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Step into the breathtaking lands Beyond the Wall and experience the magic of Game of Thrones in Iceland.
In 2011, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, was made into a TV series by HBO. The phenomenon took the world by storm. Iceland soon topped the travel bucket lists of Game of Thrones fans who were eager to see the breathtaking places depicted in the series.
Whether you’re curious about the shooting locations or would like to venture into a Game of Thrones Iceland-inspired itinerary, we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we’ve covered the most iconic spots in the series shot in Iceland. Stay tuned!
Why was Game of Thrones filmed in Iceland?
One of the most iconic lines in the Game of Thrones series is ‘Winter is coming.’ The icy landscapes of Iceland were ideal for depicting the threat of the White Walkers without putting the crew’s lives in danger. After the initial scenes were shot, it seemed foolish not to utilize the country’s dramatic landscapes which aligned perfectly with the show’s narrative.
Iceland is also remarkable for its accessibility. Some of the most notable locations in the country are just off the Ring Road, a route that follows the perimeter of the country. In addition, Iceland’s strong infrastructure made the shooting a lot more comfortable compared to countries with similar climates.
A map of the Ring Road in Iceland
How challenging was it to shoot Game of Thrones in Iceland?
Despite all the pros of filming in Iceland, locations for shooting Game of Thrones did not come without their challenges. Cast and crew alike had to brave temperatures ranging from -30 to 0°c (-86 to 32°F) and icy winds notorious for their ability to rip a car door off its hinges!
The snow-capped landscapes, whilst stunning, also made road conditions challenging in winter. Not to mention having to shoot outdoors for more than 12 hours every day. The Iceland-filmed scenes in Game of Thrones are truly the result of blood, sweat, and tears.
Iceland’s Game of Thrones Filming Locations
George R. R. Martin's infamous book series made into an epic HBO TV series was shot all over Iceland. These are some of the places the production focussed on.
Thingvellir National Park
Silfra fissure tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Thingvellir National Park has been featured prominently in the Game of Thrones series. One of the most recognizable locations in the show is the canyon near Oxararfoss Waterfall. It was used for the Bloody Gate, which guards used to access the Vale of Arryn. The location appears several times in season 4, the first being when Sansa and Littlefinger travel to Eyrie.
Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a fascinating history. There are a number of tours exploring Thingvellir so you can easily add it to your Game of Thrones locations itinerary. Plus, it’s located on the Golden Circle route which makes it incredibly convenient to access.
Kirkjufell Mountain in Iceland
Another iconic location in the Game of Thrones series is the arrowhead mountain, Kirkjufell, located on the northern side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Kirkjufell is first seen by two characters as a vision; the Hound sees it lit up in flames - a vision believed to be sent by the Lord of Light - whereas Bran Stark sees it when he learns about the creation of the White Walkers.
In the series, Kirkjufell is simply referred to as ‘The Mountain Shaped Like an Arrowhead.’ Although the location was filmed both in summer and winter, no actor was shot directly in front of the mountain. Instead, they were superimposed against the backdrop.
You cannot miss the most photographed mountain in Iceland on your trip to the country. Moreover,Snæfellsnes is often called ‘Iceland in Miniature’ which means you can still see the best of Iceland if you’re pressed for time. Guided tours to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula cover Kirkjufell and more.
South Coast Iceland
Skogafoss Waterfalls in Iceland
The South Coast of Iceland is second only to the Golden Circle in terms of sightseeing popularity. No wonder the Game of Thrones crew chose this fantastic location for shooting multiple scenes.
In Season 8, there is a romantic scene featuring Jon Snow and his lover beneath the spectacular Skogafoss Waterfall. The tragic scene where Olly - a member of the Night Watch - sees his village raided was shot at Thjodveldisbaerinn. It is a Viking-era farmstead recreated to celebrate 1100 years of settlement on the island.
Several ‘Catching a Wight’ scenes were shot at a moss-covered canyon called Stakkholtsgja Gully. It is the starting and finishing point of the Laugavegur Trail which treks through the harsh terrain of the Highlands of Iceland. These scenes were shot in the Highlands in winter when access to the region is extremely difficult.
The iconic black sand beach of Reynisfjara was used to depict the coastal ground for the ‘Eastwatch-by-the-sea’ scenes when the army of the dead descends on the Night’s Watch castle.
Mývatn, North Iceland
Grjótagjá Cave near Lake Mývatn in Iceland
Mývatn is a lake in Northern Iceland where many of the North of the Wall scenes were shot. A hidden gem in this region is the Grjótagjá Cave which serves as the intimate setting where Jon Snow and Ygritte consummate their love. The dramatic basalt rock formations at Dimmuborgir Lava Field near Lake Mývatn are used to depict the fortifications at the King Beyond the Wall’s base camp. The hot steam of the Hverir Geothermal Area, likewise, was used to depict Samwell Tarly’s escape through a wintry wasteland to escape the army of the dead.
If you would like to see these iconic Game of Thrones Iceland locations, you must visit Lake Mývatn. Several tours include these nearby attractions where the scenes were shot.
Glaciers of Iceland
Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland
The icy lands depicted in A Song of Fire and Ice matched perfectly with the glacial ice found in abundance in Iceland. Game of Thrones production utilized several glaciers in Iceland throughout the series.
The ‘Fist of the First Men’ scene was shot at Myrdalsjökull Glacier, the fourth largest in Iceland. In this scene, the Night’s Watch tries to locate their enemies and therefore, sets foot on the Frostfangs.
Gigjökull, an outlet of the EyjafjallajökullGlacier, was the set location when Jon Snow led a group Beyond the Wall to find a Wight to prove to Queen Cersei that the undead were marching on the living.
A lot of miscellaneous North of the Wall scenes were shot at Svinafellsjokull, an outlet of Vatnajökull. They usually feature wildings, the Night Watch, and armies of the undead. The site has been nicknamed ‘The Hollywood Glacier’ after many blockbusters such as Batman Begins were shot there.
Despite the series coming to a close in 2019, Game of Thrones lives on. The Icelandic locations captured in the series have witnessed a pilgrimage of visitors, who hold it close to their hearts.
If you would like to cover these places on your next trip to Iceland, our guided tours are tailored to suit your itinerary. Whether you want to explore the South Coast of Iceland or maximize on glaciers to feel the icy lands depicted in the series, you can’t go wrong. But, hurry… winter is coming!