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Travel Guide: The Seven Kingdoms

In Travel by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

Game of Thrones, one of the most popular television shows in history (based on the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire), is coming back! To celebrate, we’ll take you across the Seven Kingdoms and look at some of most memorable landmarks and places in the world of Westeros. For the history and culture of the Seven Kingdoms, check out our Country Profile. If you’re interested in how the economy and currency of the land work, we’ve got a Currency Spotlight for you.

Spoiler Alert: While written just before the sixth season, this guide will detail cities, castles, and other landmarks in the Seven Kingdoms in their state prior to the beginning of the first season (and first book). It will not reveal any major plot points, however some minor spoilers may be hinted at. Note that pictures don’t always relate to adjacent location.

From the Wall all the way to the southern coast of Dorne, the Seven Kingdoms hold many great wonders. So come on a journey with us as we travel along the Kingsroad, and beyond!

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source – some spoilers on site

When should I go?

You’ll ideally want to visit the Seven Kingdoms during the summer. Luckily for you, seasons can last years in Westeros and with the country currently in the midst of a decade long summer – there has never been a better time to visit! That being said, you should heed the words of the Starks, as a long summer will almost certainly give way to an even longer winter.

There is much variation in climate throughout the Seven Kingdoms despite the seasons. Generally speaking, the further south you move, the warmer it gets. The North can be chilly even during summer years, while you should expect rain in the Stormlands, and desert temperatures and a beating sun in Dorne.

How do I get around?

You have a variety of options when it comes to getting around the Seven Kingdoms, however your choice will likely depend on your wealth and social status. Traveling by ship can be a great way to go from port to port, while the speed of travel by land will depend on whether you can afford a horse or not. If you are journeying by land, the Kingsroad will likely be your main thoroughfare. Starting at the Wall, it runs through Winterfell and continues south to King’s Landing, and even beyond to Storm’s End. Whether you’re traveling by the Kingsroad or one of the other offshoots, you’ll find a decent amount of warm hearths and inns depending on where you are. In times of war however, the Kingsroad can be dangerous – and the lands that surround it even more so…

Visit The Seven Kingdoms

The Crownlands | Dorne | The Iron Islands | The North | The Reach | The Riverlands | The Stormlands | The Vale of Arryn | The Westerlands

The North

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The largest region by far, the North is often unfairly characterized as a barren, snow covered backwater by the residents of the southern kingdoms. While the climate can be harsh, the wild, untamed land is home to arguably the country’s most impressive attraction, the hardiest and proudest people, and so much more.

Where better to start than the renowned Wall. Standing a staggering 213 metres high and stretching 482 kilometres across the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, the Wall is perhaps the most impressive and awe-inspiring construction anywhere in the known world. Built after the White Walkers were beaten back during the Long Night, the specifics have been lost to the ages – though magic, giants, and the Night’s Watch are all credited in different tales. Speaking of the Watch, they still guard the Wall today, however their glory years are long past. While there are 19 separate castles on the Wall, only 3 are garrisoned today – the Shadow Tower, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and, of course, Castle Black.

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Moving south, we arrive at the seat of House Stark (and preeminent place of power in the North), Winterfell. A castle worthy of its political importance, Winterfell’s high walls hold keeps, halls, and even an ancient godswood (where the northmen pray to the old gods) within. While winters are harsh, the hot springs below the castle keep the residents warmer and more comfortable than those outside in the nearby winter town. Like the Wall, the legendary Brandon the Builder is credited with a key role in the castle’s construction – and Winterfell is just as worthy of his legacy.

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Along the coast you’ll find White Harbor. It’s the only true city in the North, though smaller than any in the south. As the main shipping and trading centre in the region, White Harbor is very different culturally than the rest of the North. Contact with the south has resulted in the Faith of the Seven preferred to that of the old gods, while knighthoods and knightly values are more common. From Seal Rock in the outskirts to Fishfoot Yard inside the walls, the city’s maritime history and way of life is front and centre. House Manderly, who despite their southern inclinations is fiercely loyal to the Starks, rules White Harbor.

The Iron Islands

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The harsh Iron Islands make up the smallest of the nine regions, and like the North are relatively removed from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. There are 31 total islands (7 major ones), and all follow a distinct culture known as ‘the Old Way’. While not particularly welcoming of outsiders, the Iron Islands are worth a trip for lovers of the open ocean and seafaring culture.

