Game of Thrones fan Vindhya Krishna explores the dramatic vistas of the destinations captured in the popular television series to present seven that have the otherworldly charm to attract honeymooners
Everyone has been raging on about how this year will be youth-less and unexciting without their favourite HBO period-fantasy drama, Game of Thrones (GOT). Yes, if you are a partaker in this fandom following you’d quite know what I’m talking about. Will Bran finally confide in Jon the plethora of knowledge he part took in, or will Tyrion beat him to it, confessing that he did encounter, or rather eavesdrop on, what the whole fandom was looking forward too, rather predicting since the beginning?
If you are wishing for this year to go by at the speed of lightning, just so that you can jump back into a world of dragons, white walkers, evil queens and the wildlings, worry not! We have put together a list of seven destinations, rather seven kingdoms, which will take you back to the sets of GOT – literally!
Whether you are looking for vast open landscapes, historic waterfront cities, snow-capped mountains or the roar of the thundering seas, these destinations served as the filming sets of your favourite TV show. Each of the Seven Kingdoms in GOT had unique landscapes and flamboyant sets from sunny Dorne to lush Dothraki fields and icy Winterfell through the seasons. If you want the ‘ideal fantasy get-away’, inspired by GOT, this curated list of holiday destinations will not only feature breathtaking views, but also feed your hungry fanatic soul to the fullest!
The volcanic yet frozen Fjords of Iceland truly make it the Land of Fire and Ice, with sub-zero climates that make up the White Walker environs, North of the Wall. Visit ‘Lake Mývatn’ (Midge Lake), the ‘Grjótagjá cave’ (where Jon and Ygritte finally make it official), ‘Kirkjufell’ (Arrowhead Mountain) and ‘Reynisfjara’, on Vik’s black sand beach (The Eastern side of The Wall which was brutally destroyed by the White Walkers in the season seven finale, courtesy of their new toy – Viserion). This destination is also perfect for honeymooners who can find comfort in one another sighting the iridescent and renowned, Northern Lights. Travellers can book a stay at the ultra-luxe Trophy Lodge, a mountain resort nestled beneath the ‘Langjokull glacier’, close to the ‘Geysir’ hot springs and ‘Gullfoss waterfall’. For those of you who are on a budget: certain airlines are now offering, subsidised and low-cost travel routes to Iceland, making it much more accessible to savour and gloat over.
The home of the iron throne – or, for now, if we must say Croatia, has contributed not only as the set of King’s Landing, but also as the famous city of Braavos. The Battle of Blackwater Bay, general scenes of the busy streets of King’s Landing, bustling markets and sparkling bays, were all shot in the UNESCO listed Old Town of ‘Dubrovnik’. Be sure to pack a pair of walking shoes to climb the 250 steps of the ‘Lovrijean Fortress’ (The Red Keep) overlooking the azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, and a walk down the steps of the ‘Church of St. Ignatius Loyola’, re-enacting Cersei’s walk of shame. Apart from these sites, be sure to visit the ‘Split’, ‘Krka National Park’, ‘Hvar’, ‘Plitvice Lakes National Park’ (inland towards the Bosnian border), ‘’Diocletian’s Palace’, ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’ (a tribute to love that was lost), and the most famous beach in all of Croatia, ‘Zaltni Rat Beach’ in ‘Bol’, on the island of ‘Brac’, which is said to change shape and colour in accordance to the wind.
Aromatic, spice-filled air, with a hint of freshly baked bread, this Middle Eastern country was the primary setting of Deanerys’ conquests during season three. ‘Essaouira’, a port city of Morocco, situated in the western region of ‘Marrakesh- Safi’, on the coast of the Atlantic Sea, played house to the Slaver’s Bay – the city of Astapor and Yunkai, where Deanerys is introduced to the Unsullied army. French inspired fortresses and a popular surfing spot, ‘Essaouira isn’t just for the beach bums; it is filled with eighteenth century history for cultural buffs. If you seek the full Moroccan experience, make sure to stay in a ‘riad’ (a traditional Moroccan house built with interior courtyards and open terraces), visit the populous markets, souks, open-air tanneries, and drink Morocco’s famous mint tea. For a slice of the Sahara, the desert town of ‘Merzouga’, near the impressive ‘Erg Chebbi’ sand dunes, is accessible via camel treks. Lastly, visit the intricately painted mosaic tiles and stuccos of the Moroccan Mosques, especially the ‘Hassan II Mosque’ that is open to non-Muslims as well.
