Iceland’s rugged, pristine landscape has attracted many filmmakers who wish to use the Land of Fire and Ice as a backdrop for their entertainment creations. The best example of this is HBO’s Game of Thrones, one of the most popular television shows of all time. In fact, along with the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the chart-topping series helped put Iceland on the map.
Here we’ll examine which of the country’s incredible features were used in the series, and how you can visit them yourself. This is the only guide you will ever need to create your very own Game of Thrones in Iceland camping route.
The Game of Thrones Series
If you’ve seen Game of Thrones, you’ll know that Iceland has some perfect, otherworldly sites that make great filming spots for it. For those who aren’t too familiar with the series, here is a little bit about the hit show. Based on a set of books called A Song of Ice and Fire by epic fantasy writer George R. R. Martin, the series ran for a total of eight seasons from 2011 to 2019.
The storyline follows multiple characters who navigate their way across fictional lands, the most important of which is Westeros. Warlords, princes and princesses fight to gain power in the Seven Kingdoms where the ultimate prize is rulership over them all, gained by sitting on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing.
Alongside these power struggles is the threat of invasion from the north, beyond the Wall. These threats come in the form of Wildlings—humans beyond the control of the Seven Kingdoms—and the White Walkers. The White Walkers are magical beings with the power to raise the dead. As you can glean from this entracing plot, the show is thrilling and violent, with constant surprises.
Although Game of Thrones ended nearly three years ago, spin-off series are in the works along with two more books expected from Martin in the future. It’s not an exaggeration to say that both the books and their on-screen adaptation have a huge cult following. In fact, for many people, their initial inspiration behind visiting Iceland comes from watching the show.
A big chunk of the show was shot in Northern Ireland, either in studio sets or on location. However, filming also took place in multiple other countries, including Croatia, Spain, Morocco, and of course, Iceland.
Game of Thrones Iceland Locations
Some scenery from Iceland features in every season of Game of Thrones from season Highlights of Iceland’s dramatic scenery are featured in every season of Game of Thrones from season two onwards. Spoiler alert: we’ll be referring to scenes from almost every season, so beware if you have yet to watch!
For most of these locations, it’s best to visit in the summer months, when the conditions are more hiker-friendly. However, regardless of when you decide to travel, you’ll need a vehicle to get you between filming locations.
Book yours at the Campervan Iceland website! Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of these famous shooting locations and how to reach them.
This area was used to film the fight between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth in season four, episode ten. The epic clash, which lasts for several minutes, sees the two warriors swinging swords at each other on the mountainside. As they fight, you can see Iceland’s signature dark, moss-covered hills and valleys looming in the background.
Hengill is actually a volcano, and although it has not erupted for thousands of years, it is still considered active. There are two geothermal power plants near the site which utilize the power of the volcano. The area is slightly east of Reykjavík, below Þingvellir National Park.
You can approach Hengill from its north side, along Route 435, where you can find a suitable parking space and hike towards the volcano. Just be sure to wear solid hiking boots on your trek, as the ground is very rough and uneven.
Þingvellir National Park
In season four, the Eyrie is the stronghold of House Arryn, and it’s guarded by the Bloody Gate. One must pass through the Blood Gate to enter the Vale of Arryn. And to reach the Bloody Gate, you must walk through a canyon, protected by guards atop the canyon cliffs.
Littlefinger and Sansa walk through this canyon path, as do Arya Stark and the Hound. The canyon is actually the result of tectonic plate movement. In Þingvellir it is clear to see how far the Eurasian and North American plates have moved apart. They continue to separate at a rate of around 2cm per year, splitting Iceland in two.
To visit the canyon, park in the visitor’s car park and follow the path to Oxararfoss waterfall. The National Park is one of the main stops on the famous Golden Circle route, so it’s easy to find. Note that you must pay for parking while you’re at Þingvellir. There’s also another campsite at the Park’s edge if you prefer to stay there.
If you’re a Game of Thrones aficionado, you’ll surely remember season eight, episode one, when Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen kiss in front of a series of waterfalls. Although Jon and Khaleesi rode the dragons together to reach the site, the dragons appear to look angrily at Jon. The waterfalls are snow-covered and make a beautiful background to a heart-warming scene.
