There was one image in particular that brought the Game of Thrones team to Spain’s northern coastline: Gaztelugatxe, a small islet off the coast of Biscay, which is connected to the mainland by a winding, manmade bridge. It was the ideal locale for Daenerys’ ancestral home of Dragonstone.
The Basque Country’s spectacular coastline will be the location of several important scenes in season seven. They shot there last October and November in order to get some gloomier weather – after all winter is finally here. This region is very green because it’s a lot wetter and cooler than the south of Spain, so fans wishing to follow in Daenerys’ footsteps may want to head there in less gloomy August or September instead.
The first stop for any Game of Thrones fan will of course be Gaztelugatxe, which fittinglytranslates as “castle rock”. It is an island located just off the Bay of Biscay, 35km east from Bilbao. After you’ve recreated Danaerys’ walk up the winding bridge, there are 241 steps that zigzag to the top of the rock.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Unfortunately there isn’t an impressive castle sat at the pinnacle (Dragonstone itself is all CGI), but there is a small church called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and a hermitage has stood in this spot since the 9th century. According to tradition, you should ring the church’s bell three times to make a wish. Once you’ve finished exploring, you can relax at Eneperi cafe and restaurant, which is located on the mainland opposite the islet and has impressive views of Gaztelugatxe.
An hour’s drive west is another season seven location: MuriolaBeach, which was revealed by local mayor Roberto Muñoz months before the new series was set to air. This stretch of coastline near the small town of Barrika is known for its picturesque cliffs and spectacular rock formations that jut out into the sea. It’s popular with surfers and rock climbers.
Sunset at Sakoneta Beach near Zumaia, which is famous for its flysch
In the other direction, an hour and half’s drive east from Gaztelugatxe, near San Sebastian and the French border, is the small town of Zumaia, which has two beaches popular with geologists because of the unique “flysch” that are located there.
The Zumaia beaches are home to the largest area of this unusual rock structure in the world. It stretches 8km and gives this section of the Spanish coast an otherworldly feeling that is perfect for the fantasy show. Apparently it is where some of Dany’s forces land in the new series as they make there way across Westeros.
There’s plenty to do in the Basque Country once you’ve explored the locations in Game of Thrones. The coastal city of San Sebastian is the most popular destination in this region thanks to its beautiful old town, museums, aquarium and buzzing bars and restaurants. Gastronomy fans flock here because it has several Michelin-starred restaurants, but there’s no need to spend a fortune to enjoy excellent pintxos, which are a Basque speciality – a special kind of tapas.
A visit to the Basque country would not be complete without visiting the city of Bilbao. It is rather unflatteringly known as the “Botxo” or “hole” by locals due to the fact it is located in a river valley, surrounded by green mountains. It has become a centre for European art and architect Frank Gehry’s striking Guggenheim museum is a must for visitors.
The Guggenheim art museum in Bilbao is an architectural masterpiece
Bilbao was a favourite of actor Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos Seaworth and visited after filming his scenes in the Basque Country.
Festivals are a daily occurrence across the Basque country throughout the summer months. The Semana Grande, or Big Week, takes place over nine days in Bilbao at the end of August. It’s a celebration of Basque culture with traditional food, music and sports including rock-drilling, wood-sawing, hay bale-throwing and bull fights. The festival comes to a close with a spectacular fireworks display and a parade of giants who attempt to capture any children on the street.
Those keen to see more of the Basque Country’s spectacular flora and fauna should head to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, which follows the River Oka from its source down to the coast. This conservation area encompasses the most diverse landscape in the Basque Country and boasts over 300 species of animals. The nature reserve includes some unique landscapes including the Painted Forest of Oma (an open-air gallery), wetlands where you can catch a sight of fish eagles and spoonbills and more stunning beaches.
Where else in Spain has Game of Thrones been filmed?
The Game of Thrones team have also filmed in the cities of Girona and Seville, but it’s not just the historic buildings and spectacular scenery that attract them to Spain. One of the show’s art directors, Christina Moore, stated that, “The reason the producers keep coming back time and time again is because of the enthusiasm for the show, particularly among the extras.”
Here are our guides to the filming locations in Girona and Seville…
Little Trains of the Pyrenees, 5 nights from £599pp. Discover the very special corner of the world that straddles southwest France and Spain’s Catalan northeast, as you enjoy journeys into the heart of the stunning Pyrenean countryside aboard some delightful, historic railway lines, winding your way upwards aboard sometimes modern, sometimes historic rolling stock, and across some marvels of railway engineering. What’s included:
Spend five nights on the beautiful Costa Brava
Unspoiled Roses, the holiday base, sits on a sweeping bay
Enjoy the views from the Roses Express road train
The historic Little Yellow Train climbs into the French Pyrenees from UNESCO-listed Villefranche-de-Conflent
The Nuria Rack Railway offers the only access to the year-round Spanish resort
Discover the stunning Upper Aude Valley on France’s Red Train
Three heritage train journeys and a ticket for the Roses road-train
Five nights’ half-board accommodation at the three-star Prestige Hotel Coral Platja, Roses, including a glass of wine and water at dinner