It feels like Game of Thrones season 6 just started, but we’re already knocking on the door of the season finale. Take a moment to cry together, because the winds of winter are upon us.
While I love the dramatics of the Seven Kingdoms, my photographer’s eye cant help but admire the sweeping landscapes and settings. I just want to get out there and capture it all. And here’s the good news about that: Westeros may be a fictional place, but the locations are anything but.
To make Game of Thrones into the epic that it is on your screen, the cast and crew traveled across seven countries (appropriate, amirite?) to find the surreal, picture-perfect landscapes that are rugged yet stunningly beautiful. Their hard work and research is your gain because now you’ve got 14 places to add to your travel photography bucket list.
Dark Hedges, Stanocum
Seeing the twisted beech trees lining the road near Stanocum in Northern Ireland, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine you’re standing inside a mythical land. In the series, this spot serves as the Kings Road.
Castle Ward, Strangford
Castle Ward is an 820 acre 18th century home that’s actually quite peaceful, contrary to what the fictional Winterfell might lead you to believe. This Castle is the backdrop to some of the outdoor scenes at Winterfell.
While Tullymore may have only appeared in the pilot episode, the gothic archways, bridges, caves, barns and river create some serious creative fodder for travel photographers. While the landscape isn’t as recognizable as Winterfell, it’s a good spot to add to your list if you head to northern Ireland.
Azure Window, Gozo
This iconic limestone archway is an amazing backdrop for landscape photos, but you’ll also recognize it as the backdrop of Daenerys and Khal Drago’s wedding. Created when two caves collapsed, it’s no longer safe to walk over, but can be photographed from shore or by boat. While you’re there, the Inland Sea and Dwerja Bay are also good locations for landscape photography.
Mdina Gate, Mdina
The main gate into the city of Mdina also serves as the King’s Landing Gate in the Game of Thrones. Kings Landing actually isn’t just one area though — some scenes were also filmed in Croatia. The gate into the fortified city was built in 1724.
The city of Dubrovnik serves as a backdrop for several Game of Thrones scenes beginning in season two, including the Kings Landings scenes that were shot by the sea. Dubrovnik is located on the southern coast of Croatia. The stone walls completed in the 16th century, historic buildings and the location on the Adriatic Sea is likely what brought the Game of Thrones crew to this location — and of course also works as a great destination for travel photographers.
Minceta Tower, Dubrovnik
At the highest point of Dubrovnik, the north wall ends at the Minceta Tower, a fort built in 1463. Game of Thrones fans, however, may recognize it as the House of the Undying. The exterior scenes were shot here in season two when Daenerys was looking for her stolen dragons.
Krka National Park
Unlike Dubrovnik, the Krka National Park is largely untouched. What drew the Game of Thrones producers to the area wasn’t architecture but the seven waterfalls on the Krka River. This one park has served as the backdrop for scenes that happened across the Seven Kingdoms. This spot is another destination with a sense of tranquillity that doesn’t match the conquests of the mythical world.
This city on a hill overlooking a dessert has actually inspired more than just the Game of Thrones producers — Ait-Ben-Haddou was also a filming location for The Mummy, Gladiator, Prince of Persia and a number of other films. The city, located on the Ounila River in Morocco, was Yunkai in season three of the Game of Thrones. The hill, river and buildings that blend with the color of the dessert provide plenty of photographic inspiration.
Game of Thrones fans will want to visit at least two spots in Seville. The Plaza de toros de Osuna was not only the backdrop for one of the show’s biggest scenes when Tyrion and Daenerys first meet, but it’s also considered one of the most expensive scenes in the history of television, according to Skyscanner. While in Seville though, fans will want to visit the Water Palaces of Dorne, a.k.a. the Alcázar de Seville. Built in 1122, some say that this castle inspired the animated castle in Disney’s Cinderella.
Bardenas Reales Natural Park, Navarre
Popping up in season six, the Bardenas Reales Natural Park features plenty of odd rock formations. The dry and rather barren landscape isn’t one that most would imagine is actually located in Europe, but the unusual rocks can make for some pretty intricate landscape photos.
Cordoba Roman Bridge, Andalusia
This Roman bridge in Cordoba is about 810 feet long, but using drones and camera tricks, appears to be the much larger Long Bridge of Volantis in season five. The structure was built in the first century BC and has 16 arches–great inspiration for including pattern and leading lines in your landscape photography.
If you want to see all of Winterfell’s exterior, you’ll have to travel to two different countries. While Castle Ward is used in some scenes, the first view of Winterfell in the very first episode is actually of Doune Castle in Scotland.
The Game of Thrones actually used seven different locations in Iceland in season two, three and four. Vatnajökull is a national park toward the middle of Iceland, where the scenes north of the wall were shot. If you’re going to make the cold trek to Iceland though, you’ll also want to consider taking a look at the Thingvellir National Park, Grjótagjá, Dimmuborgir, the volcano Hverfjall and three other spots where the Game of Thrones was filmed.
Taking a fictional world from a series of books and filming in the actual world isn’t an easy task. The locations that the Game of Thrones producers selected for their mythical qualities create great subjects for unusual landscape photography. From old architecture to natural landscapes, the traveling shutterbug can get their Game of Thrones fix all year long.
Before you go, brush up on some of your landscape photography skills with these courses to really get the most from these mythical destinations.
<i>— Additional reporting by Hillary Grogins </i>