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While you're hanging out for series four, get your Game of Thrones fix at one of these Westeros-inspired destinations, writes Ute Junker.
Tyrion Lannister is a bit of a tourist. So many characters in Game of Thrones seem to be constantly on the move – either riding triumphantly into battle or deserting a losing side, going on a royal progress or delivering a hostage – but Tyrion is the only one who goes to see places because they interest him.
Which is odd, given there’s so much to see in the Seven Kingdoms, you’d need a dragon to take it all in.
We can’t help you with that, but we have put together a list of our favourite real-life destinations that would make a Westerosi feel at home.
I want to go to KINGS LANDING
There’s always something happening at King’s Landing: from tournaments to trials, battles to betrothals and, behind the scenes, plenty of plotting.
Ned Stark described it as a ‘‘rat’s nest’’: like any capital city, Kings Landing is a mix of grandeur and squalor, luxury and despair.
Within the walled city, there are mansions and inns, markets and taverns, slums and brothels.
While the rich enjoy lives of leisure, the poor make do – if they’re lucky – with a ‘‘bowl of brown’’, the mystery stew rumoured to contain anything from rats to dead bodies.
Book a ticket to Jaisalmer, India
Grand palaces surrounded by grinding poverty, high walls protecting an ancient city: the Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer could have served as a blueprint for Westeros’ capital. Unlike King’s Landing, Jaisalmer is not a port city, but its location on the edge of a vast desert makes it a similar haven for voyagers.
Jaisalmer’s beautiful 12th century fort, with nine-metre walls and 99 bastions, is as impressive as the Red Keep, and home to a maze of tiny lanes housing temples, palaces and elegant merchants’ houses.
There’s something else Jaisalmer’s inhabitants share with those of King’s Landing: a taste for death in public. While the King’s Landing crowds turned out to see Ned Stark executed, in Jaisalmer, the Steps of the Satis commemorate where royal widows would burn themselves alive on their husband’s funeral pyre.
I want to go to HIGH GARDEN
The Tyrrells, the ruling family of High garden, know how to make an impression. The handsome Ser Loras Tyrrell is one of the preeminent knights of the realm, known for his showmanship as well as his fighting prowess.
At the Tourney of the Hand, he wears armour decorated with jewelled flowers and a cape of woven roses, and after each victory, he hands a rose to a pretty girl in the crowd. His sister, Margaery, is equally attractive, and has a penchant for gowns with necklines cut down to there.
The people of High garden also love a party. Margaery tells Sansa Stark, ‘‘You’d love it there, I know you would. We have a great masquerade the night of the harvest moon . . . you should see the costumes, people work on them for months.’’
Book a ticket to Rio de Janeiro
Revealing clothes, a taste for parties and elaborate costumes: if they ever had to leave Westeros,we suspect the Tyrrells would feel quite at home in this Brazilian metropolis.
Certainly they’d appreciate its natural beauties: that gorgeous harbour, those long sandy beaches, the unmistakeable silhouette of the Sugarloaf. We can imagine both Loras and Margaery strolling through Rio’s Jardim Botanico, 54 hectares of magnificent plant life, from spectacular orchids that attract tiny hummingbirds, to massive palms centuries old.
We can also imagine them ordering up elaborate costumes for the annual Carneval celebration, or just celebrating the fact that it’s Friday at one of the hip clubs in the Lapa district, such as the stylish Rio Scenarium. Yep, definitely their kind of city.
I want to go to DORNE
It’s a rare Game of Thrones fan who isn’t enchanted by the land of Dorne; indeed, everyone in Westeros seems just as enamoured of this exotic kingdom. In Dorne, the people are darker, the clothes are brighter, the weather is hotter and food is spicier.
The Dornish are passionate and fiery, people who feast on lemons and olives and fine Dornish wine in between engaging in tempestuous affairs. Prince Oberyn Martell and his lover Ellaria Sand are typically Dornish, not least in the independence and spirit displayed by the women, who have more rights than their counterparts elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. The hedonistic Dornish also do a fine line in pleasure palaces: the water gardens of Sunspear, with their terraces and pools, fountains and pink marble courtyards, all shaded by blood orange trees, are perhaps the most seductive landscape in the book.
Book a ticket to southern Spain
It’s not hard to see where George R.R. Martin got his inspiration from: Dorne sounds a lot like Andalusia in southern Spain. Ruled for centuries by the Arabs, Andalusia has a character all its own, with narrow winding streets, whitewashed houses, latticed balconies and stunning Moorish buildings.
The 16th-century palace of Casa Pilatos and the massive 12th-century Giralda Tower are impressive, but you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away from the Alcazar, the Moorish palace updated with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements.
Drift through elegant rooms elaborately decorated with geometric tiles and intricately carved woodwork, while in the courtyards, the scent of orange blossom wafts over the fountains.
