Iceland's wild nature is the perfect backdrop for a series that recreates an epic and fantastic Middle Ages. The extreme landscape of the island lends itself to all kinds of filming: battles, dragon flights, parades and, in general, any scene with Jon Snow, Arya, the White Walkers and other characters from Game of Thrones.
Iceland has not been the only country to host the series crew - it was also filmed in Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Scotland, etc. - but it is undoubtedly the most unspoiled and scenic. For this reason, a Games of Thrones tour is on my list of things to see and do in Reykjavik.
1. Day tour of Game of Thrones filming locations
A simple yet complete option. In the following points you will see that some tours last several days while this one is limited to one.
A Wi-Fi bus usually picks you up at your hotel in Reykjavik to take you to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and central place in Iceland's history. The country's parliament, called Alþingi, was founded here in 930.
In Game of Thrones, here stands the impregnable Eagles Nest fortress, seat of House Arryn. This austere castle houses inside it the Moon Gate, a narrow wooden opening that opens into the void.
It is used for executions to death and undoubtedly the most famous scene is when Lord Petyr Baelish pushes Lysa Tully over the edge.
Several scenes beyond the wall have been filmed in this same national park, in particular with the white walkers. The bus also stops at the following points:
- Laxnes Horse Farm, a farm where some of the main characters of the series have been "hired": the Icelandic horses. They are friendly, intelligent and very easy to handle animals. By the way, if you want to ride one, I recommend you to take a look at the article about the best horseback riding tours in Iceland from Reykjavik
- Thorufoss, a waterfall on the river Laxá í Kjós. This natural spot has been the backdrop for an iconic scene in JdT: when Drogon flies in and devours a goat while the shepherd is left stunned.
- The Commonwealth Farm, the reconstruction of a 12th century farmhouse. The original building is thought to have been razed by the fury of an eruption. This is where Olly makes his debut in the series.
Note that these tours do not usually include lunch, but don't worry, a stop is planned at a bar/restaurant where you can purchase whatever takes your fancy.
- Duration: about 8 hours
- Price: around 100 €.
2. Off-road route in the footsteps of Game of Thrones
Iceland is an extreme yet beautiful country. Nature is its main attraction and some of its attractions can only be reached with a 4x4 vehicle. This route leaves from the capital and touches the towns of Thingvellir, Laxnes Horse Farm and Thorufoss, as well as some others:
- Háifoss, one of the highest waterfalls in the country. It is originated by the river Fossa and the water jump is 122 meters. It is located in the valley of Þjórsárdalur.
- Stöng, a farm of the Viking era. This reconstruction not only serves to show us how they lived then, but also served to shoot an episode of the series: when the savages cross the wall and massacre some farmers.
- Hjálparfoss, a waterfall where two rivers meet: Fossá and Þjórsá. If you travel to Reykjavík in summer you will find the locals taking a dip in its waters.
- Gjáin, a small valley with small natural waterfalls, basalt formations and the river Rauðá. A JdT moment you may remember was filmed here: when Arya practices the "Water Dance " (the fencing style she learned from Syrio Forel) and the Hound mocks her.
Typically, the fee for these tours includes hot coffee and tea (plus water and chocolate) and a Wi-Fi connection inside the vehicle.
- Duration: about 10 hours
- Price: between 250 € and 300 €.
3. Six day tour including accommodation
A complete route that includes airport transfer, accommodations, a guide, minibus transfers and, of course, the wild nature of Iceland. Lasting almost a week, you have the opportunity to see the best landscapes featured in the series inspired by the novel by George R.R. Martin.
There are several types of accommodations, from hostels to private rooms in guesthouses or hotels. Check the packages carefully. Not all of them include breakfast and, in my opinion, it is an extra worth adding.
Day 1: Reykjavik
After picking up your bags from the belt, a bus or minivan will pick you up at the airport and escort you to your hotel in the capital. The first day is for acclimatization and the best way to do this is to stop at the Blue Lagoon, with cobalt-colored siliceous waters and clouds of hot steam.
Be careful, it is not always included in the price and must be booked in advance. There is usually a queue and it is best to be cautious. If you don't feel like it, you can stay in Reykjavik and stroll around the center.
One of its points of interest is Hallgrimskirkja, the main church of the capital. Of sober style, it stands out for its majestic and at the same time sober appearance. An imposing organ with more than 5000 pipes.
Day 2: Golden Circle
On the second day, the trip starts to become more entertaining. After leaving Reykjavik, you will travel along the Golden Circle, a 300-kilometer road that touches on some breathtaking attractions:
- Almannagjá, a narrow valley in Thingvellir National Park. This is the setting for an episode of the fourth season: when Arya Stark and the Hound arrive at the Bloody Gate and learn that Lysa, her aunt, has been murdered.
- Silfra Fissure, a lake of crystalline waters originated by the movements of the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America. It does not freeze and you can dive all year round. If you are interested in this subject, I recommend you to read the post about snorkeling experiences in Reykjavik.
- Gullfoss, a majestic waterfall. The team recorded videos to use in the landscapes of the series.
- Gjárfoss, a beautiful waterfall. Again, JdT filming was done for the fourth season. Arya and the Hound stop their walk and argue. It could have been done elsewhere but the scenery is wonderful.
At the end of the day, you usually have two options: add a hike to the Fagradalsfjall volcano or return to the lodge for your well-deserved rest.
