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How did Iceland enter the world of Game of Thrones?
Iceland has long been a famous filming spot. The beautiful Iceland locations have been featured in many popular TV series and movies like Batman, Star Wars, Interstellar, and of course Game of Thrones. Iceland’s dramatic weather conditions, daylight hours, wilderness, and the fact that it’s situated near Arctic Circle offers outstanding lighting conditions for videography, with an added advantage of continued ‘Golden Hour’ of photography. GOT producers wanted an idyllic and a real-world setting to illustrate the frozen brutal world and severe circumstances of life Beyond the Wall. With the wintery snowy backdrop of Iceland, they could see no other place better than it to create a make-believe world for White Walkers and Wildlings. This country of fire and ice has a gorgeous landscape with glaciers and waterfalls, volcanoes and lava fields, gigantic rock formations and sea stacks, that make it just the exact world for a show like Game of Thrones. Iceland made the first appearance in the series in Season 2 when Jon Snow was captured by the Wildlings and then came with breathtaking shots in Season 3, 4 and 7.
Although 2019 marked the end of this remarkable smash hit, let’s dig into the beautiful locations where it was filmed to keep the story alive on your visit to Iceland. Let the legends live on…
Exhaustive Tour into Iceland’s Game of Thrones Sites
Myvatn, North Iceland
Mývatn is a lake and its surrounding area in the North of Iceland; it is just an hour’s drive from Akureyri, Capital in the North. The area around Lake Myvatn has been the main shooting location for North of the Wall; Hverir’s spectacular geothermal hot spring sites and dramatic craters, lava fields, and splendid snowscapes lend a mystic feel to the scenes.
Ygritte & Jon's Cave Scene at Grjotagja Cave
Grjótagjá Cave is a real hidden gem in the Lake Mývatn region. It is a cave and a hot spring. This small cave used to be a common bathing place for the locals. The clear, blue waters here make you believe as this site was tailored for the Game of Thrones franchise only. The romantic scene between Ygritte and Jon Snow from Season 3 has been shot here. The waterfall has been added via CGI to add to the fantasyland. After the episode premiered, this former secretive location suddenly saw a swarm of visitors. To protect the site, the landowners were sadly compelled to close the site to visitors in 2018.
Mance Rayder’s Wildling Camp Scene at Dimmuborgir Lava Field
Dimmuborgir is a craggy lava field near Lake Mývatn. Translating to The Dark Fortress, it is known for its massive, dark rock structures. In the Game of Thrones world, the remarkable basalt towers are used to create natural ramparts for the King Beyond the Wall’s base camp. It is the location where Jon Snow assures the wildlings that he has abandoned the ways of the Night’s Watch, including Mance Raider and Ygritte.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir is part of the Golden Circle, the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland; it in fact is the most identifiable location on the show. The National Park is well-known for its unbelievable beauty, forests, lava fields, freshwater springs. The park is also a geographical marvel, as it lies on top of two tectonic plates that are slowly drifting apart. Despite it being the busy tourist spots, it was lured the creators to film here with its splendor of Almannagjá gorge and Öxarárfoss waterfall. Game of Thrones fans will remember the pass to the impregnable Eyrie when Sansa and Arya Stark sisters take their way to the narrow passage to reach their Aunt. This location has also been used to depict the scenes with Wildlings and the meeting of the Tormund Giantsbane and betrayed Ygritte with cannibal Thenns.
Brienne & the Hound Scene at Nesjavellir, Thingvellir
Game of Thrones audience would know Nesjavellir better by the name of The Vale. In the finale of Season 4, when Brienne and Podrick Payne meet Arya and the Hound, while they were going to the Bloody Gate, it is at the seven different locations of the Nesjavellir area where the iconic nail-biting fight scenes have been shot. The episode also depicts the Öxarárfoss waterfall where Arya Stark is on a horse after the fight; and also the lake Þingvallavatn is used to represent the sea when Arya leaves for Braavos.
Meereen Countryside Scene at Thorufoss
Remember the Episode 6 of Season 4, where a shepherd boy is throwing rocks into waterfall, and suddenly, Drogon, Daenerys’ dragon, flies and burns up his flock. The waterfall location for this scene is the Þórufoss waterfall. It is fascinating that Iceland, the extremely cold place was used to depict a scene in Essos, a warm continent with almost an opposite climate. It could be made possible because of the moss colors, volcanic landscapes. One of the most reachable filming sites that GOT fans can visit, this location is less than a one-hour drive from Reykjavík. If you’re on the Golden Circle, just take a detour before reaching Þingvellir and head to the Route 48.
Filming Locations on the Glaciers of Iceland
Almost 11% of Iceland is covered by its glaciers. Being home to the largest ice cap in Europe, the country draws thousands of tourists annually either for glacier hiking, snowmobiling, or just exploring the icy blue caves. With dramatic edges and plunging gorges, Icelandic glaciers truly match the North of the Wall described in A Song of Fire and Ice. The first season of Game of Thrones in its entirety was filmed in Ireland. With a better budget and upcoming entries, the creators realized that Iceland was a better shooting location for its realistic terrain. Most of the scenes of the Season two of the series were filmed in the glaciers in extreme chilly winter, where new snow and freshly ice created the most suitable setting.
The Quest to Catch a Wight Scenes at Gigjokull
Gígjökull is an outlet of Eyjafjallajökull which is one of the most famous glaciers in Iceland. In 2010, when the volcano beneath this ice cap erupted, throwing away ash in the sky, it became the top story. Gígjökull was featured in Season 7, Episode 7 when Jon Snow, leads a group Beyond the Wall to retrieve a Wight.
