Tourism: Five countries every ‘Game of Thrones’ fan should visit

“Game of Thrones” might be best known for its intricate plots, memorable characters and stunning battle scenes, but the hit HBO show has also stirred up a tourism boom.

Fans of the show are visiting countries across Europe and Africa to see some of the fantasy world’s most iconic locales for themselves. Some of the show’s scenes were filmed in places that were already bustling with tourists, while others are bringing traffic to parts of the world not normally accustomed to having so many visitors.

Travel expert Natalie Preddie joined CTV’s Your Morning on Monday, to look at five destinations for any true “Game of Thrones” enthusiast.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
The real-world stand-in for King’s Landing from Season 2 onwards, Dubrovnik has played host to such unforgettable moments as the jousting tournament on Joffrey Baratheon’s name day and Cersei Lannister’s “walk of shame” through the Westerosi capital.

Dubrovnik isn’t nearly as vicious and bloodthirsty as King’s Landing, though. The odds a modern visitor will witness that sort of gruesome spectacle as they’re taking part in a GoT-themed tour are slim to none.
“It’s a beautiful destination,” Preddie said.

The influx of GoT fans has led some of Dubrovnik residents to complain about overcrowding and busyness. UNESCO has even threatened that the city’s status as a World Heritage Site could be at risk because of the tourism surge.

Osuna, Spain
When the producers of “Game of Thrones” needed a large stadium for a key scene, they turned to Spain.

The southern city of Osuna hosts a bullring used in the show as the Meereen fighting pit. The pit was a key plot point through Season 5, culminating in Daenerys Targaryen agreeing to reopen the pit and being the victim of an unsuccessful assassination attempt there by the Sons of the Harpy.

Preddie recommends that any GoT fan interested in seeing Osuna also include the larger city of Seville on their itinerary.

About an hour’s drive from Osuna, Seville stood in for the southern region of Dorne. The Alcazar of Seville royal palace was used as Sunspear, the seat of the powerful House Martell.

Kirkjufell, Iceland
Also known as Church Mountain in our world, Kirkjufell’s peak goes by the name Arrowhead Mountain in “Game of Thrones.”

It was used in the seventh season of the show as the mountain where Jon Snow and other characters captured a zombie-like wight in order to prove the existence of the creatures to southern skeptics.

Other parts of Iceland have been used as filming locations for many of the show’s northern settings, including a cave where Jon Snow and Ygritte shared a romantic encounter, and a park where Brienne of Tarth fought the Hound.

Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ait Benhaddou also plays a major role in the history of Essos, the more mysterious of the two continents in the show.

The fortified ancient village was transformed by the show’s producers into Yunkai, a Slaver’s Bay community that Daenerys Targaryen invaded as part of her quest to free all slaves in Essos.

According to one report, Ait Benhaddou is the second-most-Instagrammed “Game of Thrones” location of all, behind only Krka National Park in Croatia.

Preddie suggests anyone thinking about a trip to Morocco combine Ait Benhaddou with a visit to Marrakech, which has no direct connections to the show but is only a short drive away.

Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Last on our list is the country that is likely home to the most recognizable “Game of Thrones” settings of all.

Northern Ireland was quick to adopt the newfound fame the show brought to some of its oldest buildings and prettiest landscapes, with Belfast often used as the base camp from which tourists could explore some of the more remote destinations.

“There are lots and lots of tours out of Belfast where you can look at rolling hills, meadows, where they filmed a lot of scenes,” Preddie said.
Famous GoT locales in Northern Ireland include the Dark Hedges, a tree-lined street used as the Kingsroad, as well as Castle Ward, which was featured as the heart of the northern kingdom of Winterfell.

By Ryan Flanagan

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