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A ‘Game of Thrones’ guide to travelling the world

This article originally appeared on www.hotelclub.com/blog. which is now part of hotels.com

Besides George R.R. Martin’s lead character bloodlust and Hodor’s award-winning dialogue, we can all agree that one of the best things about Game of Thrones is the jaw-dropping landscapes of Westeros. Like any 2015 blockbuster, there’s a little CGI involved in the backdrops of the Seven Kingdoms. But for the most part, GoT uses spectacular real-life filming locations to catapult Martin’s fantasy realm from page to screen – from the sunny coastlines of the Mediterranean, to the rolling hills of Northern Ireland and Iceland’s barren snowscapes. Take note the spots in our Game of Thrones travel guide, then promise to the old gods and the new you’ll visit them.

1. Croatia

Thanks to its year-round sunshine, azure coastline and historic old towns, Croatia plays host to a myriad of Westeros’ fictional seaside spots. Plus, you won’t have to bend the knee to House Lannister to roam the city unharmed.

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Above: Kings Landing; Below: Dubrovnik old town, Croatia. Source: Shutterstock

Dubrovnik – King’s Landing

The picturesque, fortified old town of Dubrovnik is the perfect setting for King’s Landing – the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, home of the Iron Throne and (currently) ruled by the most dysfunctional royal family ever, The Lannisters.

Stay at: Villa Glavic

Minceta Tower in Dubrovnik Old Town – The House of the Undying

Minceta Tower – an ancient fortress jutting above the Walls of Dubrovnik – was used as Qarth’s creepy House of the Undying in season two. Cruise the castle walls free from the threat of any vitamin D-deficient warlocks.

You Might Also Like: HotelClub’s Guide to the Walled City of Dubrovnik

Lokrum – Qarth

The greater, more tropical surrounds of Qarth were filmed on the Croatian island of Lokrum. A short boat trip from Dubrovnik will have you touching down on the lush island – the perfect spot for the greatest (fictional) city that ever was or will be.

Sibenik – Braavos

The laidback fishing town look familiar? In the Game of Thrones realm it’s known as Braavos. A man or woman won’t find any faceless men in these parts, but they will probably encounter sun-kissed locals, top-notch seafood and a long list of relaxing places to have an afternoon dip/nap.

2. Northern Ireland

The wildness of Northern Ireland is to Game of Thrones what the untamed New Zealand landscapes are to the similarly epic Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Like NZ’s canny Hobbit-inspired tourism hook, the major Irish metropolises are taking advantage of the country’s newfound fictional esteem with tours led by locals who played extras on the show.

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Above:  The King’s Road; Below: The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland. Source: Shutterstock. 

The likely spots on the tour include: The Dark Hedges in County Antrim – The King’s Road

The intertwined beech trees of the Dark Hedges provide the other-worldly setting for The King’s Road. It first featured way back in episode two of the series, in which Ned Stark and his daughters hit the road for King’s Landing so Ned could assume his short-lived post as Hand of the King.

Stay at: Dunadry Hotel

Castle Ward in County Down – Winterfell

For those who prefer to recall Winterfell in its pre-Bolton former glory as the House of Stark, the imposing 18th century castle is one of the most iconic locations in the Seven Kingdoms.

Downhill Beach in County Derry/County Londonderry – Dragonstone Beach

This beautiful wild coastline is the location where Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon hit peak Poor-Decision-Mode. This is where she burned the wooden likeness of the Seven-faced God and Stannis made his Faustian conversion to the Lord of Light.

Stay at: Beech Hill Country House

Related: How to Travel Dublin on a Shoestring Budget

Murlough Bay – The Iron Islands

Murlough Bay boasts breathtaking views of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre and a famously beautiful stretch of untouched coastline. Don’t let the fact it doubles as Theon Greyjoy’s hometown deter you.

3. Malta

While Croatia is home to most of Game of Thrones’ coastal spots, Malta’s endless historic villages, monuments and volcanic coastlines are ideal for the more epic, raw backdrops in the show. It’s the perfect place for a sunny jaunt or a Dothraki wedding.

