Travellers may not be able to enter the epic fantasy world of Westeros from George R.R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Fire, but they can visit the real world locations that HBO utilized in their television adaption, Game of Thrones. It is hard to believe that so many magical places could be real, that is, until it is right before your very eyes.
Fort Ricasoli, Malta
Those looking for the impressive red rock buildings that serve as the front of the Red Keep in King's Landing need only look no further than Fort Ricasoli in La Valletta, Malta. Various parts of the city have been filmed while representing the seat of kings in Westeros, most noticeably the star-shaped barricades that surround the city and the front gates used as the gates of the Red Keep. Visitors will notice that the city is visibly paler than it appears in the television show as the colour of the bleached limestone has been digitally modified to its reddish colour in the show.
Azure Window, Gozo
Gozo is Malta's smaller sister island. It is rugged and almost violent in its dramatic beauty, not unlike the Dothraki event that was filmed there. Gozo served as the site of Season One's Dothraki wedding of Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen. The location on the island that was used, called the Azure Window, is a natural limestone arch that stretches out over the sea, making the area treasure for even non-Game of Thrones fans.
For those following Daenerys Targaryen’s tracks through Slaver's Bay, one can't miss stop is Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco. This 'ksar,' or 'fortified city,' sits 100 kilometers southeast of Marrakech and rises majestically from the desert sands. This ancient city has been an eternal attraction to not just tourists, but filmmakers as well. Not only does it serve as Yunkai and Pentos in Game of Thrones, but it can be spotted in other films including The Mummy, Gladiator, and Prince of Persia.
Grjotagja was only featured in Game of Thrones once, but it left a lasting impression. Grjotagja is a thermal spring nestled with in a beautiful cave in Iceland. In Game of Thrones, it served as the warm love nest for Jon Snow and Ygritte on their trek with the Wildling horde, and it is definitely worth a visit in the real world. Outside, in Lake Myvtan in north-east Iceland, temperatures can drop well below freezing, but the spring inside this toasty lava cave maintains an average temperature of 50 degrees C, no wonder Jon and Ygritte got so hot.
King's Landing is a massive city as the capital of Westeros, so it only makes sense that the different parts of the city come from locations all over the world. The sprawling overview shots of the city as well as the shots that take place in the streets below the castle take place in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Visitors viewing the city from afar will feel like they just entered Westeros, viewing this massive city that crawls out from the shoreline. Inside the crowded streets, the plots, intrigues and secrets are all palpable as visitors explore the narrow pathways and hidden alleys.
Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland
Tollymore Forest Park covers more than 600 hectares at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. This park is popular for not just hiking and its scenic old growth forest but for its stunning sea views as well. Tollymore was featured several times in Game of Thrones including the show's very first scene where a Night's Watch Ranger encounters a sinister White Walker. The forest was later used as the setting where the Stark family finds their Direwolf pups and much later in the series where Theon Greyjoy was chased through these woods by the psychotic Ramsey Snow.
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Thingvellir National Park was first introduced in Season Three of Game of Thrones as this sprawling setting of hilly grassland and crisscrossing rivers was used to represent the Riverlands for not just Robb Stark but for Arya and Sandor Clegane's adventures as they walked from village to village looking for someone to sell Arya to. Lucky adventures may even be able to find a few shards of 'Dragonglass,' or Obsidian from cooled lava while hiking than many trails in this beautiful region.
Hofoabrekka is located near Vik, the southernmost city in Iceland and also it's wettest. During the summer, this region is rainy almost every day, but during winter Hofoabrekka is frightfully treacherous. There is no more fitting place to film the scenes beyond the wall where characters like Jon Snow and his brothers from the Night's Watch or Bran Stark and his companions struggle with the landscape and the creatures within. Filming this area is just as difficult as being a character within it as film crews only have a two hour gap everyday in which the landscape is not too rainy or snowy.
Trsteno Arboretum, Croatia
For those seeking to enjoy the green gardens of King's Landing, they will have to look no further than the beautifully manicured landscape of Trsteno Arboretum in Croatia. Located in the town of Trsteno, a small village just north of Dubrovnik, the garden features massive fountains, vine-covered pergolas, and rich flora through in gardens truly fit for royalty. The pavilion in the garden serves as the setting where various characters dine and chat with the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell, while that pathways have served as the setting of chats and plots by the likes of Sansa, Tyrion, Varys, Margaery, and Loras.
