The world of Game of Thrones is an ever-expanding one, as evidenced by the recent location scouting and extras casting in Spain. Now that the show is quickly moving out of book territory, it's anyone's guess as to where that expansion will take us — but by taking a look at the areas being scouted, we're able to make some educated predictions about which story lines will be featured next season.
Littlefinger, make your travel plans now.
Shooting will take place in Girona, which is located in Spain's Catalonia region near the French border, from September 3 to 18. The city is famed for its Roman-style medieval architecture, churches, and canals. One of the areas production might incorporate is a walled section known as the Old Quarter that offers a mix of architectural styles (Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque), steep alleyways, and a labyrinth of narrow streets. This sounds like it would be an excellent set for Sam Tarly's current destination: Oldtown.
One of the largest cities in Westeros, Oldtown is effectively an upgraded version of King's Landing. Instead of mud streets, its streets are cobblestone. Along the river and canals are guild halls and various septs and temples (the Sailor's Sept, the Lord's Sept, Starry Sept, etc.), with a little local bar, the Quill and Tankard, on an island all its own.
If he keeps on course, Sam can expect to find the Citadel, where he should meet a couple of intriguing characters (especially since not everyone is whom they claim to be). If the story follows the books, a novice going by the name of Alleras should intercept Sam and take him to meet the rebellious Archmaester Marwyn, who could clue us in on one of the bigger underlying conspiracies in Westeros: that the death of dragons (and somehow, of magic) the last time around was brought about by design. (Which might explain why the last dragon skulls in the Red Keep were smaller and stunted). That may make us rethink the seemingly benevolent presence of maesters in noble households — and why Pycelle feels compelled to hide his true self.
Two Benedictine monasteries in Girona could convincingly serve as the Citadel: Sant Pere de Galligants and Sant Daniel. Then again, Sant Pere de Galligants has a beautiful rose window, so ... possibly an exterior for Highgarden?
After Girona, Game of Thrones will move northwest to Navarra for a five-day shoot from September 20 to 25. Although the casting call took place in Tudela, it appears that the shoot will happen in the nearby natural park, Bardenas Reales. It's a semi-desert, pseudo-steppe landscape, with mountains and sculpted rock formations made by erosion of clay, chalk, and sandstone. Three distinct zones make up the park: gently sloped croplands called El Plano; the rock formations, eroded crags, and dry gullies of the Bardena Blanca; and the Bardena Negra, with pinewoods and thickets. Because of the timing of the production, Game of Thrones will be on site just after thousands of sheep and their shepherds arrive from the Pyrenean valleys to graze here for the fall and winter. (It's called Sanmiguelada, or in other words, "free sheep.")
This makes it sound like this would be parts of Essos surrounding Meereen — the sheep pastures of Lhazar, the Dothraki Sea, even the Red Waste. We've seen some of these areas re-created before, but perhaps we'll see them in more detail during Jorah and Daario's search for Dany and Drogon, as they attempt to track her (and the Dothraki horde, which found her first). Because it's so versatile, parts of Bardenas Reales could be other parts of Essos, or even another Dorne locale.
Next up, Game of Thrones heads to the seaside resort of Peñíscola, in Valencia on the eastern coast, for just over a week in early October. The casting call once again showed a preference for dark hair, which may mean this is more of Dorne or Essos, perhaps even the outskirts of Meereen (for the siege of Meereen?).
One location in Peñíscola could be the Castillo del Papa Luna, a Knights Templar castle built in the 16th century, with its panoramic view of the coastline. If they use the castle (and its nearby palm trees), that could mean this is Sunspear or a flashback to Starfall in Dorne. Although we saw the Martells' vacationing at the Water Gardens, Sunspear is the actual seat of House Martell and the capital of Dorne. Assuming the Lannisters don't forgive the little matter of the assassination of Princess Myrcella, we can expect Prince Doran to hold court and marshal his forces from here — though that's a scene we've yet to encounter in the books.
