For the past few years, fans of the TV series Game of thrones have been flocking to Iceland in their search to live up the set of Game of Thrones in Iceland. Iceland is a prominent shooting location for HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones. Where can you find the show’s major shooting locations and what type of accommodation can be found nearby the listed sites?
Have you seen Game of Thrones? It’s a question we have all been asked at some point or another, and a question which we should rightfully say ‘yes’ to. I mean, come on now, where have you been if you’ve not seen Thrones? Living under Casterly Rock?
When it comes to sheer entertainment, Game of Thrones has it all; bloody gore, rampant sex, thrilling battle scenes and stunning visual landscapes. It is television that hits us like a sword-hilt to the face, building us up alongside its ensemble cast, then tearing us down when they are taken down. It is television that makes us gasp, laugh and wince, all the while drawing us ever further into this dark, medieval world. It is television without a rival, television that will live on well past its final eighth season as we approach 2019.
Based on the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin, the television show has chosen to shoot in some of the most visually stunning locations on earth, balancing raw and natural beauty with CGI in order to bring Westeros to life. Among shooting locations used include Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Morocco and, of course, Iceland. Ffrom pre-production, the producers’ set out to ensure the landscapes chosen would evoke the emotion, imagination and adrenaline that Game of Thrones fanatics have come to expect.
Be warned, adventurer; this article WILL contain spoilers—if you’ve yet to catch up on all of the series so far, then do so at once. Returning to this article afterwards will give you a much greater insight into just how many crucial scenes were shot in the land of ice and fire, and will further motivate you to visit the shooting locations during your next stay in the country! Also be aware that this is not a complete list, but one that will give you a start to your sightseeing tour in the country. And so with that being said, let us look at some of the most iconic shooting locations seen in the series so far.
The Bloody Gate | Þingvellir National Park
Game of Thrones fans will remember that scene as the Hound (played beautifully by Scottish actor, Rory McCann) leads Arya Stark toward the mystical Vale in 4th season’s episode ‘The Mountain and the Viper’. Well, little do many people know that this scene was shot on the Öxarárfoss trail in Þingvellir National Park, its sheer walls and volcanic terrain serving as this fantasy regions’ perfect template.
Aspiring to deliver the Stark child to her Aunt Lysa, Sandor Clegane has entered a cragged canyon blanketed in soft moss and cragged rock faces, only to hear that the woman they have come to see has died. This causes young Arya to burst into ironic laughter as the Knights of the Vale look on in strained confusion. This is but one of the series’ more lighthearted moments, forcing us to forget—if just for a moment—how dangerous Westeros can be.
Think back earlier in the series (Episode 5: First of His Name) when Lord Petyr Baelish, aka, Littlefinger, follows the exact same route to deliver Arya’s older sister, Sansa Stark, to his lover, Aunt Lysa. This encounter goes far less smoothly, however, as Lysa winds up thrown through the moon door by Baelish himself after only just marrying her, thus ensuring himself the title of Lord of the Vale. Oh, if you thought love was difficult in real life, try romance in the world of Game of Thrones… without doubt, more will be broken than just your heart!
A number of holiday cottages can be found around Þingvellir National Park. For starters, visitors could check out the following Luxurious Golden Circle Lakehouse, complete with four bedrooms capable of sleeping eight, and such as a large TV, comfortable living area and relaxing Finnish sauna. Another option is this Cottage by Lake Þingvallavatn, boasting a mountain view balcony, an outside bathtub and scenic terrace.
Brienne & the Hound Fight! | Nesjavellir, Þingvellir National Park
Only forty minutes drive from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, it is little wonder that the easily-accessed Þingvellir National Park would see more of the limelight that other areas in the country. In season 4 episode 10, “The Children”, we see one of the series most exciting battles, a sword-fight between the Brienne of Tarth and Sandor Clegane.
Shot close by to Nesjavellir geothermal plant, this scene perfectly showcases the stunning landscapes of Þingvellir National Park, all the while providing action and inner-conflict as we the viewers struggle to pick our winning side. Eventually, it is Brienne of Tarth who prevails, something of a humiliation for the Hound who is left broken and bloodied at the foot of a canyon gully. Ever focused on her list of planned assassinations, Arya leaves the Hound to die here—though, naturally, this is not the last time the character makes an appearance.
