Did you read Part 1? Good! Let’s continue with Part 2 of my epic adventure in the land of ice & fire… 

I mentioned that our guide Jon (“like Jon Snow!”) has a ton of Game of Thrones knowledge. We discussed the Lord of Bones and Mance Rayder, Orell and the book-only character Varamyr Sixskins. We also went in-depth into the Lord of the Rings universe, which bears a striking resemblance to many parts of Icelandic landscape and myth, as well as hearing tons about the history, geology, legend and culture of Iceland. This man is a fountain of knowledge.

Apparently the Icelandic history books are written a lot like A Song of Ice and Fire. Throughout their history, different chapters have been written from different perspectives. You’ll be following one family for a while until one chapter… BOOM! They’re all dead and you’re reading about someone completely new. Sound familiar?

This kind of makes me want to find these books translated in to English. It sounds like a great read!

Iceland Game of Thrones Tour

Back to the tour!

Jon & Ygritte’s cave & Sam’s unhappy blizzard were on the itinerary, but our first stop after lunch was the “Valley of Dark Castles” known locally as Dimmuborgir. The story goes that a bunch of mountain trolls were having a party one night, when one of them got jealous of his girlfriend dancing with another troll-guy. He ran away from the party and screamed to the sun to come up and turn all of them to stone. And it did. So now you can walk through this valley full of mysteriously-shaped towers which, if you tilt your head and use your imagination, look just like trolls turned to stone.

Dimmuborgir Iceland

The scientific explanation is that the structures were created when a lava tube collapsed, leaving behind one circular opening.

Dimmuborgir Lava Circle, Iceland

Inside the opening of the lava tube!

It’s a cool photo, but the scientific explanation is nowhere near as fun. Make sure Jon shows you his impression of a troll dance! It’s the best thing you’ll see in Iceland. :) And if you’re there around Christmas you’re in for a really special surprise.

Dimmuborgir Yule Lads

(Jon asked us if we saw the surprise coming… how anyone could see this coming is beyond me!)

A short drive from troll valley is the infamous cave where Jon & Ygritte shared a special – ahem – encounter. Proving that Jon Snow does at least know something.

They made a set for some parts of this scene, but all the shots in the water were filmed inside this steamy cave. The water is super hot and so clear that when Jon encouraged me to touch it I almost doused my whole arm because I couldn’t see the surface! Even when I was kneeling right next to it! Just another of Iceland’s surreal surprises. And a perfect place for a romantic encounter, if you ask me.

Iceland Jon & Ygritte's Cave

The least-blurry photo we could get inside the dark cave. See the water?

This was actually a very popular bathing spot until an earthquake in the 1970s redirected the magma streams, raising the water temperature to a dangerous 60°C. It’s cooled to the mid-40s now, but the public is still forbidden from swimming here. I guess when you’re kissed by fire, you don’t care about such trivial things.

Jon & Ygritte's Cave in Iceland

The entrance to the cave. Looks vaguely like Ireland.

The cave is directly underneath the very visible rift between the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate. (The same rift we snorkeled in at Silfra!) So we climbed up to get some cool photos and to walk “home” to America.

It took about 4 seconds.

Tectonic plates rift in Iceland

The rift looks almost like an eruption in the Earth.

This is all right next to the “road” that they used to film Mance Rayder marching his army towards the wall. There are wildlings all over these parts!

Then we went to the “stinky mud pits”, as Jon called them, at Námafjall Hverir. This is Samwell Tarly’s least favorite spot beyond the wall. Here steam pours out of the Earth from a giant bulb that looks like it belongs deep in the ocean.

Námafjall Hverir, Iceland Game of Thrones Tour

The incredibly thick steam was particularly useful for the Game of Thrones crew who used it to simulate a blizzard. Remember at the beginning of season 3 when Sam is running through a blizzard after witnessing the white walkers attack the Fist of the First men? Well he’s actually running through steam! The crew wasn’t here during a blizzard, so they made do and it turned out surprisingly well. Here’s what it looked like when I tried to get a picture of Nick in the steam:

Game of Thrones tour Iceland

Quite blizzard-like!

For the grand finale, we ended our day at the Mývatn Nature Baths. It was dark by the time we arrived (in December there are only about 4 hours of daylight, so you gotta be quick!). Running outside in below-freezing weather in a bathing suit may not sound like fun, but oh is it worth it. After spending a day exploring the freezing climate beyond the wall, a soak is a hot mineral bath is just what the doctor ordered.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Bonus: my skin felt awesome afterwards! Supposedly these sorts of baths keep you looking young. I’m sure Cersei would approve!

Just make sure you leave your towel inside in winter, or it WILL freeze to the chair outside. I learned this the hard way. Also: keep dipping your hair under the hot water so it doesn’t freeze while you enjoy the snow flurries falling around you. If you’re lucky you can have a snowball fight while swimming!

Game of Thrones Tour, Iceland

We had a truly magical time on this adventure into wildling country. Seeing the filming locations is a nerd’s dream come true, but they’re upstaged by the untamed beauty of this wild country. And of course by Jon’s exuberant commentary.

I’ve had guides who are passionate before, but never one who was so enthusiastic about everything. He’s SO into it. From Game of Thrones to Lord of the Rings, vikings to trolls, and geology to politics – he was a nerd through and through. His excitement really made the entire day the most enjoyable experience of our whole Iceland trip! He also gave us a local’s tips for what we should eat and do in the rest of Iceland. I honestly can’t wait to head back in summer and visit Jon & the beautiful northern country again!

Full disclosure: Iceland Travel offered us a discount on all our Iceland tours, including our Beyond the Wall: Myvatn Mystery & Magic Tour. But, as always, all views and opinions are my own.

Want more geeky travel ideas? I’ve got you covered from Hogwarts to Gallifrey.

  • http://roadstories.ca Boomergirl

    I think I would love Iceland. A big fan of the world’s northern destinations. The mineral bath sounds divine.

    • http://www.seeknewtravel.com/ Kit Whelan

      The baths are heaven! Especially after a freezing cold day of exploring :)