Over the years, Game of Thrones has astounded fans across the globe with its thrilling storylines, daring sword fights and, let's admit it, bizarre romances. But one thing that truly helps the audience really become immersed in the world of Westeros and Essos is the breathtaking scenery. You may believe that some of the scenes are just "simple" CGI — the towering cities and deadly tundra cannot possibly be real — but behind each legendary scene is a real, living place. And the really amazing thing? Any fan can go visit them!
1. The Azure Window, Malta — Dothraki Wedding
Call me biased, but the Azure Window on Gozo must be one of the most beautiful natural wonders out there. Made by the elements, this window was used in Season 1 in one of the most spectacular, important events to happen in Daenerys's life, the first event that led her on the path to becoming the Mother of Dragons: The Dothraki wedding. Don't recognize it? See for yourself:
Check out the scene in question:
2. Fort Manoel, Malta — Beheading Of Ned Stark
This Maltese fort, built by the Knights of Order of St. John over 400 year ago, may not be recognizable in its usual, derelict state. But add some banners and bloodthirsty spectators and you have the set of one of the iconic scenes of Season 1: The beheading of Ned Stark. Yes, you read right, this quiet abandoned fort plays the part of the Great Sept of Baelor, supposedly the holiest place in Westeros, but also is the site of Ned Stark's pivotal death.
3. Aït Benhaddou, Morocco — Yunkai
The rolling red sands and characteristic Moroccan kasbahs impressed producers so much that Aït Benhaddou became the great city of Yunkai, a land ruled by slave merchants. Don't worry, in real life the place is much more welcoming, yet just as beautiful. I don't know about you but I could spend days relaxing on its beautiful sands and exploring its mysterious streets.
4. Essaouira, Morocco — Astapor
Another jewel in Morocco's crown, this UNESCO World Heritage site is rich in craft, cuisine and charm, and recognizable to all Game of Thrones fans as the great city of Astapor. A city known for providing Daenerys with her Unsullied soldiers, Essaouira's imposing bastions were just what was needed for a military city like this.
5. Hverfjall Volcano, Iceland — Beyond The Wall
The frozen Hverfjall volcano in Iceland is just breathtaking to see in real life and it was (with a bit of CGI help) the ideal place to use as the backdrop for the notorious and deadly White Walkers. Used for many scenes portraying what lies beyond the Wall, Hverfjall was also the inspiration for the icy and treacherous land.
6. Meteora, Greece — The Eyrie
Although fortunately lacking sky cells and Moon Doors, Meteora was used on multiple occasions as the Eyrie, the principle stronghold for House Arryn. The name Meteora actually means "suspended in the air" — it's as if the monastery was destined to some day play the part of Eyrie. Looking at it, it's difficult to believe that such a peaceful place could have been used for such a harsh and terrifying castle.
7. Dubrovnik, Croatia — King's Landing
The beautiful coastal city of Dubrovnik took the title of King's Landing after — for some bizarre reason — Maltese authorities thought the filming of Game of Thrones was causing environmental harm to the sites being used (don't worry, all filming locations are still standing strong, I can vouch for that). This magnificent Croatian city bestowed King's Landing with the seaside atmosphere it was missing in Season 1, giving this treacherous and bloody landing a more beautiful and Mediterranean vibe. If you're a real hardcore fan, you can even opt to take a GoT-themed tour, ensuring that you will not miss any of the spectacular sites.
8. Strangford Castle, Northern Ireland — Winterfell
Any real Game of Thrones fan can recognize the castle above, even with a missing tower. Northern Ireland is rich in noteworthy fortifications, but the magnificent Castle Ward of Strangford, for the first few seasons, acted as Winterfell, the home turf of the famous Stark family.
9. Dark Hedges, Stranocum, County Antrim, Northern Ireland — King's Road
Travelers must be weary as they travel the Dark Hedges of Northern Ireland. The name alone would make this path Game of Thrones-worthy. Used as the King's Road, we have learned that one must be careful while traveling on its dark but mesmerizing paths as art and reality collide in their ancient, intertwining branches.
10. Royal Alcázar Of Seville, Spain — Water Gardens Of Dorne
With around 11 centuries of history etched into the stone of the Royal Alcázar of Seville, it proved the perfect location for the Water Gardens of Dorne. With Alcázar's ornate archways, tiled walls, and beautiful garden, the choice was obvious.
These are just a few of dozens of other places GoT fans can go visit to live the Westerosi/Essosi life (minus the blood and death). However, to me these are some of the most beautiful places that really capture the essence of the thrilling world created by George R.R. Martin. So grab your passport and your trusty dragon, I think we're going on adventure — wouldn't you agree?