Winter is Coming! 5 Game of Thrones Tour Locations to Escape the Cold

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, in Spain, is the real-life location for Dragonstone. Credit: HBO.

By Trixie Pacis | 25 Nov 2018 at 10:30am

We know the wait for Season 8 is starting to feel like The Long Night. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and head to one of these epic Game of Thrones tour destinations.

GoT location scouts have done an incredible job in bringing George R.R. Martin’s fictional world to the screen. Why not take advantage of their hard work to plan your next holiday? Regardless of where you fall on the fan scale, these sunny set locations will transport you to another world. Whether you’re looking for a Game of Thrones pilgrimage, a window into history or just a scenic place to sunbathe, each of these Game of Thrones tour destinations is worth a visit.

Game of Thrones Location: The Mdina Gate, Malta.
The Mdina Gate, Malta.

MALTA

Game of Thrones has won fans over with stunning locations since day one. The first destination on our list is Malta, which was used for locations in GoT Season 1. Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean sea, between Sicily and North Africa. Thanks to its succession of rulers—from the Romans and the Moors to the French and British—it is home to historic fortresses, temples, and burial chambers in addition to nostalgic Game of Thrones tour locations.

Mdina

The hilltop city of Mdina (pronounced Imdina) is a prime destination for Game of Thrones fans. Its thousand-year-old stone walls encircle a labyrinth of courtyards, alleys, and buildings used for various King’s Landing locations. Be sure to see the Mdina Gate, where Ned and Catelyn bid farewell following King Robert’s death, and Mesquita Square, where Jamie attacks Ned in ‘The Wolf and the Lion’ episode of Season 1.

San Anton Palace

A ten-minute drive from Mdina takes you to San Anton Palace and gardens in Balzan. This is the President’s official residence. Its courtyard and stables stood in for parts of the Red Keep. Remember when Joffrey led Sansa to a balcony to show her Ned’s head on a spike? Well, that was filmed here.

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Valletta

Strolling through Valletta’s narrow, cobbled streets will transport you to King’s Landing. The 18th century Fort Manoel doubles as the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Then catch a glimpse of the Gate of the Gods of King’s Landing by visiting the 17th-century Fort Ricasoli. You can also find a great vantage point at the Upper Barrakka Gardens across the Grand Harbour or hire a “dghajsa” (a traditional water gondola) for a close-up view from the water.

Manikata

This small village in northwestern Malta houses ruins that doubled as the village of Lhazareen, where Khal Drogo is poisoned by a witch in Season 1. The trek to Manikata makes sense if you’re stopping by on the way to…

Game of Thrones Location: Azure Window, Malta
The Azure Window in Malta was the backdrop for Dany and Drogo’s wedding before crumbling in a storm.

Gozo

Malta’s sister island is home to the Azure Window, a 30-metre rock formation on the edge of the sea. It was the backdrop for Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding and our introduction to Jorah. The crew covered the rocky ground in mesh and covered it with sand fo the desired desert effect, which wasn’t well received by Maltese authorities. This could be part of the reason the show relocated to Croatia. Though the magnificent sea arch featured in the episode collapsed in a severe 2017 storm, it still makes for a romantic getaway.

Fort St. Angelo

This bastioned medieval fort in the centre of the Grand Harbour was used for the Dungeons of the Red Keep. These are the dungeons that held Ned Stark before he was taken to the Sept of Baelor for his beheading.

Marsamxett Harbour

Pay your respects to Ned Stark by visiting Marsamxett Harbour, where his final scene was filmed. Historically called Marsamuscetto, It is a natural harbour located north of Malta’s Grand Harbour. It’s general use as a leisure area adds dual purpose to a visit.

St. Dominic’s Convent

While Rabat is best known for Saint Paul’s Catacombs, Game of Thrones filmed in a lesser-known religious site—Saint Dominic’s Priory. It was used for the Red keep Courtyard where Cersei warns Ned Stark, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Game of Thrones Location: Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
Aït Benhaddou, Morocco, stands in for the slavery city of Yunkai.

MOROCCO

The North African country of Morocco was used for much of the Daenerys storyline from seasons one through three. Morocco’s warmth and vivid colour brought an exotic feel to scenes, this Game of Thrones tour destination is sure to cure any case of winter blues.

Aït Benhaddou

Located between Marrakech and the Sahara lies the ancient fortified city of Aït Benhaddou. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the filming location for the slave-trading city of Yunkai, which the Mother of Dragons destroyed. Aït Benhaddou was once part of an old trade route and has its own history of slave trading; it sees regular traffic from tourists visiting the Sahara and plenty of film crews.

Essaouira

On the coast of Morocco, you will find the modern day location used for the ancient city of Astapor, home of the Unsullied. The city has a blend of Arab, African, and European elements. Of these, the Scala (an old Portuguese fortification) was used frequently by the Game of Thrones film crew.

Game of Thrones Location: Meteora, Greece
Meteora, Greece, is the real-life inspiration for the Eyrie.

GREECE

Meteora

While none of the cast filmed on location here, Meteora is the real-life inspiration for the Eyrie. It is a protected location, which placed limitations on filming. A second unit shot the Monasteries while VFX crew added digitally mastered additions—like the castle and Tyrion’s cell in the sky—afterwards.

