The Game of Thrones special effects budget may be ballooning season-on-season, but the much-revered fantasy drama is still sticking to its roots when it comes to on-location shooting. And there’s good news for GoT junkies, too: many of the show’s spectacular locations are open to the public, which means adventurous fans can walk right in the footsteps of their favourite characters. Here are ten exquisite GoT locations that are most definitely worth the trip.
10. The Dark Hedges – Northern Ireland
The Dark Hedges, a quiet country road in Northern Ireland, gets its name from the rows of beech trees that flourish in striking formation on either side. When the owners of a nearby Georgian residence planted the now-famous trunks in the 18th century, they were hoping to make a first impression on arriving visitors. And the iconic landscape has certainly made a big impression today.
Game of Thrones fans, however, will recognize the avenue by another name: the King’s Road. This tree-lined route was famously traversed by Arya Stark in the opening episode of the second season. Actress Maisie Williams played the fearless little princess, who was forced to dress as a boy and flee King’s Landing after her father’s brutal execution.
9. The Fortress of Klis – Croatia
The spectacular Fortress of Klis is brilliantly camouflaged amongst the rocks of this craggy hillside in central Croatia. This impressive medieval structure has stood for an incredible 2,000 years and was transformed from a small stronghold into an imposing royal castle in the ninth century.
You might recognize the fortress from season four of Game of Thrones, where its steep facade was used to represent the outskirts of the City of Meereen. In the show, Daenerys Targaryen advanced upon these ancient walls in a bid to free the slaves held captive by the Great Masters.
8. Diocletian’s Palace – Croatia
Diocletian’s Palace is a sprawling Croatian residence that takes its name from the Roman emperor who constructed it over 1,600 years ago. The huge structure originally housed a military battalion, but it stood vacant for hundreds of years after the Romans deserted the area. However, thanks to its awe-inspiring size, in the centuries that followed Croatian locals had enough room to move in and set up entire homes and businesses in its basement.
The palace’s vast dimensions, then, made it perfect place to house Daenerys’ dragons in season four. And the dungeons of Meereen, and by extension Diocletian’s Palace, are still playing host to the great fiery beasts at the start of season six.
7. Osuna – Spain
The show’s Meereen scenes haven’t all been filmed exclusively in Croatia, however. The small town of Osuna in southern Spain had its economy boosted significantly after its century-old bullring was spied by Thrones producers.
The Arena of Meereen played host to one of the show’s most triumphant scenes at the end of the fifth season. Drogon the dragon bursts onto the scene at a crucial moment, saving Daenerys from certain death at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy.
6. The Azure Window – Gozo
The Azure Window is a stunning natural formation located on the island of Gozo, just off the Maltese coast. The picturesque arch was formed by the collapse of a pair of limestone sea caves. Unfortunately, the Window is quickly eroding, and experts fear it will disappear entirely in the near future.
It’s fortunate, then, that the Game of Thrones crew took full advantage of the arch while it still remains. The Azure Window formed a dramatic backdrop for Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s wedding in season one. Environmentalists weren’t so happy about the choice of venue, however, and claimed that the production team had destroyed a local ecosystem during filming.
5. Sierra Alhamilla Mountains – Spain
The Sierra Alhamilla Mountains in Spain span a colossal 21,000 acres and reach heights of 4,550 feet above sea level – making them perfect for the vast landscapes of Game of Thrones. These imposing peaks are also a popular tourist destination, with hiking routes, wildlife and hot springs to entice travelers. It’s not the first time a film crew has arrived at the range, either: Ridley Scott’s biblical epic Exodus was also shot here.
Only the most up-to-date Thrones fans, however, will recognize these peaks. The wide sandy reaches feature as the Dothraki Sea in the sixth season’s opening episode. Daenerys, captured by the new Khal, is marched through the plains by men unaware of her true identity.
4. The Bridge of Córdoba – Spain
The Roman bridge of Córdoba in southern Spain was first constructed almost 2,000 years ago, but today only two of the original arches remain. Over the past two millennia the bridge has been rebuilt, restored and repaired multiple times, and the current version stretches a whopping 810 feet long.
While the bridge of Córdoba was first mentioned in the second season of Game of Thrones, it wasn’t until the fifth season that we actually got to see it in the show, where it appears as the Long Bridge of Volantis. Through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister and Varys, we were introduced to the bounty of merchants, taverns and, of course, brothels that span its impressive length.
3. The Alcázar of Seville – Spain
The Alcázar of Seville is widely regarded as one of the most exquisite palaces in the whole of Spain, and it’s also the oldest operational royal palace in Europe today. What’s more, the ornate architecture and stunning gardens lend themselves perfectly to some of Thrones’ grander characters.
Indeed, co-showrunner D.B. Weiss told Variety in 2015, “It is as if [the Alcazar] was designed for us many years ago.” The lush grounds are a perfect match for author George R.R. Martin’s description of the Water Gardens of Dorne, where the noblemen and women of House Martell reside in luxury.
2. The cave of Grjótagjá – Iceland
The Icelandic cave of Grjótagjá offers a warm retreat from the harsh, snowcapped conditions of the surrounding Nordic environment. In fact, with water temperatures reaching above 100°F, regulars and tourists frequently bathe in the cave’s thermal spring.
It’s no wonder, then, that Jon Snow and Ygritte disrobed so willingly in the confines of the lava cavern, considering the chilly Northern climate they’d just left. The couple’s steamy, illegitimate fraternisation had been a long time coming and saw Snow break his vows of celibacy to the Night’s Watch.
1. Tollymore Forest Park – Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s Tollymore Forest Park sits in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains and boasts 1,600 acres of luscious flora and thriving wildlife. It contains no fewer than 16 bridges that pass over the Shimna River, as well as an abundance of natural grottos and caves. Tullymore’s Gothic barns and hermitages, meanwhile, made it the ideal filming location for 2014 horror flick Dracula Untold.
Tollymore Forest Park has featured in The Game of Thrones several times over multiple seasons. The forest made its debut in the show’s very first episode, as the spot where the Stark clan discovered a pack of direwolf pups. Since then the White Watchers have also stomped over its ancient grounds when it appeared as the Haunted Forest, and it’s where Ramsay Bolton hunted down Theon in season four, too.