Have you ever thought about what it would be like to enter the world of Game of Thrones? If you could, where would you choose to go: somewhere in Westeros or to Essos across the Narrow Sea? As just a travel blogger, I haven’t been able to create some magical device that can manifest and send us to fictional worlds (…yet. I’m working on it). Fortunately, while travelling across Europe for the last three years, I have come across one place that, without a doubt, will make you feel like you’ve entered the World of Ice and Fire. If you’re a bit of hardcore GoT and travel fan like me, you can head on over to Sintra, Portugal for the ultimate Game of Thrones Experience.
And don’t worry, we won’t be “playing” the Game of Thrones here, so you have nothing to lose and only epic travel memories to gain. #sorrynotsorrycersei
Unlike Mdina in Malta, Dubrovnik in Croatia, and Seville in Spain, Sintra is not and has never been a filming location for the show. That being said, I stand by my grand claim about Sintra being the ultimate Game of Thrones experience for us smallfolk (GoT vocab – I’m nerding out here). When it comes to the area’s history, remaining historical sites, and geography, the similarities between Sintra and the World of Ice and Fire are just unreal.
Check them out below!
(Very mild spoiler alert. If you’ve seen the trailers, there’s nothing more revealed here).
There is one place that will make you feel like you're in the world of #gameofthrones: #Sintra, Portugal. Click To Tweet
1. The Edge of Essos vs. Castle of the Moors
Let’s start our journey into the world of Game of Thrones in Daenerys Stormborn’s shoes. For the past 6 seasons, the Mother of Dragons has been trying to begin her quest of reclaiming what was once under Targaryen rule. After facing more obstacles than humanly possible, this Breaker of Chains finally has the army and fleet sheets needs to cross the Narrow Sea.
If you want to feel like an omnipotent Khaleesi on the verge of crossing the Narrow Sea, head up to Sintra’s Castle of the Moors. The mountaintop fortification will make you feel like a mighty king or queen surveying the land below. As a ruin, the castle serves as a magnificent but only temporary stop before crossing the sea. It’s no place to build a kingdom.
To make this castle’s placement on the Edge of Essos even more convincing, on a clear day, you can catch site of the “sea” (A.K.A. Atlantic Ocean) from the fortifications.
Looking out towards the “Narrow Sea.”
Fortress Ruins in “Essos.”
2. The Red Keep, King’s Landing vs. the Pena Palace
The Red Keep, home to the Iron Throne and the ruler of the realm, is the red castle that sits atop of the tallest hill in King’s Landing. The Pena Palace in Sintra is the area’s Red Keep. The palace sits nearly at the top of the highest hill in the Sintra Mountains. Also, a whole section of the castle is red. Yes, I’ll admit that the red is a bit more vibrant than the red of the Red Keep. However, at the end of the day, red is red. And if the colour’s purpose in the World of Ice and Fire was to remind enemies of the fire they’d be tossed in when captured, then this more vivid shade works too.
I should mention that the Red Keep sits on the edge of Westeros right by Blackwater Bay. Well, what about the Pena Palace then? While the castle wasn’t built on the very, very tip of a landmass, you can still see the Atlantic Ocean from the castle’s terraces. The Pena Palace is also no ruin, so it’s in a suitable state for royals to reside in.
If you happen to visit the palace after the Castle of the Moors, you may feel like you’re Khaleesi herself and have succeeded in your quest across the Narrow Sea. Nevertheless, if you prefer to be in cahoots with Cersei or imagine yourself sharing a goblet of wine with the late Robert Baratheon, that’s fine too – do whatever floats your Game of Thrones boat.
The Pena Palace’s fiery red façade.
3. The Clash of Divine Powers
“The night is dark and full of terrors…”
If you’ve read any of the books or been following the show, you’re probably well aware that there’s quite a bit of tension between different religions. There are the Old Gods who were worshipped by the Children of the Forest and the First Men. Then, the Andals brought the Faith of the Seven and took over. Currently, the Faith of the Seven is the predominant religion.(Yet, I do acknowledge that many in the North still believe in the Old Gods). There’s also the mysterious and controversial Lord of Light.
So what’s this clash of divine powers have to do with Sintra, Portugal?
