Where do Westeros and Essos fall on the map exactly? They don’t. These are the mythical lands where the HBO series “Game of Thrones” takes place. Still, the locations where the show films -- Iceland, Morocco and Croatia – are some very real destinations for travelers hoping to capture the spirit of the epic fantasy.
Playing on their GoT ties, Iceland Naturally held a recent Behind the Wall Sweepstakes. The winner will be immersed in landscapes where GoT has filmed, including the eutrophic Lake Mývatn with its wetlands, Dimmuborgir’s volcanic lava formations, Hverfell Crater, one of the world’s largest symmetrical explosion craters, and Höfði on Kalfastrandarvogur Bay, famous for its stunning lava formations, including Klasar and Kalfastrandarstripar.
Ouarzazate, Morocco, known for scenes featuring GoT’s Daenerys Targaryen is an ancient, walled Berber city, known as “the gateway to the desert.” It’s other nickname – the “Hollywood of Morocco.” The city’s desert locale has made it the perfect setting for films including Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and Troy.
And why not, with scenery aplenty from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortified city and well-preserved Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, Dadès Gorge, Valley of Roses and the Sahara Desert. Ouarzazate is garnering increased bookings of late, with LateRooms.com reporting its own 100% increase in the city.
Dubrovnik, Croatia, was chosen as the site of GoT’s King’s Landing in 2011. On the UNESCO World Heritage List, Dubrovnik’s Old Town, known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, has several sites that were a perfect fit for GoT. Situated on the Dalmatian Coast, the late-medieval walled city of Old Town is ripe with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Feature on GoT – Pile Gate, a medieval planned development of the 15th century, and the 11th-century Lovrijenac Fortress, located on a cliff.
Also spied on GoT is the Island of Lokrum, the home of Dubrovnik’s first Benedictine Abbey in 1023. The French made their mark on the island in the 19th century by building Fort Royal Fortress there. Still to catch when touring Dubrovnik’s GoT locales is the Arboretum Trsteno. One of the region’s oldest arboretum’s, Trsteno was the 15th-century Renaissance summer residence of Gučetić-Gozze family with a garden, aqueduct, mill, Neptune fountain and belvedere pavilion overlooking the sea.
Has tourism amped up in these areas because of GoT?
“It’s hard to tell that the increase we are having last years is directly related to the filming of the famous HBO show,” Jelka Tepsic of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board told Yahoo! Travel.
What she points to instead – tourist arrivals bouncing up 10% in 2012 and tourist overnight stays up 12%. LateRooms.com has increased booking at a none-too-shabby 28%. Kayak, the online metasearch site, has seen a 30% bump in tourist interest in Dubrovnik.