The final season of Game of Thrones has begun, promising the much-anticipated ending to the fantasy saga involving fire-breathing dragons, ice zombies, and vengeful nobles vying for the Iron Throne. While the world of Westeros may be fictional, the places the show was filmed are not. Here are five Game of Thrones-themed destinations you can visit on your next cruise.
It’s easy to see why Northern Ireland was chosen as the backdrop for this medieval fantasy series. Ancient castles, cliffs, and ruins transport the visitor to another century, and frequent storm clouds give the scenery a dark, dramatic flair. What better place for Winterfell, the stronghold of the North?
The scenes at Winterfell were actually filmed at the real-life Castle Ward, located just south of the capital city of Belfast. Castle Ward currently offers special Game of Thrones-themed tours, where fans can walk in the footsteps of their favorite characters and visit the filming locations of several scenes which are crucial to the plot.
A two-hour drive from Castle Ward lies Dark Hedges, an ancient road lined by imposing, centuries-old beech trees. The trees were planted in the 18th century to create an impressive entrance to Gracehill house, a historical mansion and estate which still stands today. This stretch of road was used as the setting for part of the King’s Road, where Arya Stark travels with Yoren, Gendry, Hot Pie, and others to get to the Night’s Watch.
The producers of the series sought inspiration in the Mediterranean for the capitol of the Seven Kingdoms: Dubrovnik, Croatia. This medieval town serves as the backdrop of King’s Landing, the fictional capital of Westeros. A city steeped in history, Dubrovnik sits high atop a cliff, its fortress-like walls protecting miles of hidden alleyways and cobblestone streets. The distinctive city walls served as the setting for the Battle of Blackwater in Season 2 of the TV series.
Another location that fans will surely recognize is Fort Lovrijenac, an 11th-century building on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, which served as the Red Fortress.
Split, Croatia is another popular cruise destination that was also featured on Game of Thrones. This charming seaside resort town is home to some of the most beautiful beaches of the Adriatic Sea. The warm weather and blue-green waters attract visitors from all over the world. Several scenes in Seasons 4 were filmed at Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman palace in the middle of Split.
The island of Malta, located off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, served as the setting for warmer locations in Season 1. The history of the island is nearly as exciting as the show itself. The city of Mdina, for example, was founded by the Phoenicians, conquered by the Romans, and later invaded by the Arabs. Its architecture reflects a unique fusion of all of these different cultures. Mdina was the primary filming location for King’s Landing.
In the Maltese town of Gira, Fort Manoel served as the steps to the Great Sept of Baelor, where Ned Stark met his untimely demise. In front of San Anton Palace, a.k.a. the Red Keep, Arya Stark made her first kill – an unlucky stable boy who fell victim to her sword, Needle.
Adjacent to Malta, you can take a ferry to the small island of Gozo, whose limestone rock cliffs on the edge of the beach were used as the setting for the wedding between Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen. A boat ride through the caves of Gozo is one of the best ways to experience this island’s stunning landscape.
The fifth and sixth seasons of Game of Thrones were filmed in Seville, the backdrop for the scenes which took place in Dorne. The Moorish architecture present throughout Spain’s Andalusia region made it the perfect setting for the fictional land, which was in part inspired by medieval Spain. The beautiful royal palace Alcázar of Seville was used to represent Sunspear and the Water Gardens of Dorne, the residence of the family Martell. The Plaza de Toros, a real-life bullfighting ring in Osuna, served as the fighting pit in Meereen. And the Castillo de Almodóvar del Río was used both as the House of Tyrell’s home in Highgarden as well as parts of the Lannister’s house of Casterly Rock.
Iceland was the sole location for scenes that took place north of the Wall, where temperatures as low as -13 degrees made recording challenging for the film crew.
Much of the fourth season was filmed in Thingvellir, Iceland’s most important national park. Arya Stark and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane travel through here on their way to the Vale, stopping at several villages as they go. This nature reserve marks where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates come together. Visitors who are not afraid of the cold can even swim in the fracture.
Another Icelandic filming location for Game of Thrones is the Grjótagjá cave, where Jon Snow and Ygritte spent the night in Season 3. The volcanic cave, located in northwestern Iceland, is actually the site of a hot spring and a popular tourist attraction.
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