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  • Writer's pictureAllen John Lira

Visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: Real-life Dragonstone #GOT

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

ALTERNATE TITLE: Why San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is very much alike Jon Snow

San Juan de Gaztelugaxte is the mighty real-life shooting location heavily featured as Game of Thrones’ “Dragonstone” on Season 7. First gaze at this islet in the #Basque country and you’ll speedily spot the out-of-this-world resemblance of this secluded Spanish gem to the show’s mystical home of dragons. While Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow shared cute moments here plotting against common enemies on the show, visitors are up for an actual treat of charming coastal views and captivating sunset colours over unique cliffs.


Basque is a lovely autonomous country sitting north of #Spain, close to the borders of France. Regardless of its now strong GOT-significance, it really is a worthwhile visit for tourists to go up North. The region lies next to the sea so it’s easy to be hypnotized by the gastronomic experience it offers. Just think of the plethora of seafood pintxos and tapas to choose from. As the Hand of the King, I am very pleased. Its capital, Bilbao, houses the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum.


Dragonstone, a fictional ancestral home to the House #Targaryen white-haired descendants. Your view of affirmation is the long cinematic 241-steps manmade footbridge as seen in #GOT with a hermitage church on top instead of an impressive CGI castle. From top of the hill, you can enjoy a dragon’s eye view of the zigzag staircase and the peculiar stone formations on the #Biscay Bay.


Reaching the peak of the islet requires quite a steep trekking down and uphill again, almost not advisable for elderly during rainy days. The starting point would be the Aparkalekua free carpark which is not too far off the main highway where buses stop. A restaurant will greet you on the walk in but I strongly suggest you eat a heavy meal at home before engaging in this adventure and make sure to bring snacks, rehydration and comfortable footwear especially for women. The popular “shortcut” route isn’t all cemented and the miles of soil trail on the decline is being terraced by few wood slabs that can get too slippery. There is a diversion that’ll lead you to a nice vantage point. Continue walking down the trail and you’ll just know when you get there. It is hard to miss that splendid awesomeness. Best times to visit would be hours around sunrise and/or sunset. Being there on that time of the day is dreamlike. Good to note: Don’t stay after dark because there are no street lights to guide your way back.


In the absolute absence of an imposing stone castle or fire-breathing dragons, the San Juan de #Gaztelugaxte island in real-life is topped with a meek church built over a thousand of years ago. It has witnessed numerous uprisings while being burnt (not by dragons) and rebuilt (not by The Unsullied) many times throughout history. Like every other superstitious churches you visit for the first time, it is believed that you can make a wish if you ring the bell three times. The chime is heard all over the small island up until the lowest footsteps downhill. You’ll also be pushed back by the forceful coastal wind as you walk around and see the unrestricted panoramic view.


The island and its church were not heard much of until its debut in the hit HBO series. Well, the #Vizcaya region wasn’t as popular in its entirety. North of #Spain is easily overshadowed by it East and South counterparts, plus, weather is much “Westerosi” on the other side. In contrast, the show unprecedentedly changed the popularity scale of this island and all other locations used in the show. How to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: Bilbao airport is the closest. You can take buses from #Bilbao to Bakio to San Juan de Gaztelugaxte (stopping at Bentalde) and then trek. By driving, it’ll take you 40 minutes to get there from Bilbao airport.


Most of the beach scenes were shot at Itzurun beach in #Zumaia. The location was most prominent on the scene where Daenerys Targaryen and company first landed on the Dragonstone’s shores and she took her nostalgic walk to the castle gates. The rugged cliffs are rich with millions of history and very mesozoic in appearance. No wonder Samwell Tarly was overly delighted when he discovered the hidden cave mine of the dragonstone. The spectacular geological features of the beach is just a perfect fit for queens and kings to walk on. In reality though, the beach is popular for international surfers.


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