In fact, the only waterfall that is real in the shot is the one front and center: Skógafoss. The others were added in post-production, but the real-life site is incredible enough. It lies along the south coast, only a short drive off the Ring Road (Route 1). There’s a car park at the base and steps up the side, so you can also view Skógafoss from above.
One of the most striking things about this waterfall is that it falls onto flat ground right in front of you. If you stand next to it, you can feel the water’s light spray hitting your face. It’s no wonder that it was used as a backdrop for a Game of Thrones romance scene.
The site is just over two hours’ drive from the capital. The best part? At the base of Skógafoss there’s a large campsite, so you can stay for a while comfortably and take in the scenery.
Whenever the North is depicted in the series, it is cold and full of snow and ice. Naturally, Iceland in the winter serves as the ideal spot to recreate this fictional setting in the real world. When Jon Snow ventures north of the Wall, he first meets Ygritte the Wildling in season two, episode six. The moment he decides not to kill her, a glacial tongue can be seen in the background.
This ice-filled valley is Svínafellsjökull glacier, an outlet of Vatnajökull known as Iceland’s largest glacier. It also features in season seven, episode six, when Jon Snow and his band are surrounded by the Dead army.
Svínafellsjökull is actually very easy to reach, as it’s not far off the Ring Road. Follow Route 1 along the south coast until you come to the turning for Svínafellsjökull. Drive along this access road and once you reach the glacier viewing point, you have arrived north of the Wall.
Please stay off the glacier itself unless you have proper training and equipment, or have joined a glacier hike tour.
In season three, episode one, Ygritte takes Jon Snow to the Wildlings’ camp, where In season three, episode one, Ygritte takes Jon Snow to the Wildlings’ camp, where he meets with leader Mance Rayder.
The camp’s location is clearly chosen for its strategic advantage, with surrounding rock formations acting as protection from unforseen attacks. As Jon walks through the camp, guards are seen keeping watch on top of these rock formations.
This camp is Dimmuborgir, or Dark Fortress in English. It is a series of columns and arches spreading over a massive area, formed by an eruption long ago. It’s found in the north of Iceland, close to Lake Mývatn, and is open to all for free.
A number of color-coded walking trails are found within the site, all of various lengths and difficulties. Dimmuborgir makes for a great stop along the Diamond Circle route, a popular drive for visitors in north Iceland.
In season seven, episode seven, this “mountain shaped like an arrowhead” is the target of Jon Snow and his group. The Hound has a vision of it as they journey north to capture a Wight, and so they head there. Kirkjufell appears in snapshots several times before that episode and is easily spotted.
Kirkjufell (translation: Church Mountain) is located in west Iceland, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It’s often regarded as one of the most beautiful and representative areas of the country, sometimes called “Iceland in miniature”.
It’s northwest of Reykjavík and can be driven to and around in a day, if you wake up early enough. Kirkjufell is found on the northern side of the peninsula, not too far from Snæfellsjökull glacier.
In season seven, episode five, Jon Snow and his band arrive at Eastwatch-by-the-sea on their journey north. They land their boats on a black sand beach with columns of rock in the ocean in the background. Hexagonal basalt rock formations make up the ocean cliffs.
This spectacular sight is Reynisfjara Beach, and while it is only seen briefly in the show, it is one of the most popular sites for visitors. It’s found about halfway along the south coast, near the village of Vík. Follow Route 1 and there will be a turn-off for Reynisfjara before you reach Vík. The rock columns in the ocean are known as Reynisdrangar.
There is a car park close to the beach for easy access. Be careful about walking too close to the oceanfront, because this area is notorious for sneaker waves. As their name suggests, these peculiar waves travel much further up the beach and can take you by surprise, sweeping you out into the water.
A Game of Thrones tour in Iceland
Now you officially have all the need-to-know info for a thrilling Game of Thrones tour of Iceland! If you haven’t seen the series already, we highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic watch and will get you even more excited for your Game of Thrones Icelandic adventure. And if you’ve seen it already, why not watch it again to refresh your memory ahead of your trip?
Game of Thrones is only one of many famous pictures partially filmed in Iceland. Others include the Vikings series, several films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Interstellar. Once you’ve touched down in the Land of Fire and Ice, it won’t be long until you begin to recognize various settings from the shows and films you’ve seen.