With Brienne and the Hound both popular characters, this scene reminds us that there is still no safety when it comes to our heroes surviving the dangerous world of Game of Thrones; this is a series that does not shy away from, but in fact, relishes in stripping us from our favourite protagonists.
Drogon Kills Sheep | Þórufoss Waterfall
In Season 4, episode 6, ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’, viewers are privy to a shepherd and his son tending his flock of sheep in a valley somewhere in the countryside of Meereen. When we first encounter it, Meereen is the largest of the slave cities, ruled over by The Masters. These would come to be one of Daenerys Targaryen’s first major antagonists as she set out to liberate the slaves on her quest to become Queen of Westeros.
In this scene, we are presented with a grassy landscape, complete with the 18-metre high Þórufoss waterfall rumbling in the background. The father and his son work quietly when, without warning, the mighty dragon Drogon appears on the scene, scorching the earth with his furious, flame-throwing throat, and incinerating all sheep in sight, before disappearing beyond a wall of green sloping hills. Þórufoss is found west of Þingvellir National Park.
“The Mountain Like an Arrowhead” | Kirkjufell, Snæfellsnes
North of Reykjavík, we have the region of Snæfellsnes. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is otherwise known as “Iceland in Miniature,” and is considered to be one of Iceland’s most popular visitor destinations, thanks in large part to its wealth of natural attractions and fairly close proximity to the capital. As is to be expected, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was utilised as shooting location by the Game of Thrones crew, meaning accommodation options will be a necessary forethought before visiting. There is one major attraction on the peninsula that is a true necessity for fans of the show, and that is Kirkjufell Mountain.
Kirkjufell is best known as Iceland’s most photographed mountain, but many will recognise it as “the mountain like an arrowhead”, as so poetically described by the Hound in the Season 7 episode ‘Beyond the Wall’. He first witnesses a vision of Kirkjufell in the fire, as seen in Season 7’s first episode, “Dragonstone.” However, it appears numerous times throughout the series, serving as a fantastical backdrop for the high stakes narrative.
Kirkjufell has appeared in Game of Thrones before, in the fifth episode of Season 6 “The Door”. Within the scene, Bran Stark has a vision of the Children of the Forest creating the demonic White Walkers; Kirkjufell stands proud, green and luscious as a backdrop, a far cry from what viewers expect of the glacial landscape behind the wall. In reality, Kirkjufell is the guardian landmark of Grundarfjörður village, where visitors can find closeby holiday cottages such as the quaint 25 square meter cottage, Nónstein or, for those looking for something larger and closer to the mountain, the summerhouses Hálsaból.
The Wildling Raid | Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng
Can you remember Season 4, episode 3 “Breaker of Chains”? The violent scenes at Olly’s Village, where the wildlings engage in a traditional but barbaric raid, cutting down townsfolk left right and centre in their thirst for supplies, vengeance and power? The wilding girl and future lover of Jon Snow, Ygritte, is, responsible for the death of Olly’s parents, shooting an arrow swiftly into his father’s back—spoiler alert: this tragedy is rectified with another when Olly himself kills Ygritte during the battle of Castle Black.
The scene was shot at Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng, a reconstructed Viking-era farm that was originally renovated in 1974 after spending centuries under ash following the 1104 eruption of the nearby Hekla Volcano. Complete with three historically accurate buildings, including their turf rooftops, Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng provides a fascinating look at settlement era Iceland and should be a staple stop on any visitors’ trip. Nearby accommodation includes the fully equipped Hekla Summerhouse and the five-bedroom Króktún Cottage, with its large terrace, BBQ grill and children’s area.
Snaring a Wight Beyond The Wall | Stakkholtsgjá Canyon
In order to prove to the cruel Cersei Lannister just how real the threat of the White Walkers and their army of the dead is, Jon Snow realises his only option is to show the queen a wight firsthand. This scene, taking place beyond the wall, was shot at Stakkholtsgjá Canyon, itself located at the entrance point to Þórsmörk in the Highlands. This action takes place in the Season 7 episode “Beyond the Wall”.
