Andalusia and “Game of Thrones”, a story of love, wars and dragons

Probably, after the “Lord of the Rings” phenomenon, “Game of Thrones” is the biggest and best example of what screen tourism represents for a territory. Almost 10 years after the first HBO contingent landed in Spain to film the fifth season of the series, the impact that the saga of the Seven Kingdoms has had on our country is more than proven. 

The “tsunami effect”, which later spread to many Spanish regions, began in Andalusia. It is said that George R. R. Martin (author of the literary saga on which the series is based) always imagined life in medieval Al-Andalus for inspiration and to write what happened in Dorne. That is why Seville was the first destination for the film crew of this blockbuster that has become a global phenomenon. And Andalucía Film Commission was there to guide them and show them that Dorne could also be in Almería. But let’s take a look at the “Game of Thrones” route through Andalusia that every fan of the series has done or has to do.

Seville: the exotic Kingdom of Dorne

Dorne, one of the most beautiful kingdoms of Westeros, was recreated in the Alcazar of Seville, a unique monumental complex. However, as Piluca Querol, head of the Andalucía Film Commission, tells us, the first time the people in charge of the series visited the Alcázar, it was raining so hard that they were on the verge of discarding it as a location. As luck would have it, their flight was delayed, which allowed them to see it again in sunshine. The rest is television history.

In the fifth season of the series, the Alcazars represent the Water Gardens in the kingdom of Dorne, home to House Martell. Among the many film locations in this impressive building, scenes were filmed in the Gallery of the Grotesque, in front of the Pool of Mercury; in the Cenador de Carlos V, the Hall of Ambassadors, the Garden of the Ladies and the Baths of Doña María de Padilla. The producers of the series have acknowledged that the Alcázar of Seville was so close to what they were looking for that digital retouching was not necessary, making it the only location that appears as it is in the HBO production.

The Water Gardens of Dorne in the Alcázares of Seville / HBO

Another of the Seville settings on our “Game of Thrones” route through Andalusia is the shipyards, the most important shipyards of the Crown of Castile. This civil Gothic jewel was used to recreate the catacombs of the Red Keep in King’s Landing. It is there where, among dragon skeletons, Maester Qyburn shows Cersei the Scorpion a giant crossbow that she could use against Daenerys’ dragons, and where Tyrion meets Jaime, so that he can convince Cersei of the convenience of a meeting to discuss the imminent attack of the White Walkers.

“Seville is a wonderful city in a wonderful country. When you see what surrounds us it is as if it was designed for us by someone very kind many years ago. We couldn’t have afforded something like this. Thanks to Carlos V or whoever for building it for us

Dan Weiss (Producer)

We are still in Seville and talking about dragons. The fifth season of the series ended with one of the most shocking scenes in the history of Westeros, when Daenerys has to flee on the back of one of her dragons before the outbreak of a revolt that could put her in danger. Thanks to technology, the Osuna bullring became the Daznak Pit. Incidentally, during the filming, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) celebrated her 28th birthday. On this occasion, a local bakery surprised the actress with a huge cake with the coat of arms of House Targaryen, and both the crew and the hundreds of extras present sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. A moment that the British actress will surely never forget. 

Neither the lands of Seville nor the dragons were abandoned, because the ruins of the first Roman city in Hispania, Italica (Santiponce, Seville), became Dragon Well in the last episode of the seventh season. These sequences saw the greatest concentration of main characters of all the seasons of the series broadcast up to that point. From Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion, Cersei and Jaime, to Brienne, Varys, Theon Greyjoy, The Hound, Sir Davos, Bronn and Jorah Mormont, as well as Euron Greyjoy, Podrick, Misandei, The Mountain and Qyburn. Such a gathering of characters responded to the conclave to agree on a truce between the different aspirants to the Iron Throne in the face of the imminent arrival of the hordes of White Walkers.

The ruins of Italica without dragons / Agatha Selgas

Córdoba: Altojardín and Volantis

As Westeros has seven kingdoms, the need for castles to represent them was something that worried the producers of the series. Until they arrived in Spain and came across the large number of walled buildings that remain in our country. So, during their stay in Andalusia, they didn’t have to go far to find the home of House Tyrell: Altojardín. 

In Almodóvar del Río (Córdoba) is the fortress built by Alfonso XI of Castile, which only needed to display the coat of arms of the golden rose to serve as the setting for the scenes in which Jaime Lannister goes there with his army, after deceiving the Unsullied, to conquer the castle and finish off Oleanna, the Lady of Thorns.

If the silhouette of this magnificent castle is familiar to you, perhaps it is because Joshua Logan had already used it to recreate “Camelot” in 1967 (a film that also went through another film castle, that of Coca, in Segovia).

Without leaving the province of Cordoba, the next stop on our “Game of Thrones” route through Andalusia is the Roman bridge in the capital, which was used to recreate the Long Bridge of Volantis. Although with some digital retouching, you can recognise its peculiar silhouette in the many scenes in which it appears.

Almeria: back to Dorne

Only the magic of the screen can make Lanza del Sol, the capital of Dorne, be in Seville and Almeria. By the grace of the special effects, the Alcazaba of Almeria appears as an extension of the gardens of the Alcazar of Seville. The ditches, fountains and gardens of the Almeria monumental complex represented the Dorne capital, and the conversations between Ellaria Arena and Olenna Tyrell or the assassination of Doran Martell were filmed there.

The Alcazaba of Almeria is Lanza del Sol / Agatha Selgas

The filming also moved to other parts of the province, specifically to Carboneras, where the Nasrid tower of Mesa Roldán was used to recreate part of the free city of Meeren (which later moved to Peñíscola). 

This imposing artillery tower serves as the backdrop for a series of scenes involving Daenerys, Tyrion and Misandei, as well as three of the Masters of Mereen, a group of Unsullied and the faithful dragon Drogo, who wipes out the Khaleesi’s enemies, and a whole fleet of ships at Cape Gata itself.

Enemy fleet arriving at Cape Gata / HBO

Taverns: Dothraki territory

That Tabernas is much more than westerns is demonstrated by its constant filming activity. Its peculiar landscape, made up of wind-sculpted wadis, makes it ideal for recreating all kinds of scenarios. That is why, in “Game of Thrones”, the Tabernas desert became the Dothraki Sea, a gigantic steppe on the continent of Essos. Specifically, in the Rambla del Cautivo, several action sequences were filmed involving numerous stuntmen and horses. 

Not far from there it is possible to visit the village of Vaes Dothrak. This is the site of El Chorrillo (in Pechina), the filming location of other blockbusters such as “Exodus: Gods and Kings” (Ridley Scott, 2014). It was precisely on the sets created to represent the Israeli ghetto in Egypt that the Dothraki village was located. This is where the Khaleesi is held captive in season six. 

So, from season to season and from scene to scene, we have crossed half of Andalusia and reached the end of our “Game of Thrones” route through the south of Spain. We hope we’ve given you ideas for your next screen getaway where you mustn’t forget your Westeros costumes and ornaments to recreate your favourite scenes in the places where they were filmed – that’s living what you see!

By María Parcero

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