If we get any further flashbacks, Starfall is the ancestral seat of House Dayne*, and has a rich history — but how it might concern us most is that this is where Ned Stark goes to return Ser Arthur Dayne's legendary blade to his sister, Ashara Dayne, after the events at the Tower of Joy. We may be hearing more about the Dayne family in season six. Then again, some fans speculate that this will be Casterly Rock. (One strike against that: The casting call asks for dark hair, and even the distant kin of the Lannisters tend to have blond hair.)
Following the shoot in Peñíscola, Game of Thrones heads to the south of Spain to Almería for about two weeks, from October 10 to 23. This longer stretch is most likely for a battle scene, since the casting call asked for bulkier guys than the other locations, but it could also be because the show plans to shoot in multiple places in this locale. One spot will be Mesa Roldán, with its lighthouse and watchtower that could be a major tower in the story, either Hightower in Oldtown, or, as some fans ardently hope, the Tower of Joy. The latter might be more likely, because of its slighter rounder shape and isolation. (Another spot in Guadalajara is a viable candidate for this location as well.)
The Tower of Joy scene could be the most anticipated flashback of the entire series: What happened when Ned Stark, at the end of Robert's Rebellion, finally found his sister Lyanna? Some say Rhaegar Targaryen abducted her and raped her; some say that wasn't his way. Whatever the case, his actions were part of the catalyst for the war. When Ned and his six companions arrive, they find the Dornish tower guarded by three Kingsguard — including one Ser Arthur Dayne. The war is over, the king is dead, but these Kingsguard curiously won't leave their post. A fight to the death ensues outside the tower, but Ned is too late — by the time he gets to Lyanna inside, she lies dying in a bed of blood. The blood of childbirth? Fans have long theorized about what exactly happened and why, and this scene would finally provide confirmation — or destroy those theories forever.
Also in Almería is la Alcazaba, a major castle with a thousand-year-old city-wall complex. It's the largest Moorish fortress in Spain, and the Arab influence would suggest it could serve as a location in Dorne. Specifically, its triangular ground plan makes it a good candidate for Sunspear, the capital of Dorne.
Other locations in Almería the production seems keen on using include the Tabernas Desert, a.k.a. the "badlands," for more Dornish desert; Sorbas, perhaps for its caves; Sierra Alhamilla, possibly for its iron mines; and Cabo de Gata-Nijar for its coastline. It's not clear which of these scenes will require this, but apparently at least one of the locations will also host a number of horses. That could be either a battle scene or a shot of the Dothraki horde going by.
Although the dates aren't announced yet, Game of Thrones will also shoot near Barcelona, in Canet del Mar at the Castillo de Santa Florentina (see video below), and in Guadalajara, at the Castillo de Zafra. The first one looks like it could stand in for a number of places, but the most likely is Sam's childhood home, Horn Hill, seat of House Tarly. He's planning to drop Gilly and the baby off here, and we'd get a chance to meet his whole family, possibly even dear old dad Randyll Tarly.
The elder Tarly — who has one of those handy Valyrian steel blades — might have a larger part to play on the show if he gets the open spot on the Small Council, Master of Laws, which has been vacant since Renly's death in season two. For Sam's sake, let's hope Randyll is away at court if he drops off Gilly and the baby at Horn Hill. With the lion statues at the door, this could even be a bit of Casterly Rock if the show plays mix and match here with interiors/exteriors.
The second of these castles, Castillo de Zafra, looks pretty basic — it rises up from a bed of rock, which could make it a good candidate for the exterior of Casterly Rock. (Hey, if the name fits ...) This might mean at least one Lannister goes home to lick his or her wounds. Could this indicate that Cersei's champion Ser Robert Strong, a.k.a. the Mountain, is successful in defending her, but she's banished anyway? Or that Jamie leaves King's Landing in disgust after learning about Cersei's confession? Somehow, somewhere, the Lannisters will need to sort out their dysfunctional family drama, or die trying; a homecoming (or at least a reckoning) might be in order.
Then again, some fans have already decided that Castillo de Zafra is the ideal location of the Tower of Joy — even if it isn't quite round in shape. All we know about this pivotal scene is what we've glimpsed of Ned's dreams and memories in the books, and the show can give it a whole new look. Regardless of whether geometric shapes are a perfect match for each location, what matters most is whether answers are coming.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to House Dayne as House Martell.