It pretty much goes without saying that Games of Thrones has become an international phenomenon. Watched the world over and shot in some of the most beautiful locations in the world both, real and imaginary, I’m sure all of the die hard fans out there (including yours truly) have wanted to have the chance to travel to Westeros and Essos and take in all scenic views that this captivating show has to offer.
Recently, I was re-watching season five in anticipation of the upcoming sixth season (premiering on HBO on April 24th), and I thought to myself: if someone really wanted to travel the world and seek out locations that brought George R.R. Martin’s epic story to life, where would they go?
So with the help of some of my favourite travel companies, I have put together the ultimate Game of Thrones Travel Guide for all you mega fans and adventurers out there.
In part one of two, we look into locations and vacations that showcase and feature similar experiences to King’s landing/Braavos, heading north of the wall, and of course Winterfell.
No GoT travel guide would be complete without a nod to Croatia. Home to two of the show’s major ports, it’s no wonder why Croatia has quickly become the vacation spot. The medieval city of Dubrovnik is the iconic setting for the fictional city of King’s Landing, thanks to its rugged coastlines, historic castles and breathtaking scenery that make it the perfect setting for the spiritual home of the Iron Throne. Throne watchers should visit Lovijenac Fortress, located outside Dubrovnik on a 37m high rock right on the shore that acts as The Red Keep, where the throne resides. At the entrance is an ancient inscription, which apparently translates as ‘Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world.’ Is this a secret hint courtesy of the film crew, perhaps? If so, the Lannister approach might not pay off after all! Further north on the Dalmatian Coast lays the home of the many faced God in St. James Cathedral in Šibenik. This historic gem of a town takes on the role of the House of Black and White in Braavos. To our knowledge, it doesn’t contain the removed faces of thousands of lost souls. It is, however, a spectacular architectural gem. Youth travel specialist Contiki offers fans a way too cool package to explore these exhilarating sites on its Croatian Island Hopper journey – allowing adventurers to soak up the sun on the deck of an ‘A’ Class sail boat across the narrow sea.
Contiki’s 8-day “Croatian Island Hopper” is priced from $1,725; departing June through to September 2016. Visit contiki.com or consult your travel agent for more details.
NORTH OF THE WALL
The foreboding, otherworldly glaciers and desolate snow scapes of Vatnajökull are the epitome of the bleak land North of the Wall. Cold, desolate and empty, Vatnajökull and the majority of Iceland have an almost Martian quality to them in their hostile landscapes, which make them the perfect home away from home for those pesky White Walkers. While you won’t find the Night’s King and his army of walkers in real life Iceland, guests on Insight Vacations’ Natural Wonders of Iceland itinerary will take you to other (super)natural phenomena, in the form of gushing waterfalls, volcanoes and stunning landscapes at every turn. The package includes a visit to the amazing alpine setting of the National Park at Skaftafell to experience all the might of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. Make sure to pick up some Obsidian, a piece of cooled lava that also serves as the real life version of the show’s ‘dragonglass.’ You never know if you’ll encounter a White Walker or two along the way.
Insight Vacations 10-day “Natural Wonders of Iceland” journey is priced from $4,625; departing May through to September 2016. Visit insightvacations.com
Home to House of Stark for eight millennia, Winterfell is the undisputed capital of the North. Described as cold yet homely, it’s no wonder the show’s crew spent eight weeks at the real life Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland. The sumptuous real life Castle Ward overlooks Strangford Lough and features 820 acres of land that was used as Winterfell. Within the grounds, visitors will find the Whispering Wood and key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp, the Baelor battle and when Brienne of Tarth confronts the Stark men. Fans can make a pilgrimage to Winterfell with Trafalgar’s epic Celtic Filmscapes itinerary that will whisk cinephiles away to some of the most dramatic scenery and shooting locations seen on the big screen in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Trafalgar guests will explore Winterfell in all its glory, where a replica of the Winterfell Castle archery range set has been masterfully recreated in the castle’s courtyard. Then, fans can dress up in character costumes from the show, tour the set, stand exactly where Jon Snow, Robb and Bran Stark stood and enjoy the thrill of firing live arrows, all while honouring the memory of their late father, Ned Stark.
Trafalgar’s 11-day “Celtic Filmscapes” journey is priced from $3,273; departing May through to October 2016. Visit trafalgar.com
Adventure, old world architecture and stunning views. I’d say that part one sums up exactly what you would expect if you were traveling within the realm of Games of Thrones, with the addition of comfy beds, great food, and the lack of danger to one’s own life.
Make sure you check back in tomorrow as I delve into Astapor and the Water Gardens of Dorne in part two of the Game of Thrones Travel Guide!