In 2011 a series was released that took the world by storm called Game of Thrones. Due to its popularity, it ran for 8 seasons ‘till it came to a dramatic conclusion in 2019. For fans of this series, Iceland is a bucket list trip, since many of its most memorable scenes were shot here on the island.
The pilgrimage of fans to the island is so popular, in fact, that one can literally take a Game of Thrones Route. This route can be experienced through a self-drive, our favorite option. You can also take a guided tour that includes all the most famous Game of Thrones locations in Iceland.
Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan, just an admirer of beautiful scenery, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, read on. In this article, we discuss the Game of Thrones route in detail and tell you exactly what you can look forward to.
Why Was Game of Thrones Filmed in Iceland?
Well, the clue might be in one of the series’ most famous lines: “winter is coming”. The impending threat of the icy White Walkers could best be depicted in one of the iciest places on earth, where scenes could be shot without putting the lives of cast and crew in danger.
And since the Land of Fire and Ice has plenty of other dramatic landscapes up its sleeve, it simply made sense to take advantage of this “go for one filming location and get thousands of others” country combo deal.
How Difficult Was it to Shoot Game of Thrones in Iceland?
Unfortunately for the cast and crew, the icy attraction of Iceland meant that most scenes had to be shot in winter. Anyone who has ever visited the island knows that winter is not generally considered the go-to season for outdoor fun.
You have to deal with extreme weather conditions, from temperatures ranging between -30 to 0 degrees Celsius, and Icelandic winds that will rip a car door right off its hinges to raging blizzards. Imagine having to contend with these types of conditions whilst shooting in outdoor filming locations for 12+ hours every day!
Getting crew, cast, and gear to and from the Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland was also very challenging since the road conditions in Iceland during the wintertime are extremely challenging. You can struggle to get vehicles started due to the extreme cold, you can get stuck in the snow, or you can lose control on the road because of patches of ice all over. The amazing scenes you see and love today came with blood, sweat, and tears.
Where in Iceland Were the Game of Thrones Scenes Shot?
Scenes were shot all over Iceland, but the following are some of the areas/regions production focused on when it came to Game of Thrones filming locations:
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir is not just one of Iceland’s National Parks, but a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s known for its beautiful attractions. Its easy accessibility via the Golden Circle also made this a good choice for shooting some GOT scenes.
Iceland has many glaciers, including the biggest one in Europe called Vatnajökull. These icy natural wonders make for some pretty dramatic scenes with their harsh and unforgiving icy surfaces and deep, dark crevasses. So, it’s no wonder that the glaciers of Iceland made such perfect filming locations for certain Game of Thrones scenes.
The South Coast of Iceland
There are some incredible attractions along the South Coast of Iceland and as they’re just a quick stop off the Ring Road, it was an easy decision to use a few of these as Game of Thrones filming locations.
The Myvatn Area is known for its breathtaking landscapes with dramatic lava fields and craters with an abundance of birds. The Game of Thrones location scouts could not let an opportunity such as this to depict scenes North of the Wall slip through their fingers.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is also called “Iceland in Miniature”. This is because the Peninsula will really give you a taste of all the different landscapes and terrains that can be found all across the island.
Specific Game of Thrones Scenes and Their Locations in Iceland
The following are the Game of Thrones scenes and their filming locations in Iceland that you can look forward to when doing the Game of Thrones route. PS. beware: spoilers on the prowl!
‘The Bloody Gate’ Scene Shot on the Oxararfoss Trail
In Game of Thrones, the Bloody Gate was an ancient fortification that guarded the entrance to Eyrie. Both Stark sisters had scenes shot here. Sansa is accompanied by Littlefinger to reach her Aunt Lysa, and Arya is taken there by the hound after she was made his prisoner.
The Bloody Gate in reality is what is known as the Oxararfoss trail in the Almannagja Gorge. And whilst your visit will merely have the trail end in the parking lot, FX and CGI turned the paths end into the Bloody Gate for the Stark sisters.
‘Brienne & the Hound’ Scene Shot at Nesjavellir
One of the most epic battle scenes of the series is between Brienne and the Hound. Whilst Arya and the Hound were on their way to the Bloody Gate, they bump into Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne.
When Brienne finds out who the Hound’s prisoner is, she tries to persuade her to join her and fulfill her oath to Catelyn Stark. Needless to say, the Hound wasn’t in agreement and a battle ensued, ending in Brienne’s victory as the Hound plummets off a cliff. Whilst it may seem like just one location, the scene was actually shot in a couple of places in the Nesjavellir area.
You’ll be able to see these if you take a hike around Hengill Mountain with Oxarfoss Waterfall being the victory scene after the Hound has perished. When Arya then finally leaves by boat, it is Lake Pingvallavatn that was used as the ocean.
‘Countryside of Meereen’ Scene Shot at Thorufoss
If you remember a memorable scene where a shepherd boy is throwing stones into a waterfall before Daenery’s dragon flies over and completely incinerates his flock, then Thorufoss Waterfall will look very familiar to you.
‘The Fist of the First Men’ Scene Shot on Myrdalsjökull Glacier
In an epic scene, the Night’s Watch is trekking through Frostfangs to reach the Fist of the First Men to gain a vantage point over their enemies, the Wildings. But as they are preparing for an attack, they are completely taken by surprise by another unexpected threat; the White Walkers. These scenes were shot on Myrdalsjökull Glacier (Iceland’s fourth-largest glacier).
