Ahoy, Pentoshi pirates!
Season 8 of Game of Thrones will be arriving in April, which is still longer than we want to wait. To tide you over until the return of our favorite homicidal, patricidal, direwolf-icidal crew, we've rounded up some of the most amazing filming locations from the show. So pour yourself a glass of Dornish red and keep scrolling for some serious Westerosi wanderlust.
Warning: This post is dark and full of spoilers. (Well, only a little, but better safe than sorry.)
Where? Ballymoney, Northern Ireland
A long, long time ago, back when we were all sweet summer children, Ned Stark and his daughters traveled to King's Landing via the Kingsroad.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that this tunnel of perfectly twisty trees was the result of creative CGI, but you'd also be wrong. Known locally as the Dark Hedges, this stretch of 200 beech trees in County Antrim, Northern Ireland really exists and visitors are attracted year-round by its photogenic spookiness.
2. Dothraki Sea
Where? Bardenas Reales, Spain
If you're looking to sample horse heart (yum!), be gruffly wooed by a long-haired horselord (who isn't?) or have a crown of gold custom-molded to your skull (bespoke!), you'll want to head to the Bardenas Reales badlands in Spain.
This semi-desert landscape in southeast Navarre was one of several filming locations for the expansive Dothraki Sea—other locations include the Tabernas Desert in southern Spain and the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. Don't forget your riding boots!
Where? Almodóvar del Rio, Spain
Highgarden, home to the Queen of Thorns (and Kween of Our Hearts) made its highly anticipated onscreen appearance in Season 7, portrayed by the medieval castle of Almodóvar del Rio in Spain's Córdoba province.
The seat of House Tyrell may fabled for its beauty—set in the lush and bountiful lands of the Reach, Highgarden's walls are said to be covered in flowering vines, its courtyards filled with fountains, roses and minstrels' music—but for Thrones fans, it will forever be remembered as the site of Olenna Tyrell's epic mic drop.
Where? Klis, Croatia
Set amidst the craggy mountains northeast of Split, Croatia, the medieval fortress at Klis is an impressive sight in its own right.
For Game of Thrones fans, the site will be familiar as the exterior shot location for the city of Meereen—you know, where Daenerys demonstrated her critical thinking skills by crucifying the masters and setting into motion that tiresome Sons of the Harpy shadow war and subsequent collapse of the Meereenese economy.
It's a lovely fortress, though.
5, 6, & 7. King's LandingWhere? Dubrovnik, Croatia | Mdina, Malta | Girona, Spain
No list of Game of Thrones filming locations would be complete without mentioning Dubrovnik. The Croatian city has sprung to fame amongst fans as the primary filming location for King's Landing, with familiar sites like the Red Keep gardens (Trsteno Arboretum) and castle walls (Fort Lovrijenac) found throughout this coastal gem.
Although filming moved to Dubrovnik after Season 1, the walled city of Mdina, Malta will forever have a place in our (broken) hearts as the King's Landing of Ned Stark.
Visitors to the ancient city can relive some of the first season's most memorable scenes—from Ned and Catelyn's farewell at the city gates to his skirmish with Jaime Lannister in Mesquita Square to his...um...final appearance atop the ramparts of San Aton Palace.
The Sept of Baelor, located in the heart of King's Landing, has been the backdrop to some of the series' most explosively iconic moments.
The Sept has actually been represented by three different locations over the course of the series: Ned's fate was sealed on the steps of Fort Manoel in Malta, Cersei showed off her bold new haircut and beach bod on the Jesuit Stairs in Dubrovnik, and Jaime demonstrated some fancy hoofwork on the steps of Girona Cathedral in Spain (pictured below) in Season 6.
Where? Alcazar of Seville, Spain
Whatever your feelings on the Dorne plotline may be, we think we can all agree that HBO did right by the Dornish palace of Sunspear when they chose the Alcazar of Seville as its filming location.
This gorgeous royal palace in southern Spain was originally built by Moorish kings and is the oldest European palace still in use. Just be careful when wandering through the gardens—they're riddled with Sand Snakes.
9 & 10. Dragonstone
Where? Castlerock, Northern Ireland | San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain
The ancestral seat of House Targaryen may not be the coziest looking palace in all of Westeros, but who needs tapestries and cushions when you have actual dragon fire to keep you warm?
Back when Stannis was still lecturing people by day and defiling tabletops by night, Downhill Strand in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland served as the set of Dragonstone island. It was here that Melisandre brought a little religious intolerance to the party by burning statues of the seven gods.
With Daenerys' long-awaited return to Westeros, we finally got a better look at the Targaryen stronghold itself. The islet of Gaztelugatxe on the Basque coast of Spain was a fitting choice for exterior shots of the castle, with its craggy coastline and the dramatic, winding stone pathway that connects it to the mainland.
