Game of Thrones, the wildly popular television adaptation of George R. R. Martin's medieval fantasy epic, has returned to HBO for a sixth season.
Part of what makes the show so engrossing is its vividly imagined setting. The politics of Westeros and the identities of its ruling families are shaped primarily by its geography. "Winter is coming," the oft-repeated motto of House Stark, serves as a reminder that even the brutal civil war that has engulfed the land is nothing compared to the greater forces of nature converging on the Seven Kingdoms.
As Game of Thrones has grown in popularity, so has interest in its filming locations. Various tour companies have developed itineraries specifically for fans of the show, but with sites in Ireland, Iceland, Croatia and more standing in for parts of the Seven Kingdoms, visiting all of them would be more difficult than seizing the Iron Throne.
Fortunately, you don't have to leave Canada to experience the geographic diversity of the world of Thrones. We've identified six locations fans of the show can explore in order to imagine themselves as part of the intrigue and action.
King's Landing/Quebec City
Quebec City, with its imposing fortifications, exceptional defensive position atop steep cliffs, and charming blend of old and new-world architecture, makes an ideal stand-in for King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms and the seat of political power. The spectacular Chateau Frontenac could serve admirably as the Red Keep, the royal house.
Pyke/Bowen Island, B.C.
Bowen Island is a relatively undeveloped hidden gem just a few minutes from Vancouver by ferry. On its western shore, Cape Roger Curtis, with its low, rugged cliffs and long, pebbled beaches looking out into the Salish Sea, would make a perfect seat for the seagoing Greyjoys, rulers of the Iron Islands.
Meereen/Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alta.
The badlands of southeastern Alberta could almost be Meereen, the ancient city where Daenaerys Targaryen maintains her tenuous grip on Slaver's Bay — if Dinosaur Provincial Park played host to pyramids and temples instead of fossils and bone beds.
Montreal could definitely pass for the Free City of Braavos, the financial powerhouse of the Seven Kingdoms; all it needs is a titanic statue straddling the St. Lawrence between the Old Port and Parc Jean-Drapeau.
The Dothraki Sea/Grasslands National Park, Sask.
Probably the only thing that would make a visit to Grasslands National Park even better would be having Khal Drogo for a tour guide.
Beyond the Wall/White Pass
George R. R. Martin has said he drew inspiration for The Wall, the 360-meter-high ice fortification that protects Westeros from Wildling raiders and other mythical creatures, from Hadrian's Wall in the United Kingdom, but the climate beyond The Wall has more in common with northern Canada than Scotland. The Free Folk who inhabit the lands beyond the wall are fierce and resourceful, not unlike the men who conquered mountains in pursuit of Klondike gold.
Bonus: Highgarden/Penticton, B.C.
Game of Thrones has not yet taken us to Highgarden, the seat of the scheming Tyrell family, but we know from the books that it boasts a warm climate and, outside the castle walls, an abundance of flower meadows and fruit orchards. So, to the producers of the show, may we humbly suggest the Okanagan Valley as a potential filming location? It's high time the action came to Canada.