The castle of Pyke sits on the eponymous island and serves as the seat of House Greyjoy – rulers of the Iron Islands. To get here, you must sail to Lordsport, since the castle itself doesn’t offer mooring for boats. Once you arrive, you can see why. While Pyke was once a series of towers upon a tall cliff, erosion has turned the complex into several separate stacks of rock upon which the towers reside – connected only by rickety rope bridges. Once the site of a great battle during the Greyjoy Rebellion, the castle still holds relics of when the Ironborn governed themselves – not least the famous Seastone Chair.

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The largest of the Iron Islands, Great Wyk, is unique in the region because its size allows some of the castles and keeps to be built inland instead of on the shore. While lacking the impressiveness of Pyke, Great Wyk still holds many villages and towns and is a great window into Ironborn life and culture.

The Riverlands

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The Riverlands sit in the center of the Seven Kingdoms, and this location has come with both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, it is chock full of history and impressive keeps – built by a variety of different rulers in centuries past. On the other, nearly every war fought in the Seven Kingdoms has ravaged the region in some way. Still, there’s quite a lot to see here – with the lack of cities balanced by the many castles, towns, and massive waterways from which it gets its name.

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The must-see sight in the Riverlands is undoubtedly Harrenhal – the largest castle in all the Seven Kingdoms. Built by Harren the Black of the Iron Islands, its walls were burnt by dragonfire soon after. The castle is now in ruins, foreboding and dark, but no less integral a destination. Over the years, the various rulers of Harrenhal have occupied less and less of the once great castle and its Five Towers. Many believe that Harrenhal is cursed, with nearly all the Houses and lords to hold it having fallen victim to an untimely end. Today, it is a relic of a bygone era.

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It’s not the largest or most beautiful castle in the Seven Kingdoms, but Riverrun remains a worthy seat for the overlords of the Riverlands – House Tully. Found near the Red Fork (a part of the famous Trident river), its waters can be used during wartime to fill a moat, effectively turning the castle into an island – impossible to breach by opposing armies.

Continuing the trend of unique castles in the Riverlands, we find ourselves at the Twins, also sometimes known as ‘the Crossing’. This is exactly what it sounds like, two identical castles on either side of a great river (the Green Fork in this case), with a bridge connecting them. The Twins are governed by House Frey, who control the strategically located Crossing and exact a toll on anyone who wishes to use it – making the house wealthy and powerful over the years. The Frey’s have a rather poor reputation with the rest of the Riverlords, with the current lord known as ‘the Late Lord Frey’ by Hoster Tully due to his appearance at the Battle of the Trident after the fighting was already over. Travel here, but be sure to pay your dues.

The Vale of Arryn

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The Vale of Arryn is a beautiful, though somewhat remote region of Westeros. With near impassable mountains dominating both the land itself and the entrance, this easterly kingdom is often removed from the trials and tribulations faced by the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Harsh winters give way to gorgeous summers, with the fertile land and sky-high mountains a stunning sight. Add in one of the most unique seats of power in the land, and you have a side trip that shouldn’t be missed.

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The ancient seat of House Arryn, the Eyrie, is one of, if not the, most impressive castles in the Seven Kingdoms. Built high in the Mountains of the Moon, the Eyrie sits thousands of feet in the air atop a high peak. While smaller than the other great castles, it is considered impregnable – only taken when Visenya Targaryen flew her dragon straight up to the courtyard. The way to the Eyrie is not open during winter, so the Arryn’s move down to the Gates of the Moon, which are in turn located behind the Bloody Gate. The Eyrie’s most famous (or infamous) sights are its sky cells and Moon Door. The sky cells are slightly slanted dungeons without walls on one side, but instead a terrifying drop to the valley below. If you make it to sentencing, you might be greeted by the Moon Door, the Eyrie’s own…elegant method of execution.

The major port and only city in the Vale is Gulltown, located on the Bay of Crabs. Its easterly location makes it a major trading centre, both with coastal towns in the Seven Kingdoms, and the numerous Free Cities across the Narrow Sea (especially the wealthy Braavos). Gulltown is always busy (even during winter), with a sheltered harbor serving the city well.

The Crownlands

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The Crownlands were never one of the kingdoms that gave the country its name, but are instead named for the region immediately surrounding the capital following Aegon’s Conquest. As such, the region is dominated by the largest and most important city in the Seven Kingdoms – however there is still more to see just off the coast.

