Last year I was with my better half in Madrid and ended up doing this stunning Game of Thrones road trip in Spain. While he was working there, I decided to do a road trip to various destinations in the Community of Madrid. So, I rented a car and went on different trips, but returned every night to Madrid in order to stay with my love. And this is how this epic Game of thrones road trip in Spain to different film sets of the tv series was born.
And I learned a lot on this solo-I-can-do-everything-alone kind of trip. But before boring you with all these „valuable“ learnings for myself, I will tell you about this epic Game of thrones road trip. Or better, show you the video – including some drone shots – sometimes pictures say more than any words could:
Before showing you the different destinations of the epic Game of Thrones road trip in Spain and all useful information, like how to get there and the best time to go there, I will give you a short overview of the road trip.
Overview Game of Thrones road trip in Spain:
Start and end: Madrid
(alternatively, you could fly to Bilbao and rent a car there)
Mode of transportation: car
(alternatively, you could fly to Bilbao and to destination 1, 2 and 3 and visit destination 4 from Madrid )
- San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (432 kilometres from Madrid)
- Itzuron beach (98 kilometres from San Juan de Gaztelugatxe)
- Las Bardenas Reales (203 kilometres from Itzuron beach)
- Castle of Zafra (209 kilometres from Las Bardenas Reales)
3 to 4 days depending on your preference
Short description of route of the Game of Thrones road trip in Spain:
As I mentioned in the intro of this article, I returned to Madrid after every destination because my better half was working there. Thus, this might also be an option. But according to my experience and in order to avoid a lot of driving this is the best way to do the road trip.
Day 1: Drive from Madrid to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. If you are lucky and arrive in time you can even see the sunset there.
Day 2: Visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the early morning before the crowds arrive. Then continue driving further to Itzuron beach and spend the afternoon there. Stay overnight in this area or drive further towards Las Bardenas Reales and stay in this area overnight.
Day 3: Visit Las Bardenas Reales. You could spend some time there or visit the Castle of Zafra on the same day.
Day 4: If you didn’t visit Castle of Zafra on day 3, do it today and after drive back to Madrid.
But now, let me tell you about the places we visited during the Game of Thrones road trip in Spain.
Game of Thrones road trip in Spain: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
First stop of the road trip lead me to the North of Spain, more precise to a coast destination close to Bilbao – with an unpronounceable name. Let’s just call it San Juan, ok?
I guess to most of you Game of Thrones fans out there, I don’t need to explain which film set it is, because you most likely recognized it already. For those who are not regularly watching the series, I will give you a short explanation: It is Dragonstone. HBO used this Spanish location in the 7th season and created a virtual castle on the top of the island.
How to get to Dragonstone:
The only way to get there is by car. There is no proper connection with public transportation from Madrid. The drive itself takes around 5 hours (432 kilometers). But the ride was super easy, because the roads just outside of Madrid were super empty. I hardly met other people on the road, which confused me a bit. Probably it is because between Madrid and the North coast is almost nothing except dessert. And most likely many people just fly to Bilbao instead of taking a car. However, both is possible – choose your preference.
Where to stay at Dragonstone:
There is not much urban life around and the closest (and very pretty) accommodation we found were this cute and stylish apartements: Apartamentos Turisticos rurales Ureta. As I really recommend you to go in the early morning in order to enjoy the epic, mystic morning mood there – and before all the people and even buses arrive – you should try to stay over-night close-by and not come from Madrid and go to the island on the same day.
Game of Thrones road trip in Spain: Itzuron beach
Next stop of the epic Game of thrones road trip in Spain was this one:
Not as easy to tell which location in the series it is, huh? Common, if you’re a REAL Game of Thrones fan you know where it is!
Ok, I’ll give you one little hint: It is related to Dragonstone.
Ok, another hint: It is very closely related to Dragonstone!
YEEEEES, these cliffs with it’s unique sandstone formation represent the beaches of Dragonstone in the series. In reality, this place is a bit further away from Dragonstone. It is located more East, almost in the middle between Bilbao and San Sebastian.
In the series, this place is especially important in the 7th season when Targaryen returned to the shores of Westerose, Dragonstone.
In reality, in summer this is a popular beach and surf destination. But all year round this place is stunning and the cliffs invite for a walk. There is also a little beach café where you can enjoy a snack and the view.
How to get to the beaches of Dragonstone:
The easiest way is to go by car as the location is in the middle of nowhere. I came here for one afternoon and you could easily combine a visit at San Juan aka. Dragonstone. It is around 100 kilometers from San Juan which makes a drive of around 1.5 hours.
