The otherworldly landscapes from the HBO show are all worth a trip
Game of Thrones may have one of the most beautiful and sprawling worlds in fantasy, but the colossal realms of Westeros and Essos as depicted on the television show are within relatively easy reach. Just book a ticket to Iceland, Spain, Croatia, or Northern Ireland and be ready to explore.
Itzurun Beach, Spain
Dragonstone is House Targaryen’s ancestral seat, but their castle’s real-world stand-in is actually perched over Itzurun Beach on the Basque Coast. Grab a board at Flyschsurf in the town of Zumaia and surf or SUP the left-hand and right-hand breaks along what locals call the Flysch, a five-mile spine of sedimentary rock. Then take in 60 million years of geologic and cultural history on the three-hour guided tour of Basque Coast UNESCO Global Geopark, or hike nine miles of coastal trails from Zumaia to neighboring Deba, where you’ll walk among ancient rock formations and tour the hermitage of San Telmo, named for the patron saint of fishermen. Stay at Jesuskoa, a rustic boutique hotel just outside Zumaia, and dine on veggies grown in its large organic garden (from $51).
In season seven, when Jon Snow and company head north of the Wall in search of an arrowhead-shaped mountain—where a vision says the army of the dead awaits—what they are really looking for is Iceland’s Kirkjufell. The massif, located just outside the tiny town of Grundarfjodur on the Saefellsnes Peninsula, is the country’s most photographed peak. You can snag your own vision of the mount at Hotel Framnes (from $112), which looks across the fjord to Kirkjufell, before tackling the half-mile, Class 3–4 scramble it takes to summit. The Kirkjufellsfoss (the stunning stacked waterfall at the massif’s toes) and the surrounding beaches are worth exploring before you head back to the 24-hour sauna and hot tub in your digs.
Krka National Park, Croatia
Sail the Dalmatian coast from Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, to Westeros’ Riverlands, a 42-square-mile expanse of emerald cascades also known as Krka National Park. If you’d rather stick to solid ground, rent a 29er from Riki Bike in Skradin, the small town at the park’s entrance, and you’ll receive a map and local beta for exploring Krka’s seven waterfalls, including the multitiered pools of 150-foot Skradinski Buk and Roski Slap, where whitewater tumbles 50 feet down the Krka River. Stay at Hotel Skradinski Buk in central Skradin, an easy walk to the marina where you can catch a boat into the park and sip walnut brandy on the terrace (from $40).
The Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, where the Night’s Watch guard the end of the Wall, is better known in Iceland as Reynisfjara, a black-sand beach on the South Coast. But the real-world location is steeped in just as much legend. Local folklore says the towering sea stacks, columnar cliffs, and crashing North Atlantic waves are where giant trolls once pulled ships in from the sea before turning to stone. Amble along the beach to Halsanefshellir Cave, tucked among the basalt rock columns, or walk up the 1,000-foot Reynisfjall for commanding views of the stone trolls, black beach, and boundless sea.
Bardenas Reales, Spain
The badlands of Bardenas Reales Natural Park, an hour south of Pamplona in northern Spain, are familiar as the Dothraki camps where the horseback hoard held Daenerys Targaryen captive. The 104,000-acre UNESCO Biosphere Preserve is best explored by mountain bike to take in the wrinkled sandstone canyons, dry riverbeds, and barren plateaus. Bike from Activa Experience in Tudela and pedal the 20-mile Poligono loop, with a stop at Castildetierra, an iconic, isolated rock hoodoo. Or ride the one-way haul down the 42-mile Gran Bardena, a north–south track with 1,700 feet of climbing and a challenging descent.
Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland
Remember when Sansa and Lord Royce watch Robin Arryn training in the Vale? The Irish know this verdant spot as the Glens of Antrim, an 80-mile swath of rugged cliffs and deep, green valleys. Grab your rucksack and Hillwalk Tours will lead you on a three-day, 32-mile trek over the hills and along the coast between Ballycastle and Portstewart, with stays in quaint guesthouses along the way. Climbers should stop by Fair Head, the cliffs where Jon Snow and Daenerys first meet and where steep corners, crack lines, and massive boulders that boast more than 50 test pieces beg to be scaled.
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
You’ll find the pass to the Eyrie and the setting for Brienne of Tarth and the Hound’s vicious duel in Iceland’s lava-strewn Thingvellir National Park. Hike to Oxararfoss Waterfall, also seen in the show, then pitch your tent on an abandoned farm at the Vatnskot campground on the shores of Lake Thingvallavatn. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates on Bike Company’s two-wheeled tour of the park, or go deeper with Dive.Is and scuba dive the continental divide at the Silfra, a fissure filled with crystal-clear glacial water and created by the two continents’ slow drift apart.