Image credit: CC BY 2.0 (Lindy Buckley, 2014)
The ever-popular Game of Thrones series has been lauded for its intricate, visually-stunning portrayal of George R. R. Martin’s compelling novels since the first season, drawing fans into a fantasy world of surreal-looking landscapes — from eerie forests to ancient fortified cities enveloped in gloom and doom to sun-soaked Mediterranean islands dotted with buildings of Moorish influences.
While many of Game of Thrones’ recurring sets, such as the famous Iron Throne, are filmed at studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the hit TV series has also been largely filmed on-location in six countries including Northern Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Spain, Morocco and Malta.
The much-anticipated season 6 that premiered 24th April, 2016 throws in a few more Spanish locales and possibly cuts back on some of the earlier locations, but GoT diehards — and even the simply-curious — still have plenty reasons to visit the stunning destinations of seasons past and get a taste of the otherworldly landscapes that have captivated millions around the globe.
Walk into the arms of a Mediterranean beauty
Fans of both the popular show and Andalusia can rejoice, as Game of Thrones features several scenes in this beautiful region and the main highlight here is the gorgeous Alcázar of Seville, a lavish palace that melds various architectural styles from Mudéjar to Gothic. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this beloved Spanish gem boasts intricate ceramics, tiles, gold ceilings, exquisite plasterwork and colonnaded patios brimming with greenery. It was built by a succession of rulers, including Christian and Muslim ones, and is considered one of Seville’s most important attractions today. In the series, the Alcázar de Seville is transformed into the majestic palatial private residence of Martell — certainly one of the most exotic locations in the series.
Over in Córdoba, located north-east of Seville, the magnificent Roman bridge is another historical jewel, which becomes the Long Bridge of Volantis in the beloved series. The bridge itself is a masterpiece, having been built in the 1st century A.D. and spanning over Guadalquivir river just front of the famous Mezquita Mosque. The view here is, perhaps, one of the most wonderful sights of Córdoba, especially at sunset, when it becomes beautifully basked in crimson light.
The arrival of season 6 will undoubtedly also put the lively city of Girona into the spotlight. This gem in Northern Catalonia is the gateway to the splendid beaches and laidback charm of Costa Brava, not to mention home to El Celler de Can Roca, the World’s Best Restaurant and Michelin 3-star establishment.
Immerse in Iceland’s fantasy kingdom
Iceland is known as the land of legendary sagas and dreamy landscapes so it doesn’t come as a surprise that numerous Game of Thrones scenes have been shot here. Fans will be transported “beyond the wall”, where barren and piercingly beautiful landscapes await.
One of the most important highlights here is the UNESCO World Heritage Thingvellir National Park, which is known to be home to Iceland’s largest natural lake, rare geological wonders and scenic mountain ranges, and was used to depict Arya’s and Sandor Clegane’s journey from village to village in mid-Westeros.
To follow the footsteps of the terrifying White Walkers, there are also organised tours that take you to locations such as Goðafoss, one of the most fascinating waterfalls in the country and Lake Mývatn, a remote area where you can admire a microcosm of all the natural wonders Iceland has to offer, including impressive waterfalls, gnarled lava fields and lush pastures. What’s more, you may even get to enjoy all these natural beauties with local guides who were part of the Game of Thrones crew!
Discover the “Pearl of the Adriatic”
It’s no wonder that the historic city of Dubrovnik doubles for King’s Landing in this epic fantasy series. The ancient walled city is an eye-candy thanks to its fortified battlements, drawbridges, imposing gates, Baroque buildings and medieval monuments that appear to have vaulted straight from the series. Some of the most memorable scenes happen at Fort Lovrijenac or St. Lawrence Fortress, often called “Dubrovnik’s Gibraltar” from where you can admire beautiful vistas of the calm waters below.
Not far from Dubrovnik is the lush island of Lokrum, which can be easily accessed by a 10-minute boat ride from the old port. This is an oasis of greenery and offers an exquisite botanical garden as well as soak some history at the 15th-century Franciscan monastery.
Get intimate with legacy on the island of Malta
Malta is known for its rich history — all the way from prehistoric days — and rich influences from a long list of conquerors, including the Romans, Arabs, French and British. There was also the Crusade-era Knights Hospitallers of St. John, one of the most prominent orders of the time, who fought to protect the island from the Ottoman Empire and even Barbary pirates.
The settlement of Mdina is incredibly beautiful and indeed a prime spot for Thronies. Perched on top of the island, the fortified town boasts a maze of museums, shops and plazas evoking familiar scenes from the series. Over in the capital of Valletta, you will be enchanted to discover an incredibly-photogenic capital brimming with beautiful vistas of the Mediterranean and narrow alleys lined with Baroque buildings.
But, perhaps, one of the most impressive locations remains the Azure Window, a 30-metre-high rock formation surrounded by a layer of honeycomb-like stone on the northern island of Gozo. This natural limestone arch is located near Dwerja Bay on the Inland Sea and popular with scuba divers.
Explore the land of ancient landscapes and crumbling castles
Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones seem a match made in heaven. The evident charm lies in the dramatic locations including eerie forests and moorlands, mysterious mountains and windswept verdant cliffs, and travellers to this enigmatic part of the United Kingdom can surely retrace some of the most memorable scenes in the series.
Tollymore Forest Park in County Down is one such example as it is depicted as the Haunted Forest where the White Walkers began to march in the realm of men. This oasis of greenery boasts hectares of ancient redwoods and Gothic stone arches from the 18th century. In County Antrim, near Armoy, more otherworldly goodness awaits as this is the place where you can walk on an avenue of serpentine beech trees. For hardcore fans, there are also a slew of tours that will take you to iconic GoT sites all around Northern Ireland.