3 amazing holiday destinations for fans of Game of Thrones
Experience the beauty of Westeros and Essos first hand
Not since Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings has a fantasy adventure enchanted so many. Backstabbing intrigue, gratuitous nudity, dragon-riding…Game of Thrones has it all. Moreover, the breathtaking locations are every bit as epic as New Zealand’s ‘Middle Earth’ landscapes.
For Game of Thrones enthusiasts the opportunity to experience Westeros and Essos first hand has become an increasingly popular, mostly because the majority of the series is set against dramatic European backdrops.
Here’s our recommendations for those of you looking to holiday in ‘Game of Thronesian’ style.
The Mediterranean archipelago has long been popular with directors of ‘sword and sandal’ epics. Both Troy and Gladiator were part filmed against the backdrop of Malta’s numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and burial chambers and so too was Series One of Game of Thrones, including scenes based at King’s Landing and Pentos. In the pretty town of Mdina, the Pjazza Mesquita (pictured below) was used as an unexpected location for the outdoor scenes of Littlefinger’s brothel. Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik entered King’s Landing through the Mdina Gate.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some of the locations, such as Fort Manoel, where King Joffrey judged Ned Stark, and Verdala Palace, where Daenerys Targaryen met the Dothraki ruler for the first time, can only be accessed as part of an organised. If you’d rather strike out on your own, there’s around-the-clock access to the Azure Window stone arch, which was such an impressive backdrop to the Dothraki marriage of Daenerys and Khal Drogo. Be sure to pay it a visit at sunset to see it at its very best.
Croatia usurped Malta as the key location for Game of Thrones filming at the start of the second season. Dubrovnik (pictured below) in particular has become a focal point with the Adriatic city’s beautifully restored Old Town and city walls doubling up as the setting for King’s Landing and the King’s residence at the Red Keep.
Located on the north-eastern side of the wall, the Minčeta Tower should also be familiar to Game of Thrones fans; this was a backdrop for the House of the Undying which, against the advice of Ser Jorah, Daenerys visited to save her dragon. Other scenes for the city of Quarth originated on the island of Lokrum, just 600 metres from Dubrovnik and accessible by boat in less than 15 minutes.
By the way, Dubrovnik also features in the eighth part of the Star Wars saga and will be on screen as Galactic scenery at the end of 2017. A good reason for fans to come back again and again!
As the action in Game of Thrones takes focus on the North, albeit south of the Wall, so the scenery and natural beauty of Northern Ireland comes to the fore. One of the most beautiful is Dark Hedges, a centuries-old avenue of beech trees in Ballymoney (pictured below), which features as a section of the King’s Road and is regarded as one of the most popular photo motifs in Ireland. Castle Ward may be more familiar as Winterfell, where you can actually slip into the role of the Starks and demonstrate your archery skills.
The Tollymore Forest Park has often featured as areas of Winterfell and the inhospitable Iron Islands, such as when Ballintoy Harbour was a backdrop for Pyke. Renly Baratheon pitched his camp on the beautiful coast of North Antrim (lead image above). And for those who like it a bit mystic: Melisandre gave birth to the Shadow in the Cushendun Caves.
Author Andrea David has spent more than ten years travelling to film locations all over the world and shares her knowledge and experiences with other fans of films and series at www.filmtourismus.de.
Photo credit: Ireland and Croatia: © Filmtourismus.de, Dubrovnik & Minčeta: © Ivo Biocina, Lokrum: © Juraj Kopac