Would you believe me if I told you that there seems to be a clash of divine powers in Sintra? If you’re hesitant to entertain the idea, know this:
Before the Reconquista, before the “Moors,” and before the Romans, Celts inhabited present-day Sintra. They proclaimed the mountain (right by today’s town) Mountain of the Moon and worshipped their moon deity there. Let’s jump through a handful of centuries. Nowadays, most people in Portugal are Roman Catholic. Therefore, Sintra has quite a few Catholic churches (churches for other denominations of Christianity exist too). However, there’s one location in Sintra that contains symbols connected to some controversial “religious” practices. When Monteiro the Millionaire bought the Quinta da Regaleira Estate near the end of the 19th century, he refashioned it according to his peculiar interests – alchemy, masonry, and Rosicrucianism. Basically, because of Mr. Millionaire, symbols linked to alchemy and places to facilitate mysterious initiation rites exist on the estate.
Today, famous guidebooks and posts, including ones published by Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, talk of Sintra’s beauty. But they also describe the area as place with eccentric vibes and unusual events. Based on the area’s complex and partially offbeat “religious” history, something mystical is bound to be taking place…(If you’re curious, you can check out my first post about Sintra by clicking here).
Are the uncanny events and sensations influenced by the ancient Moon God, the predominant religion of today, or something more controversial? Who knows?
A peek into the “Initiation Well” on the Quinta da Regaleira Estate – supposedly the location for mysterious initiation rites. Check out that 8-pointed “star” at the bottom.
Still unconvinced? Visit Quinta da Regaleira and then tell me: would you want to be stuck there alone overnight?
As well, you can check out what Rough Guides has to say about Sintra by clicking here.
4. The Kingsroad vs. Hiking the Sintra Mountains
The Kingsroad in Westeros is the most popular route for travelling through the continent. However, the road’s quality is inconsistent, and at times, the road is nothing more than a dirt path.
If you want to add even more Game of Thrones flair to your Sintra excursion, opt to hike up to the Castle of the Moors and the Pena Palace from town. You’ll get a taste of walking the King’s Road. There is a designated path to take you up to the historical sites, but the material used to make the path varies from smooth cobblestone to brown dirt. Like taking the Kingsroad, hiking in Sintra will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. And the surrounding nature does not disappoint.
Other ways of reaching Sintra’s sites and attractions involve taking the public bus or hiring a taxi. Obviously, motor-powered vehicles don’t exist in the World of Ice and Fire. Therefore, if you’re after the ultimate GoT experience, hiking is your best bet.
(As a side note: In GoT, horses, donkeys, wagons, and carriages do exist to aid with transportation, but mostly nobles and individuals conducting business have access to these luxuries – small-smallfolk…not so much. In Sintra, sometimes we have to walk in the shoes of the “small-smallfolk”).
Perfectly smooth cobblestones to begin.
Squeezing between massive rocks further on.
Are you unimpressed by this connection? You should know that I also recommend hiking because I don’t want you to miss some hidden gems that you’ll stumble upon along the hike. One Game of Thrones-y site worth seeing is…
5. The Stone Throne
Near the start of your hike up the Sintra Mountains, you’ll walk through a very lush and well-maintained garden. In this garden, you will come across a GINOURMOUS stone throne. It’s not the Iron Throne, but it’s still pretty impressive. It’s also quite an uncanny find and puts you into the GoT state of mind!
Channel your inner Stark, Targaryen, Lannister, Tyrell, or whatnot, and snap a pic in the Stone Throne.
Hello, Stone Throne!
I guess my hair back then made me a Targaryen?
6. The Plant Life is Simply Unreal
In the World of Ice and Fire, those who believed or still believe in the Old Gods view weirwood trees as sacred. These trees, which are more common in the North, have faces carved into them. Followers of the old faith believe that’s how their gods watch over them. These commanding and slightly unsettling trees with white trunks and blood-red sap are the product of George R.R. Martin’s imagination. But some of the plant life in Sintra looks like it could be the product of one’s imagination too. Take a look at the MASSIVE plants below! Maybe the ancient moon good creates some mystical juices to help these plants grow…
A single leaf – almost as tall as me.
