The 10 Most Instagrammed Real-Life Game of Thrones Locations

Helen Sloan, HBO
Helen Sloan, HBO

Croatia's tourism industry is booming, and Game of Thrones is largely to thank—or blame. The old town of Dubrovnik has received so many tourists since scenes from the TV show were shot there that local officials announced a plan in 2017 to limit the number of travelers who arrive via cruise ship each day.

The most Instagrammed Game of Thrones location isn’t in Dubrovnik, but it is in Croatia. Using hashtag data from Instagram, Buzz Bingo mapped out the film locations that are most popular among social media-savvy travelers. Of the 54 locations analyzed, here are the top 10.

1. Krka National Park, Croatia

Krka National Park, Croatia
Brian Adamson via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Known for its stunning waterfalls and access to the Krka River, this park in southern Croatia is a tourist destination in its own right. Several Game of Thrones scenes were shot there, including the one where Arya Stark and The Hound cross the Riverlands in season 4, episode 3 ("Breaker of Chains").

2. Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

After a stop in Marrakech, visitors often take a day trip to this fortified 17th-century city and UNESCO World Heritage site. Game of Thrones fans probably know it better as Yunkai, a second slaving city that Daenerys Targaryen liberated.

3. Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges
iStock.com/DieterMeyrl

This enchanting corridor of beech trees was planted in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, in the 18th century. Of course, in the show, it’s the Kings Road. Rewatch season 2, episode 1 (“The North Remembers”) and you’ll see it.

4. Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

Travel a little further north from The Dark Hedges and you’ll reach the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. In the show, this bridge connects the two towers of Pyke on the Iron Islands, and can be seen in the season 6 episode (warning: spoiler alert) where Balon Greyjoy meets a grisly end.

5. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
iStock.com/Eloi_Omella

This Spanish island served as the setting for Dragonstone Island, which can be seen in season 7. The name San Juan de Gaztelugatxe means “castle rock” in Basque.

6. Bardenas Reales, Spain

Bardenas Reales
iStock.com/MarioGuti

Daenerys and the Dothraki cross these plains on their way to The Narrow Sea. In reality, the Bardenas Reales is a desert region in southern Spain.

7. Vatnajökull, Iceland

For cooler climes, Game of Thrones location scouts turned to Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier. Using CGI, shots of the glacier were used to create The Wall in season 2 of the show.

8. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park
iStock.com/Michael Ver Sprill

Another Icelandic location, this mountainous region near the real-life Hengill volcano serves as the backdrop for the duel between Brienne and The Hound.

9. Itálica, Spain

The ancient Roman city of Itálica, located in Spain near Seville, was founded in 206 BCE. The Dragonpit in season 7 of Game of Thrones was filmed here.

10. Doune Castle, Scotland

Doune Castle
iStock.com/treasuregalore

This 14th century courtyard castle was the first place used to depict Winterfell in Game of Thrones. The feast scene in the pilot episode was also shot here.

8 Facts About Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon
Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon

Longtime Harry Potter fans who feel like first-years at heart may find it hard to believe, but the books have been around for decades. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, which follows Harry as he faces Dementors, investigates the mysterious Sirius Black, and gets through his third year at Hogwarts.

From Rowling’s writing process to how it changed The New York Times Best Sellers list, here are some facts you should know about the wildly popular book.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was J.K. Rowling’s "best writing experience."

In a 2004 interview with USA Today, Rowling described the creation of Prisoner of Azkaban as “the best writing experience I ever had.” This had more to do with where Rowling was at in her professional life than the content of the actual story. By book three, she was successful enough where she didn’t have to worry about finances, but not yet so famous that the she felt the stress of being in the public eye.

2. The Dementors represent depression.

Readers who live with depression may see something familiar in Prisoner of Azkaban’s soul-sucking Dementors. According to the book, “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."

Rowling has stated that she based the Dementor’s effects on her own experiences with depression. "[Depression] is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again," she told The Times in 2000. "The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It's a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."

3. Rowling regretted giving Harry the Marauder’s Map.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, the Marauder’s Map is introduced as a way for Harry to track Sirius Black and learn of the survival of Peter Pettigrew. But this plot device proved problematic for Rowling later on this series. In Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, she wrote, “The Marauder’s Map subsequently became something of a bane to its true originator (me), because it allowed Harry a little too much freedom of information.” She went on to say that she sometimes wished she had made Harry lose the map for good in the later books.

4. Rowling was excited to introduce Remus Lupin.

One of the aspects Rowling most enjoyed about writing Prisoner of Azkaban was introducing Remus Lupin. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and secret werewolf is one of the author's favorite characters in the series, and as she told Barnes & Noble in 1999, “I was looking forward to writing the third book from the start of the first because that's when Professor Lupin appears.”

5. Crookshanks is based on a real cat.

Harry had Hedwig the owl, Ron had his pet rat Scabbers, and in book three, Hermione got a pet of her own: an intelligent half-Kneazle cat named Crookshanks. J.K. Rowling is allergic to cats, and she admits on her website that she prefers dogs, but she does have fond memories of a cat that roamed the London neighborhood where she worked in the 1980s. When writing Crookshanks, she gave him that cat’s haughty attitude and smushed-face appearance.

6. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book Americans had to wait for.

Harry Potter fans based in America will no doubt remember waiting months after a book’s initial release in England to buy it from their local bookstore. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book with a staggered publication date: Beginning with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the rest of the books in the series were published in both markets on the same date.

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban broke sales records.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sold 68,000 copies in the UK within three days of its release, making it the fastest-selling British book of all time in 1999. The book has since gone on to sell more than 65 million copies worldwide and helped make Harry Potter the bestselling book series ever.

8. It changed The New York Times Best Sellers List.

For part of 1999, the first three Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone pretty much everywhere besides America), Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban—occupied the top three slots on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It didn’t stay that way for long, though: Prisoner of Azkaban was the book that pushed the paper to create a separate list just for children’s literature, leaving more room on the original list for books aimed at adults. That’s why Harry Potter is missing from the famous bestsellers roundup during the 2000s, despite dominating book sales at this time.

Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke Turned Down the Lead in 50 Shades of Grey

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

Though Emilia Clarke is undoubtedly best known for her starring role on Game of Thrones, she has landed some other plum parts over the past several years, including Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, the role of Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the lead in Phillip Noyce's upcoming Above Suspicion opposite Jack Huston. But there's one major role Clarke passed on, and has no regrets about it: Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise.

The movies, based on E. L. James's erotic book series, trace the sadomasochistic/romantic relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and millionaire businessman Christian Grey. Both the books and the movies have garnered a lot of criticism for their graphic nudity and sex scenes. While Clarke is no stranger to appearing nude on film for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, she said that 50 Shades of Grey would have taken her too far out of her comfort zone.

“There is a huge amount of nudity in the film,” the British actress told The Sun of her reasons for not wanting to get involved with the film series. “I thought I might get stuck in a pigeonhole that I would have struggled to get out of.”

Even without 50 Shades of Grey on her resume, Clarke says she has dealt with a lot of negative backlash because of the nudity in Game of Thrones. “I get a lot of crap for nude and sex scenes,” the 32-year-old star said. “Women hating on women. It’s so anti-feminist.”

When we last left Daenerys, she seemed to be getting serious about Jon Snow—who, unbeknownst to the two of them, is her nephew. We'll see how that unpleasant discovery plays out when Game of Thrones returns on April 14, 2019.

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