Game of Thrones: Winter is Gone but the Journey Lives On
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
Our watch may have ended, but Game of Thrones is still a cultural phenomenon and a springboard for unique travel opportunities. Superfans shouldn’t miss out on a grand tour of Westeros and Essos; that is to say, filming locations for the massive international production.
From the deserts north of Qarth to Wildling country north of the Wall, you can walk in the footsteps of Daenerys, Jon, and Arya in these spectacular vacation destinations:
The hip, foodie-friendly city of Belfast was home base for the Game of Thrones production. Paint Hall, the largest production studio in Europe, housed the standing sets for the interiors of Winterfell, Castle Black, the Great Sept of Baelor, and many others.
Part of the UK, the six counties of Northern Ireland feature stunning rocky landscapes, imposing castles amid deep forests, and the otherworldly Causeway Coast, all within 70 minutes’ drive from Belfast. Dozens of these beautiful destinations served as a backdrop in the struggle for the Iron Throne. Castle Ward, in County Down, stood in for Winterfell in most exterior shots throughout the series. A massive quarry featuring the fully realized sets of Castle Black and Hardhome is sadly not open to the public.
If you are a serious GOT fanatic, and you probably are if you are considering this trip, definitely consider a one or two day guided tour of all of the prime locations. Otherwise, you can also rent a car and see many of them yourself. Just remember to drive on the left! A drive up to the epic Giants Causeway and the Bushmill Whiskey factory with a scenic drive back to Belfast along the craggy County Antrim coast is also spectacular way to connect the dots. Before you leave Belfast be sure to check out the Titanic Museum to enjoy another important stop. If you are looking to dig deeper give a Black Cab tour through Belfast a try.
If you really want to visit King’s Landing and immerse yourself in Game of Thrones filming locations, you want the ancient city of Dubrovnik on the Croatian Coast. Many of Belfast’s major filming locations and standing sets are not open to the public, but in this UNESCO World Heritage City, you can get close-up and personal with the Game of Thrones scenery.
The balmy Mediterranean climate of Croatia provided luxe contrast to the chilly hardships of Winterfell, while the famous sea-facing medieval walls, fortresses, gates and preserved Old City gave King’s Landing it’s priceless period flavor. Numerous filming locations where Tyrion, Varys, Cersei, and Sansa laid their plots can be visited, alongside world-class museums and priceless architecture.
Dubrovnik offers its wonderful culture and colorful panoramas overlooking the renowned beauty of the Adriatic Sea. Take time aside from your guided GOT walking tours to enjoy boating and sailing tours, sport-fishing, and kayaking. Croatian culinary offerings are a wonderful fusion of local stews and pastries, fresh seafood and shellfish, Italian, Eastern European and Mediterranean cuisine. Enjoy everything from delicate local confectioneries to squid ink risotto.
Sitting at the juncture of Europe and Northern Africa, the colorful plazas, museums, and albaicins of southern Spain added exotic flair to settings like Dorne, Meereen, and the Dothraki Coast. Andalusian cities like Seville, Cordoba, and Almera provide a wealth of famous backdrops from the travels of Arya, Tyrion, and Daenerys. The Alcazar of Seville was cast as both Sunspear and the Water Gardens, the dominion of House Martell. Your can read more on these Spanish GOT locations at Culture Trip.
If Jon Snow was north of the Wall in hostile territory, you were probably looking at the volcanic moonscapes of Iceland. Some of the youngest and most geologically active land in the world, Iceland looks like another planet altogether, the kind of place a White Walker might call home.
The glaciers of Snfellsjkull and Svnafellsjkull stood in for the First of the First Men. Mance Rader mustered his army in Season 3 on Matn Lake, a frozen lava plain. Jon and Ygritte shared a steamy hot-tub romance in Grjtagj Cave, one of Iceland’s famous public hot springs. You can read more on the must see Iceland GOT locations from The Telegraph.
Malta, an island country south of Sicily, was a major filming location in season one and interwoven through millennia of actual history as a strategically important location on the Mediterranean. There is no question why it is featured in season one as it is a stunningly beautiful island nation covered in gleaming limestone fortifications and ruins. The ancient city of Medina and its surroundings represented Pentos and numerous settings within King’s Landing, like the Gate of the Gods, the Red Keep, and the Baelor exterior where a very traumatic beheading took place.
Several landmarks of Danaerys’ whirlwind marriage to Khal Drogo are found in Malta, including the site of their wedding feast at the Azure Window rock formation on the country’s second largest island of Gozo, which is easily accessible via public ferry.
Once a British Commonwealth, the dual national languages of English and native Maltese make it easy for many travelers to get around. The capital city, Valletta, is a mandatory destination with a thriving nightlife, museums, and outdoor restaurants intermingled among ancient and medieval architecture and ruins. It also hosted three GOT locations. Take a water taxi or cruise around the city’s seven heavily fortified harbors and see why this area fits the Game of Throne motif to a “T”. Experience a living history of battle and conquest through the ages, played out against a shimmering pallet of azure, ivory and gold.
Don’t forget to try the local Maltese specialties such as natural thyme-flower honey or the medicinal yet tasty prickly pear fruit liquor. Intricate traditional hand-crafted filigree silver jewelry can also be purchased and often by weight!
Read more on specific GOT locations in Malta at The Whole World is a Playground.
A short flight or ferry from southern Spain, the northern African nation of Morocco hosted the production for Season 3 settings Yunkai and Astapor. For the GOT fans it’s probably better to fly into Marrakech (RAK) where you can enjoy a few days of culture and gorgeous cuisine with trips to filming locations out of town. The Unsullied made their debut in shots taken at the Skala de la Ville ramparts in Essaouira situated on the Atlantic coast west of Marrakech. While you are here it’s not a bad location to enjoy some time at the beach either!
Inland and southeast of Marrakech is a GOT location that is a gem in its own right as it is even listed in the UNESCO World Heritage register The location is called the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou and is a beautiful and intricate mountain citadel protecting ancient trade routes. You may recall this location otherwise known as Yunkai in GOT.
Clearly, Morocco offers a significant vacation and deep cultural experience unto its own. Be sure to taste the tagines and unique Morocan flavors, spices, outstanding fruits and olives. Explore the Atlas Mountains and native Berber villages or take a hot air balloon over the Sahara.
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