Exotic Traces Of Game Of Thrones Around The World

6 April 2015

Its history is littered with tales of torture and executions, ravens and royal intrigue, so it was fitting that the Tower of London hosted the world premiere of the fifth season of Game of Thrones on March 18.

Adapted from George RR Martin's best-selling 'A Song of Ice and Fire' novels, this epic HBO drama has become a pop-cultural phenomenon, acclaimed by critics, festooned with awards and boasting arguably TV's most diverse fanbase (generations of the same family will watch it, though not necessarily together).

While the show - which returns to our screens in April - is famed for its graphic violence and nudity, endless backstabbing and skullduggery, and dollops of dragon-fuelled fantasy, it's also renowned for its spectacular settings.

 

Stretching from sub-Arctic glaciers to the sun-baked deserts of North Africa, the myriad filming locations have enjoyed a boom in 'set-jetting' tourism, with fans keen to retrace the footprints made by their favourite - and most loathed - characters.
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Andalucia Doubles As Dorne

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Known for its flamboyant fiestas, fiery flamenco dancers and fragrant orange tree-lined streets, the gorgeous Andalucian city of Seville will be a scenic addition to season five, as it doubles up as Dorne, the southern-most region of Westeros (the fictional continent in which the plot is focused).

Key scenes were shot in the Alcazar, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed complex facing Seville's iconic Gothic cathedral.

One of Spain's loveliest regal palaces, this old fortress fuses Moorish and Renaissance influences, with pool-studded patios, opulently furnished halls and luxuriant gardens overflowing with palm and citrus trees. It's reported that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - who plays Jaime Lannister - wasn't recognised by staff one day and had to fork out the standard €9.50 ($13.70) admission fee.

 The Alcazar can be spotted in Game of Thrones

The filming crew also descended on Osuna, a whitewashed Andalucian town edged by olive groves, where a family-run restaurant, Casa Curro, has launched a special tapas menu inspired by Thrones characters.

Options include a Joffrey (a bacon and trout dish with mulled wine) and a Melisandre (smoked salmon, cheese and raspberry tartlet).

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Belfast Coach Tours Take In The King's Road

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While southern Westeros is usually all sun and blue skies, a permanent grey murk hangs over the North.

Yet no amount of cloud and drizzle can detract from the arresting beauty of the Northern Ireland coast and countryside.

A clutch of Belfast-based operators - including Stones and Thrones and McComb's Travel - do coach tours taking in locations from the five seasons, with highlights including the Dark Hedges (the spooky, beech-lined avenue that is the 'King's Road'), Larrybane (the dramatic cliff-edged bay where Renly Baratheon set up camp before his shadowy demise) and Ballintoy Harbour (Pyke and the Iron Islands).

Michelle Fairley, who played Lady Catelyn Stark, grew up in this region, dubbed the Causeway Coast.

While no scenes were filmed there, the coast's poster boy - the awesome Giant's Causeway - is on many Thrones tour itineraries.

Ever fancied firing medieval-style arrows? You can do this at Castle Ward, a National Trust property in County Down which portrayed Winterfell, home of the Stark family. Dozens of Thrones scenes have also been done at Belfast's Titanic Studios.

 Northern Ireland Tourism has made a GoT map to help visitors find locations from the television show

A Thrones experience in Dubrovnik. Pauly Vella’s Game Of Thrones Moment In Croatia

The jewel of Andalucia. Picton-based Consultant Jenny-Lee Explores Spain


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Iceland Takes You Beyond The Wall

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Enhanced by CGI, Castle Black, the ancient fortress nudging the Wall, was set in a disused quarry at Magheramorne, 35 kilometres from Belfast. Scenes north of the frozen barrier, however, are largely filmed across Iceland's other-worldly landscapes.

Led by Jon Thor Benediktsson, who also guided the GoT crew on set, the four-night Beyond the Wall tour takes in a raft of stunning locations, including Myvatn on the Dimmuborgir lava fields (where the wildling Ygritte playfully steals Jon Snow's sword), the Grjotagja cave (where the two enjoy a steamy hot-spring liaison) and the ice-capped expanse where Jon's pal, Samuel Tarley, and their Night's Watch comrades encounter the zombie-like White Walkers.

Spanning glaciers, waterfalls and volcanoes, the tour blends fact with fiction, as travellers learn how the show's wildlings (or Free Folk) survive in similarly harsh conditions to those of the first Icelandic Vikings.

Iceland's milder regions have also played host to some memorable scenes, such as the swashbuckling sword duel between The Hound and Brienne of Tarth in the season four finale.

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Dubrovnik's Battle Of Blackwater Bay

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Dubbed 'the pearl of the Adriatic' by legendary English poet Lord Byron, Dubrovnik has been enchanting outsiders for centuries, and is the key location for King's Landing, the royal powerbase of Westeros.

Scores of scenes - including the Battle of Blackwater Bay - have been filmed in and around Dubrovnik's sea-hugging Old Town, which was beautifully restored after being badly damaged in the 1990s Balkans war.

 Dubrovnik features widely in the series

Remember when the ravenous mob rebelled against King Joffrey, sparking a riot? That was shot in this maze-like antique quarter, which is jammed with quaint red-roofed houses, Baroque churches and pavement cafes, and is protected by chunky two-kilometre long defence walls (which are a delight to stroll on).

Themed Thrones tours cover Dubrovnik, nearby Trsteno Arboretum - a small village were the lush King's Landing garden scenes were shot - and Lokrum, a forested, monastery-speckled island which posed as Qarth, a port city in Essos (across the Narrow Sea from Westeros).

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Find King's Landing in Malta

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While Malta is more renowned as 'a Mediterranean Hollywood' - Troy, Munich and The Count of Monte Cristo are among the countless movies shot here - Thrones' crews filmed several clips of the show's first season on this sun-baked archipelago.

 Mdina in Malta is a favoured location

Blessed with formidable ramparts, creepy dungeons and medieval alleys, Mdina, the ancient hilltop capital of Malta, was used for early King's Landing scenes (as were Forts St Angelo and Fort Manoel near the Grand Harbour of Valletta).

A natural rock arch on the island of Gozo, the Azure Window provided a compelling backdrop for the Dothraki Wedding between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in the very first episode.

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Retrace Daenerys' Steps In Morocco

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A windswept Atlantic port, Essaouira starred as Astapor, the slave-trading hub that Daenerys sacked during season three, freeing the army of 'Unsullieds' and turning her dragons on the foul-mouthed ruler Kraznys mo Nakloz.

 Essaouira attracted the Thrones location scouts

About 180 kilometres west of Marrakech, this beguiling old town has 15th-Century Portuguese coastal fortifications and an atmospheric medina, packed with seafood restaurants, crafts shops and snug riad (courtyard) hotels.

Thrones' producers aren't the first to recognise Essaouira's photogenic appeal. Orson Welles made his 1952 flick Othello here.

Nestled between Marrakech and the Sahara, the red desert citadel of Ait-Ben-Haddou - previously used for Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy and Gladiator - stood in for Yunkai and Pentos, Astapor's neighbouring cities, which also succumbed to Daenerys.

Steve McKenna

A regular contributor to some of Australia's leading newspapers and travel magazines, Steve McKenna has visited, written about and photographed more than 80 countries on six different continents. He fears he has an incurable case of wanderlust and is particularly fond of Europe, Asia and South America.