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Above: The Dothraki Wedding; The Azure Window, Malta. Source: Shutterstock. 

Azure Window – The Dothraki Wedding, The Island of Gozo

Malta is blessed with a jaw-dropping volcanic coastline – the jewel in the crown located on the Island of Gozo – a stretch featuring a giant limestone arch known as Azure Window. It’s relaxing, and the exact opposite of the totally un-chill Dothraki Wedding that used the Azure Window as a backdrop in season one.

Stay at: Cornucopia Hotel

Related: HotelClub’s City Guide to Malta

Fort Ricasoli – The Red Keep Gate

Fort Ricasoli’s giant sandstone spiral columns and intricate detailing is used as the Red Keep Gate in Game of Thrones; and several of the Red Keep scenes in season one were filmed in Malta’s breathtaking San Anton Palace.

4. Iceland

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Above: North of The Wall; Below: Patna Glacier, Iceland. Source: Shutterstock. 

The series’ allusions to an inevitable “big freeze” meant Iceland was an obvious choice for the blizzard-riddled scenes north of The Wall, and home to the Wildlings and those pesky Whitewalkers.

Patna Glacier – North of The Wall

The ice-capped end of Iceland – specifically, the gigantic Vatna Glacier, or Vatnajökull – is where the most of the scenes North of The Wall were filmed. If you’ve sworn your oath to the Night’s Watch, this probably isn’t the best place for you. For everyone else, the Patna Glacier is jaw-dropping.

You Might Also Like: What to Know Before Travelling to Iceland

Lake Mývatn Hot Springs – Jon Snow and Ygritte’s Steamy Grotto

Jon Snow and Ygritte – their relationship was rocky at best. Maybe the reason the writers chose the rocky thermal springs of Iceland’s Lake Mývatn as their short-term love grotto in season three. Stay at: Fosshotel Laugar

Dimmuborgir – The Wildling Camps

The unique lava fields of Dimmuborgir is where the Wildlings camped out in earlier seasons.

5. Morocco

Morocco is one of the most photogenic places on earth, with its vast golden kasbahs rendered in sand. So it’s not surprising the Game of Thrones location scouts cast it as the text’s fictitious “Golden City” and a handful of other prime destinations for dragon-spotting.

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Above: the fictional city of Yunkai; Below: Aït Benhaddou in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Source: Shutterstock. 

Ouarzazate – Yunkai & Pentos

With its majestic clay architecture sprawling across six Kasbahs, the Aït Benhaddou in Morocco has an impressive cinematic pedigree. It starred in Ridley Scott’s Roman epic Gladiator and Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, before entering the Game of Thrones travelogue as the stage for both Pentos and Yunkai, the slaver’s city sacked by Daenarys and co. in season three.

Stay at: Hotel Le Flint

Essaouira – Astapor AKA ‘The Red City’

The adventures of Khaleesi continue in this World Heritage seaport, formerly the playground for the 1960s jet set (think: Talitha Getty, Cat Stevens). In the series it provides the backdrop for Astapor, where Daenarys frees, then earns the fealty of The Unsullied.

Related: How to Spend 48 Hours in Morocco’s Cultural Capital, Marrakesh

  6. Spain

Spain has an intoxicating cultural heritage, a history dating back to the early Middle Ages, and famously diverse landscapes from The Pyrenees to Andalusia. Basically, it’s the perfect backdrop for one of Westeros’s most far-flung and fabled regions.

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Above: The Water Palaces of Dorne; Below: Alcázar Palace in Seville, Spain. Source: Shutterstock. 

Alcázar de Sevilla – Water Palaces of Dorne

The set of the Water Palaces of Dorne is fitting of its royal Game of Thrones inhabitants – the categorically beautiful cast from House Martell; the Alcázar Palace in Seville is in fact one of the city’s oldest royal residences, famous for manicured gardens, beautiful fountains and Moorish design. Now famous as the last known location Myrcella Baratheon was seen alive. Stay at: Vincci La Rabida

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