But first and foremost, you have to visit King’s Landing – the seat of power for the entire Seven Kingdoms. The sprawling city overlooks Blackwater Bay and is dominated by the famous Red Keep, which was completed under Maegor the Cruel. Following its completion, he then had all those that worked on it killed in order to keep its intricacies secret. Within the Red Keep is the most recognizable of attractions – the Iron Throne, an imposing and uncomfortable looking chair that has been at the core of conflict and backstabbing for nearly 300 years. While massive and home to many of the country’s most powerful residents, much of the city is relatively run down and dirty. Nowhere is this more evident than in Flea Bottom, where it is just as easy to get mysterious ‘bowls of brown’ as a knife in the back. Still the expansive city is the centre of life in the Seven Kingdoms and absolutely worth a trip – but be warned. Cutthroats, guards, lords, kings…any and all could mean your end if you cross them.

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Sail out into Blackwater Bay and you’ll eventually come across the island of Dragonstone. From here, Aegon planned and initiated his conquest of Westeros and the castle has served as a royal seat since. While the home of the Targaryen heir for many years, King Robert Baratheon’s middle brother, Stannis, now holds it. The island and castle are like nothing else in the country. While unique looking, it’s grim and damp, smelling of brimstone and sulfur. A legacy of old Valyria (the greatest empire that ever was), it was built using skills and powers that have since been lost along with the Freehold itself. The massive Painted Table is an impressive sight with a detailed map of the entire Seven Kingdoms and its armies helping Aegon to formulate the strategy to conquer them all.

The Westerlands

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The Westerlands are a picturesque collection of rugged hills, plains, lakes, bountiful forests, and more. They are known far and wide for their wealth, predominantly due to the plentiful gold mines found in the region. With a beautiful aesthetic, plus an awe-inspiring castle and a thriving port city, the Westerlands is one of the most pleasant regions in the Seven Kingdoms.

The most recognizable landmark is definitely Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister. Rather than a simple castle, Casterly Rock lives up to its name. The lodgings and keep are carved into this great mound of rock, absolutely dominating the landscape and everything around it. Standing even higher than the Wall or the Hightower (more on that later), it is an imposing seat worthy of the Lannisters powerful reputation. Within the bowels of the Rock, you can find mines, towers, tunnels, great halls, and even a port.

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Casterly Rock isn’t the only destination worth your time in this area however. In its shadow lies the walled city of Lannisport. The third largest of the Seven Kingdom’s five cities is a wealthy and beautiful place, with gold work common throughout (as you might expect). While not as storied as Oldtown in the Reach, it is significantly cleaner and safer than King’s Landing.

Now a haunted ruin, the castle of Castamere is worth a trip for the memories it provides. Once home to the second most powerful house in the Westerlands, the Reynes of Castamere rose in rebellion against the Lannisters. In response, Tywin Lannister (then just heir to Casterly Rock) destroyed the keep and had all the members of the Reynes put to death. This act inspired a famous song, “The Rains of Castamere”, that serves as a warning to all who would challenge Lord Tywin and House Lannister.

The Stormlands

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A harsh place, the Stormlands are nonetheless home to some imposing and beautiful sights. The mountains, fields, and rocky shores are constantly pounded by rain and lightning (which earned the region its rather obvious name). If you can put up with that however, you’ll find that this fairly small kingdom holds much worth seeing.

The best place to begin is the legendary castle of Storm’s End, the seat of power in the Stormlands that was raised during the Age of Heroes in defiance of the gods by the first Storm King. It may not be beautiful like the Eyrie or Highgarden, but it’s nothing if not impressive. A strong outer wall houses a massive drum tower, a strong and imposing warning to all who would deign to take the castle. Indeed, it has never been claimed by siege or the storms – only passing to House Baratheon after Argilac the Arrogant earned his name by abandoning its safety and meeting his enemy outside the walls. Today it is ruled by Renly Baratheon, who leads House Baratheon of Storm’s End after Robert’s coronation.

Off the coast of the Stormlands, you’ll find the beautiful island of Tarth, also known as the Sapphire Isle due to the stunningly blue sea surrounding it. It’s relatively large, with the landscape consisting of mountains, waterfalls, and picturesque meadows. House Tarth rules the land from their castle – Evenfall Hall.

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Near the border of the Reach and Dorne lies the Dornish Marches. These disputed lands have been the site of conflict and war between the three regions for centuries, but today lie mostly in the Stormlands. While there is not much to see, the land is ruggedly charming with grassland, moors, and plains the most common geographical feature. Still, it’s the long history of warfare and the resilient marcher lords that make this area a worthy stop.

