Want to visit Westeros? Can’t let go of GoT? Keep the magic alive by taking an unforgettable Game of Thrones vacation. In this post, we choose our 5 favourite GoT filming locations that double as spectacular travel destinations.
What’s in our guide to Game of Thrones vacation destinations?
2. Ride to the Red Keep — Mdina, Valletta & More in Malta
3. Sack Astapor — Essaouira, Morocco
4. Wander Winterfell — Northern Ireland
5. Navigate North of the Wall — Iceland
6. New Game of Thrones Studio Tour — Banbridge, Northern Ireland
7. How to Treat these Incredible Locations with Respect
This post was created in partnership with KKday.
The final season of Game of Thrones is upon us!!
Stephen and I are equal parts thrilled to see how everything turns out and dreading the end of the greatest TV series since forever.
Game of Thrones had a direct impact on our decision to sell our house in 2012 and take off on our own adventure, cycling to far reaches of the world that most tourists never see. I had listened to the books during my arduous LA commute and they helped me realize that a life spent in freeway traffic was not a life well lived.
We didn’t start to watch the series until we we already on the road. Curling up around our laptop in our tent to watch the next episode became our ritual — weirdly, it kept us grounded in our recently uprooted life.
The show has been a key part of our travels ever since. We never pass up the chance to visit Game of Thrones filming locations in person.
Now, because we simply cannot wait for the final season to start, we want to share our favourite Game of Thrones holiday destinations with you.
The great thing about these locations is:
- They bring you right into the heart of the show and make it easy to imagine you are a fly on the wall of some of the greatest GoT scenes.
- They are magnificent destinations in their own right. So, in case you have a family member who is not a GoT fan, they will still love the trip
just as muchalmost as much as you!
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet seen Game of Thrones, what is wrong with you? Seriously! Stop reading this post and go watch. There are thousands of spoilers below.
Everyone else, read on for our picks of the…
Top 5 Out-of-this-World Destinations for a Game of Thrones Vacation
Also don’t miss these posts:
Conquer King’s Landing – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Memorable GoT Spots & Shots
There are so many Dubrovnik Game of Thrones locations that it can be hard to fit them all into one trip. Here are a few you should definitely not miss:
- Cersei’s Walk of Shame happens in several locations in Dubrovnik, but the most recognizable is the Jesuit Staircase by Saint Ignatius Church
- Pile Harbour is the cove where Princess Myrcella is shipped off to Dorne
- Visit Pile Gate to see where Joffrey almost gets torn apart by an angry mob (too bad the mob didn’t finish the job!)
- Almost every other King’s Landing exterior scene (after Season 1) takes place somewhere around Dubrovnik
There are also lots of other Game of Thrones locations scattered around Croatia, like Split and Šibenik, so plan an extended stay in the country and go explore.
Where is Dubrovnik?
This wonderful fortified city hangs off the edge of Croatia’s rugged coastline at the narrow southern tip of the country.
Why is it a great spot for a Game of Thrones vacation?
Dubrovnik has long been one of our favourite cities in the world and we can never visit often enough. The city is surrounded by the natural fortifications of sea and land.
Now, though it is undeniably touristy (do not go in high season!!), Dubrovnik still retains an ancient magic that makes it the perfect setting for the intrigue and (literal) backstabbing that happens in King’s Landing.
I took a Game of Thrones walking tour in Dubrovnik. It was thrilling being taken to the key locations and then shown the stills from scenes that happened there.
Since there are more than a dozen notable GoT shooting locations in Dubrovnik, taking a walking tour is the best way to make sure you get to really experience them. Plus, you’ll hear behind-the-scenes stories about what it’s like to live in a city with all those Game of Thrones characters walking around.
The atmosphere in Dubrovnik is some amazing though that just walking random streets you’ll feel the pull of schemes, plots, and intrigue around every corner.
Ride to the Red Keep – Mdina, Valletta & More in Malta
Memorable GoT Spots & Shots
Malta was used as the Game of Thrones King’s Landing location in Season 1 and some key scenes in the Daenerys story.
- Ned makes his fatal error when he tells Cersei he knows her great secret in Cloister of St. Dominic Monastery in Rabat
- Daenerys is reborn with her dragons on the Mtahleb Cliffs
- See the Red Keep exterior at San Anton Palace
Where is Malta?
A tiny island archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea just off the southern point of Sicily.
Why should you take a Game of Thrones holiday there?
There’s nowhere I’ve been in the world that made me feel more like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones! Almost as close to North Africa as it is to Europe, Malta blends flavours from the entire region to make it the most exotic country in Europe.
The cities of Valetta and Mdina hardly seem real — they are far more the stuff of fairly tales and magical folklore than they are of this world.
We spent most of our days walking the stone-paved streets of the cities, eyes bulging and mouths agape at all the incredible buildings. If you do get tired of medieval architecture, stop and enjoy an Aperol Spritz in a sidewalk restaurant or wander one of Malta’s many inviting beaches.
Sack Astapor – Essaouira, Morocco
Memorable GoT Spots & Shots
Arguably, Astapor is where little Dany Targaryean becomes Queen Daenerys.
In Astapor she:
- Tries to give water to a dying slave on the Walk of Punishment
- Buys and frees the Unsullied
- Slaughters the slave masters of Astapor and sacks the city
Where is Essaouira?
A bustling seaside fishing port in Morocco, an easy bus ride from Marrakech. You can also visit Essaouira on a day tour from Marrakech.