Game of Thrones Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, Croatia (aka King’s Landing).

CROATIA

Perhaps the most popular filming location, Croatia has stood in for King’s Landing and Daenerys-related locations since Season 2. Tourism in Croatia has boomed since the series first filmed there. Now, you can take a Game of Thrones tour alongside a number of local historical and cultural experiences.

Dubrovnik

Strolling the old city is like taking a walk through King’s landing. You’ll find backdrops for the Battle of Blackwater, tournaments, waking shots, and markets. The main street between Cathedral and Sponza Palace featured heavily. The Minčeta Tower was used as The House of Undying in Qarth. You’ll also recognize the Jesuit Steps in the Gundulic Square from Cersei’s Walk of Penzance. Twenty minutes north of Dubrovnik, you can visit the Trsteno Arboretum, doubling as the King’s Landing gardens where Olenna Tyrell held court.

Split

Head to Fortress Klis and hike where Khaleesi nailed Mereen’s former rulers and slavers to wooden crosses on a fortified walkway. Other nearby filming locations include Trogir and Kastel Gomilica.

Game of Thrones Location: Real Alcázar of Seville, Spain
Real Alcázar of Seville, Spain, is real-life Dorne.

SPAIN

Game of Thrones has turned to Spain for many of its hot and exotic locations since Season 6. While you’ll find traces of Westeros in Barcelona, Valencia, Andalusia, and the Alhamila Mountains, these are the Spanish Game of Thrones tour destinations you absolutely cannot miss.

Seville

This Spanish city is home of Real Alcázar of Seville, a lavish royal palace used for establishing scenes of Dorne. You might recall wishing to holiday at the Martell’s summer home, the Water Palace of Sunspear. Well, you can visit the real-life equivalent but summer may not be the best time—it is one of Seville’s largest attractions. Other nearby locations include the Seville Stockyards and Plaza de Toros, the bullring in Osuna used as the fighting pit of Mereen. You may also want to check out the old ruins of Italica, a Roman amphitheater used as Season 7’s dragon pit and scheduled to reappear in Season 8.

Cordoba

Walk in Tyrion and Varys’ footsteps by crossing the Long Bridge of Volantis. The real-life version is a Roman bridge in Cordoba, built in the 1st century BCE.

Guadalajara

Two hours from Madrid, you’ll find the stuff of Bran’s visions. The Castle of Zafra appeared as the Tower of Joy, outside which young Ned Stark battled Ser Arthur Dayne and his Targaryen henchmen relating to key scenes about Jon Snow’s parentage. The 12th century Castle of Zafra stands alone on an outcrop 1,400 metres tall.

Game of Thrones Location: The Girona Cathedral, Spain
The Girona Cathedral, Spain, doubles as the Sept of Baelor during Margery’s atonement.

Girona

Visit Sant Pere Galligants, the 11th-century monastery that stood in for the Maester’s citadel that Samwell, Gilly, and Sam Jr. journeyed to. Nearby is Plaza del Jurats, where Arya watched a troupe of actors play out the conflict between the Starks and Lannisters. Many of the street and market scenes of Braavos were also filmed in Girona. Visiting the Pujada Sant Domenec, Banys Arabes (Arabic Baths), and surrounding streets will reveal sites used for Season 6 scenes featuring Arya and The Waif. Along Via Augusta, you can walk beneath the very archway that Jaime Lannister and his troops marched through to stop Margery’s atonement at the Sept of Baelor. From there, you’ll see the impressive Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, which doubled as the Sept itself.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Cross the man-made bridge that doubles as Dragonstone. This Basque heritage site started drawing some 2,500 tourists per day after the latest season of Thrones. While the modest church was replaced with a CGI castle, you can scale the winding steps where Jon, Dany, and Tyrion discussed those pesky White Walkers (image featured in article header).

Itzurun Beach

When Daenerys returned to the shores of Westeros in Season 7, she arrives on the rocky beaches of Dragonstone. In real life, Dragonstone is Itzurun, located near the Spanish seaside town of Zumaia. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can reach this stretch of coast by walking the Flysch Route, an established walking trail.  

Bardenas Reales

This natural park is a Unesco Biosphere reserve in the Navarre region. The Spanish badlands, a vast and largely deserted landscape comprised of sandstone canyons, appeared as the Dothraki Sea. The town of Tudela is a convenient jumping off point for visiting the many filming locations in this stunning region. When visiting nature sites, don’t forget to pack out what you pack in.

Game of Thrones Location: Bardenas Reales, Spain
Bardenas Reales, Spain, is the Dothraki Sea.

Avoiding Overcrowding

Setting foot in Westeros makes for a pretty epic holiday, but the reality is that Game of Thrones’ wild popularity has put many little-known locations on the tourist map. Flooding cities, natural places, and heritage sites with a sudden influx of visitors can place great strain on them. As you plan your Game of Thrones tour, consider visiting in the shoulder season to avoid crowds. It not only makes getting that ‘gram easier but also helps preserve these iconic destinations for the next generation of GoT fans.


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