7. Secret Passages in the Red Keep vs. Underground Labyrinths in Quinta da Regaleira
The Red Keep in King’s Landing is reportedly full of secret passages and underground tunnels. Of course, without the electricity, one would have to navigate them by torchlight, candlelight, or in complete darkness. In Sintra’s Quinta da Regaleira, you can experience what it would be like to get lost in a labyrinth of dark, secret passageways as if you were, in fact, in the Red Keep. The Estate in Sintra has a network of underground tunnels and passages connecting various parts of the estate gardens. Only a couple of the tunnels are lit up, so others have to be explored in darkness. Please note that there are some dead ends.
There’s a rumour that cellphone batteries drain faster in Sintra. Using your phone to light your way may be risky business.
View from the end of one of the underground passages (I’m under a waterfall)!
A pitch black labyrinth can be found in the grotto behind this pond.
Now that I’ve shared the fine details with you, I would like to tell you about one of the biggest reasons that I consider Sintra, Portugal the ultimate Game of Thrones Experience. Exploring this UNESCO Cultural Landscape is the ultimate Game of Thrones experience due to the proximity of all these diverse sites and attractions. Within just a handful of kilometres, you can get a taste of Essos, the Red Keep, the Kingsroad and the “supernatural.” If you went to Iceland, you would just experience what it could be like north of the wall. If you went do Dubrovnik, you would only get a taste of King’s Landing. Sintra offers a whole lot more!
Castle of the Moors and the Atlantic Ocean/Narrow Sea as seen from the Pena Palace.
In Sintra, you can get a taste of Essos, the Red Keep, the Kingsroad and the “supernatural.” #gameofthrones #portugal Click To Tweet
Bonus (9): Drogo and Daenerys’ Wedding in Pentos vs. Boca do Inferno
If you want to take your Sintra Game of Thrones experience one step further, you may have to travel just outside of Sintra (hence the “bonus” connection). For just over 4 Euros, you can hop on a public bus for 30 minutes and it will take you to Cascais. From Cascais, you can walk through the town to Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth). Boca do Inferno is a mesmerizing rock formation on tip of the European continent and right up against the Atlantic Ocean. It’s bound to make you feel like you’re on the very site Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen wed in Book 1/Season 1.
It’s well-known that the wedding scene was actually filmed by Malta’s Azure window, which collapsed earlier this year. However, Boca do Inferno is much closer to Sintra than the Azure Window and bears a resemblance to the structure that once stood.
A magnificent view for a magnificent wedding.
To Wrap Things Up
With the premier of Season 7 just two days away, I felt that now would be an appropriate time to share this post. Currently, only a handful of my favourite characters are still standing and, well, the show is known for its indiscriminate brutality. I wanted to write this post before the task would flood my eyes with tears. (I love you Jon Snow!)…because let’s face it – not everybody will be left standing at the end of Season 7.
Overall, if Sintra sounds like an intriguing travel destination…
Do you think you could experience a moment in the World of Game of Thrones in Sintra?
Should Sintra have been used for filming?
Comment to share your thoughts.
Last but not least: if you know a GoT fan or two, pass the post on to help them plan their next holiday!
I love game of thrones. This is so interesting!
I’m not a Game of Thrones’ huge fan but…. Sintra looks like the perfect place for a movie! And your photos… Simply amazing!! I didn’t know about this beautiful area, I will be in Lisbon in a month and I will definitely spend some time in Sintra! 🙂
It’s really stunning! If you’re going in August/September, make sure to get there as early as you can as I’ve heard reports of an overflow of visitors in the summer months!
Amazing views! This is on my bucket list. Thanks for the guide! You look like khaleesi on your photos.
Thanks so much! Hope you get to go soon!
I adore Sintra! It’s soooo beautiful that it’s almost mind blowing. I also love your unique take on it and relating to GoT.
Thanks so much! As I was refreshing my memory of GoT for the next season, I kept thinking of all these random similarities between the two places!
Wow I love your pictures. I have only visited the Palacio da Pena, I really want to see the Quinta as well.
I hope you get to go back! A visit to Quinta da Regaleira is an incredible experience 🙂
Even I am not a fan of the TV series, I loved the photos 🙂 The place looks gorgeous! It reminds me a bit of Scotland
It really is! The similarities are pretty awesome.
Sintra looks amazing and it does have a lot of similarities with the GoT scenery! I love John Snow too 🙂
Yes! Another Snow fan! Hoping things work out for the best in this upcoming season.
