Game of Thrones is one of the most spectacular shows on TV, and its producers have travelled the cast and crew to incredible locations around the world to bring Westeros to life. Now hard-core fans are visiting these locations in droves.
One of these location is the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the Northern coast of Spain, known to fans as Dragonstone.
At the end of season six, we saw Daenerys begin her journey across the narrow sea to Dragonstone – the ancestral seat of House Targaryen – to take up residence in its castle and enact her plan to sit on the Iron Throne.
The Mother of Dragons arrives in Dragonstone on the first episode of season seven, and fans saw her dramatically walk up its long, winding staircase with her advisors before saying to them, “Shall we begin?”
In real life, the steps lead up to a monastery that was originally built in the 9th century. However, it’s been rebuilt a number of times since then. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe can be translated to “Castle Rock”, which is totally appropriate.
This is how much its visitor numbers have dramatically increased thanks to Game of Thrones…
In July 2017, a staggering 75,000 tourists visited the spot, which is a 22% increase on the number of people who visited it last year. They climb its famous steps to the monastery and ring its bell three times for good luck.
However, some Game of Thrones fans have opted to “bend the knee” at the monastery door instead of ringing the bell!
An impressive 241 steps lead up to the historic monastery. The steps themselves aren’t quite as old as the monastery and date back to the 9th century.
Prior to the location featuring in Game of Thrones, visitors were able to enjoy a leisurely walk up to the monastery, which many visited as part of religious pilgrimages, but that’s no longer the case because the spot is so crowded.
This is a problem for the local tourist and conservation board, who are now considering charging people to visit in an attempt to cut numbers, or limiting the number who can visit each day as the sheer volume of people is putting a damaging amount of pressure on the ancient steps. So you might want to hold off paying Dragonstone a visit for now.
It’s completely understandable that the local tourism and conservation board want to preserve the site for future generations to enjoy. But it’s not the only Game of Thrones experience an influx of visitors after being featured.
This has also been the case at the real-life King’s Landing in Dubrovnik, Croatia and “The Wall” in Reykjavik, Iceland. Last year, Dubrovnik, Croatia was the Game of Thrones pilgrimage location of choice and prior to this it was Belfast, Ireland – where much of the show’s early seasons were filmed.
We look forward to seeing the role that Dragonstone plays in the show’s final season, especially now that Daenerys’ claim to her ancestral home has now been outweighed by the revelation that Jon Snow is her half brother.
I wonder what other gorgeous locations Game of Thrones will make famous next…