From beheadings in King’s Landing to shadow demons in the Stormlands, via Iron Island raids, Northern winters and eye-popping views from the Eyrie, we’ve all spent plenty of time in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros over the past few years.
But one region of the realm that hasn’t got much airtime yet is Dorne. Famed for its wine, women and fan-favourite Red Viper, the southernmost realm of the continent has only been hinted at during the Game of Thrones so far. That’s about to change, as the home of the late Prince Oberyn plays a crucial role in the action for the rest of season five and beyond.
So to get you accustomed to the climate, customs and culture of Dorne, Daniel Bettridge, author of The Travel Guide to Westeros, has put together a handy introduction to the show’s newest setting…
Landscape and climate
Located on the southernmost peninsula of the continent, Dorne is the hottest kingdom in all of Westeros, with a scalding southern climate that’s helped to shape the land over the centuries. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that Dorne features the only desert in the Seven Kingdoms, an inland sea of sand where water is almost as valuable as gold, and wells are protected like vaults. Along the coast and the banks of its major rivers, however, the warm weather has formed fertile farmlands where exotic produce flourishes.
Customs and culture
Liberal Dorne is a world apart from the social constraints of most of the other kingdoms of Westeros.
Dornishmen are known for their hot-blooded temperaments and sexual licentiousness, which draw frowns from other quarters of the continent. From the fine wines and fiery foods to the otherworldly landscapes and exquisite architecture, it’s easy to see why visitors keep coming back to this part of the world.
Before his unfortunate and grizzly demise at the hands of the Mountain in King’s Landing, Prince Oberyn Martell – known as the Red Viper thanks to his penchant for poisoned blades – was undoubtedly the most famous resident in the region. A member of the ruling Martell House he is survived by the Sand Snakes, his infamous band of bastard daughters. The most recent addition to the Dornish court however is Princess Myrcella, the middle child of the late King Robert Baratheon and Queen Cersei Lannister who is being fostered in Dorne in preparation for her arranged wedding with Prince Trystane Martell but, unless Jaime Lannister gets his way, is set to become a pawn in Ellaria Martell’s game of war.
Dangers and difficulties
Despite it’s beauty, a trip to Dorne, like anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms, isn’t without its dangers…
By far the hottest kingdom in all of Westeros, Dorne’s climate can be deadly for ill-prepared tourists.
The recent death of Prince Oberyn Martell in King’s Landing has escalated tensions in the region. For a kingdom notorious for its population’s hot bloodedness and short tempers, the situation is currently a powder keg and travellers should seek advice before visiting the region.
What to do when you’re there
The region’s relative poverty in contrast to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms also makes activities more affordable, meaning many tourists choose to indulge themselves during their stay.
Try your hand at Cyvasse
First introduced by Volantene traders, the board game Cyvasse spread like wildfire throughout the kingdom becoming the most popular pastime in the Dornish court (apart, perhaps, from the oldest pastime of them all). On one hand, it’s similar to chess: Cyvasse involves a variety of different pieces – from spearmen and crossbowmen to elephants and dragons – each with their own strengths and abilities. On the other hand, it features a board that changes from game to game with players arranging tiles on either side of a screen so that neither can see the other’s tactics. So, not that much like chess after all then…
Located on the far southeast of the continent on the coast of the Summer Sea, the kingdom’s capital and the ancient stronghold of House Martell is a hodge-podge of mud and straw huts which cling to the castle and its walls like barnacles on a ship’s hull. Wild, exotic and alternative, a visit is one of the most unique experiences in all of the Seven Kingdoms.
Bathe at the Water Gardens
A palatial retreat three leagues west of Sunspear, the Water Gardens is an oasis of pink marble and cool water pools where visitors can enjoy a respite from the kingdom’s cloying climate.
Food and drink
Though much of the Dornish landscape is scarred with drought-ravaged deserts, the region’s few fertile lands are filled with a bounty of natural produce. If you thought the people here were flamboyant, wait until you try their food…
No trip to Dorne would be complete without sampling some of the kingdom’s famed street food. The best places to visit are the ramshackle stalls that set up around Sunspear serving crisp grilled snake cooked in its own venom, a fearsome concoction that carries quite a kick.
Dorne long ago formed a reputation as a formidable wine-growing region. Indeed Dornish wine is amongst the most prized in all of Westeros, second only to the Arbor Golds that adorn the tables of the continent’s upper classes.