Being a huge Game of Thrones fan, I had such a great time visiting the HBO blockbuster series’ filming locations in Northern Ireland two years ago, that I decided I was going to do the same in Iceland for 2020.
Alas, no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, my Iceland travel plans have to be put on hold. But that doesn’t mean I can’t plan ahead as I truly believed that this not-a-good-time-to-travel period will soon come to past, hopefully sooner than later.
So, what better way to make your travel dreams come true but by first jotting down what you want to see in your dream destinations? Truth be told, for all my trips, I always have a “Top 10 Must-See List” once I have confirmed the destination, be it a long-haul trip or a short retreat getaway.
So without further ado, here’s my Top 10 Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland that I’d love to visit once the world is safe to travel freely again.
Top 10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Iceland To Visit
- Mount Kirkjufell
Touted as Iceland’s most photographed mountain, the 463m-high Mount Kirkjufell—located in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður in western Iceland—first appears in Season 6 Episode 5 where the Children of the Forest first created the Night King, as seen via Bran Stark’s vision.
It is then known as the Arrowhead Mountain after The Hound saw it in a vision (though not shown visually) in Season 7 Episode 1. Later in Episode 6 of the same season, the mountain is seen in snow-covered glory as Jon Snow and his squad of merry men trek towards it beyond the Wall.
2. Skogasfoss Waterfall
Located in south Iceland, this gorgeous 62m-high waterfall is seen in Season 8 Episode 1 where Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen have a lovey-dovey moment after their dragon rides, somewhere not far from Winterfell. Although actors Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke filmed somewhere in Iceland for their snow scenes, the waterfall was superimposed (with an upper tier added) during post-production. Earlier in Season 4 Episode 6, the waterfall is seen in its actual form (more or less), as part of the Meeren landscape where a young goatherder is sadly fried by Drogon.
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3. Reynisfjara Beach / Dyrhólaey island
Among Iceland’s unique black sand beaches, created by lava flowing into the sea, Reynisfjara Beach—located near the village Vik on the southern coast—is reported as the location that stands in for the beach closest to the Night Watch fortress, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, appearing a few times in Season 7. The stunning Dyrhólaey promotory, seen in the background, is much touched up to appear as the eastern end of the 200m-high Wall.
As I’m also a big Frozen fan, an extra reason to visit Reynisfjara beach is that it is also the inspiration for the Dark Sea segment of Frozen 2 where Queen Elsa tackles the stormy waves and the water spirit Nokk. Later reports, though, had co-director Chris Buck claiming the scene was more inspired by Djúpalónssandur, the black lava pebble beach in western Iceland. Oh well, no harm visiting both!
4. Thingvellir National Park
Located east of Reykjavík, this tranquil UNESCO World Heritage Site, which sits on a rift valley, houses many memorable Games of Thrones locations. Most significant is the Almannagjá Gorge which appears as the rocky, barren routeway to the Bloody Gate, waycastle to the impregnable Eyrie, seat of House Arryn. Sansa Stark and Littlefinger are seen in this location in Season 4 Episode 5 (pictured above), followed by Arya Stark and the Hound in Season 4 Episode 8 (pictured below).
Nearby, at the south of the park, Hengill volcano is where The Hound and Brienne of Tarth have their feisty duel in Season 4 Episode 10, while Lake Þingvellirvatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake, is where Arya sets sail for Braavos at the end of the Season 4 finale.
5. Gjáin, Þjórsárdalur Valley
Filled with waterfalls, ponds and lush greenery, this village within Þjórsárdalur Valley in southern Iceland is where The Hound chances upon Arya practising her “Water Dance”, a.k.a fencing drills that master Syrio Forel taught her, in Season 4 Episode 5. Also in Þjórsárdalur Valley, a reconstructed Viking-era farmstead named Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng is where young Olly’s family and village south of the Wall are massacred by the menacing Thenns and wildings including Ygritte and Tormund, in Season 4 Episode 3. (Note: Best times to visit this area is in the summer months between June and October.)
6. Svínafellsjökull Glacier
At 8km long and 800m wide, this expansive glacier located in Vatnajökull National Park in south Iceland is said to be one of the largest glaciers in Europe. The glacier’s base is where Jon Snow meets Ygritte for the first time in Season 2 Episode 6. The location was also much employed in Season 7 Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”, where Jon Snow and a motley crew including Jorah Mormont, Gendry and Ser Beric Dondarrion embark on the mission of capturing a wight.
7. Stakkholtsgjá Canyon, Porsmork
The location where Jon and gang eventually caught a wight beyond the Wall in Season 7 Episode 6 is surprisingly not filmed at Svínafellsjökull Glacier as well, but at this deep canyon nestled within Porsmork, a nature reserve in the Icelandic Highlands and known for its 100m-high palagonite cliffs.
8. Grjótagjá Cave
Close to Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland, this enchanting lava cave is renowned for the hot spring love scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte in Season 3 Episode 5. As the waters are way too hot for bathing, and filming is prohibited, the cave was reconstructed (complete with waterfall) and the whole sequence filmed in a studio. No thanks to visitors who damaged the premises and left much trash behind, the attraction has been closed for quite some time in order for it to recover. That’s why we can’t have nice things…
9. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
This picturesque canyon is also known as “the Justin Beiber canyon” as this was where the Canadian popster filmed his 2015 music video, “I’ll Show You”. To Game of Thrones fans however, this location is where Dany and Jon flew their dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal, over during their aerial joy ride in the premiere episode of the eighth and final season.
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10. Northern Lights Hotspots
Okay, this is not exactly a Game of Thrones location thingie but since one is in Iceland, you can’t not make plans to catch the Northern Lights. According to inspiredbyiceland.com, Iceland’s official tourism website, the best time to see the Aurora Borealis is from September to April. And places where, if you are lucky, can get to view the natural phenomenon range from Reykjavik’s coastline, to hotspots such as Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss. Definitely something I have to plan carefully with my travel coordinator.
So, that’s Iceland with a Game of Thrones focus in a nutshell for me. Here’s praying that the opportunity to travel “beyond the wall” will materialized sooner than later. Crossing my fingers and toes…