After eight seasons of thrilling drama, imaginative fantasy sequences and plenty of unexpected deaths, millions all over the world will be watching the finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones on 14 mayo 2019.
If you’re not ready to say goodbye to Westeros just yet, then why not plan a Game of Thrones vacation? Whether you prefer the sunlit lands of the South, or the cragged landscapes of the North, here are the real-life destinations that we think will give you a taste of Westeros you’ll never forget.
This blog contains no spoilers from Season 8, but may contain spoilers from earlier seasons.
Main seat: Winterfell
Ruling house Stark
House sigil: Wolf
House words: Winter is coming
Filmed in: Castle Ward, Strangford and Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland
Instead go to: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland and Hadrian’s Wall, England
The North, the largest kingdom in Westeros, has been the setting for some of the most dramatic scenes in Game of Thrones. Located between the Riverlands and the Wall, the North has a reputation for being cold and damp, but many key Game of Thrones families such as the Starks, Boltons and Mormonts are proud to call it home.
If you’re like Jon Snow and appreciate the beauty of a rugged landscape, then a trip to Scotland is sure to charm you. Like the North, the Scottish Highlands were well known for their tough warriors, who had to fight off many invaders including the fearsome Vikings. If you’d like to tackle a challenge worthy of a Stark warrior whilst you’re in the Highlands, then visit Fort William to climb Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. If you’re after more of a stroll than a mountain climb, then Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park further south has plenty of gentle hills and glens to explore.
Of course, no description of the North would be complete without mentioning the Wall and you can hop across the Scottish border into the north of England to visit one of the world’s most famous walls. Hadrian’s Wall was built to guard the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire in 128AD. Quite a lot shorter than its counterpart in Game of Thrones, Hadrian’s Wall is still an impressive relic of an ancient empire and it stretches for 73 miles from coast to coast.
Home to the Stark family, Winterfell has been a central location throughout Game of Thrones. Scotland has plenty of castles you can visit, but if you’re looking for somewhere a little more refined and comfortable than Winterfell itself, then a visit to Edinburgh Castle is a must. Not only is it an imposing hilltop fortress, it’s also handily located in the centre of Edinburgh, one of the most beautiful and historical cities in the UK.
If you want to hike the incredible Ben Nevis, then the nearest airport is Inverness Airport (INV), which receives regular scheduled and charter services run by airlines such as British Airways, KLM and Loganair. If you only want to visit Hadrian’s Wall in England then the nearest airport is Newcastle International Airport (NCL), where you can travel with airlines such as Ryanair and Air France.
The Crownlands (King's Landing)
Main seat: King's Landing
Ruling house: Lannister
House sigil: Lion
House words: Hear me roar
Filmed in: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Instead go to: Cusco, Peru
Although most of The Crownlands is relatively unknown, anyone who watches the Game of Thrones will be aware of the capital: King’s Landing. Featured in every season since the beginning of the show, King's Landing has already seen many rulers from different Houses (Baratheon and Lannister). Although the capital has seen many battles and destruction, it remains largely intact apart from the now destroyed Sept of Baelor thanks to Cersei and her wildfire in Season 6!
If you fancy a trip to the red-roofed, charismatic old streets of King’s Landing, why not head to Cusco (or Cuzco) in Peru? Although this city is famed for being the cheap gateway to Machu Picchu, the city itself has much to offer. This ancient capital of the Inca Empire in the Andes, when paired with its similar warm summer temperatures will really make you able to immerse yourself and believe you are part of the Game of Thrones universe - just without the wildfire.
Talking of wildfire, if you are missing the Great Sept of Baelor since it’s destruction, make sure you plan to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cusco Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. This Cathedral, which is not only a place of worship but also a repository for many pieces of artifacts, relics and colonial art is over 350 years old, and has striking resemblances to the Sept in King’s Landing.
Take me to Cusco, Peru: Cusco’s international airport is Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport (CUZ), which operates flights to the rest of Peru and Latin America. Fly here with LATAM Peru, Peruvian Airlines and Avianca.
The Reach (Highgarden)
Main seat: Highgarden
Ruling house: Tyrell (formerly)
House sigil: Golden rose
House words: Growing strong
Filmed in: Castillo del Almodóvar del Rio, Andalucia, Spain
Instead go to: Keukenhof, The Netherlands
The Reach is one of the larger kingdoms in Westeros and was most famously run by House Tyrell until the family’s untimely demise after making an enemy of Cersei Lannister.
Unlike the harder, colder lands to the North, the Reach is blessed with plenty of wealth, crops and flowers. This is reflected by the Tyrell sigil of a golden rose sitting in a pale green field. Their house words, “Growing Strong”, also reference the richness and fertility of the land.
