Game of Thrones season three is almost upon us (first episode airs April 1, Sky Atlantic), but have you ever wondered where the moody landscapes, fortresses from King’s Landing or the castle in Winterfell actually are? Believe it or not, most of these 'fantasy' landscapes can actually be experienced for real…
Scenes north of the wall were filmed in the icy northern hemisphere. Iceland’s active glaciers and blizzards provide the backdrop for the scenes when Jon Snow leaves the wall and ventures into white walker territory. Particular points of interest include the Hofdabrekka Heath and Svinafellsjokull calving glacier in Skaftafell for blue ice sculptures, mountain ridges and the mountains known as the Frostfangs in the series.
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Early scenes of House Stark, and Winterfell capital of the north, were filmed at Doune Castle, in central Scotland (the same place Monty Python’s Holy Grail was shot). This 14th-century atmospheric castle has a dramatic 100-foot high gatehouse and courtyard to explore inside.
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The old capital of Mdina is where King's Landing is filmed. It's possible to experience the dramatic medieval walled city for real, via boat rides along the coast. Close-by, Fort Manoel is where the Sept of Baelor was filmed and Eddard Stark falsely confesses to treason to protect his children. The actual structure has an equally fantastical back-story – St. John ordered the Knights of Malta to build it in 1723, with a marble domed structure and seven crystal towers with bells in each. Well worth a closer look.
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Dubrovnik and Lokrum Island is the setting of Qarth, the wealthy city ruled by the ‘pureborn’, which Daenerys stumbles upon on during her trek through the desert. Part of the filming was done at the Benedictine monastery, a place filled with mysterious legends – monks apparently cursed it after the French invaded. Meanwhile, the colossal gates of Qarth were filmed in the Dubac quarry, near Dubrovnik.
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The deserty scenes from the city of Pentos (in the pilot episode), and where Daenerys Targaryen (the Mother of Dragons) marries Khal Drogo, were filmed around Marrakech and Ouarzazate. The area is no stranger to big productions, either. Lawrence of Arabia and Babel were also filmed here, as were scenes from Gladiator, The Passion of Christ and Kingdom of Heaven.
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The rolling green hills of County Antrim are the setting for the Dothraki Sea, where Daenerys and her people ride on horseback and set up camp. This is also where the direwolves are first found and the location of the beheading scene in the first episode – when Ned Stark slices off a deserter’s head with his sword.
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