According to the Game of Thrones Locations Manager, Einar Sveinn Þórðarson, “We were shooting in this area for about a week, in different spots […] In the wintertime we got a lot of snow, and we wanted a lot of snow. It’s beautiful to see all the cliffs with snow like powdered sugar on them. But it can be tricky. We had to have a guy with a bulldozer standing by after the night to break up the ice so we could get across the stream. We put a couple of bridges over the water. We did have a problem in that the snow started thawing, so it started looking a bit different… but we managed to finish in time.”
Unfortunately, weather conditions make it impossible for tourists to visit this area during the wintertime, with most of the highlands only accessible between June and September. Of course, this scene was shot in the snow, though summer visitors still looking to catch this site could choose to stay in such properties as this five-bedroom Mið-Mörk Holiday home, located close to the glacier Eyjafjallajökull.
Eastwatch-By-the-Sea | Reynisfjara Beach & Dyrhóaley
Eastwatch-By-the-Sea appears twice in Season 7 of Games of Thrones. The first time, Season 7, Episode 5 (“Eastwatch”) and later, in Season 7, Episode 6 (“Beyond the Wall”). In the sixth episode, the dark and twisting coastlines of Iceland’s South Coast are used as the template base for the mighty Wall, built by the first men as a means of keeping back all of the evil found in the cold and stark northern regions of Westeros.
In the fifth instalment, the shooting location is used as Jon Snow and his men arrive at Eastwatch in order to prepare for the trials ahead. In the sixth episode, we see the Hound say his goodbyes to Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion after a difficult experience catching a wight beyond the wall, during which time Jon Snow became heavily injured after fighting both the Wights and the White Walkers on a frozen lake.
The peninsula of Dyrhóaley, most famous for its dramatic rock arch, does not actually appear in the show itself, though does make a brief appearance in the trailer for Season 7. Those looking to stay on Iceland’s South Coast—well regarded as one of the most scenic tourist trails in the country—could choose to stay at such locations as the two-story farmhouse Katla or one of the small but cosy Þakgil cabins.
Wildling Camp | Dimmuborgir, “The Dark Fortress”
Mance Rayder’s wildling camp was filmed at Dimmuborgir lava field, known colloquially as the ‘Dark Fortress’, an area found nearby to the volcanic Lake Mývatn. Icelanders, of course, believe this site to be an elven haven, an area where all manner of mythical creatures congregate to cast spells, compare cauldrons and plot various ways to disrupt traffic infrastructure. Regardless of this loose sense of reality, Dimmuborgir is a stunning site, an area that provides a true insight into Iceland’s volcanic upbringing. And hell, one can’t blame both locals or fans for confusing the site’s fantastical rock formations for the supernatural.
Those looking for accommodation in Mývatn need look no further than the small, yet comfortable Laugar Cottage or, for those looking to be right next to the action, the wooden cabins of Álfahlíð. Both of these locations sport a wooden aesthetic and stunning surrounding scenery, sure to provide you with an unforgettable and tranquil time in the Mývatn region.
The Love Cave Beyond The Wall | Grjótagjá Mývatn
No more spookiness! Instead, let us plough into sexier discussion. Fans of Games of Thrones have long fantasised over the curly-haired hunk, Jon Snow. His brooding expression, dashing cloak and authoritative position in the Night Watch. Let’s face it. One of the more sensuous scenes to make broadcast is the intimate encounter between our hero and the wildling Ygritte, filmed in Grjótagjá cave, just east of Lake Mývatn.
There are also a number of sightseeing tours and itineraries dedicated to showcasing Game of Thrones locations, including the likes of this Game of Thrones Self Drive | Iceland in 10 days. Another option for feeling closer to the action is to partake in a horseback riding tour, one of the most popular and authentic visitor activities available in Iceland. Icelandic horses are famous for their loyalty and intelligence, small yet muscular physique and five unique gaits, as well as their ability to provide visitors a unrepeatable means of experiencing the local landscape.