What a gorgeous location! Me and my boyfriend are both into GOT and are very excited for the show to begin. We will definately visit these filming locations if we travel to Portugal.
It really is! It looks like it belongs in the World of Ice and Fire though it wasn’t used as a filming location.
Amazing photos! I was thinking to visit just Lisboa in Portugal but after reading this post I am reconsidering my plans 🙂
Sintra is definitely worth the visit! Even for part of a day (if you go in the morning, go as early as possible to avoid crowds because it’s high tourist season).
Those underground Labyrinths look amazing!! I’ll be honest, I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch Game of Thrones, but I’m tempted to start just to see the cool places in it after reading this!
When I started watching it years ago, it took me a couple of episodes to get into it because of the next level candidness. But then, I got hooked. It’s got great characters and an impressive storyline!
Oh my goodness!!! What a stunning place. I had no idea that I needed to go here, but I do! Stopped watching game of thrones around season 3 so I guess I need to catch back up before I visit. 🙂
No need if you don’t feel like it! After 3 seasons, you’ll definitely know enough about the show/series to feel the GoT vibe in Sintra 🙂
I was in Sintra two weeks ago, indeed a magical city! Took so many photos of it… It could have been a GoT scenario for sure!
I`ve been unintentionally doing the GoT route this last years: I`ve been to Girona, the gardens of the Alcazar in Sevilla and to Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, to the Bardenas Reales in Navarra (amazing place!) and also to Ouarzazate in Morocco!
Girl, you really do look like the Khaleesi!!! Love your hair!
Haha I also feel like I am sort of unintentionally going down the GoT route. I’ve also been to Dubrovnik and will be heading over to Malta soon enough. And thanks! That hair was impossible to maintain – I do miss it!
Dude, this is sonhelpful. I am visiting Portugal in November and would love to check Sintra out. I don’t know if I will have enough time because it is a short trip but thanks for inspiring me with this post!!
Thank you! I do hope you end up having enough time to make it work!
This place is so amazing. I’m heading to Iceland in October, make sense this should be next, then Ireland so I hit all the Game of Thrones locations.
That’s awesome! Iceland and Ireland will be an incredible experience!
Ahhh, huge GOT fan and had no idea it was filmed in Portugal! I’ll be there next summer, so definitely adding this to the list. Thank you!
It’s one awesome show! Sintra definitely looks and feels like it could have been a filming location for the show, but sadly, it wasn’t. Though the landscape and history bears so many similarities to Martin’s fictional world!
Sintra is such a magical place! I am dying to go to Portugal and have the chance to visit it. Not sure if it should be used for a filming, but in fact is beautiful and people need to visit it a little bit more.
It is! True – if it had been used for filming, visitors wouldn’t have had access for a handful of weeks.
I must be the only person on Earth who has never seen one single episode of Game of Thrones, but we visited Sintra in spring and it was absolutely fairytale-like. I am glad to see that you mention Quinta da Regaleira as well. It’s one of the most impressive places in Sintra, but somehow many day tourists seem to miss it.
I’ve heard about people missing out on Quinta da Regaleira quite often too! Definitely one of the reasons I spend quite some time talking about it here and in my other Sintra post. I agree – it’s an amazing estate.
Haha I have to say I haven’t really watched GoT so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this post! But what a place! Your photos are incredible, I’ve been hearing a few things about Sintra recently and this has really made me want to go – you’ve added an air of mystery to it now, too! 😉
Regardless of being a GoT fan or not, Sintra is gorgeous! And I’m happy to hear I captured that air of mystery – you can really feel it when you’re there!
I am also not a big fan of Game of Thrones either but a big fan of Sintra now. I haven´t been to Portugal yet but once I go there I will definitely visit Sintra. Great Post
Glad to hear that I helped make you a Sintra fan! 🙂
I’ve heard great things about Sintra, everyone recommends it as a day trip from Lisbon. You fit right in and definitely look like a GoT character! Beautiful pictures!
Thank you! I’m happy to hear I was convincing!
You should’ve been a location scout! What a cool area to explore. I love the grottoes and those cliffs especially. Another one for my travel list. #femaletravelbloggers
Thanks so much! Now that would be the dream profession!