Interesting fact: Other than its impact on travel, Eyjafjallajökull became famous for being very difficult to pronounce. The confused journalists largely settled on calling it ‘E-Eleven’.
Miscellaneous Beyond the Wall Scenes at Svinafellsjokull
Svínafellsjökull, located in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, is an outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier. After being featured in many movies including Batman, it has been nicknamed ‘The Hollywood Glacier’. Svínafellsjökull owes its cinematic appeal to its deep blue waters, vibrant colors, marked with traces of black ash, marks of volcanic eruptions from past centuries. Many miscellaneous scenes of the North of the Wall, including the wildlings and Nights Watch were filmed in the Svínafellsjökull throughout the seasons second and third of the series.
Filming Scenes on the South Coast of Iceland
South Coast of Iceland is the second-most popular tourist attraction in the country after the Golden Circle. Apart from the remarkable glaciers, the South Coast of Iceland has many other amazing diverse sites. The dramatic waterfalls and exceptional beaches, as well as the ‘Crown Jewel of Iceland’s Nature’, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon are all easily accessible, sitting just by Route 1. It wasn’t that difficult for the creators of the show to find some amazing natural backdrops to shoot in the South Coast of Iceland. There are many single-day and multi-day tours to visit the South Coast and explore the Glacier Lagoon, country’s southernmost village, Vík, and the Diamond Beach.
Jon Snow Rides a Dragon Scene at Skogafoss Waterfall
Season 8, Episode 1: Jon Snow rides one of the dragons through winter landscapes of the North and lands in beautiful remote location with a majestic waterfall. That is the Skogafoss Waterfall on the South Coast, easily visible from Route 1 and one of the most popular, visited and favorite sites in the country.
Olly's Village Scene at Thjodveldisbaerinn Stong
This the location where wildlings, including Ygritte, ransacked and murdered innocent farmers. Olly’s parents were among those who were slaughtered. Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng is a rebuilt Viking-era farmstead situated in the gorgeous Þjórsárdalur valley in the southern Icelandic Highlands which is just a short drive from Route 1. With its historic artifacts and turf-roofed buildings, it provided the picture-perfect setting to film a realistic village in the North. Even if you’re not going for Game of Thrones shooting locations, Þjórsárdalur in itself is a place well worth visiting, It is a beautiful valley on the South Coast with forests, hot springs and one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, Háifoss.
Catching a Wight Scene at Stakkholtsgja Gully
Stakkholtsgjá Gully is a canyon covered with moss near Þórsmörk which is known for being the beginning or closing point for the Laugavegur Highland Trail. Like Gígjökull, Stakkholtsgja Gully was depicted in the second last episode of Season Seven, when Jon Snow with his group of adventurers marches Beyond the Wall to capture a Wight.
Eastwatch-By-the-Sea Scene at Reynisfjara Beach
The volcanic black sand beaches characterize the South Coast of Iceland. One of the most popular sites here is the Reynisfjara. In Reynisfjara you can find extremely strong waves and sea stacks, called Reynisdrangar. The scenes shot at the Reynisfjara Beach appeared briefly in the series, they were depicted as the part of the shoreline around Eastwatch by the Sea, the Night’s Watch castle where the army of the dead is marches.
GOT Locations on Snaefellsnes Peninsula
The Snaefellsnes peninsula is often called as mini-Iceland or Iceland in Miniature or Iceland in a nutshell as the topography is so varied here. From awe-inspiring glaciers and dramatic waterfalls to black sand beaches and volcanoes, the grand Snaefellsnes Peninsula has got all Iceland has to offer. Owing to its coastal location, pyramid shape, Mt. Kirkjufell in this area is celebrated as the popular and most snapped mountains in Iceland.
The Mountain Shaped like an Arrowhead Scene at Mt. Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell mountain is photogenic in nature it can be shot from a wide variety of angles. This location has been shown in the GOT Series as the Arrowhead mountain in Season 6 and 7. It was originally depicted in the visions of Bran Stark and the Hound. In Season 7, Episode 7, Kirkjufell is the terminus point for Jon Snow as he and his troop pursue to capture a Wight to bring to Queen Cersei.
Interesting Fact: No actor has actually shot a scene in front of the mountain. The shooting was done in both summer and winter and later the shots were superimposed into the required backdrops.
Game of Thrones Tours in Iceland
If you are a big GOT fan like us, we bet you want to visit the splendid filming locations of your favorite show and there are so many ways for you to visit. Myvatn, Mystery, and Magic is a full-day tour in North Iceland from Akureyri. The tour covers the important filming locations and the incredible Myvatn Nature Baths. You will get to visit the area where the scenes where the Men of the Night’s Watch were attacked and will also get to learn interesting facts about ancient Vikings, folklore surrounded by the amazing Iceland weather. Another tour is an 8-hour tour in the South of Iceland that starts from Reykjavik. This includes Thingvellir National Park, the areas where scenes of the White Walkers were shot, the entrance to Eyrie, and more. You will encounter some amazing rebuilt farmstead and stunning waterfalls in the tour.
The huge popularity of Game of Thrones has resulted in making the filming locations the most sought-after vacation destinations and popular tourist hotspots. So, whenever you visit Iceland next, don’t forget to track down the ultimate GOT locations to live the stories again.