Castle Ward, Northern Ireland
In one of the most memorable sites used for filming in Game of Thrones, the Castle Ward overlooks Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland and serves as the courtyard setting for Winterfell. The house features Gothic and Classical styles of architecture that intertwines with native woodlands, a design that truly makes visitors feel as if they were in The North. The castle is always featured as Winterfell's courtyard, so every scene from when King Robert Baratheon first arrives in The North to the burning of the castle was set there.
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
The Dark Hedges is easily one of the most beautiful avenues of trees in the world. When visitors see it as the Kingsroad outside King's Landing in Game of Thrones, people believe that there is no way such a collection of beautiful twisting branches could be a real place, but it is. The Dark Hedges, an avenue of Beech trees, was planted in the 18th century to impress visitors heading towards the Gracehill House outside Ballymoney. While featured several times in the show, the most memorable is at the end of Season One where Arya, Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie are all leaving the city on their way to join the Night's Watch.
Doune Castle, Scotland
The medieval stronghold of Dourne near Sterling, Scotland was built in the 13th century and has remained majorly unchanged from how it stands today. While the castle has been featured in several films, in Game of Thrones is serves as the battlements of Castle Winterfell. Doune Castle was only featured in the first episode of Game of Thrones, after which the Winterfell courtyard set at Castle Ward was used.
Verdala Palace, Malta
Although only seen during a few select scenes in Season One of Game of Thrones, the Verdala Palace really made an impression as Illyrio Mopatis House in Pentos. This palace, with its grounds rich with orchard trees, is truly fit for a king. It is indeed fitting considering that the Verdala Palace has been used as the official summer residence of the president of Malta since the late 1980s. While the house itself is closed to the public, the grounds are open to exploration including the site where Daenerys and Viserys meet Khal Drogo and his Khalassar before the wedding.
Murlough Bay, Northern Ireland
Remote and rugged, Murlough Bay is one of the most beautiful stretches of Northern Irish coast. With views of Rathlin Island and Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, visitors flock here by the thousands for the sightseeing. Introduced in Season 3, Murlough Bay is used as the setting for the home of the Greyjoys, the Iron Islands. It was used when Theon Greyjoy rode to Pyke with his sister Yara and was baptised by his uncle. The area was also used when Davos Seaworth was shipwrecked after the Battle of Blackwater Bay, but that was not set in the Iron Islands.
Larrybane, Northern Ireland
Just a few kilometers from Murlough Bay is another stretch of beautiful Northern Irish coastline, Larrybane. This area was used as the setting for the Stormlands, particularly as King Renly Baratheon's camp where he breaks to hold a tourney before marching towards King's Landing. The area was also reused again when Renly parleyed with his brother King Stannis Baratheon.
Minceta Tower, Croatia
The mysterious House of the Undying in Qarth is actually the Minceta Tower located above the walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia (a town that serves as not Qarth, but rather King's Landing). While in Game of Thrones, this tower serves as the prison for Dany's dragons and holds unexpected magical visions of what is, was and will be, in reality the Minceta Tower is an important symbol to the people of Dubrovnik, representing how unconquerable the city is.
While it doesn't outwardly suggest it, Dimmuborgir with its thick grassy plains surrounding some of the world's most wild rock formations is actually an ancient lava field. While in the summer, this area is Iceland's playground for outdoors people, it is only recognizable to Game of Thrones fans in the winter. It served as the spot where Mance Rayder camped his massive army of wildlings, mammoths and giants.
In the 1960's Essaouira served as the hippy hangout in Morocco that attracted rock stars like Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix. Today, Essaouira has become a modern city but still has that beloved laid back air to it. In Game of Thrones, this beautiful coastal desert city was transformed in to the slave trading city of Astapor. The imagery of Astapor was made most memorable by Essaouira's most famous landmark, its fortified walls.
Fort Lovrijenac, Croatia
For sprawling shots of the Red Keep in King's Landing and the surrounding city, it was not Fort Ricacoli in Malta that was used but rather Fort Lovrijenac in Croatia. The film crew switch from Malta to Croatia so that they could get easier shots of the Red Keep (Fort Lovrijenac ) and King's Landing (nearby Dubrovnik). The fort stands 37 meters high on its rocky perch just outside of Dubrovnik and serves as the perfect intimidating castle to represent the crown of Westeros.
The Mourne Mountain, Northern Ireland
The rugged Mourne Mountans in southeastern Ireland and their grassy foothills were used to film shots of the Dothraki home land of Vaes Dothrak. The long grasslands were the perfect setting for these nomadic, horse-riding people while the mountains in the distance served as their most sacred of places.
Want to know more movie filming destinations? Check out our article covering Lord of The Rings.