‘The Quest to Catch a Wight’ Scene Shot on Gigjökull
After Jon Snow failed to persuade Queen Cersei that the undead were marching on the living, he led a group Beyond the Wall to retrieve a Wight to take to the Queen as evidence. This march north ended being a combination of shots taken in a studio as well as scenes shot on location on Gigjökull (an outlet of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier).
‘Beyond the Wall’ Scenes Shot on Svinafellsjökull
Many of the scenes North of the Wall in the second and third seasons were shot on Svinafellsjökull, and it’s no surprise why. Svinafellsjökull is no stranger to the screen and is referred to as “the Hollywood glacier” here in Iceland.
It has sharp ridges and a deep blue tint that contains veins of black ash (remnants of past volcanic eruptions). You can visit the glacier in Skaftafell National Park (now part of the bigger Vatnajökull National Park).
‘Jon Snow Rides a Dragon’ Scene Shot at Skogafoss Waterfall
There is a very romantic scene between Jon Snow and his lover beneath a spectacular waterfall in season eight. The backstory of the scene is less romantic, with the lover actually being his aunt and him being a threat to the Queen as heir to the Iron Throne.
Nevertheless, if you would like to visit this magical place, you need to make a stop at Skogafoss Waterfall. To reach the waterfall, Jon Snow rides one of Daenery’s dragons over the North. These scenes were shot from a helicopter whilst flying across the Icelandic landscape (minus Jon Snow, Daenerys, and, of course, the dragon).
‘Olly’s Village Scenes Shot at Thjodveldisbaerinn Stong
Olly was a member of the Night’s Watch, and, fuelled by his hatred of the Free Folk, became a part of the group responsible for temporarily killing Jon Snow. This hatred started when the Wildlings, including Jon Snow’s lover, Ygritte, raided and massacred a settlement of farmers which included Olly’s parents.
The tragic scene at Olly’s village was shot at Thjodveldisbaerinn Stong which is a reconstructed Viking-era farmstead meant to celebrate 1100 years of settlement here on the island. This makes it well worth a visit, even if you don’t know anything about Game of Thrones.
‘Catching a Wight’ Scenes Shot at Stakkaholtsgja Gully
Some of the march Beyond the Wall to catch a Wight scenes were shot at Stakkaholtsgja Gully. It is a moss-covered canyon near Thorsmörk that is most known for being the start and finish point of the famous Laugavegur Trail.
What makes these scenes even more impressive is that you need to remember that the Laugavegur Trail treks through the Highlands of Iceland, and the Highlands of Iceland are unforgiving terrain in the wintertime. So much so that you don’t have access to the Highlands at all during the colder winter months. These scenes were shot in the Highlands during the winter season.
‘Eastwatch-by-the-sea’ Scenes Shot at Reynisfjara Beach
As the army of the dead descends on the Night’s Watch castle, one catches a brief glance of the coast around Eastwatch-by-the-sea. Although quite impressive, the fact that so much trouble was caused by this scene for such a fleeting moment seems bizarre.
The famous Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach was used for the coastal geography, but the necessary permission was never requested from the Environmental Agency of Iceland. And with a ban on driving in the area, the vehicles transporting cast and equipment across the beach of this Game of Thrones filming location caused quite a stir.
‘Ygritte and Jon Snow’s Love Cave’ Scene Shot at Grjotagja Cave
One of the show’s most popular will-they-won’t-they couples finally sealed the deal inside a cave. This cave is one of Iceland’s lava caves called Grjotagja Cave. But this location isn’t really part of our Game of Thrones route.
At least not anymore. Now it serves as a warning to respect the rest of the Game of Thrones filming locations on this route. After the episode aired, visitors flooded the cave and completely ignored the no-bathing rule due to the volatile temperatures of the waters. In an attempt to salvage the site, it was closed to the public in 2018.
‘Mance Rayder’s Wildling Camp’ Scenes Shot at Dimmuborgir Lava Field
Jon Snow convinces the Wildlings at the King Beyond the Wall’s base camp that he has switched sides and has abandoned the Night’s Watch and his lover, Ygritte. The Dimmuborgir Lava Field was used as this base camp. And with its huge, dark, rock formations, it’s easy to see why it was chosen as a Game of Thrones filming location.
‘Corner of the Haunted Forest’ Scenes Shot at Hverir Geothermal Area
Samwell Tarly escapes the army of the dead at the Fist of First Men and has to struggle through a storm on a wintry wasteland. In reality, the cold blizzard was thick, hot steam released by the vents of the geothermal area. It really is a barren land due to sulfur composites in the ground, but unlike in the scene, the ground is dyed with all sorts of colors due to the minerals brought up from the depths of the earth.
‘The Mountain Shaped like an Arrowhead’ Scene Shot at Mt. Kirkjufell
‘The Mountain Shaped like an Arrowhead’ makes quite a few appearances throughout the series, such as during the visions of the Hound and Bran Stark, and it’s the final destination of Jon Snow and his group on their mission to catch a Wight.
But even though the mountain is seen in multiple scenes, it is merely Mt. Kirkjufell shot from different angles during the summer and winter seasons and then superimposed on the various scenes via special effects.
The Game of Thrones Route; Worth the Road Trip Whether a Fan or Not
Do yourself a favor and just Google some of the attractions and Game of Thrones filming locations mentioned in this article. You don’t need to be a Game of Thrones fanatic to be blown away by the beauty of the Icelandic landscape.
That’s why we’ll recommend this route to anyone. Rent a campervan in Iceland so you can take an affordable road trip in comfort and walk (or rather drive) in the footsteps of Jon Snow and the rest of the beloved Game of Thrones characters.