Game Of Thrones Filming Locations In Iceland
I love visiting Game of Thrones filming location to better understand this universe and how these locations were chosen for the show. As we found out from the cancellation of Sense8, filming in different locations all over the world is quite expensive. So far I managed to visit the filming locations in Malta, Greece, the Scottish Highlands, Morocco and some of the ones in Spain. My future plans include the filming locations in Croatia and Ireland. You can read all about these adventures in the Part 1 and Part 2 posts.
When I found out we’re going to Iceland, I immediately started researching the filming locations in the land of fire and ice, but this proved difficult, as there weren’t too many landmarks used (like in Morocco or Spain), but instead the producers used Iceland’s most precious treasure: its beautiful landscape. Finding the locations on our own would have been quite difficult, so that’s why we chose to book the Game of Thrones tour from Gray Line Iceland.
I’ve had some doubts, but the tour was amazing, due to the gorgeous scenery, but especially because of the tour guide – Theódór Árni Söebech Hansson. He was incredibly funny and moreover he was part of the Game of Thrones TV series as a stunt double and an extra. The presentation was funny, some insides from the set were shared and strong language was used (much to the shock of one TripAdvisor reviewer), but if you really are a Game of Thrones fan you wouldn’t mind this. He even came appropriately dressed for this tour (you’ll see in a few moments what I mean) and had screencaps from the show from all filming locations.
Places from all over Iceland were used for Winterfell, the Vale, North of the Wall and even Mereen mainly to the fact that in Iceland you can find different landscapes, for example beaches and glaciers, only a few kilometers apart.
Also, Theódór mentioned that the snow scenes from the first episode of season one were shot in the studio. But, somehow this turned out to be very expensive and they had to find places with natural snow. Who knew Iceland was the best place for this?
Laxxnes horse farm
Our first stop was the Laxxnes house farm. Laxxnes was not a filming location, but we had the chance to see up close Icelandic horses that where used in the TV series. Because of the Icelandic legislation, it is forbidden to import any type of horse or to return any exported horse in Iceland. This is required to protect the Icelandic horses from inter-breeding with other races and from diseases, as the Icelandic horse was introduced to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th to 10th centuries and remained the same ever since.
Therefore, all the scenes involving Brienne, Podrick, Arya and the Hound that were filmed in Iceland used real Icelandic horses. We got to pet the horses and we made some new friends who kept following us around. Theo told us some great stories about the weight differences between The Hound or Brienne and Icelandic horses, as the horse normally is around 140 cm, so you can imagine why they didn’t show The Hound’s feet during the horse riding scenes. 😆
Also, the owner of the farm has a pet raven, but it’s a normal one, with only two eyes. Nevertheless , the “You will never walk again, but you will fly” quote was on my mind immediately.
Game of Thrones name: none (Featured as a Mereen landscape)
Appearances: Season 4, episode 6 “The Laws of Gods and Men“
Described in books: none
Welcome to the Mediterranean, our guide said when we reached the Thorufoss (or Þórufoss ) waterfall, located near the Thingvellir national park, on the Laxá í Kjós River. It is a small waterfall (around 12 meters), but the scenery is impressive. It’s the only place in Iceland used as Merren location. Obviously, the dragons were added by CGI. Believe me, I tried throwing rocks like that boy did, but no dragons appeared. 🙁
Joe Bauer, VFX supervisor for the show mentioned in Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones book written by Bryan Cogman that: “In terms of reference, the design of the dragons is based on the movements and shape of the bats and eagles”
Game of Thrones name: none (Featured as a Vale landscape)
Appearances: Season 4, episode 10 “The Children“
Described in books: none
The fighting scene between the Hound and Brienne is located in an isolated place in the Hengilssvæðið mountain. The place is so isolated that most of the time the road is closed due to the snow. The view is amazing, but the terrain is rough enough to walk on, not to mention fighting on. This is where Arya says her funny line “You can shit later, there’s people coming”, where she meets Brienne and also where she parts ways with The Hound, after Brienne leaves him injured.
Paul Herbert, stunt coordinator for the show mentioned in Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones book written by Bryan Cogman that: “First, we review the location and use the script beats to map out a general layout for the fight before working out the full choreography. We’ll show the actors pictures of the area so they have a mental picture of the terrain. We train the fight in sections, so when we get to the location, if there are any changes, we can rework the order.”
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir or Thingvellir National Park is located in Bláskógabyggð municipality, in the southwestern part of the island. The National Park is part of the Golden Circle Tour and it’s the most important place in the country as all major events took place there, from forming the first parliament in 930, to the declaration of independence from Denmark in 1944. Also, Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was used for four different scenes in the Game of Thrones universe.
Game of Thrones name: The Bloody Gate
Appearances: Season 4, episode 5 “First of His Name“ and season 4, episode 8 “The Mountain and the Viper”
Described in books: “And so she rode behind him, beneath the shadow of the Bloody Gate where a dozen armies had dashed themselves to pieces in the Age of Heroes. On the far side of the stoneworks, the mountains opened up suddenly upon a vista of green fields, blue sky, and snowcapped mountains that took her breath away. The Vale of Arryn bathed in the morning light.” A Game of Thrones book, Chapter 34 Catelyn.
