Iceland, known as the land of fire and ice, has some of the most outstanding scenery in the world. It is a haven for wannabe geologists and vulcanologists. Yeah, I love geology and volcanoes too, but for me, it’s all about the Game of Thrones tour of Iceland!
I went to see two Game of Thrones film sets in Morocco last summer – Essouira AKA Astapor and Ait Benhaddou, the Kasbah known as the ancient city of Yunkai where Khaleesi was raised by her supporters and called Mhysa (mother).
So, there you have it, there is actually such thing as ‘Game of Thrones Tourism’! Today, I went on a Game of Thrones tour with Gray Line Iceland, to see what Iceland had to offer….
Game of Thrones Tour of Iceland with Gray Line Iceland
Our tour guide, Astor was very knowledgable regarding Game of Thrones. As soon as the tour began, so did the stories!
He told us that some of the old Icelandic names include names such as Frodo, Gandalf and Bilbo, which you will recognise from Lord of the Rings. Therefore, without Iceland, there would be no Tolkein, and without Tolkein there would be no Game of Thrones, because Lord of the Rings heavily influenced its creator, George R. R. Martin.
Spoiler Alert! – If the episode is more than a year old, Astor does not regard revealing the plot line as a spoiler, and I totally agree! However, if you have never seen the Game of Thrones and want to watch it, beware that there may be a few minor spoilers!
Geology of Iceland
We learnt that Iceland’s oldest mountain 17 million years old. Geologically speaking, as we leave the city of Reykjavik and travel East, we are initially in North America. The oldest parts of Iceland are the most Eastern and Western parts often country. The youngest part of the country is just a year old, because the tectonic plates are constantly pulling Iceland apart. Basically, Iceland is constantly having a facelift!
This promoted another anecdote from Astor. The actor who played ‘The Mountain’ is an Icelandic actor. He tweeted a picture of himself squashed in a loo on Icelandair. Iceland Air tweeted back saying sorry, we were designed to fly over mountains not transport them!
Þingvellir National Park
The first ‘Game of Thrones’ related stop was the scene where the goat herder is throwing rocks and Danaerys Targaryen’s black dragon swoops down and roasts some of them! Later, the goat herder accuses the dragon of killing his son, and consequentially, the dragons are later locked up.
At this point, Astor split the group into two halves, those who had seen the Game of Thrones up to date and those who hadn’t. We thought he was going to reveal some plot line or something, but then he started to take our half (the fans!) back to the bus and said, “the rest of you not up to date…you’re on your own from here!!!!”
Driving past the Old Icelandic Parliament
We next passed the location where the Icelandic parliament was formed in 930AD, and drove past the biggest lake in Iceland – aptly called the Lake of congress. The hot springs underneath mean that it’s not frozen over in winter.
Two thirds of this area of Iceland (South West) is wasteland. The highlands are completely Barron and uninhabitable.
Rift Valley – The Entrance to the Bloody Gate
The next ‘Game of Thrones film site was the rift valley, AKA the entrance to the Bloody Gate. The rift valley that marks the edge of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Here’s what the rift valley looked like head-on, with slight snow and ice coverage in the approach of spring…admittedly, there’s more snow at this time of year (April) compared to when they filmed season 4 here in the middle of summer (do you know what scene it is yet?)
We made a 40 minute hike down some slippery surfaces to walk through the rift valley, and at the end of it, came to this phenomenal waterfall…
In season 4, episode 5, the rift valley walk is made by Sansa Stark and Lord Baelish. Approximately 50,000 – 100,000 years ago the two walls would have most likely been together!
On the way to the next location, Astor warned us about the curse of Sean Bean! Any fictional character played by him is doomed to die! In the case of Game of Thrones, this character was Lord Eddard Stark.
We had a brief stop before heading to the reconstructed Viking camp.
Reconstructed Viking Camp – Þjórsárdalur Valley
Our third and final Game of Thrones filming site was the reconstructed Viking camp in Þjórsárdalur Valley. This is the camp that the Wildings invaded! They spent four days of shooting here. The first day was the plot, the second day was setting up and days three and four were filming. Some actors were even asked to sleep in their prosthetics to save time at this location!
Ygritt shot an arrow from the waterfall behind it…
Astor told us that 30-40% of Viking warriors were female. So Iceland has been at the forefront of gender equality for some time now!
Then, there was time for a quick lunch stop before heading to meet some of the Icelandic horses. Iceland’s hot-dogs are famous, and very, very tasty…
This hot dog was only 395 Krona too, quite cheap for Iceland!
Meeting the Icelandic Horses
Before heading back to Reykjavik, we stopped off at the Fákasel Horse Park, to meet the breed of horse that featured in the Game of Thrones. Icelandic horses are quite small, so when they filmed the Game of Thrones in Iceland, sometimes they had to make it look as though they were further away!
As you can see, this tour contained some outstanding scenery. If you are interested in doing a Game of Thrones tour of Iceland, you can fly into Reykjavik and book the Game of Thrones Tour with Gray Line Iceland. Prices start from £55.
*Many thanks to Gray Line Iceland for sponsoring me on this trip. What you see is what you get with my blog, and I always declare when I receive something for free!