HBO's "Game of Thrones", based on the best-selling book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, premiered its fourth season April 6, which means that once again, the end of the week will be marked by blood, betrayal and dragons. Critics have long praised the show for its impressive production scale, but as Slate's Willa Paskin notes, that grandeur can also be its downfall: with such a complex story, it's difficult to feel completely satisfied by one hour-long morsel per week.
Thankfully, those seeking a more immersive experience in the world of Westeros now have another option: "Game of Thrones" tourism. From Morocco to Malta, Croatia to Iceland, check out the spots where "Game of Thrones" is filmed—and consider taking advantage of a number of tours being offered at the locations, each hoping to cash in on a little bit of the show's magic.
Croatia, with its beautiful coastline and well-preserved Renaissance towns, is a wonderful destination in its own right, but for "Game of Thrones" fans, the Mediterranean country is a must-see. King's Landing, home of the kingdom's capital city and the Iron Throne, has been filmed in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, a fitting choice with its seaside locale and imposing walls. Dubrovnik also doubled as the location of Qarth, an ancient port city featured in the second season of "Game of Thrones."
Travelers can explore Croatian filming locations on their own, or partner with numerous tourism organizations, which have recently begun offering "Game of Thrones"-themed tours. If you're interested in touring a single city, places like Dubrovnik and Split offer city-wide walking tours, which take you through important filming locations. Or sign up for Zicasso's "Game of Thrones: A Unique Tour of Croatia," a seven-day tour of Croatia.
"We think there’s a wonderful trend of fans of TV shows and series … to really immerse themselves in the history and culture of their favorite shows," Brian Tan, founder and CEO of Zicasso Travel, told Today.com.
Before it found its seaside home in Dubrovnik, King's Landing was originally shot in the small, island country of Malta. It's well-preserved capital, Mdina, was used as the filming location for King's Landing throughout the series' first season. Unlike King's Landing, Mdina is an inland city, which posed a slight problem for film crews, who were forced to stick to the city's winding interior streets to capture the spirit of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. And when it came time to film the Red Keep, King's Landing's royal residence, HBO used real buildings within Malta's capital, including San Anton Palace, the residence of Malta's president.
Malta's stunning Azure Window, located on the island of Gozo, was also featured in the series' first season, as the setting for the wedding between Danaerys Targaryan and Khal Drogo.
Through most of "Game of Thrones'" third season, Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of Westeros' former ruling family, travels throughout the world of Essos in search of an army. Most of these scenes were filmed in Morocco, from the historic city of Ait Benhaddou, which served as the setting for Yunkai, to Essaouira, which became the slave-trading city of Astapor. Both Ait Benhaddou and Essaouira are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Westeros is a massive and diverse land, from sunny King's Landing to snowy Winterfell, but much of it is shot in a single location: Northern Ireland. Much of this filming took place on a soundstage in Titanic Studios in Belfast (which will feature a "Game of Thrones"-themed exhibition in June of this year), but production also ventured outside to recreate some of Westeros' sweeping vistas. The Stark's castle at Winterfell, for example, was shot at Castle Ward, an 18th-century fortified property located near the Northern Ireland village of Strangford. In the first season, the entrance to the of Vaes Dothrak, the only permanent city of the nomadic Dothraki people, was filmed in Northern Ireland, at Sandy Brae in the Mourne Mountains. To see all the "Game of Thrones" locations Northern Ireland has to offer, take one of the self-guided driving tours offered by Causeway Coast and Glens Tourism.
While families fight in sunny King's Landing, the men of the Night's Watch man Westeros' northern border against threats from beyond the Wall, from marauding Wildlings to seemingly invincible White Walkers, frozen zombie-like figures that come riding dead horses, mammoths or ice-spiders. To create a world capable of housing such terrifyingly supernatural creatures—without needing to do much post-production editing—HBO shot many scenes "beyond the Wall" in Iceland, a place nearly as magical as Westeros. Iceland Travel offers a four-day travel package, "Game of Thrones—Iceland: Beyond the Wall," which hits most location highlights, including a trip to the "other worldly" Lake Myvatn area, where the primitive Wildling clans reside.