'Game of Thrones': jaw-dropping locations from the TV hit
The final season of "Game of Thrones" is now upon us. So, we have the perfect excuse to run through some of our favourite real-life locations that form the astonishing scenery from this epic TV show.
Northern Ireland: Land of Shadow Wolves
Some of the most iconic locations in the entire series are located right on our doorstep. We love the panoramic views of Binevenagh in County Londonderry, which were transformed into the sweeping Dothraki grasslands in season five, as well as the coves near Cushendun village, which formed the perfect setting for the eerie caves in the Stormlands where Melisandre give birth to the shadow creature in season two.
But most famous of all must be the Dark Hedges. This imposing avenue of beech trees is now one of the most photographed spots anywhere on the island of Ireland, and is memorable as the Kingsroad, the longest and grandest highway in Westeros and which passes the mighty Winterfell.
Croatia: House of the Undying
Head to Croatia and you'll find yourself in the land of the Lannisters. Dubrovnik famously doubles as the capital of Westeros, King's Landing, from season two onwards, and a stroll along the medieval street of Stradun will have you retracing the footsteps of Cersei as she took her Walk of Shame in season five.
Alternatively, head to the city walls for spectacular views across some of the show's landmark locations or take a 10-minute boat ride across to the island of Lokrum to discover the show's city of Qarth, site of the House of the Undying. Instead, you'll find a beautiful Benedictine monastery, botanical gardens with giant agaves and palms, and some scenic swimming spots, including a nudist beach.
Iceland: Beyond the Wall
Wild and windswept, Iceland is the perfect location for the heart-racing action that takes place beyond the Wall. The outstanding scenery of UNESCO World Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park was used for multiple scenes in the series, from the Vale of Arryn to the wildlings' homeland, and you'll also recognise nearby volcano Hengill as the location for Brienne and the Hound's epic duel in season four.
For the incredibly intrepid, many of the scenes for beyond the Wall were filmed high on glaciers near Vik, some of which can only be accessed by “F” roads (which are not open in winter and require a 4x4 vehicle). Or you can stick the main roads and enjoy the stark beauty of Vik's basalt column-fringed black-sand beach -- the location for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea on the very edge of Westeros.
Malta: Lannisters' Lair
The island of Malta is no stranger to film crews, and has been used as the setting for many Hollywood films, but it was catapulted into the limelight during the first season of "Game of Thrones" as the original setting of King's Landing.
The winding, cobbled backstreets of the capital, Valletta, are where the Starks first try to navigate the favours and pitfalls of the Lannisters' hospitality, and the striking 17th-century Fort Ricasoli, with its plaited pillars, was transformed into the gates of Kings Landing. You may struggle to access the gate if it's in use, but catching a dghajsa (water taxi) is a wonderful way to get up close.
Spain: Land of Dragons and Snakes
We saw some of the most spectacular scenery yet in the previous season of "Game of Thrones", with the arrival of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen at Dragonstone Island. Spain's Basque Country took centre stage here, with San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (top picture) on the Bay of Biscay the setting for the striking stone staircase that snakes up to Dragonstone Castle (although don't be disappointed to find out that the castle is CGI). The jaw-dropping limestone cliffs of Itzurun Beach, along the coast, look like huge dragon scales rising from the sea.
In the south, Seville's intricate and beautiful Moorish palace, the Royal Alcázar, was the location for another standout set piece earlier in season five. This UNESCO World Heritage Site's courtyard gardens and intricate arches became Dorne, the home of House Martell and the infamous Sand Snakes.
Morocco: Khaleesi's Stomping Grounds
Much of Daenerys Targaryen's journey from Dothraki bride to Dragon Queen takes place in the Morocco. One of the country's must-see landmarks is the fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou. This fascinating centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage Site is built entirely out of clay, and is laid siege to by Daenerys as the slave city Yunkai in season three.
Also worth a visit is the port city of Essaouira, with its dramatic fortified walls and ramparts -- an excellent spot for catching magnificent sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean. You'll recognise this city as Astapor in the show, where the Mother of Dragons liberates the army of the Unsullied.