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10 Destinations for Game of Thrones Fans to Explore on Their Gap Year

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 10 / 05 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

With the start of Game of Throne’s season 6, and what a start it has been, I can imagine many of you are wondering how you can incorporate this stunning series into your gap year.

You could lie on the sofa watching all the seasons back to back, or if you are feeling brave you could attempt to read all the books in one long marathon. However, for those wanting to go beyond their couch there is a whole Game of Thrones world out there to explore.

I have searched high and low and found some of the most iconic and breath-taking scenery used for filming. Find out how you could have a truly Game of Thrones inspired gap year…

Northern Ireland

Perhaps not the most exotic of locations when you conjure up images of Winterfell the last thing you expect is to be visiting the northern parts of Ireland. Yet the natural beauty and history of this area make it the perfect location.

Castle Ward (Winterfell)


Remember all those times your parents have dragged you around a National Trust property? Well perhaps next time they suggest a family day out you could suggest Castle Ward.

An 18th Century National Trust property located near the village of Strangford in County Down was the filming site for many of the scenes of Winterfell in the first couple of series.

With it’s sunken garden paths and peaceful woodland, this property will instantly have you believing you’ve stepped right on to the Stark family’s property.

Mourne Mountains (Vaes Dothrak)

Mourne Mountains & Port Moon Timelapse from Peter Cox on Vimeo.


Just a fifty-five-minute car drive away from Castle Ward, lies the beautiful Mourne Mountains region. This area is home to some dramatic scenery with the settings of mountains and plains alongside each other.

It was used to portray parts of Vaes Dothrak, home of the Dothraki and with lots of expanses to wander and explore you can re-enact in your best Dothraki to your heart’s content.

A visit to Mourne Mountains will not only fulfill your GoT dreams but for those that also enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it was this stunning landscape that is thought to have originally inspired C.S. Lewis in his creation of Narnia.

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Malta

Aside from the beautiful weather, stunning beaches and friendly locals of Malta. It also offers some iconic images of Game of Thrones’ Westeros.

Mdina (King’s Landing)


Mdina is the old capital of Malta and is a must-see for its stunning history, Norman fortifications and moat.

Largely still in its original condition and restored carefully the city offers a walk through a once mighty walled town. The limestone walls offering a golden hue to truly make you feel like royalty.

This royal sense will only heighten your excitement as back in Game of Thrones world, the gate entrance to this city acts as the gate to King’s Landing and for the first two series Mdina, acted as the back drop for King’s Landing filming.

Fort Manoel (Sept of Baelor)

Fort Manoel, Malta from GasanMamo on Vimeo.


Whilst you continue on your GoT exploration, Fort Manoel is not to be missed. Remember that dramatic scene at the end of season 1?

Well, wander the streets of Fort Manoel and you’ll get that eerie sense that Ned Stark is haunting you. It is indeed here where they filmed the scene that shocked us and hooked us right back in the beginning.

From the royalty of King’s Landing to the land of the White Walkers…

Iceland

With it’s glacial beauty, what better country than this to film some of those iconic moments North of the Wall. Better still Iceland Air offers free stop overs so you can make your money go further.

Why not head over to South America, supposedly the size Westeros according to Martin, for a ten weeks of adventure and volunteering and on your way out stop off for free for 5 days to venture North of the Wall.

VatnaJökull (North of the Wall)

Iceland 5 - At the foot of the Vatnajökull from Walter Korinek on Vimeo.


The mountainous area of South-East Iceland forms Europe’s largest national park. With an expanse of 13,600 km2 this magical landscape combines the mountains, ice, snow and has a certain magical feel to it.

In Westeros Vatnajökull is the mystical land Beyond the Wall. If you take a trip out of Reykjavik and along the road east towards the bluish ice and distant mountain tops, you may just start believing in White Walkers too.

Dimmuborgir (Wildling Camp)


Dimmuborgir is a lava field in North-East Iceland and scattered across the landscape are unusually shaped rocks that makes this region desolately beautiful. It is also steeped in Icelandic folklore where they believe the area is somehow connected to hell.