The patulous greens, rocky landscapes and historic structures are where most of the GOT scenes were filmed in Northern Ireland. Even though most of the magic takes place in the ‘Titanic Studios’ at Belfast, at the Titanic Quarter’s, one can still take a road trip down The ‘Dark Hedges County’/’The King’s Road’ till the ‘Giant’s Causeway’. Visit the ‘Tolley Forest Park’ (the Stark’s family compound), the ‘Glens of Antrim’ (the picturesque Dothraki sea landscapes) and ‘Ballintoy’ (the Greyjoy-led Iron Islands) for the full experience outside the Titanic Studios. If you prefer to stay put in one place that channels the show’s epic scenery, try ‘Ballyfin’, a castle hotel at the foot of the ‘Slieve Bloom Mountains’ in ‘County Laois’. Other touristy destinations to visit would be the ‘Marble Arch Cave Global Geopark’, the ‘Botanic Gardens’, ‘The Guildhall’, ‘The Peace Wall’ and ‘Castle Ward’.
Honey- coloured stones, set against the cerulean blues of the Mediterranean Sea, create the contrasting artistry of an archipelago of three islands that sit between Sicily and the Northern African coast – Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is known to be the biggest island where most of the population resides, just like in the first season of GOT, where it constituted much of King’s Landing, Pentos and Dothraki lands. Filming for Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo’s wedding scene took place at the breathtaking ‘Azure Window’, a natural limestone arch on Malta’s island of Gozo. Sadly, the arch collapsed in March due to natural wear and tear, but Malta still has plenty of beautiful spots to explore, like Gozo’s other natural limestone arch, the ‘Wied il-Mielaħ Window’. Valetta, a UNESCO listed city, founded in the 1500s, is said to have more than 7000 years of history under its belt, sun clad streets and beaches; an aptly secluded holiday destination for honeymooners.
Travelling through the culturally rich streets of Greece, standing amongst the mightiest of gods once known to man, is an experience everyone should have at least once in a lifetime. The entire country is breathtakingly beautiful, from the massive cliffs of ‘Meteora’ in the north with ancient Orthodox churches to the ‘Peloponnesus Peninsula’ covered with orange groves to the strikingly spectacular islands scattered throughout the Aegean Sea. ‘Meteora’ in Greece consists of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries built on monolithic pillars. It’s a paradise for hikers, and offers stunning views over the valley. In GOT, it was used as an inspiration for the Eyrie Castle in the sky. If nature is not enough of an excuse to visit Greece, then there are thousands of years of history and civilisation that were left behind as magnificent structures – like the ‘Acropolis’, the ‘Parthenon’, ‘Epidaurus Theater’ and ‘Delphi’s Ruins’. A must-visit would be the city of ‘Santorini’; travellers usually take on a full day tour of the city, engulfing themselves in the euphoric sight of pure white against cobalt blue walls, and the chatter of the busy streets lined with home-grown cafés.
Desert-like landscapes and rugged rock formations are the backdrops to many of the GOT filming sets for the recent season – from the city of Braavos to the waterfront palaces of Dorne and Highgarden. Dragonstone, the former Targyrean stronghold that Daenerys recently reclaimed (the Basque Country’s ‘San Juan de Gaztelugatxe’ and ‘Itzurun Beach’); Highgarden Castle (the eighth-century ‘Castillo de Almodóvar del Río’, near Córdoba), that former Tyrell stronghold now occupied by the Lannisters, and the ‘Alcázar of Seville’; the famed Andalusian royal palace that stands in for Dorne’s Water Palace of Sunspear, home of the royal Martell family… North to the city of Seville is the Roman ruins of an amphitheatre that becomes the infamous Dragonpit of King’s Landing. To get the whole package, make sure to visit the city of ‘Madrid’ and ‘Valencia’ (the city of arts and science), the ‘Alhambra’ at Granada, the Byzantine-influenced ‘Mezquita Mosque’ at Cordoba and the bounteous 10th-century Roman cathedrals sprawled all over the country.