Similarly to the Reach, the Netherlands, sometimes called Holland, has excellent conditions for growing flowers. Each year, between mid March and mid May, flowers such as tulips, crocuses and hyacinths fill the country’s fields, making for an incredible - and very Instagrammable - spectacle. However, after too many eager visitors searching for the perfect selfie have left fields trampled upon, Dutch tulip growers have recently requested that visitors appreciate the beauty of the tulips respectfully from afar. If you want a close up look, we recommend that you take a trip to Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens instead. Not far from the capital Amsterdam, every year 7 million flower bulbs are planted in Keukenhof which, when in bloom, make an unforgettable and fragrant display.
Take me to Keukenhof: The best way to visit Keukenhof is to travel from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), which is around a half hour trip by car or public transport. If you’d like to fly to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, then you can choose from a whole host of airlines including KLM, American Airlines, Aer Lingus, Cathay Pacific and Transavia.
Main seat: Sunspear
Ruling house: Martell (formerly)
House sigil: Sun pierced with a spear
House words: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Filmed in: Seville, Spain
Instead go to: Meknes, Morocco
Although Oberyn Martell is a prominent character during Season 4, we don’t see his home region of Dorne until Season 5 where we are introduced to the luscious Water Gardens. The Water Gardens Palace with its fountains, pools and shade from all the trees is a welcome retreat from the hot climate of the South of Westeros.
In this beautiful UNESCO city of Meknes in Morocco, travellers can experience the authentic Morocco as an alternative to the popular and touristy cities of Fez and Marrakesh. To get a taste of Dorne, travellers should be sure to visit the intricate Bab Mansour Gate, who’s architecture bears much resemblance to that of the Water Garden Palace. Similarly, why not relax in the Lahboul Gardens in true Martell style, or visit the Place El Hedim and the Dar Jamai Museum, complete with an Andalusian courtyard garden similar to that of Alcazar of Seville where the Water Gardens was filmed for the TV series.
The Westerlands is best known for being home to Casterly Rock, a castle built into a rock formation from which House Lannister ruled from for many years.
However, when it comes to impressive rock formations, look no further than the Rock of Gibraltar. The Rock of Gibraltar is one of the most well-recognised rocks in the world and is famous for its dramatic formations.
There are many different ways you can see the Rock of Gibraltar — you can drive around the rock to get a really good look at all the fascinating formations, take a cable car to the summit or hike all the way up to the top on foot (just beware of the monkeys!). Once at the lookout point, take in the amazing views across the ocean, with Africa’s silhouette sitting in the distance.
Gibraltar itself is a fantastic place to visit, as a British Territory on the southern coast of Spain, it’s predominantly British but also has a blend of Spanish and African cultures too. And, with up to 2,778 hours of sunshine a year, you’ll be pleased to find that the weather is one part of Britain that Gilbratar has left behind.
When the show started, it was a few years removed from when Lord Balon Greyjoy declared himself King of the Iron Islands and led a rebellion against the Baratheons and the Iron Throne. It was a rebellion that led to Balon losing two of his sons as he bent his knee to King Robert Baratheon after his army was defeated.
It’s a pity that Balon lived on the Iron Islands and not the Indonesian Islands. Because if it’d been the other way round, he could’ve lived like a King without the need to go to war.
Indonesia is made up of several thousand islands, with each as beautiful as the one neighbouring it. Swap Pyke castle for sacred temples, relax on idyllic white-sand beaches and explore the islands’ ancient ruins. There’s really no limit on the number of long-lasting life experiences that are to be had in Indonesia.
Game of Thrones starts with the suspicious death of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King. This causes Robert Baratheon to travel to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to be his new Hand, sparking an unforgettable chain of events. Jon Arryn had been the powerful Lord of the Vale, a title which was passed onto his young son Robin. Throughout the series, both Catelyn and Sansa Stark visit the Vale, eager for help from Lady Lysa, Catelyn’s sister.
The Vale is a mountainous region, the main example being its capital The Eyrie, which is built upon a peak in the Mountains of the Moon and has an inbuilt moon door, a hatch in the floor which opens out onto a sheer drop down the mountains.
New Zealand’s South Island is world famous for its mountain ranges, lakes and glaciers which combine to make a unique and striking landscape reminiscent of that in The Vale. Used as a filming location for fellow fantasy series The Lord of the Rings, much of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region has now been designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve. This means it’s one of the best places in the world to view the stars and a night’s stargazing is sure to make you quickly feel as if you’re drifting away from the modern world to somewhere more fantastical.
The name ‘Eyrie’ has a real life meaning as ‘a large nest of an eagle or other bird of prey’ and this is reflected in House Arryn’s sigil of a white falcon. New Zealand’s unique history as an island far removed from any other, means it is home to some of the world’s most remarkable bird populations. Stewart Island has the most diverse bird population in New Zealand due to its remote location and, if you’re lucky, you could spot anything from the forest parrot kaka to kiwis or even penguins!