I love this! Perfect timing, as well, as everyone is waiting with for tomorrow’s return of GoT! Sintra looks like such an incredible place. Beautiful photos! You captured it well 🙂
Thanks so much! I was actually on the fence about writing the post, but with the start date of the next season approaching, I knew it had to be now or never.
Great post. Portugal is on my bucket list
I went to Sintra a looooong time ago – when GoT existed merely in book form – but totally understand what you mean! Also appreciate how Khaleesi-esque your hair looks in the photo on top of the fortress ruins.
Thank you! I do miss that hair (so hard to keep).
I love the GoT series, though I do get a little confused where the TV plot differs from the books… that’s not a problem for upcoming series at least! I really love your idea of looking at a place and matching it to the GoT locations by descriptions, rather than based on whether the show was filmed there. That’s such an original idea!
Thank you so much! Before I started teaching and that consumed my life, I managed to read the first book and half of the second. At that point, the show seemed to be pretty similar to the book, but I have heard how drastically things were changed later on! I wonder if I should read on then? (I do want to because by reading, you get an understanding of the characters on a whole different level). The similarities between Sintra and Martin’s World of Ice and Fire were just too good to pass on!
Wow, this looks amazing! love the links you’ve drawn and your photography is just stunning. What about that well?! incredible!
Thank you! It definitely is one impressive well! (A little eerie too because of all the tunnels and symbols).
I like the Game of Thrones reference; and you indeed look like a Targaryen. Hope to visit Portugal too very soon.
Haha thanks! And I hope you get to visit soon too!
This is so cool! Love the castle and Boca de Inferno in particular 😀
Even though Boca do Inferno is “just” a rock formation, I think I stood there admiring it for over an hour!
The perfect read to get in the mood for tonight’s premiere! These locations are gorgeous, especially the Pena Palace. The Initiation Well looks so mystical. Your hair also definitely makes you look like you’re of Targaryen descent. Great article!
Thank you so much! I am envious of all of those people in North America living in the correct time zone to watch the permier!
Wow!! I’m going in September and cannot wait to see all of these! I think my favorite part (other than feeling like you’re on a game of thrones film location) is that they’re all close to each other ! ! So convenient, thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy your time in Sintra!
Hey!Interesting post! Also, coincidentally I was just thinking about this show a few minutes ago as I haven’t really watched all the episodes and wanted some trivia:D I will keep your post in mind when I visit Portugal. Will probably visit Lisbon in November and will see if a trip extension is possible.
Game of Thrones is definitely a hot topic at the moment! I hope you get the chance to visit Sintra!
Im not a huge GOT fan, but my husband is, so I catch glimpses of the show. Your photos look awesome though! Sintra looks like a beautiful place!
It definitely is! Thank you!
Love this!! A place doesn’t necessarily have to be a filming location in order to transport you into another world, and I love the imagination behind this! I’ve gotten so tired of waiting for the next book to come out that I might just have to reread the whole series in the meantime! (I know, I should just watch the TV show…but the books are TOO GOOD). Thanks for sharing such a fun article and a beautiful place!! #teamstarkforever
The books are definitely incredible! There is so much depth and detail. And yes, #teamstarkforever.
I am so gutted I did not get to visit Sintra while in Portugal! Even though I have not seen a single episode of GoF (I did have a giggle when I saw the stone throne though), I would absolutely love to go there and soak up those gorgeous views. Time to plan another trip to this region, I reckon 😀
Definitely! I’m also trying to figure out when I can go back!
Its such a beautiful place… 🙂 I was there for Chrtistmas and fell in love with it. Moorish history makes me proud!
So great to hear about somewhere I haven’t seen photos of before! Quinta da Regaleira looks so beautiful! Definitely need to get over to Portugal soon 🙂
It’s stunning! I hope you do go soon!
So much beauty! I love the nature. Looks like a cool experience for an GOT fan. :]
Wow! Sintra looks like a place I have to visit soon. Besides the fact that I am a huge GoT fan, Sintra seems truly picturesque. What time of the year would you suggest visiting this place, Anya?
From what I’ve gathered, I feel like it’s best to visit during off-season or as close to off-season as possible. Otherwise, the village and sites can get pretty crowded. Spring, summer and early fall are typically high-tourist season.
I am not a fan of GoT but the photos are stunning. Sintra is beautiful.
Thanks so much! (And I know what you mean, it’s a very particular show).