Why is Essaouira a great Game of Thrones destination?
In Essaouira, we spent hours darting in an out of claustrophobic alleys, lined on either side by towering sandstone walls. Every few feet a small doorway leads to a mysterious universe that you can only explore in our imaginations.
We joked and tussled with pushy salesmen in the medina, knowing full well that we had the upper hand, since there was nothing we needed to buy.
When we decided to get a bag of exotic spices for our friends in London the tables turned hard. We quickly learned who really held the power in this relationship. Before we knew it, we were paying a fortune for a handful of dried plants!
Climbing the ramparts to the old fort, we finally found the slave city of Astapor. It was easy to imagine thousands of Unsullied lining the beach and to pretend that the soaring seagulls were really baby dragons, ready to set fire to anyone who dared stand against Daenarys.
Wander Winterfell — Northern Ireland
Memorable GoT Spots & Shots
Northern Ireland is practically synonymous with Game of Thrones, and any breathtaking landscape (that isn’t desert or frozen) was most likely shot there.
The most memorable Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland include:
- Jaime and Brienne finally get to show off their sword fighting skills at Shane’s Castle in County Antrim
- Jon Snow discovers the dire wolf puppies at Tollymore Forest Park
- Most of the iconic Winterfell scenes were shot at Castle Ward in County Down
- The incredible Dark Hedges along the Kingsroad can be seen in County Antrim
To see several locations in one day, and get the inside gossip on filming, join a GoT day tour from Belfast guided by a former GoT cast member.
Note: If you’re a Winterfell completist, you’ll have to take a side trip to Doune Castle in Scotland, which was used as Winterfell for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones.
Where is Northern Ireland?
It’s just north of Ireland, of course.
Why does it make a great Game of Thrones vacation?
Besides being possibly the friendliest country we’ve ever been to, Northern Ireland is awash in incredible outdoor experiences. If you hate the heat but love nature, this is your ideal Game of Thrones destination.
In Northern Ireland, there is magic seeping out of every patch of moss and craggy rock in the country — you half expect to see the Children of the Forest peeping out from behind every tree. The shoreline is immense and powerful, with waves crashing, wind lashing, and visions of Greyjoys sailing into harbour to do their worst.
Plus, the trip to Northern Ireland is worth it just for the Giant’s Causeway — the most awe-inspiring geographical phenomenon I have ever seen.
Navigate North of the Wall – Iceland
Memorable GoT Spots & Shots
If Northern Ireland is a little too tame for you, you’ll find the true wilds (and Wildings) of Game of Thrones in Iceland. Almost all of the scenes north of the wall take place here and there are very few places in Ireland that haven’t been caught on GoT’s cameras.
A Game of Thrones tour of Iceland must include:
- Jon Snow and Ygritte get hot and heavy in the thermal waters at Grjótagjá Cave
- The Frostfang Mountains, where Jon Snow becomes a wildling, were shot at Höfðabrekka
- The dramatic scenes where the wildlings finally get to come south of the wall take place at Reynisfjara Beach
- Arya Stark fans should head to Thingvellir National Park, where many of her scenes with the Hound play out
Why is Iceland a great destination for GoT fans?
Though Iceland is still on our bucket list, we know exactly what you do there — test your virility in the face of Mother Nature’s power. Of course, Iceland is home to some of the most dazzling landscapes in the entire world. But these landscapes weren’t formed by bright sunny days and gentle spring rains.
No! Iceland really is the land of Ice and Fire, having been shaped by volcanic and geothermal forces from below and devastatingly cold temperatures above.
This ocean-swept seductress will draw you in with her unearthly beauty… but beware that you don’t fall victim to her siren song. If you plan to go trekking in the wilderness, make sure you prepare well and hire a guide.
New Game of Thrones Studio Tour — Banbridge, Northern Ireland
HBO recently announced that the Game of Thrones studio, Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, will soon open its doors to fans of the show. This is the biggie for true fans of the show, since you’ll be able to wander the real sets and gaze upon costumes and props from the show.
Wander Winterfell, check out the Castle Black mess hall, and plot your overthrows in the Dragonstone map room. These sets, and many more, will all be part of the tour.
It doesn’t open until Spring 2020, so you have plenty of time to plan your trip!
How to Treat these Incredible Locations with Respect
A sad byproduct of Game of Thrones tourism is that it draws many disrespectful people to fragile locations.
Last summer Grjótagjá Cave in Iceland was closed after visitors used it as a toilet and a campsite, while Dubrovnik is filled to the bursting with summer tourists.
When visiting any of these locations, please show that you respect not only the legacy of the show but the locals who were there long before any GoT location scouts came through town.
What can you do to travel responsibly to Game of Thrones locations?
- Visit in off season, especially to places like Dubrovnik, which are so much more enchanting with fewer tourists.
- Visit smaller, less popular filming locations along with the big ones.
- Stay in independently owned hotels and eat at local restaurants to send your tourist dollars straight into the local economy.
- Don’t just fly in for a GoT thrill and then fly out, explore the country too. For every beautiful spot that made it onto the show, there are likely dozens nearby that are just as beautiful.
- Obey the rules set by local authorities anywhere you visit.
- Don’t block foot traffic and busy areas while trying for the 100th time to get that special selfie.
- Remember that you are visiting someone else’s home and treat it that way!
We hope you feel inspired to get out and travel (either by this post or by Game of Thrones). As you know, we love the romance and adventure of this epic series and there’s nothing quite like travel to bring a little of that off the screen an into real life!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J