Take me to New Zealand: Christchurch International Airport (CHC) is the main airport on the South Island of New Zealand, around a 4 hour drive away from Mount Cook, and you can fly there with Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways, Qantas and Virgin Australia, amongst others. From there, if you wanted to visit Stewart Island then you can fly with Air New Zealand to Invercargill Airport (IVC), the most southerned controlled airport in the Commonwealth. You can then take a ferry to travel onwards from Invercargill Airport to Steward Island.
Main seat: Riverrun
Ruling house: Tully (formerly)
House sigil: Fish
House words: Family, duty, honor
Filmed in: River Quoile, County Down, Northern Ireland
Instead go to: Nahanni National Park, Canada
Located neatly in the centre of Westeros, The Riverlands was previously ruled by House Tully from their castle Riverrun, with other key places being Harrenhal and The Twins (location of the notorious Red Wedding). The Riverlands landscape is, unsurprisingly from the name, dominated by rivers and in particular the Trident River with all its tributaries.
If river-dominated valleys with high mountains to the side sounds like your ideal destination, head to Nahanni National Park Reserve in Canada. Trade the passive and gentle Trident River in favour of the impressive whitewaters of the South Nahanni River. This remote and mystical river has rapids with names such as Hell’s Gate, which truly sounds like something belonging to Harrenhal! Other unmissable parts of this National Park is the dramatic Virginia Falls waterfall (double the size of Niagara falls), the Rabbitkettle Hotsprings and the abundant wildlife and plant species.
Take me to Nahanni National Park: The closest airport to Nahanni National Park is Fort Simpson (YFS), with the airlines Air Tindi and First Air both flying from Yellowknife Airport (YZF) which is connected with domestic flights to destinations across Canada. From Fort Simpson, you can get to the National Park via a seaplane, or alternatively you can choose to drive.
Main seat: Storm’s End
Ruling house: Baratheon (formerly)
House sigil: Stag
House words: Ours is the fury
Filmed in: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Instead go to: Harlech Castle, Wales
The Stormlands, best known for Storm’s End which is the ancestral seat of House Baratheon, is another of the regions of the Seven Kingdoms. The Stormlands are located on the eastern coast of Westeros, with Blackwater Bay to the north, the Sea of Dorne in the south and the Narrow Sea to the east separating the Free Cities of Essos from Westeros.
Although we never have actually seen Storm’s End in the show, the castle has been described as one of the mightiest fortresses in the whole of Westeros, surviving it’s millenia-long history including Robert’s Rebellion when it was given to Renly.
If the hint of ‘storm’ in the name wasn’t enough to get you imagining what this region is like, Storm��s End is located in Shipbreaker’s Bay, named for all the ships that get battered from the storms coming off the Narrow Sea.
To get the melancholy feeling of the Stormlands with all the grandeur of Storm’s End Castle, head to Harlech Castle in Wales. Located on a rock close to the stormy Irish Sea, this castle’s history is very similar to that in the TV franchise; withstanding a siege in the late 13th century and playing an important role in several wars.
You’ll also find lots more to do in the area such as the many beautiful beaches, and the nearby Snowdonia National Park. Read about what Snowdonia has to offer in our blog about the Top 5 National Parks in the UK.
Take me to Harlech: The nearest local airport to Harlech is Anglesey Airport (VLY), which operates flights the airline Flybe. If you’d prefer to fly to a larger international airport, you can fly to Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL) with airlines such as Wideroe, Lauda and Blue Air.
Beyond The Wall
Filmed in: National Parks in Iceland
Instead go to: Greenland
Game of Thrones fans are made well-aware of the dangers from beyond the Wall from the start. Originally thought to be mythical creatures to characters in the show, we see a White Walker in the very first scene of the show. And the scale of the army of the dead and the threat that it poses is solidified in later episodes Valar Morghulis and Hardhome.
We don’t blame you if you’re not initially struck on the idea of travelling to a place likened to the death-ridden landscape beyond the Wall. But, hear us out — Greenland is not only completely free of ice zombies but its an extremely spectacular island too!
We won’t sugar-coat it, Greenland is expensive. However, it’s also once-in-a-lifetime experience that is totally worth the cost. Explore the unspoiled wilderness of this icy dreamland by hiking the Arctic Circle Trail, kayak through Greenland’s Arctic waters under the lights of the aurora borealis and take a helicopter ride around its majestic mountains.
Take me to Greenland:Air Iceland and Air Greenland are the only two airlines that offer flights to Greenland’s five major commercial airports. However, it might be necessary to fly into Denmark first and get a connecting flight.
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