K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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If you’re a fan of HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones,” you’ve probably taken note of many of the spectacular scenes and perhaps have even wondered about visiting them. Sometimes, the reality is even more breathtaking than fiction, and that’s especially true when it comes to these unique filming locations. You might even want to create your own personalized tour, ticking off your favorites Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland, Northern Ireland, Spain and Croatia.
The Dark Hedges is an incredibly alluring avenue of ancient beech trees that were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century, intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors who approached the entrance to Gracehill House, their Georgian mansion. After over 250 years, it’s just as impressive and draws countless tourist today after being used as a filming location in “Game of Thrones.” In Season 2, Episode 1 it’s spotlighted when Arya Stark escapes from King’s Landing disguised as a boy. Arrive early for the opportunity to catch it empty, before the tour buses arrive.
Ballintoy is a village along the Causeway Coast in County Antrim, with its small fishing harbor located at the end of a steep, narrow road. It’s a must-stop for “GoT” fans and offers a photogenic break with its rock formations forming tide pools with especially colorful moss. It was used in the epic HBO series as the Port of Pike, where Theon Greyjoy sets foot back on the Iron Islands, admires his ship and has some trouble with his crew in Season 2.
Dunluce Castle is one of the most iconic attractions in Northern Ireland. Perched on the Antrim coastline on a dramatic rocky promontory just west of Bushmills, the roofless ruins are particularly stunning just before sunset, or in the sunshine with the striking white chalk cliffs nearby. The former home of the clans McQuillan and MacDonnell, it’s been the site of a number of historic battles, a tragic fable and is believed to have been the inspiration for Cair Parvael in C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It also served as the House of Greyjoy on the Iron Islands in “GoT.”
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is not only one of the most jaw-droppingly scenic destinations in Iceland, but it’s also been featured in “GoT” as well as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It looks like a fantasy with its iconic landmarks, Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss two of the highlights. Kirkjufellfoss is the waterfall that’s frequently showcased on Iceland postcards and brochures, first appearing as the birthplace of the Night King in season 6, episode 5, “The Door,” while Kirkjufell was later used as the “Arrowhead Mountain,” a landmark beyond the Wall, described in season 7 by the Hound in a fire vision.
Höfðabrekka was used to film the sweeping panoramas you saw in Season 2, when Jon Snow ventured into the formidable Frostfang Mountains beyond the Wall, situated near the town of Vik, Iceland’s southernmost city, renowned for its black sand beach. The area also appears as the frozen wasteland of northern Westeros, with Mýrdalsjökull glacier serving as the “Fist of the First Men.”
After Season 2, Skaftafell National Park was used as the setting for winter scenes beyond the Wall, particularly around Svínafellsjökullone, Europe’s largest glacier.
Two important “GoT” filming locations can be found in the Lake Myvatn area which is known for its bizarre yet starkly beautiful volcanic features. This is where you’ll find Grjótagjá, the small lava cave that served as Jon and Ygritte’s “love nest,” the very spot where Jon lost his virginity on the show, and the scene that sparked a real-life relationship between the actors themselves, Kit Harington and Rose Leslie. While the cave is surrounded by ice and snow much of the time, inside, the spring can get as hot as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which may explain at least part of the reason Jon and Ygritte were so hot. The Dimmuborgir lava field served as the Wildling Camp and is famous for its unique rock formations that give it the appearance of being a different planet.
Thingvellir National Park lies along the Golden Circle, part of a popular tourist route that can easily be reached from Reykjavik. Many “GoT” scenes have been shot in this area, particularly in Season 4. The park was first used for lush summer scenes, with the green fields, brilliant blue skies and snow-capped mountains so dazzling it could easily be mistaken for a dream. This was the filming location for the “Bloody Gate,” in episode 5 and episode 8 where Arya and Sandor Clegane can be seen journeying from village to village in mid-Westeros. It’s also where you have the chance to find rare “dragonglass.” The shiny obsidian or “volcanic glass,” is a slice of cooled lava that serves as a precious resource for fashioning weapons used against the White Walkers.
Dubrovnik is one of the must-see cities in Croatia, with its medieval Old Town used extensively for Kings Landing since Season two. There are lots of places that fans of “GoT will recognize here, as its walls have been used for the battle of Blackwater, for tournaments, for walking shots and the market. The entrance to the Old Town of Dubrovnik, referred to as Pile Gate, constantly crops up in the first few seasons. The Jesuit Steps must be some of the most iconic steps in the world as the place where Cersei took her “walk of shame.”
The ancient Catalan city of Girona is just 40 minutes from Barcelona, where you can wander through the narrow streets of the Old Quarter which will bring you to what was known as the Free City of Braavos in Essos. The Cathedral of St. Mary, which dominates the city center, is a highlight for any visitor and was the setting for the Great Sept of Baelor.