The Reach

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The Reach is generally considered the most beautiful region of the Seven Kingdoms. It is home to the continent’s oldest city, numerous impressive castles, fields and farms among the most fertile in the country, vineyards, and more. As the undisputed home of chivalry and the values it comes with in the Seven Kingdoms, the Reach often plays host to tournaments and other entertainments.

First off, a visit to the second largest (and oldest) city in the Seven Kingdoms, Oldtown, should be on the cards. In contrast to King’s Landing, the city is wholly beautiful, with amazing architecture, canals, cobbled streets and more. It’s an important port, and is also home to the Order of Maesters, who study the mysteries of the world within the renowned Citadel. However, it’s the Hightower that dominates proceedings, standing taller than even the great Wall. Serving as both a seat for House Hightower and a lighthouse for approaching ships, it is one of the great landmarks of the Seven Kingdoms.

While Oldtown is considered the jewel of the Seven Kingdom’s cities, Highgarden can rightly claim that honor amongst the country’s great castles (though some make an argument for the Eyrie). Serving as the seat for the lords of the Reach (House Tyrell), its three gorgeous tiered walls protect gardens, fountains, artisans, artists, marble, and more. Arguably the center of culture and arts across the Seven Kingdoms, it is a popular subject amongst minstrels and painters.

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Off the southwest coast of the Reach is the gorgeous Arbor, an island famed across the world for its wines, both golden and red. There are scattered towns and villages found here, as well as other nearby, smaller islands. Winemaking isn’t the only craft the people are known for. Shipbuilding is a vital industry, and the lords of the Arbor (House Redwyne) control the largest single fleet in the Seven Kingdoms.

Dorne

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Finally we’ve reached the southernmost region of Westeros – Dorne. Nearly everything is a little different here. There’s the weather; much hotter and dryer thanks to the continent’s only desert. There’s the hot-blooded and passionate people, who are much more liberal and free in their beliefs and way of life. After experiencing the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, a visit to Dorne is sure to surprise and fascinate in equal measure.

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The capital of Dorne, Sunspear, is found within the famous Winding Walls and consists of House Martell’s seat (the Old Palace), as well as numerous bazaars and alleyways. The Spear Tower, Tower of the Sun, and old Sandship are just a few of the sights within its walls. Though water surrounds most of Sunspear, you can also find the shadow city – a jumble of buildings that is home to the highest concentration of people in Dorne.

The Water Gardens are the must-see sight in Dorne, that is if you’re important enough to merit an invitation from the prince. As the private retreat of House Martell, it displays an elegance and beauty to match its pedigree. With fountains, gardens, galleries, terraces, and more, the Water Gardens offer some of the best of Dornish architecture.

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The rugged Red Mountains separate Dorne from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. It is home to many castles and Houses, as well as the ruins of the fabled Tower of Joy – the location of a momentous event near the end of Robert’s Rebellion. The Dornishmen here are less like their brethren of the sand and coasts, and are instead closer to the Andals, culturally and in appearance. While lacking many sights and things to do, it still serves as a worthy look into another side of Dorne.

How much does it cost?

The cost of your trip will depend wholly on what you plan on doing and what rung of society you’re at. Smallfolk that must travel will often do so with little more than the clothes on their back. Hedge knights and sellswords offer their services to lords, making a living with the edge of their blade. Lords and ladies however can travel in luxury with guards to protect them from those who would do them harm.

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Health and Safety

All things considered, the Seven Kingdoms can be quite dangerous, even during times of peace. Bandits, cutthroats, and other scoundrels can be found from the Wall (especially amongst those manning it) to Dorne. We recommend arming yourself and trying to keep a low profile if traveling alone or with a couple companions. It’s important to remember that just because you’ve reached a city, you’re not necessarily safer than you were out on the road. This is especially true with large parts of King’s Landing, where angering the wrong person will ensure a short and troubled vacation.

During wartime, armies will ravage the countryside (whether directly or indirectly). While you might not be able to escape it, we recommend giving the Riverlands a wide berth during these times.

There is also much disease found throughout the Seven Kingdoms, though those rich or influential enough can enlist the services of a maester to help with that. Whether in the countryside or in one of the many ports, you can never be sure what you might come down with.

Luckily, many of the dangers that our ancestors had to face (namely White Walkers and dragons) have vanished from the known world. In this, at least, we are safe.

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These are just a few examples of where to go in the Seven Kingdoms, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list – or want to share you own experiences, tips, or advice – let us know in the comments.

Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about the history and culture of the Seven Kingdoms. For information on the currency and economy of the Seven Kingdoms, there’s our Currency Spotlight.

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