As it turns out, the seven kingdoms that make up “Game of Thrones” are actually only five kingdoms. Or rather, countries. From the icy terrain the Wildlings traverse to the red bricked citadels of Daenerys-conquered Yunkai, these kingdoms are completely visitable in real life.
Unfortunately, you may not have a few extra bills to dole out on a world tour anytime soon to see these spots in person, but it’s still great to know that incredible, naturally-formed locales like these trump the need for special effects. Here are a few of the real locations for ‘Game of Thrones.’
Beginning in Season 2, Dubrovnik, Croatia, became the main location for King’s Landing. It’s ideal for being right on the coast, with some pretty exceptional views.
Lokrum, an island near Dubrovnik, acted as the ethereal walled Qarth, and the horrifying House of the Undying was shot on the mainland’s Minceta Tower.
The Vatnajökull National Park and some notable glaciers and the like (Svínafellsjökull Glacier and those around Lake Myvatn) make up the most frequently utilized landscapes used to shoot John Snow, the Night’s Watch, and the Wildlings. The location is ideal for sinister undertones—the area is scattered with black lava from nearby volcanoes.
Also in Iceland is Thingvellir National Park, where the Wildlings plotline in Season 4 was shot.
Khaleesi’s nomadic kingdom has been to a few cities. The ‘Game of Thrones’ team set her out in two distinct Moroccan landscapes to demonstrate the long journey she makes. Ait Banhaddou makes up the ruddy-hued Yunkai. Producers love it because it has a nearby studio famous for some big movies, including gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.
Essaouira stands in for Astapor, which is probably most notable for this scene:
Malta’s Mdina was the first location for majestic King’s Landing. Some forts, like San Anton Palace, Fort St. Angelo (pictured), Fort Ricasoli and Fort Manoel stood in for scenes around Westeros.
Before getting into some trouble with some Maltese officials, who believed shooting damaged the area’s natural habitats, the Azure Window (as it’s known) was the kingdom where Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen originated before she left with her new husband Khal Drogo.
5. Northern Ireland
Most scenes in ‘Game of Thrones’ are shot in Northern Ireland. The nation provides a lush scenery for everything from the Iron Islands to the rocky cave where Melisandre gives birth to that demon thing (Ballintoy Harbour and Cushendun Caves, respectively). Winterfell is shot at their Caste Ward and the Tollymore Forest provides a location for many of the show’s woodsy scenes.
Most of the interior scenes are shot in Norther Ireland as well at the Paint Hall Studio in Belfast, which happens to be the shipyard that built the Titanic.
It looks like the crew won’t be leaving Northern Ireland any time soon either—the country has ponied up around $15.5 million in grants to keep the show filming there. Apparently the show attracts hordes of diehard fans every year, generating around $109 million for the struggling economy.