Game of Thrones is burning up the airwaves right now. Did you see that last episode? Holy, shit! Fiiiiiiiire! Anyway, it got us thinking: “Where on earth could you go that’ll make you feel like you’re really in Westeros and Essos?”
Now, we’re not talking filming locations — we’ve got you covered on that. We’re talking parts of our own world that are direct analogs of the world of Ice and Fire. These are the places that give the feeling of being in GoT and look a hell of a lot like possible inspirations for the fantastical locations.
The lands of Game of Thrones are vast and widespread, which explains why we’ve remixed this idea a few times. On this go around, we’ve chosen six prime locations that feel closest to the show and books. These are places you can travel to right now. Some are more far-flung. Some are just around the corner.
DOTHRAKI SEA — THE KAZAKH STEPPE
The Dothraki Sea is a sea of grass and sand. The Kazakh Steppe is the largest dry grassland area on the planet. It’s covers over 310,000 square miles. To put that in perspective, Texas is around 265,000 square miles. To put that into even more mind-blowing comparison, Texas has about 105 people per square mile compared to the Kazakh Steppe’s four or five people per square mile. It’s a massive, almost empty corner of the planet.
The Steppe is home to vast grasslands stretching from the Black and Caspian Seas to pine forests in the north and east which transition into Siberia to sand dunes and dry deserts along the southern fringes. It’s also famous for its horse-driven culture and economy. The horse is everything in this part of the world — from a vehicle to a companion to a food staple (via milk and flesh).
If anywhere on Earth is the Dothraki Sea, this is it.
BEYOND THE WALL — GREENLAND
The lands Beyond The Wall are full of ice and mystery. Greenland is the land of ice and, for many of us, mystery. It’s about the size of Alaska and California combined and it’s almost entirely covered in glacial ice.
Around the southerly perimeter of the island, you’ll find Inuit villages peppered throughout. The indigenous culture is largely based on hunting and gathering any food they can from the sparse land and icy seas. It’s a step back in time to a world and place locked in glacial amber.
The feel and sights of Greenland give you the distinct feeling of being somewhere beyond the normalcy of everyday life. Kind of like being beyond some great wall between the North and the unknown.
IRON ISLANDS — NOVA SCOTIA
Much like the Iron Islands, Nova Scotia’s rocky coastline plunges into harsh and frigid seas with breath-taking beauty. It’s one of Canada’s three maritime provinces — meaning it’s a state that’s entirely an island. The island is full of coastal towns that have the look of a Scottish or Irish sea-faring land from a fairy tale. Inland you’ll find your fair share of trailer parks — but that’s a different show.
The craggy beaches, hidden bays, and rough seas have a distinct Iron Islands feel to them. The only thing missing is a looming castle to shelter you against the rough seas and spitting rain.
THE ARBOR — CÔTE d’AZUR
Tyrion dreams of retiring to The Arbor on a vineyard where he’ll while away his days perfecting wine called ‘Imp’s Delight.’ It sounds like the sort of place that mimics the French Riveria — plenty of azure seas, vineyards stretching to the horizon, and likely a surplus of great food.
Côte d’Azur stretches from the French border with Italy along the Mediterranean coast. You’ll find idyllic seaside towns like Cannes, Nice, Saint Tropez, and Toulon along the way. Beaches and islands abound. Crumbling castles and monasteries sit atop spits and peaks, harkening back to a more myth-filled era.
And, most importantly, it’s France — where the wine flows freely. Which will make the imp inside all of us giddy.
BAY OF DRAGONS (SLAVER’S BAY) — TANGIER
South of the Dothraki Sea is an area full of cities at the crossroads between the actual sea, Westeros and the sea of grass and desert of greater Essos. When we think of crossroads, we think Tangier.
Tangier has been the crossroads of humanity for millennia. The Carthaginian, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Portuguese, English, and Spanish have all tried to rule the geographically important city with each leaving their unique mark on the place.
The city is a maze of ancient alleyways through the old Medina and Kasbah. Smells of strong hash and freshly butchered animals waft down the ever-winding streets. Bright colors burst from every corner. Strong tea keeps the people going through the hot African afternoons.
Were this Game of Thrones, Tangier could easily be one of the cities perched on the Bay of Dragons — floating between the sandy deserts of Essos and the castles of Westeros across the sea.
THE WOLFSWOOD — THE BLACK FOREST
Stannis made his last stand in these dark woods north of Winterfell. Then Ramsay Bolton made short work of the last Baratheon army. What better place to find a dark forest than the actual Black Forest — or Schwarzwald — in Southwestern Germany.
The Black Forest, which is slightly larger than Delaware, is a dense mountainous region. It’s full of trails, lakes, rivers, villages, and that little bit of magic — which makes it the perfect getaway to transport you somewhere special.