Game of Thrones road trip in Spain: Castle of Zafra
Aaaaaa which film set is this? What is the next station of the Game of Thrones road trip in Spain?
It is the Tower of Joy.
Even if this location is not as important as Dragonstone in the series. This place impressed me the most. Already the ride to get there was an adventure. I had to pass a little village on a tiny little winding street. And after this village which consisted of 10 houses, the road stopped and a dirt road started. At first I wasn’t sure if I can actually go there with my tiny rental car (smallest and cheapest one of course), but I tried and after a few hundred meters I couldn’t see the village behind me any more and I couldn’t see any civilization around me, just wide sandstone landscape and rocks and trees till the horizon. Literally nothing miles around. The sun was shining and I felt like in a dessert in Africa rather than in Spain. And the best thing about it: There were no other people, no cars, nothing. At one point it was a bit creepy to be there all alone, but on the other hand, it was so cool and exciting.
And suddenly I could see the Castle. A bit more elevated than the dirt road, it is located at an altitude of 1400 meters, it was visible from far away. I approached it and found a little parking next to the castle, but still no people. This peace and ambiance were really unique and I spent some hours there all alone, walking around the castle, climbing on some rocks to have a better view, flying the drone, taking some pictures, and in the end I was just sitting there, waiting for the sun to set a bit more in order to make use of the golden hour. I guess you can hear my excitement out of my writing.
After sharing my excitement of this place, I will also provide you with some facts. This castle was built in the 12th century. It served as a defense on the boarder between Christian and Muslim-ruled territory. After the successful completion of the Spanish Reconquista at the end of the 15th century, the military significance of this place ended.
Best time to go to Castle of Zafra:
I was there in November during the week, I guess it must be more crowded in summer on weekends.
How to get to the Castle of Zafra:
As I described above, the castle is accessible via a dirt road after you crossed the village of Hombrados. I made it with my little Hyundai rental car, however a bit bigger car might be more convenient. If you don’t have a car, it requires a hike of some hours to get to the castle from the village of Hombrados – I wouldn’t recommend that.
Game of Thrones road trip in Spain: Las Bardenas Reales
Last destination of my the Game of Thrones road trip in Spain would have actually been las Bardenas Reales, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time anymore. Bardenas Reales is a very stunning rock formation places in a unique, radish, dessert-like landscape.
In Game of Thrones, this place served to film the Dothraki Sea, the home to wandering hordes of khalasars.
I didn’t manage to go there, but if you have enough time it would perfectly fit into your road trip because it is located between Itzuron beach and Castle of Zafra. See the map with all destinations of the Game of Thrones road trip in Spain here:
Alternatively, you can also get there from Madrid in around 4 hours (328 kilometers) or you can combine it with a day trip to Castle of Zafra from Madrid:
In my intro, I mentioned that this road trip taught me quite some things – like every travel actually. On every travel, I learn things, which might be fact-based things about the history or the culture of a country or interpersonal things, like how people behave in other countries, but also things about myself.
And I learned a lot on this solo-I-can-do-everything-alone kind of trip. I learned various facts about Madrid and Spain, but also things which concern myself. If you are interested, here my learnings (if not, scroll down to some more impressions of the road trip 😉 )
- The countryside of Spain and especially around Madrid is a dessert
- Sights which seemed super famous for me (like the Game of Thrones film sets) are not necessarily super busy.
- Doing things alone is not bad. It doesn’t mean you have no friends or you are desperate. It means you are brave and independent.
- Traveling alone can be scary, but also wonderful and enriching at the same time. Did you ever do it? Try it!
- Off-the-beaten-track destinations (like Castle of Zafra) are the best. Of course, I can understand that once in your life you want to see the Eiffel tower, watch a sunset at the Golden Gate bridge, and so on, but the true magic happens at the lesser frequented places.
- The best mood at every destination is the early morning, when it is still peaceful, the light is amazing and the crowds are still sleeping. I know that getting up early sucks, but try it, it will be worth it! Ask my boyfriend, he hates me when I wake him up „in the middle of the night“ but in the end, he always says it was worth it.
Alright, that’s it with my personal thoughts of this story (better before I get emotional), and now some more impressions of the road trip.
I really hoped this epic Game of Thrones road trip in Spain? Do you know more destinations on this route? Let me and others know! Have you been doing this road trip? I would love to hear your opinion and experiences 🙂
And don’t forget: Never stop exploring