11 & 12. Braavos
Where? Girona, Spain | Šibenik, Croatia
The Free City of Braavos—known for its canals and Swiss banking practices—was the location of Arya's seasons-long Karate Kid montage/harrowing gap year.
Its heritage of medieval wealth and multi-cultural history make Girona, Spain the real world stand-in for the bustling melting pot of Braavos. Girona's tangled cobblestone lanes look like they were made to play the part of the twisting alleyways of this "labyrinth of illusion and deceit."
The town of Šibenik, Croatia appeared onscreen as the intrigue-laden Free City back in Season 5, when Lord Tyrell was sent to negotiate with the Iron Bank* and Arya began her unpaid internship at the House of Black and White, portrayed by the real-life St. James Cathedral.
*Fans of the BBC series Sherlock expressed absolutely zero surprise at the discovery that Mycroft Holmes had been moonlighting as a representative of the Iron Bank. Because of course he would.
13. Birthing Cave
Where? Cushendun, Northern Ireland
We're not really sure why you'd want to visit the set of the cave where Melisandre gave birth to a horrific demon shadow baby (unless you're currently expecting a child yourself, in which case this would make a killer location for a pregnancy announcement photoshoot*). However, if you're in the area, the Cushendun Caves can be found near the charming coastal village of Cushendun in Northern Ireland.
*Note that we said photoshoot. Please, for the love of R'hllor, do not actually give birth in this cave.
Where? Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
Hey, remember the first Daario Naharis? Sleazy surfer Daario who was hot but like, in a gross way? If so, you'll recall that Daenerys and her swashbuckling bedmate first met outside the walls of Yunaki before the city opened its gates to the burgeoning dragon queen/enlightened despot.
Those scenes were shot outside the red-hued village of Aït Benhaddou near Ouarzazate, Morocco, which has also been used as a location for bonafide cinematic classics like Time Bandits, Jewel of the Nile, The Mummy, and Gladiator.
15. Casterly Rock
Where? Trujillo, Spain
Okay, to be honest we kind of expected Casterly Rock to be taller. Like, "three times taller than the Wall" taller. Like, "I have a crick in my neck from straining to see the top of this unreasonably massive cliff and equally colossal castle" taller.
That being said, Castillo de Trujillo in Spain's Cáceres province—which stood in for the famed Lannister stronghold in Season 7—is a pretty gosh darn impressive castle, boasting seventeen square towers and four standing gates.
16 & 17. The Iron Islands
Where? Ballintoy, Northern Ireland | Murlough Bay, Northern Ireland
If the Iron Islands were real, we suspect their tourism board would have a hard time selling grey weather, barnacle-encrusted inhabitants, and pillaging-based economic system to prospective tourists.
However, Northern Ireland—which served as the set for many Iron Islands scenes—is a lovely (albeit grey-ish) place filled with charming people and quaint little harbors. Case in point: Ballintoy Harbour stood in for Lordsport, Pyke back in Season 2 when pre-Reek Theon returned home to a warm welcome by his loving father.
Speaking of warm welcomes, remember the horse ride Theon shared with his sister, Yara? That familial scene was shot along the picturesque cliffs of Murlough Bay, which lies just 12 miles from Ballintoy Harbour.
18. Tower of Joy
Where? Campillo de Dueñas, Spain
The impressive 12th-century Castle of Zafra, located in the arid mountains of Spain's Guadalajara province, appeared in Game of Thrones as the Tower of Joy (aka, the scene that had every book reader hyperventilating in anticipation).
Although the castle's appearance in the series was brief, it was hugely important—not only did the Tower of Joy scene reveal a game-changing secret, it also gave viewers a glimpse of offstage favorite Lyanna Stark and master of hide-and-seek Howland Reed.
19 & 20. Beyond The Wall
Where? Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland | Mývatn, Iceland
Small wonder the creators of Game of Thrones chose Vatnajökull National Park to stand in for the lands Beyond the Wall (and the backdrop to some of Jon Snow's hair's finest, windiest moments): this stunning landscape is filled with geothermal rivers, ice caves, snowy mountain peaks, and massive glaciers.
It's the perfect place to live out all your wildest wildling fantasies. Just, you know, pack a few shards of dragonglass in your checked bag. Just in case.
While we're on the subject of wilding fantasies, y'all remember that cozy cave scene between Jon and Ygritte in Season 3? It was filmed in the beautiful Grjótagjá hot spring near lake Mývatn, a popular local bathing spot and welcome respite from the freezing Icelandic winters.
Where? Strangford, Northern Ireland
Last on our list (but first in our hearts) is Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland, which served as the set of Winterfell. The beloved Stark stronghold is where it all started—way back when we were all innocent and happy and playing a game of thrones seemed like a jolly good time.
Castle Ward now offers a variety of Game of Thrones tours and activities, including archery, direwolf meet-and-greets, glamping, and medieval banquets. Just try not to sob into your venison as you remember Arya happily flinging food at Sansa's face or Ned's fatherly smile.
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