Day 3: The South
On the third day you will take the Golden Circle again to focus on the southern part of the island. The minibus stops in the following areas:
- Skógafoss, the waterfall originating from the Skóga River. In the first episode of the eighth season, Jon Snow and Daenerys of the Storm ride the dragons in this very spot.
- Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland's southernmost glacier. It is one of the privileged destinations for hiking trails and ice climbing (something we have also seen in Game of Thrones). In the series, here is the Fist of the First Men in Westeros, an ancient fortification built in the Age of Dawn. Here a bloody battle takes place between the Others and the soldiers of the Watch from Castle Black and the Shadow Tower.
- Reynisfjara, a spectacular black sand beach with impressive basalt cliffs. In fiction, this stretch of coastline hosts Eastguard of the Sea, the easternmost castle on the Wall. If you do not remember, in addition to the castle, the Guardia has a port and the boats are mainly used to cross the Narrow Sea and fight against smugglers who sell weapons to the Free People.
Day 4: Jökulsárlón
This is where most of the scenes that take place beyond the wall were shot. Jökulsárlón is an iceberg-filled lagoon south of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier. As they melt, the mountains of ice shrink and slowly slide into the ocean. Often, the icebergs end up stranded near Breidamerkursandur beach.
The lake and the icy mountains are the perfect backdrop for the patrols of Jon Snow and the Watch, the raids of the Free People, the White Walkers and the terrifying Army of the Dead found the ideal backdrop here.
Day 5: Snaefellsnes
For the diversity of its landscapes, this peninsula is often defined as "Iceland in miniature". It is 90 km long and is home to the Lóndrangar cliffs, waterfalls, high peaks, glaciers and the Snaefellsnesjökull volcano.
Tourists staying only a few days on the island don't make it this far (not a very comfortable option) but it is often a sought-after destination on longer vacations.
In Game of Thrones, Kirkjufell Mountain is where the first White Walker was born. In this same place, Bran meets the Night King and his army. It is also a privileged place to embark on an excursion to see whales and puffins.
Day 6: End of tour
When including the transfer to the airport, a minibus will escort you out of the terminal. Depending on your flight schedule, you will have time for a last walk around the capital. For breakfast, here are some suggestions:
Brauð & Co, the establishment that revolutionized the Icelandic bakery. It is best known for its cinnamon rolls and excellent coffee. You will recognize it by its colorful facade (Frakkastígur 16).
Kaffivagninn, the oldest restaurant in the country. It offers traditional Icelandic and Scandinavian dishes that would bring Beric Dondarrion back to life even without the help of the Lord of Light. You can try their breakfasts from 9:00 to 11:00 (Grandagarði 10).
The Laudromat, perhaps the most original coffee shop in Reykjavík. It is located in an old laundry and has a varied menu with brunch options (more hearty), acai bowls, French omelets, yogurt, croissants and more. For those with a sweet tooth, there is the "all day breakfast" formula (Austurstræti 9).
Sandholt, a family-run bakery that opened its doors in 1920. You'll find sandwiches, cakes, pies, pastries and more (Laugavegur 36).
Duration: 6 days
Price: between 900 € and 1000 €.
What is the best time to visit Iceland?
It depends on what you are looking for. If you want to see the Northern Lights from Reykjavik, the best months are March and September. If whale watching is the goal of your trip, you should book a ticket at the same time: from April to September.
In general, to enjoy longer days and warmer temperatures, you will have to visit the island in summer.
Is it safe to drive in Iceland in winter?
In case you want to visit the Game of Thrones locations on your own and can only go to the island in winter, it is important to be aware of a few factors. The first and most important one has to do with the roads: the main roads are cleared frequently and therefore driving is not too complicated.
However, outside of the Ring Road - the circular ring around the island - it is easy to find gravel and dirt roads. Finally, the roads in the Highlands are closed to traffic throughout the winter.
In the list below I leave you a series of tips to keep in mind:
- If you are not an experienced driver, you may want to opt for an organized route. You will live the experience with less stress
- Some Game of Thrones filming locations require passing through rough and unpaved roads. To avoid problems, it is best to rent a 4x4 with good winter tires.
- Be careful. The roads are dual carriageways, with only one lane in each direction. Occasionally, especially in rural areas, roads may be restricted to a single lane.
- To find the best weather conditions, I recommend staying on the south coast. In this area you can visit Thingvellir National Park, Þjórsárdalur Valley and Skaftafell National Park.
- In Iceland it is illegal to drive off-road. This also applies to off-road vehicles. Don't get distracted or you may incur a fine.
- Make sure you have a spare tire. Don't leave the agency without an extra tire in the trunk.
- Extend your insurance. Especially in winter, it is preferable to cover yourself against any unforeseen event.
Is it a recommended excursion to take with children?
It depends on the age and the excursion. If you think they might get too tired, I would choose a single day tour. I would choose a longer route only if my kids love nature and enjoy outdoor activities a lot. For more information, I recommend you to read the post that explains what to see and do with kids in Reykjavik.
Frequently asked questions
Where do the Game of Thrones tours take place?
You will travel to Thingvellir National Park, a World Heritage Site, where you can see breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Thingvallavatn and the Þjórsárdalur Valley.
What locations in the series will I see?
You will see the shooting location of the White Walker scenes, the village massacred by the Wildlings, and relive one of the most exciting battle scenes of the series.
How long is a Game of Thrones tour?
A full day tour lasts about 8 hours, of which approximately 6 hours will be spent in Thingvellir National Park reliving scenes from your favorite TV series.