If you are as avid a fan of the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones as I am; you must be suffering from a massive dose of withdrawal now that the epic drama series is on the offseason. After HBO confirmed the series will run again for at least two more seasons, it is everything I can do to while away the months to the next season’s premiere. But I have discovered a great way to keep the fantasy of Westeros and it is larger than life citizens alive, visiting as many of the game of thrones filming locations as I can.
The hit drama series is a truly global show with scenes shot in western Europe, the Mediterranean region, Africa and the Americas. In this guide, I will take you through three of the most spellbinding game of thrones filming locations among these and offer you tips on how you can get there on a tight budget. I have visited each one of them and never regretted a moment or spent a cent above what I had budgeted.
The Strangford Castle Ward Estate in County Down, Northern Ireland
The vast majority of filming on the Game of Thrones set takes place in a film studio in Belfast but there are many scenes shot on location in Northern Ireland. None of these are more iconic as the Castle Ward Estate in County Down, the setting for the mythical Winterfell where the head of House Stark rules over his people. After touring the castle and the sprawling estate, you may also enjoy other breathtaking locations as the Dark Hedges (the beech tree avenue christened King’s Road), Cashendum caves in Antrim County (the cave where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow baby after being brought ashore by Davos Seaworthy) and the nearby Murlough Bay (the setting for Iron Islands scenes in Season 3 and where Theon Greyjoy rides a horse with his sister Yara).
The city of Dubrovnik and Lokrum Island on the Dalmatian Coastline
The scenic Dalmatian coastline of Croatia, a land we mentioned in our top 5 iconic yachting destinations in Europe, provides the backdrop to most of the scenes depicting King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros. The old city of Dubrovnik is the setting for most of the action in the series. The setting was changed from Malta from season two onwards. However, some of the aerial shots showing terra cotta roofs were actually shot in the nearby Dalmatian island of Lokrum. King’s Landing city walls and ramparts are clearly the same as you will experience touring Dubrovnik’s old city’s massive embankments.
Dubrovnik’s old city also provided the backdrop to one of the most dramatic scenes in the entire series, the Minceta Tower is part of the embankments and many of you will remember it as the House of the Undying, the location which played out the dramatic and tragic conclusion of the season two finale. The fourth season of Game of Thrones also included many other scenes from the Dalmatian Coast. The coastal cities of Split and Baska Voda featured almost as prominently as Dubrovnik and its adjacent islands.
To tour Lokrum and the other adjacent islands which are so reminiscent of the dramatic scenes in the TV series, you need a good boat or yacht. But not to worry if you do not own one. There are many boat charter agencies in Croatia where you can charter a boat at surprisingly low rates and thus proceed to hop from island to island at your leisure. But don’t go on your own if you have never sailed before, the waters can be dangerous, especially for beginners. Take someone experienced with you, get familiar with the guidelines and also read this sailing tips for beginners written by the skippers from charter Orvas to help minimize mistakes made by newcomers in the world of sailing.
While this epic Moroccan city has not played as big a part as the other locations in this guide, I was nonetheless intent on visiting it. Part of that was because the desert city also plays host to the filming of yet another of my all-time epics (though this time on the big screen): the inimitable film “Gladiator“. In fact, the city is such a favorite for film producers that it is said half the population of the adjoining area are “professional film extras”, ready to don different costumes for the next Hollywood tryst.
In the very first pilot episode of the series, Ouarzazate was the setting chosen to depict the free city of Pentos. This is where Khal Drogo and Danaerys Targaeryan get married. Much later, the city was featured as the city of Yunkai, the city where Danaerys wreaked havoc with her now grown dragons and freed the slaves to join the ranks of her army. If you decide to visit Morocco, don’t forget about the dangerous road known as the snake road we wrote about in one of our previous articles.
Tips for Travelling to Game of Thrones Filming Locations on a Budget
- Considering that some of the locations are really out of the way, you will be well advised to use a proficient travel agent to arrange your trip. A trustworthy agent will give you excellent advice on how to save costs while traveling to unfamiliar places and may put you in touch with their contacts in these strange lands for more hands-on assistance in getting around
- Look for all-in-one tour packages. If you have one tour agent taking care of all your travel needs from air tickets, hotel accommodation to shuttling to different locations, then it easily follows that such a strategy will help cut down your costs massively. I ought to know what I am talking about as this is the same tactic I deploy in my travels.
- Rather than visiting each one of the game of thrones filming locations individually, think of a travel plan that takes in as many of the locations as possible. The Dalmatians can easily be paired with Morocco while it is only natural to hop over to Iceland after you are done visiting the iconic locations in Ireland.
- As mentioned elsewhere in this guide, you will save yourself plenty of trouble and money if you choose to tour the Dalmatian Islands on a chartered boat. Take advantage of the budget-friendly prices offered by the various boat charter agencies operating all around Croatia