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Game of Thrones: the real-life gems behind the Seven Kingdoms

April 17, 2015
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The fifth series of the Game of Thrones is finally underway, and with the return of the fantasy drama, its magical landscapes and otherworldly backdrops have also returned to the screen. While much of the show was filmed on location across Northern Ireland's beautiful Antrim coastline, the Game of Thrones crew jetted to a number of countries in search of the perfect settings for the lands of ice and fire. We take a look at the real-life gems behind the Seven Kingdoms…

gozo malta © Photo: Rex
Mdina, Malta, fitted perfectly with GoT's theme of exotic, medieval grandeur

MaltaMalta provided much of King's Landing in Season 1. The Mediterranean island's medieval town and former capital Mdina represented the central city of Westeros to great effect, with its many well-preserved, historical buildings fitting perfectly with the theme of exotic, medieval grandeur. The natural backdrop of the Azure Window, located on Malta’s smaller sister island Gozo, was used as the setting of Daenerys Targaryens’ wedding to Khal Drogo.

dubrovnik © Photo: Rex
Dubrovnik's marble streets, baroque buildings and surrounding Adriatic Sea were perfect for the series

CroatiaWith its marble streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the surrounding Adriatic Sea, it's no wonder that Croatia's Dubrovnik played the part of the King's Landing in the second season of the hugely popular series. The nearby island of Lokrum also makes several appearances, with the lush botanical gardens being used for outdoor scenes.

lakematvyn iceland © Photo: Rex
Europe's largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier, appeared in GoT

IcelandVolcanic but frozen, Iceland's barren and beautiful terrain truly is the Land of Ice and Fire. So naturally the mysterious landscape made for the perfect location for the dramatic scenes Beyond The Wall. Filming spots included Europe's largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier, and Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park. Lake Myvatn, an otherworldly landscape of spluttering mudpots, weird lava formations and volcanic craters, was also put to GoT use.

Two of Morocco's UNESCO World Heritage Sites played a backdrop for scenes in the series

MoroccoThe beautiful sandy city of Aït Benhaddou, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site known widely for its kasbahs, has been a backdrop for blockbusters such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, and Gladiator – and most recently it became the Yellow City travelled to by The Mother of Dragons. Another out-of-this-world shooting location is Essaouira, Western Morocco. Thanks to strict building restrictions the historical beauty and stunning sea views of this little city – also a UNESCO world heritage site – have been preserved.

county atrim © Photo: Rex
The Dark Hedges, near Stanocum in County Antrim, provided the backdrop for the iconic King's Road

Northern IrelandMuch of Westeros, as well as settings of Winterfell, the north, and other parts of the Seven Kingdoms, are located in the rugged terrain of Northern Ireland. The beech tree-lined road known as the Dark Hedges, near Stanocum in County Antrim, provided the backdrop for the iconic King's Road. The scenic Caves of Cushendun – formed over a 400 million of years – also made for a magical backdrop in the series.

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