Catch a flamenco performance – those swirling skirts and clicking castanets are pure Dorne –while you enjoy some of the fine local sherry.
I want to go to the IRON ISLANDS
They call themselves lords and worship their Drowned God, but any which way you look at it, the ruling house of the Iron Islands, the Greyjoys, are little more than pirates. They pride themselves on not purchasing the things they want: in the Iron Islands, you pay the ‘‘iron price’’ for something, which means taking it from the body of the man you killed for it.
The small group of islands has little arable land, which may explain why the Grey joys developed their rather unique approach to wealth creation. Balon Greyjoy is a nasty piece of work if ever we saw one, but he has one redeeming feature: his love for his daughter, Yara.
Habitually clad in men’s clothes, Yara (originally named Asha in the books) is bold, feisty and fierce: she conquers Deep wood Motte with 30 ships as part of Balon’s invasion of the north.
Book a ticket to the Bahamas
Back in the day, there really were pirates in the Caribbean, and the island of New Providence, part of the Bahamas, is where many of them lived. Proximity to the major shipping lanes made it a great base from which to prey on Spanish ships returning home laden with gold and silver.
At its peak, an estimated 500 pirates lived here, including the infamous Edward ‘‘Blackbeard’’ Teach and Anne Bonney, a formidable 18th-century pirate who, like Yara Greyjoy, wore shirts and trousers and outdrank and outfought many men. Today’s New Providence is a long way from those rough-and-tumble days although, given its status as a tax haven, some would say there are still plenty of pirates around.
It’s also a lot more welcoming than the storm-swept Iron Islands.
Sunny Caribbeanweather, pretty beaches and an unexpected English colonial charm make it an appealing destination. But they frown on peoplewho try to pay the iron price.
I want to go to THE VALE OF ARRYN
Are you sure about this? Visitors to The Eyrie, the castle of the lords of Arryn, have a hard hike to reach this retreat perched in the clouds.
And when you do get there, remember to be on your best behaviour. The Arryns have a piquant way of getting rid of unwelcome visitors, via the Moon Door in the High Hall. This hatch in the floor can be opened beneath someone’s feet, sending them plummeting to the valley below.
Alternatively, you might get thrown into a sky cell which – like the Moon Door – is much nastier than it sounds.
As Tyrion Lannister discovered, the sky cells are the Eyrie’s dungeons, the only gaols in Westeros without walls.
The ‘‘cells’’ are simply shelves on the mountainside, with gently sloping floors that mean prisoners have to stay alert to avoid sliding off and plunging to their deaths.
Book a ticket to Mesa Verde, Colorado
They are somewhat less vertigo inducing than the Eyrie, but apart from that, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde have a lot in common with the Vale’s castle.
Eight hundred years ago, the local Anasazi people built a series of homes and villages into the high cliffs, more than 600 cliff dwellings in total. Some are almost as challenging to get to as the Eyrie.
To reach the Balcony House, for instance, you descend 30 metres into a canyon, then climb a ladder, crawl through a tunnel just 46 centimetres wide, then climb another 20 metres up ladders and steps. The area’s most spectacular dwelling, the Cliff Palace, is easier to access: its 150 rooms are nestled in an alcove beneath a canyon rim.
The coloured plaster that originally graced the sandstone walls is gone, but you can tell this was once a remarkable place to live.
I want to go BEYOND THE WALL
Cold and hard and mean – that’s life in the north, a land of perpetual winter. In the most northerly reaches of Westeros, there are no cities, no roads, none of the little luxuries of life. There’s just the Wall, a massive ice barrier more than 200 metres high and eight millennia old.
Jon Snow becomes familiar with The Wall when he joins the Night’s Watch, sworn to protect the Seven Kingdoms from the many perils that lurk in the haunted forest and towards the Frost fang Mountains: the wildlings, the giants and the White Walkers.
Book a ticket for Svalbard
If it’s ice and snow and cold you’re after, Svalbard, Norway, fits the bill. This archipelago is not just the northernmost point of Europe, it’s also the northernmost permanently inhabited point on the planet. Although the warming effects of the Gulf Stream moderate the temperatures, we’re still talking serious cold, with the higher mountains permanently covered in snow and plenty of glaciers. One thing you won’t see is trees: pretty much the only thing that grows here are patches of brownish moss. The largest town is Longyearbyen, but it’s hardly a buzzing metropolis: the archipelago’s entire population is less than 3000 people.
That lack of people is more than made up for by the abundant wildlife. At Svalbard you may see reindeer, grouse, polar fox and mighty polar bears – perhaps less scary than the White Walkers, but still deserving of respect.
Ute Junker has been travelling internationally since she was six years old, and relishes the insights travel gives into being human.