Þingvellir National Park was a filming location for the Bloody Gate – a gate on a mountain road in the Mountains of the Moon that leads into the Vale of Arryn. The gate was CGI-ed and was featured in episode 5 and episode 8 of the season 4 when Sansa and Littlefinger and then, Arya and the Hound arrived in Vale. Another Vale location that I visited was Meteore, in Greece. And as we found out while visiting the location….it’s quite a small gate.
Game of Thrones name: unnamed Vale location
Appearances: Season 4, episode 5 “The Children”
Described in books: none
The waterfall featured before Arya’s departure to Braavos is also located in the Þingvellir National Park.
Game of Thrones name: unnamed beyond the Wall location
Appearances: Season 4, episode 1 “Two Swords”
Described in books: none
The stone ravine, where Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane are meeting Styr and his group of cannibal Thenns is also filmed in the Þingvellir National Park. As Theo said, the Game of Thrones producers are obsessed with realism on the show….so he had some doubts about the “plastic” foot the cannibals eat in this scene… Moving past that horrifying image!
Game of Thrones name: Olly’s village (located south of the Wall)
Appearances: Season 4, episode 3 “Breaker of Chains”
Described in books: none
Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng is a reconstructed farm from the viking-era, located in the Þjórsárdalur valley. The farm was used as a filming location for Olly’s village, which is located south of the Wall. The wildlings raid a small village, leaving one boy, Olly, as the sole survivor, which caused a whole heap of trouble later in the series. You can also see in the pictures how far Ygritte was standing from the village, at the waterfall.
Because we still had some time left, Theo took us to a nearby waterfall called Hjalparfoss which isn’t a Game of Thrones location, but it’s extremely beautiful and it would have been a shame to miss it. Like I previously said, we were the only ones there so we got to enjoy it in peace.
Other Game of Thrones filming locations located in Iceland, but not included in the tour
Due to the various landscape, different parts of Iceland were used as filming locations throughout the series. Some of these locations are situated in the northern part of the island and some of them are in the southeast part of the island, several hours drive from Reykjavík. For example, Grjótagjá a small lava cave was featured as a filming location for the Jon Snow – Ygritte love scene. Also, places like Vatnajökull and Dimmuborgir were featured as filming locations as well.
Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell
Game of Thrones name: The Arrowhead Mountain
Appearances: Season 6, episode 5 “The Door” and Season 7, episode 6 “Beyond the Wall”
Described in books: none
Kirkjufell (Church mountain, also known as The Lonely Mountain) and Kirkjufellsfoss (Church Mountain Falls) are two landmarks located in Snæfellsnes Peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður. You can read about our experience in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula here.
Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss were first featured as the birth place of the Night King in Season 6, episode 5 “The Door”. Later, Kirkjufell was used as a landmark beyond the Wall, known as the The Arrowhead Mountain. The Arrowhead Mountain is a place that was first described in the Season 7 premiere “Dragonstone” by the Hound in a fire vision. It is yet unknown if the two locations are the same place in the A song of Ice and Fire universe, but if they are, the theory is that 6,000 years before the War of the Five Kings, the places that are now known as “beyond the Wall”, were green.
Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. This waterfall is part of the Golden Circle Tour. According to this article, “the crew did some filming there, but they will probably never use the footage because the books say there is just one river beyond The Wall and it doesn’t feature a waterfall.”
Vik and the area nearby
The Höfðabrekkuheiði hiking area near Vik was used as a filming location for some places beyond the wall. We got the chance to visit Vik in the Southern Iceland tour.
Also, according to this article some of the scenes featured in the upcoming season 7 were filmed on the black beach near Vik. Warning, the article has a bunch of spoilers from season 7!
Update 20.08.2017: turns out they did indeed film scenes on the beautiful black beaches near Vik, as seen above 😀
Game of Thrones name: The beach near Eastwatch-by-the-Sea
Appearances: Season 7, episode 5 “Eastwatch”
Described in books: “The Night’s Watch stronghold on its grey windswept shore” (A Clash of Kings)
In the books, Eastwatch, or Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, is described as a castle and port located at the far eastern end of the Wall, right where the Wall meets the Shivering Sea. The stronghold is located on grey shores.
However, the Reynisfjara shore, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on Iceland’s South Coast is famous for its black beaches. Nevertheless, the view is amazing.
The majority of the filming locations in Iceland are isolated and hard to get to even by car. The locations are featured only in this tour (except the Þingvellir National Park), which is quite amazing, as there aren’t many tourists around and you can enjoy the scenery without someone ruining the photographs. This is what I loved the most about this tour, at some sights we were the only ones there. Also, the behind-the-scenes information and the jokes from our guide were a plus, I didn’t know when the day was over.
Also, the Game of Thrones tour can be enjoyed even by people who don’t watch the show (they exist!), as the guide offered information about the history of Iceland, Vikings, Icelandic horses, the cheapest places to eat in Reykjavik and even some celebrity gossip, as we passed Björk’s cute yellow house.
Disclaimer: We partnered with Gray Line Iceland for this tour, but all views and photography are entirely our own (as well as as making people look at us funny when we take pictures of the Game of Thrones figurines)