Despite being a fantastical television series, you’ve probably wondered where the producers of Game of Thrones got the inspiration for their enchanting locations. It’s incredible to know that many of the scenes were filmed at real-life locations where we can actually visit and engage in the very scenes our favorite GOT characters spent hours filming on set.

Based on the fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones takes place in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros all on the continent of Essos. The success of the HBO show is undeniable, and it’s quite an accomplishment that it airs in over 180 different countries, creating a worldwide fan base.

The producers of the fantasy series, for the most part, used real-life locations as their backdrops. The trick they used was they would film up close in the real-life location, and then use computer-generated imagery to create the appearance of massive lands in the backdrops and edit anything from castles to the blowing snow or sand on the ground. Of course, Daenerys’ dragons were subject to some pretty inventive filming techniques which are mentioned below. The cast and crew flew to Malta, Spain, Morocco, Northern Ireland and Croatia (to name a few) to put together their jaw-dropping scenes that seem to stem from our imagination.

For the ultimate Game of Thrones fan, there are even set tours you can journey on which will take you to all the iconic filming locations. But if you’re trying to figure out if your favorite scene was real or computer generated, this list will fill you in.

20 1. Real: Dark Hedges Ballymoney, Northern Ireland (King’s Road)

A fairytale-like avenue of beech trees becomes the famous road to King’s Landing, the capital of Westeros. These stunning fantastical trees were planted back in the eighteenth century by the Stuart family who wished to wow visitors as they made their way up to their mansion, Gracehill House.

When you spotted this magical road dressed in foliage on the show, you may have thought there was no chance this was a real-life place. Believe it or not, you can take a walk yourself on Bregagh Road in Ballymoney, on the same road that Arya Stark uses to escape King’s Landing disguised as a boy in Season two.

19 2. Real: Osuna, Spain (Bullring In Essos)

Situated in the Andalusian town of Osuna sits the traditional Spanish bullring, Plaza de Toros where Dany fought the ‘Great Games’ until her beloved Dragon, Drogon came to her rescue.

In Season 5, Jorah Mormont, Khaleesi’s former consultant fights in the ring right before her eyes before she’s ambushed and surrounded with no way out until Drogon appears. This Renaissance-styled town with cobblestone streets supposedly saw Julius Caesar fight in the very same pit where we see the cast of Game of Thrones!

You can walk through the Great Pit of Daznak yourself, situated right between Seville and Granada, you can do a whole tour of famous Game of Thrones locations en route to the fictional Essos.

18 3. Real: Dubrovnik, Croatia (King's Landing, Capital Of Westeros)

At the beginning of the show, it was in the fortified city of Mdina in Malta where the capital of Westeros, King’s Landing was filmed. However, when the producers stumbled upon the fitting city of Dubrovnik, they shifted over the capital of King’s Landing to the capital city of Croatia.

The Old Town of Dubrovnik couldn’t be a better location to house the Iron Throne, and with its stone fortification locking the city in along its coastal peninsula and dramatic cliffs, it seems like a perfect scene for Cersei to spend her days plotting. Representing one of the most scenic locations in the series, Dubrovnik is a must-see city, whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not!

17 4. Real: Azure Window, Gozo, Malta (Drogo and Daenerys’ Wedding Scene)

This incredible view was used back in Season 1 as the wedding location for Daenerys and her beloved Drogo. For this scene, the crew actually covered most of the ground with sand to make it seem it was taking place in the typical Dothraki-like desert topography. The picture-perfect Azure Window, or as it’s known in Maltese ‘Tieqa tad-Dwejra’ unfortunately fell into the sea after collapsing from a dangerous storm. Thousands mourned the loss of Malta’s iconic natural landmark.

If you visit, although you may not see the iconic Azure Window, you can still reminisce about the location where Khaleesi married her first love.

16 5. Real: Castillo de Almodovar del Rio, Cordoba, Spain ( Highgarden, House Of Tyrell)

The hilltop castle of Castillo de Almodovar del Rio is one of the best-preserved castles in Andalusia and seats the House of Tyrell in the HBO series. We know it as Highgarden, and can be found in the province of Cordoba in Spain. In Season 7 we see the ruthless Jaime Lannister seize the lush palace with a final showdown with Olenna Tyrell, all to please Queen Cersei Lannister.

The renowned castle has been around since the 8th century, and today has its palatial courtyards and dungeons open to the public. There are even nine towers you can discover before you have the opportunity to feast like a true King with a Medieval-inspired meal.

