One of the best things about Game of Thrones is the incredible attention to detail that has gone into taking a fictional world off the page and into our living rooms. Every Sunday we’re treated to fantastical battles with hundreds of soldiers, intricate hair and costume designs, and vast expanses of forrest, desert, coastline, and mountain peaks.
Though much of what we see of Westeros has been created using computer graphics, the production team on Game of Thrones spends months tirelessly scouting locations in places like Croatia, Spain, Britain, Iceland, and even Africa. They create scenes in ancient castles, build sets on the sides of mountains, go into caves, and explore expansive beaches. These incredible places all over our beautiful world are transformed time and time again into a fantasy, yet we can actually visit them anytime…if we just buy a plane ticket.
For reference, this is the world as we know it on Game of Thrones.
Winterfell, filmed at Doune Castle, Scotland
As the ancestral seat of the Stark family, and northernmost province in the Seven Kingdoms, the fictional stronghold had to be set somewhere that looked old and weathered. Doune Castle, with it’s fortified stone walls and open courtyard, was constructed in the 13th century, making it a medieval landmark.
The castle has also been used to film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the TV series Outlander.
[image via Instagram]
The Kingsroad, filmed in The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
The kingsroad is the main overland route in the Seven Kingdoms. It connects Castle Black (The Wall) at Westeros’ northernmost tip, south through the capital at King’s Landing, and continues down to Storm’s End, the seat of House Baratheon and the scene of Renly’s unfortunate death. In modern times, the iconic trees of Ireland’s Dark Hedges were used to film Arya’s journey after her escape from King’s Landing, following the beheading of her father. Disguised as a boy, she travels north on the kingsroad with a group heading to join the Night’s Watch.
Beyond The Wall, filmed at Hverfjall Volcano in Lake Mývatn, Iceland
The scenes of Jon Snow’s adventures north of The Wall would have you think that this area must be a barren, unforgiving wasteland. But in reality, you won’t find any White Walkers trudging through the landscape. Instead, hikers enjoy traversing an almost vertical climb through the tundra.
Jon & Ygritte’s cave, filmed in Grjótagjá Thermal Spring, Iceland
If you don’t go to this gorgeous hot spring and at least attempt to get it on like Jon and Ygritte, what are you even doing?
Jon’s vow of chastity didn’t stand a chance against the warm, secluded waters of just one (there are several) of Iceland’s most incredible hot spring pools. And OK, a naked wildling girl throwing herself at him probably was enough to make him turn his back on his vow. Turns out, Jon Snow knows at least one thing.
Sunspear and The Water Gardens of Dorne, filmed at the Alcázar palace in Seville, Spain
The incredibly lush gardens and serene water features of the Alcázar palace bring the warmth of the southern kingdom of Dorne to life. On camera, the compound becomes Sunspear and the Water Gardens, the royal palace of House Martell. In the real world, the palace dates back to the 11th century and it is still the Seville home of the Spanish royal family.
Meereen, filmed at Klis Fortress in Split, Croatia
In season 4, the Khaleesi took her sell-swords and liberated the slave city of Meereen. As if that wasn’t enough, she added injury to insult by literally crucifying the slave owners along the walls of the city. These walls are actually part of an medieval fortress on the outskirts of Split, Croatia. The panoramic views from Klis Fortress reveal a sprawling coastal city on the Adriatic Sea.
The city of Yunkai in Slaver’s Bay, filmed at Ouarzazate, Morocco
Yunkai is known to GoT fans as one of the three liberated cities of Slaver’s Bay by Daenerys, giving her the additional title of “breaker of chains.” The fictional city is actually a Moroccan citadel, and has been used for desert-set films like Babel, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Gladiator.
King’s Landing, filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia
The vast capital city of the Seven Kingdoms, King’s Landing, is filmed in the seaport town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the Adriatic Sea. Queen Cersei’s naked walk of shame started on the steps of an actual Jesuit church, and the combat scene between The Mountain and Oberyn Martell was shot at the abandoned Hotel Belvedere, to name a few locations. Additionally, though the Great Sept of Baelor has to be added digitally to the aerial shots of Dubrovnik, the classic red rooftops of the real life city remain true of the town that sits nestled along the shore.
Before Tyrion was abducted by Jorah in Season 5, he and Varys take in the sights of a market in Volantis, situated upon the Long Bridge. There they hear a red priestess tell of a savior who “From the fire she was reborn to remake the world. The Dragon Queen.” These scenes weren’t done on the actual bridge, but the production crew flew a drone over the Roman Bridge in Córdoba for the episode. They later enhanced the footage with computer graphics to add the market to the bridge.
Dragonstone, filmed at Downhill Strand in Northern Ireland
The ancestral seat of House Targaryen, and the birthplace and current home of Daenerys, Dragonstone sits on miles of sparse, golden beaches and rocky cliffs. While a lot of what we see of Dragonstone is interior, the beach scenes, like the arrival of Jon Snow, were filmed on this strip of sand in Northern Ireland.