From wintry snowscapes and medieval castles to ancient cities and breathtaking seaside vistas, Game of Thrones has one of the most diverse and visually stunning backdrops on television.
For fans looking to be transported to the world of Westeros and Essos, they need look no further than the five countries where the fifth season of the show was filmed – Spain, Morocco, Iceland, Ireland and Croatia – to fully immerse themselves in GOT (and enjoy a fabulous vacation while they’re at it!).
Here, Hello! has an overview of what to do and see in each of the real-life lands of Game of Thrones.
SPAIN (Seville): With its southern, sunny location and hot-blooded inhabitants, the fictional land of Dorne is clearly inspired by Moorish Spain. In season five, various cities in the peninsula play home to Dorne, Seville in particular. It’s not hard to see why the Andalusian capital continues to be a top European travel destination year after year – from the stunning Cathedral of Seville to the Casa de Pilatos and the Alcazar of Seville, a fort which is widely regarded to be one of the best executions of mudéjar architecture in in Spain. Wander many of the open-air markets or embark on a tapas tour to get to know the local culture (and of course, make sure you sample some paella during your stay!). Better yet, stroll the lively Alameda de Hercules to enjoy many of the local bars and nightspots, which stay open until 7 in the morning. To see Seville at its most action-packed, catch the Semana Santa (Holy Week), when the streets are filled with with pious promenades and riotous celebrations.
Osuna's Plaza de Toros bullring – one of the oldest in the city – features prominently in the fifth season, so for fans who have the stomach for it, catching a local bullfight may be in order. Alternatively, flamenco shows are hosted there from time to time.
ICELAND: Until recently, Iceland was very much off the beaten track in terms of tourism. But a spike in visitors – thanks in part to the publicity generated by Game of Thrones – has put this Northern country very much on the map. The Wall isn’t exactly a place most would go for a sun-filled holiday, and many people visit Iceland in summer to experience the wonderful hiking, pony trekking and golfing on offer. But it's also the perfect place to enjoy a winter trip full of adventure, icy landscapes and to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
One thing is certain – no trip to Iceland is complete without a trip to the spectacular Blue Lagoon. The almost otherworldly, 37-degree-celsius body of water is nestled amid the black-lava landscape and is the perfect spot in which to laze around. The Geysir Hot Springs are likewise a hot sightseeing destination, as natural springs bubble in the ground and explode in spectacular style. Meanwhile, the capital, Reykjavic, ranks among the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world and is dotted with trendy restaurants and high-end boutique hotels.
MOROCCO: Morocco has long been a popular travel destination, made only more popular by Queen Daenerys Targaryen’s capture of Yunkai, Astapor and Meereen. It's cities boast a maze of winding streets and alleyways with vibrant nightlife, bustling "souks" and rich cuisine, palaces and mosques, making it easy to fall in love with the jewel of North Africa. Wander the maze-like streets of Marrakesh's medinas and take in the lively atmosphere of the many markets heaving with excitable tourists and locals hawking their hand-made crafts. Test your haggling skills when contemplating the purchase of carpets and leather goods or take in the powerful aroma of herbs and scented candles.
Many consider a visit to Fez – the most thoroughly medieval city in the Arab world, with exquisitely decorated labyrinthine-like streets – an absolute must-see. Make sure you visit at least one of Morocco’s gorgeous Mosques and take a midday break for mint tea. For an outdoorsy experience, embark on an overnight camel trek tour into the Sahara.
NORTHERN IRELAND: The Titanic Quarter of Belfast has become a vibrant tourist attraction in recent years and is home to the Titanic Studios, where HBO films much of Game of Thrones' interior sequences. Although public tours aren't available while the show is filming, the Quarter is the obvious place to start any tour. While there, get a feel for of the city's historical maritime industry by visiting the award-winning Titanic Museum. Visit famous locations like the botanical gardens, Crumlin Road Jail and the stunning political murals on either side of the Peaceline, as well as new boutique cafés and shops in emerging quarters of the city. (The world-famous Europa Hotel, located in the city centre, is a perfect spot for lunch!).
Just one hour’s drive north of Belfast sits the now-ruined yet spectacular Dunluce Castle, which fans instantly recognize as Theon Greyjoy’s homeland, the Iron Islands. Nearby Ballintoy Harbour was also used as the Greyjoys' home.
CROATIA: In recent years, Croatia has changed from a relative unknown to one of the trendiest destinations in Europe. The diverse cityscape has been a backdrop for both Meereen and King’s Landing – especially near the stunning old city of Dubrovnik, which is flanked by the dramatic Dalmatian Coast. The two-kilometre historical city wall overlooking ancient monasteries, aristocratic palaces and baroque churches makes for a magical stroll. Be sure to enjoy a quick bite at a local eatery to sample the delights of locally caught seafood (Villa Ruza and Bar Bota are perennial favourites).
For the sporty traveller, the 57 km Premužić Trail is considered to be one of the best hiking trails in the world, while those looking for some peace and quiet would do well to stay in the ancient city of Zadar, renowned for its breathtaking sunsets. Lastly, pay a visit to Plitvice, the best known of Croatia's national parks, as it is a paradise of lakes and waterfalls.