This folklore is perhaps what drew the film crew to use it as the place where ‘King Beyond the Wall’ Mance Rayder set up his camp. Whether you’re searching for folklore beliefs or the King Beyond the Wall, you should not miss the chance to hike from Dimmuborgir up to Hverfjall volcanic crater.

Why not explore crater lakes somewhere a bit warmer? 10 Weeks in Ecuador: Andes + Amazon + Galapagos + Adventure Week

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Morocco

Have you ever noticed that certain scenes throughout Game of Thrones have a certain middle-eastern feel? This is partly created through the use of Morocco as a key filming site.

A stunning country and worth a visitfor the square, souks,amazing array of freshly baked bread round every corner and to relive the best Game of Thrones moments.

Essaouira (Astapor)



Essaouira, a Game of Thrones sounding name as it is, is a beguiling seaside city with a truly Arabian feel.

It’s possibly the reason that as the HBO film crew were looking for a spot to set Astapor and other parts of Slaver’s Bay, where Daenerys Targaryen spends much of her time, they thought they’d stumbled upon gold as they entered Essaouira.

The city’s red fortified wall is what makes the fictional Astapor so memorable on screen. However, the city in real life has a much more relaxed atmosphere and during the 1960’s was a hippie hangout for many of the celebrities of the time.

Aït-Ben-Haddou (Yunkai)


Whilst Yunkai is North of Astapor in the mystical setting, in real life it is actually to the East of Essaouira and around 100km southeast of Marrakech. Aït-Ben-Haddou sits on a hill overlooking a desert and its ancient appearance made a perfect location to represent Yunkai.

It is not just famous for its role in Game of Thrones though, a visit to this ancient city will have you walking through the streets of many films. From Lawrence of Arabia to The Mummy to Gladiator, you’ll have a day of pretending you’re in a movie.

And if that isn’t enough just a stone’s throw away from Aït-Ben-Haddou lies the world’s largest film studios – Atlas Corporation Studios. It’s a major attraction as many of the film sets, including ones used in GoT, are still in tact.

Once you’ve had your fill of Game of Thrones in Morrocco, why not experience a different side of the continent of Africa by heading down for a 6-week adventure in Namibia, helping renowned conservationist Ian Craig.

Who knows, the desert-like setting might draw film crews there for the next series…

Spain

A great location to end your Thrones tour would be Spain. Whilst it may be last, it is by no means least; it is home to Bravos, Dorne and the most dramatic scene of series 5...

Alcazar de Sevilla, Seville (Water Gardens of Dorne)


The Alcazar in Seville is an attraction in itself the beautiful grounds and palace. Originally developed by Moorish Muslim Kings, the property was then occupied by the Catholic Monarch around five centuries ago.

It is no wonder when you wander the gardens in the palatial setting that the film crew thought it would make an ideal setting for those water gardens. A wealth of history, a UNESCO heritage site and a Game of Thrones setting – what more could you want from a site?!

Bardenas Reales, Navarra (To Appear in Season 6)


Hot off the press, Bardenas is set to be appearing in the latest season. Whilst it is very hush hush as to exactly where this location will be portraying, it appears that it may be the location where Daenerys will meet with an unfriendly Khalassar, another Dothraki tribe.

It is arguably one of the most beautiful Game of Thrones filming locations, a stunning desert-like landscape dotted with old rock formations. It is a must-visit and keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks for it to appear on screen.

And finally to one of the most dramatic scenes of Series 5...

Plaza de Toros de Osuna, Seville

This bullring in Seville was the star of the show in Series 5. The setting for the moment Tyrion and Daenerys meet for the first time and then the drama ensues.

It is arguably one of the shows biggest scenes and the most expensive in TV show history. Once you’ve finished wandering round the bullring you can head over the road to the Casa Curro to finish off your GoT indulge with their themed Tapas menu and it’s just €3 per plate!

Game of Thrones Gap Year Ready

So there you have it, the best way to plan your gap year totally around the sets of Game of Thrones.

Have you already visited some of these sights? We’d love to hear how your reenacting went or even if you have better Game of Throne-esque locations you’ve stumbled upon. Let us know in the comments below.

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