Here at Kiwi.com, we love exploring new places, but this week we’re blurring the boundaries between the real and the fictional, as we do a Kiwi.com Top 10 Game of Thrones Special!
Destination – Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos
Airport – various
If you’ve never been …
… Well, we’re not actually going there, are we? It’s a fictional show. Recently though, there’s been a lot of interest in visiting the filming locations of Game of Thrones – a phenomenon neatly known as “set-jetting” – particularly since we are (at the time of writing) on the latest series.
So, as a public service, here’s how to get to some of the locations featured in the show and, for each destination, we’re going to give you a couple of places to visit. Any flights delayed by dragons on the runway are, happily, covered by the Kiwi.com Guarantee.
Fly to: Seville, Spain
The capital of the Andalucia region of southern Spain is a wonderful city and a reason to take a trip in itself. Being founded by the Romans before being invaded and ruled by the Muslim Almoravids throughout the Middle Ages until 1248. This gives it a rich mix of architectural styles, perfect for filming.
The Alcázar de Seville is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the oldest palace in Europe still in use. It was built by the Moorish rulers of the city and is used as the location of the Water Gardens of Dorne. And what a palace it is. Seven hectares of gardens and 17,000 square metres of buildings; no wonder Doran spent so much time looking broodingly over it.
Otherwise, how about visiting Seville’s Plaza de Toros de Osuna? I mean, it’s safe. It’s doubtful you’ll need Drogon to navigate your way out.
Slightly further afield, head to Córdoba and the Long Bridge of Volantis (known to local residents as, simply, the Roman Bridge).
Lacking the bustle and mercantile fever of the televised version, it is still an impressive structure, reaching for almost 250 metres across the Guadalquivir river.
Alternatively, what about really getting off the beaten track and heading along the southern coast past Almería, then turn north-east to the Sierra Alhamilla national park? The plains of the region stand in for the Dothraki Sea.
Fly to: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik has been a popular spot for tourists for years now, but the success of Game of Thrones has meant that it’s busier than ever. All the way down the coast close to the border with Montenegro, it suffered extensive shelling during the Yugoslav war, but after rebuilding during the late 90s and 2000s, it is again regarded as a pearl of the Mediterranean.
The Old Town – a citadel of heavy stone walls and winding streets – doubled as King’s Landing. If you know the show well, it’s worth just trying to get a bit lost while unexpected yet oddly familiar sights appear on the city’s walls.
The Minceta Tower was used as the House of the Undying, while just outside the city is the Lovrijenac Fortress, the exterior of the Red Keep. Dubrovnik is a very Daenerys-heavy location; as well as the House of the Undying, the island of Lokrum, just off the coast of the town, was used as Qarth.
Further north along Croatia’s jagged, winding coastline we come to the town of Šibenik – or Braavos in the show.
One of the Free Cities and home to The Iron Bank, Braavos was the location Arya Stark escaped to aboard the Titan’s Daughter. Šibenik itself is similar to Dubrovnik in that it is heavily fortified, but is also within easy reach (around 20km) of Krka national park, also used for various landscapes of the West.
Fly to: Derry, Northern Ireland.
One of the most evocative names in the UK due to its role in what would become euphemistically known as The Troubles, Derry is also home to a fine architectural legacy from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian ages, a range of museums covering everything from railways to Amelia Earhart, and a series of giant murals in the Bogside area of the city, known as the People’s Gallery.
Northern Ireland’s bleak, windswept coastline is an unlikely location for a temple, but there one stands. Mussenden Temple, above Downhill Beach, is near the town of Castlerock, around 35km from Derry.
The beach and clifftops doubled as the exterior of Dragonstone. If you’re declaring yourself the One True King – or the rightful heir to the Iron Throne – this is the place to do it.
Gracehill House, between the villages of Mosside, Armoy and Stranocum in County Antrim is a severe, grey structure, perched on its own in a 19th century landscaped garden, but it now attracts worldwide attention due to its access road.
Crossing the Bush River, the stretch of Bregagh Road flanked by beech trees is now known around the world as the Kingsroad. Its actual name is the (even more beautiful) Dark Hedges.
Fly to: Reykjahlid, Iceland
The area surrounding the small village of Reykjahlid (population around 300) is situated on the shores of Lake Mývatn, which in turn lies on the edge of the area containing the Krafla volcano and the Víti crater.
The capital, Reykjavik, at the other end of the country, is a well-known centre of arts, music and cinema. Iceland’s ancient beauty made it a perfect location for the big skies and rock-strewn wilderness of the stories.
Lake Mývatn is surrounded by frozen lava stacks and is a wild and isolated place. No wonder Jon Snow abandons his vow of celibacy in a cave here… Dimmuborgir, on the eastern side of the lake, is where you might be lucky enough to find some dragonglass.
It’s actually obsidian, and is formed when volcanic rock cools very rapidly and therefore doesn’t crystallise. Plus, it’s always useful if you encounter any White Walkers…
Vatnajökull, in the south of the island is Europe’s largest glacier. In English it’s known (rather tautologically) as the Water Glacier and is over 8,000 square kilometres in area. To you, it’s probably better known as the unchartered Lands Beyond the Wall.
If you want to continue following Snow’s footsteps into the Frostfang Mountains, you’ll have to head to Vík. It’s a small town teetering on the very southern tip of Iceland, and from here the crew filmed the dramatic panoramas of those scenes.
Fly to: Bilbao, Spain
Back to the Iberian peninsula, we go for our final selection of locations. Bilbao is one of Spain’s most forward-looking cities; industrial yet cultured, with a branch of the Guggenheim Museum among its iconic buildings.
The de facto capital of the Basque region, its location means you can get to the beautiful town of San Sebastián, or the fortified city of Pamplona. But we’re here to finish off our Game of Thrones tour. What can we see?
Zafra Castle was the scene of Lyanna Stark’s death, for it is here that was used as The Tower of Joy. Located in the province of Guadalajara, it’s a 12th-century sandstone fortress, standing on a rocky outcrop that was right on the border of Muslim and Christian territory. Virtually impregnable from all sides, it was never captured. It’s now in private hands, but can be visited.
A lot of Spain is semi-arid desert landscapes and, as we saw in the south of the country, this lends itself perfectly to the kind of locations fit for the Dothraki Sea.
The Bardenas Reales in Navarre are another example of this; an area of badlands in which the wind and the rain have for centuries whipped and swirled. This has created mesmerising shapes in the rocks, and has carved out canyons or plateaus, on top of which sit oddly isolated hills, known as cabezos.
So now you know where to go, what’s stopping you? Go forward. Only forward.