15 6. Real: Reynisfjara, Vik, Iceland, Black Sand Beach (Eastwatch, Where Men Of The Night’s Watch Are Camped Out)

You might wonder why the crew decided to shoot on a mostly uninhabited tiny island in the middle of the ocean, but once you take a look at the pictures you’ll get why they made the journey to Vik. The Black Sand Beach became home to Jon Snow and some of the Night’s Watch when they were stationed by the Wall in Season 7.

This island boasts breathtaking panoramic views and those unmistakable cliff-like structures which seem to be coming out of the ocean are really natural occurrences which formed during the last Ice Age.

Located on the southern tip of Iceland with a naturally formed cave on the beach, I don't doubt that during filming Kit Harrington was wary of the dark, unpredictable waters, as we all should if we’re visiting!

14 7. Real: Alcazar de Sevilla, Spain (Dorne’s Water Palace)

What better place to film Dorne, the warmest and most southern of the seven kingdoms, than in the hot and exotic Alcazar de Sevilla? This city in Spain boasts the oldest palace in Europe that is currently still in use and is a famous World Heritage Site.

The capital Sunspear features Oberyn Martell of House Martell, King of Dorne, and the striking Water Garden. Dorne, the only desert climate in all of Westeros, also practices different customs and traditions to its neighbors.

This luxurious palace surrounded by palm trees dates back to the control of the Moors likely around 913, and creates the perfect scene for the delectable and unique city of Dorne.

13 8. Real: Grjótagjá Hot Springs And Lava Cave, Iceland (Jon Snow and Ygritte’s Hideaway)

The beautiful natural hot spring of Grjótagjá is just another among the countless must-see nature sports in Iceland. What makes this spot so special, other than it being the secret hideaway for Jon Snow and Ygritte in Season 3 episode 5 “Kissed By Fire”, is that the water is naturally warm and inviting.

When a nearby volcano erupted in 1975 and caused water levels in the cave to rise super high, it became forbidden to bathe inside.

The good news is that today the water levels have gone down significantly and you can still take a jump in the fantastical scene where now husband and wife - Jon (Kit Harrington) and Ygritte (Rosie Leslie) once filmed for Game of Thrones.

12 9. Real: Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco (Yunkai Yellow City)

Over 20 movies have been filmed on-site of the Moroccan city of Ait Benhaddou, and in Game of Thrones, it holds the title for the fictional city of Yunkai. This yellow looking city not too far from Marrakesh was constructed centuries ago entirely out of clay! In 1987 it was even designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Season 3 Daenerys along with the help of her Unsullied army, takes on the city of Yunkai which had always been ruled as an oligarchy by slave merchants. The famous scene ends with the slaves surrendering to the magnificent Khaleesi as they praise her as their ‘Mother’.

11 10. Real: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain (Dragonstone)

This gorgeous little inlet not too far from the city of Bilbao in Spain is a hidden gem, and sees significantly fewer tourists than Seville and Barcelona. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe becomes the mystical Dragonstone, where we see Daenerys and Jon Snow walking on the 240 step footbridge that leads to a church that is supposedly over a thousand years old. If you remember in the first episode of Season 7, Khaleesi ponders along the scenic panorama as she plans how she will take on her enemies.

Although not actually made of Dragonstone, if you were to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatze today, I predict there will be masses of fans flocking since Game of Thrones put it on the map.

10 11. Real: Minceta Tower, Malta (House of the Undying)

This imposing circular 14th century fortress is the highest point in the city of Dubrovnik and deserves a mention on its own. This becomes the setting where the distressed Daenerys searches for her stolen dragons in the haunting House of the Undying during the episode ‘The Old Gods and the New” of Season 2.

This ancient tower was built in 1319 and is considered the symbol of Dubrovnik, and definitely worth a visit. Located in Qarth, the House of the Undying is the headquarters for the creepy warlocks, which is quite fitting because there are practically no windows or openings in this historical fortification of Dubrovnik.

9 12. Real: Girona, Catalonia, Spain (Oldtown, Braavos)

The winding medieval streets of Girona, north of Barcelona becomes home to the Free City of Braavos, and also Arya Stark in Season 5 and 6. We see Arya punished and blinded for disobeying the Many-Faced-God, and left to beg on the dangerous streets of Braavos.

Perhaps the 900-year-old cathedral in the city is the setting for the maesters precious Citadel where they receive their training. Reserved for maesters of the Seven Kingdoms, we see Samwell Tarly (or just Sam) determined to partake in the academic life at the sacred Citadel.

There’s plenty for tourists in Spain to marvel at in this archaeological tiny town.

8 13. Real: Italica Ruins, Spain (Season 7 Dragonpit)

This historical amphitheatre known as Italica Ruins is an ancient Roman city which saw its native citizens become emperors Hadrian and Trajan. This site was ideal for the prime Dragonpit scenes in Season 7, where we witness the major characters from Westeros all come together for an epic battle.

