Ah, Dorne. Early on, it showed endless potential with its promises of hot weather, spicy food, and sex-positive values. Sadly, by Game of Thrones‘ mid-season it became known as the home of confusing accents and aimless plotlines.
Still, when picking a travel destination in the Seven Kingdoms, the land of the House Martell makes a strong case — Princess Myrcella thrived in her study abroad program and certain locals were exceptionally friendly to the tourists.
If you’re traveling abroad this summer, here are a few real places you can visit that capture the feel of Dorne.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, being that many of the scenes taking place in Dorne were shot in Spain. The Alcázar of Seville, which stands in for the famous Water Gardens on HBO, is one of the few filming locations that manages to fully exude the beauty of its on-screen counterpart. It aces the role of an impossibly lush oasis in the middle of a sun-scorched region. Gazing up at the Alcázar’s tiled arches, strolling through its verdant courtyards, and wandering amongst its breezy grottos will feel like a tranquil retreat…the sort that no one in Westeros ever gets to fully enjoy because they’re busy killing each other.
On another note, in a recent survey conducted by OnePoll.com, Spanish men were voted the best lovers in the world. Add to that the wide selection of nude beaches, the lack of social constraints, and the absence of skull-squeezing giants and it’s safe to say that Prince Oberyn would have thrived in modern day Spain.
ISLAND of MADEIRA, PORTUGAL
Both the books and the show have taken time to praise the merits of Dornish Wine, which immediately calls Madeira to mind. In the age of sail, casks coming from this Portuguese island were prized as highly as gold by pirates roving the shipping lanes. These days, Madeira is a politically autonomous tourist spot famous for the fact that it pretty much always feels like springtime. If you’re visiting, be sure to wander the streets of Funchal, stepping in and out of wine shops, pausing to admire the patterned mosaics in the pavement. Later, head to the Madeira Botanical Gardens which feel like another take on Dorne’s Water Gardens filtered through the imagination of Dr. Seuss. The rolling lawns are covered with odd geometric hedge arrangements and monochrome flower beds.
The show hasn’t paid much attention to food production (aside from Arya’s sketchy-as-hell oysters), but the books specifically call out Dorne as the prime spot to score citrus in Westeros. The hot-blooded Dornish would certainly appreciate the Battle of the Oranges held in the northern Italian town of Ivrea. The origins of the festival are tough to pin down but most agree that it’s meant to represent the defiance of the city’s ruling class by its underlings.
One story goes that a highborn man tried to exercise “the right of the first night” and the peasant girl he hoped to assault decapitated him instead (why couldn’t the showrunners have let Sansa do that?). Upon seeing the young woman swinging the severed head of the marquis, the lower class revolted. Somehow, years later, they arrived at throwing oranges to commemorate the event. In modern times, the battle is highly organized with participants divided into nine armor-wearing teams and warring with Red Viper-esque ferocity. Clearly, this is the most Game of Thrones festival on the planet– making Spain’s famous La Tomatina seem soft by comparison.
The streets of Sunspear (Dorne’s capital) feature ramshackle stalls where snakes are marinated in their own venom. Aside from the whole poison-food thing, Martin seems to be drawing from the medina of Marrakesh. This old quarter is a UNESCO Heritage site– and also home to some of the best street food on the planet. Every evening, as the heat finally begins to fade, hundreds of vendors set up shop in the central square and begin hawking the sort of spice-laden, savory dishes you could imagine Jamie and Bronn raving about in their shared travel journal. If you visit, don’t miss the snails in thyme broth, the stuffed camel spleen (consider the elements of breakfast sausage before you judge), and the endless varieties of honey-smothered pastry.
FINAL NOTE: If you do travel any of these places this summer, the lyrics of “The Dornishman’s Wife” offer a pretty standard travel advisory regarding local etiquette and the basic rules for not getting brutally murdered.