takes centre stage rather than the historical sites. The forests, mountains and moorlands don’t need much work to become the mythical Westeros and Essos.
Dark Hedges is an incredibly atmospheric road in Counry Antrim. Both sides are lined with crooked gnarled beech trees, intertwining with each other over the road. This evocative avenue was used as the Kingsroad where Arya escapes the city dressed as a boy. Tollymore Forest Park is a scenic nature wonderland with grottoes, caves, bridges and stepping stones. The woodland is also known for being the Haunted Forest in Winterfell. It’s here the Starks find their beloved direwolves and three Night’s Watch men encounter a White Walker.
If you’re an avid fan of Game of Thrones, have a browse of our group tours to Croatia, Iceland and Morocco. However, if you haven’t watched any of the series we’re sure you’ll still enjoy the natural wonders and historical sites.