The ruins can be found close to Santiponce, Spain and there should be some more epic scenes to come in the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. Rumor has it our favorite cast and crew have been spending quite some time transforming and making some additions to the ancient ruins for the anticipated next season.

7 14. North Of The Wall (Ain't Real, folks)

The producers of Game of Thrones exercised great efforts to create fantastical settings, and although the striking Wall north of Westeros appears realistic, some special secrets lie in its architecture. The Wall which is 300 miles long and 700 feet high is actually not a wall at all, but a very specific machine, admits visual effects artist Clement Gharini.

Gharini also shared that it demanded a huge team of helpers to contribute to the operation of the ‘machined’ wall and was something like a factory conveyor line where everyone is contributing to a small part of the whole. Who knew the epic battles between the White Walkers and Jon Snow actually took place on a fabricated machined wall and not actually in the frozen tundra?

6 15. Fiery Dragon Animation (Ain't Real, folks)

No fantastical series would be without a fire-breathing dragon, but Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones has three! They go by Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion and we’ve seen them go from tiny eggs to flourished dragons that protect their mother Daenerys fiercely.

The producers had thought of a genius way to use computer-generated imagery and props such as tennis balls on green sticks and pillows, to film Dany and her fictional dragons with versatility. The famous Pixomondo visual effects studio took on the challenge and perfected the dragons which appear on screen to be part bird and part reptile. They mastered this so well we almost think we’re witnessing a real-life dragon breathing fire.

5 16. Pyke Rope Bridge (Season 6) - Bye Bye Balon Greyjoy (Ain't Real, folks)

Based on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland, Pyke Bridge is the setting where the long-awaited end of Theon Greyjoy’s terrifying father Balon takes place. Situated on a beautiful coastline, this rope bridge can be walked across if you’re in Ballintoy, Ireland. This real-life location is even named after something that could be found in Game of Thrones.

The Pyke Bridge Scene takes place in Pyke home to House Greyjoy and one of the Seven Iron Islands. On screen, we see Pyke as an ominous looking cliffside fortification. Before his death, Balon Greyjoy appointed his daughter Yara, a fierce warrior, as heir to the throne and a claimant to the Iron Islands.

4 17. The Night's King (Ain't Real, folks)

The master of the White Walkers features more of a subtle example of special effects is the striking blue eyes and translucent horns of the Night’s King along with his seemingly infinite army of invisible horses.

With eyes that glow, special effects in combination with prosthetics (use of artificial body parts) create this human-looking fantasy creature. In Season 7, there’s the epic showdown between the army of the White Walkers and that of Jon Snow. In these scenes, we see the complex special effects at its finest use. This army of the living dead is as realistic as it is horrifying.

3 18. Was Arya Really At Sea? (Ain't Real, folks)

Gazing onto what seems like a huge ocean, it may come as a surprise that Arya Stark is really starring onto a screen. Arya may be the youngest in the House Stark, but she is probably the bravest. The photo above was filmed during the fifth season, and although as realistic as we could imagine, this was actually Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) on set with a green screen that appears as the sea with a blue sky ahead.

When we think of Arya it’s hard not to remember her hardships in Braavos. You should know that the shadow of the massive Braavos statue was created through computer generation!

2 19. Cersei's Walk Of Shame in King's Landing (Ain't Real, folks)

In Season five, the episode where the seemingly unstoppable Cersei Lannister proceeds in a walk of shame in front of her entire Kingdom was also subject to intensely thought out special imagery effects. It appears the crowd before Cersei boasts over a thousand people, but what is interesting is that the majority of this vast crown was computer generated.

The cheering crowd is shown in different stages which further give it the illusion that there are significantly more bodies present than in the actual filming. In addition, with video footage and various angles of the crowd, we’re led to truly believe there’s an entire Kingdom out there watching Cersei in her most disgraceful moments.

1 20. The Ice Wall (Ain't Real, folks)

Not entirely real, a mini replica of an ice wall was actually built on set accompanied with a green screen. In the Season 7 Finale The Dragon and the Wolf we see the massive snow and ice-filled wall collapsing into the sea at the hands of a zombie, which is a master special effects project that had to be shot in multiple sequences. The real-life location inspired and even used as a real backdrop in some scenes is the wondrous country of Iceland with endless beauty.

Producers Steve Kullback and Joe Bauer have admitted to adding copious amounts of snow to the scenes that were filmed in Iceland because surprisingly it really wasn’t snowy at all!

References: TheTelegraph, RadioTimes, Slate, Watcher's On The Wall