Fair warning: if you STILL haven’t seen season five yet and (magically) have no idea what’s going to happen, then congratulations, you’ve managed to dodge all spoilers thus far – but not if you read any further!
It’s been a few months since that infamous Game of Thrones finale had us crying and raging for days. Now, once again we find ourselves living without new episodes, and, worse, without any closure. The questions that have been harrassing our brains since the finale will remain unanswered for pretty much another year. Are Jon and Stannis really dead? Is Arya really blind? Is Daenerys in good company? Will Tyrion rule Mereen? Are Bronn and baby Sand Snake going to make an LDR actually work? We have a long way to go before we get any answers - and they might not even be the ones we're hoping for.
Which is just as well. Our shattered hearts need time to heal anyway. In the meantime, there are various methods we can try to nurse the GoT hangover and occupy our time until next season. One is to jump into the Thrones world yourself and visit places that look like they were taken right out of the series. The best part is, there’s no need to go to Croatia, Morocco, Malta, or Northern Ireland where the show was actually filmed. We've got lots of Thrones-esque destinations right here. We've narrowed our list down to seven - the show's magic number - but we're sure there are more out there!
Mt. Pinatubo: Wildling camps
With its light grey, lahar-covered landscape and rough terrains, the area surrounding the Mt. Pinatubo crater calls to mind the sometimes snowy and harsh environment that the free folk beyond the wall call home. Turn the lahar into snow in your mind's eye, and it isn’t hard to imagine arrows and spears being fired from the top of Pinatubo’s cliffs and rock formations as you make your way to the volcano’s crater.
Mt. Pinatubo is about a three-hour drive from Metro Manila. A popular starting point for the trek is in Capas, Tarlac. Victory Liner has buses from Pasay or Cubao in Metro Manila to Capas daily. Cars can be rented for around P3,500 (about US$75) for self-drive and P4,000 with driver.
Black Island cave pool, Palawan: Jon Snow and Ygritte’s love cave
So the Jon-Ygritte love story didn’t pan out so well, but you can get the chance to rewrite it it in this cave pool that bears a striking resemblance the one where the star-crossed lovers first got it on. Peer through the rocks and imagine Jon and Ygritte never left it, or bring your own special friend for a romantic rendezvous in the water and a chance to utter Ygritte's signature line: "You know nothing, Jon Snow-oh oh!"
Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly from Manila to Busuanga daily, while Skyjet Airlines flies every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. From Busuanga airport, take a van (35 minutes) to Concepcion town. From there, rent a boat to Black Island.
The windswept and weather-beaten scenery of the Philippines’ northernmost island, with its stone houses and rolling hills, is almost a dead ringer for Westeros’ northernmost kingdom after The Wall. Just add (Jon) snow.
Bilar manmade forest, Bohol: Kingsroad
Going down the tree-lined road in this forest will make you feel like you’re headed towards King’s Landing, glittering capital of the Seven Kingdoms. Just pretend the road isn't paved, and that sellswords or enemy armies are darting about the trees figuring out how to ambush your escort. For the full Kingsroad experience, ride down the pathway on horseback, or better yet travel with a group of people you distrust, in a fancy palanquin carried by an army of men who may or may not be on a mission to kill you.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and AirAsia fly from Manila to Tagbilaran daily. Located along the highway betwen Loboc and Bilar town, the forest is roughly 20 minutes away from Tagbilaran town, and can be reached by tricycle, van or motorbike. It is a common stop during most Bohol tours.
Intramuros, Manila: King’s Landing
With its high stone walls, iron gates and courtyards, the historic walled city looks like a place that Sansa Stark would swoon over - and then subsequently get imprisoned in. Also, just like King’s Landing, Intramuros was once the seat of power in the country, and has seen its fair share of battles, bloodshed and corrupt leaders.
Intramuros is located in the heart of Manila, about 10km away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay. From NAIA, travel time can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours away, depending on the traffic. Take a taxi from the airport taxi stand, or board the NAIA shuttle (just outside the airport terminals), get dropped off at the LRT-EDSA station, take the LRT to Central Terminal Station, then walk about half a kilometer from the station to Intramuros.
Paoay Sand Dunes: Dorne
Dornish bastards are given the last name “Sand” for a reason – there’s a lot of it in the quasi-Meditteranean kingdom of Westeros, and in this Ilocos Norte attraction. Just like Dorne, which counts the late Prince Oberyn and his vengeful warrior daughters the Sand Snakes among its people, Paoay also boasts of general bad-assery – it is a favored spot for adventure seekers and travelers who go there for its famous sandboarding and 4x4 rides.
Go to Laoag city via airplane (about an hour) or bus (about 12 hours). From Laoag, take a 30-minute tricycle ride to the Paoay Sand Dunes. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air fly to Laoag daily. Buses also travel hourly from Cubao and Pasay to Laoag. Try Partas.
Malalison, Antique: Wherever the hell Daenerys is at the end of Season 5
This almost-treeless hill on a tiny island off the coast of Antique might just be where we can find our missing Khaleesi. Its brown-green landscape looks just like that anonymous hillside where Drogon whisked his mom off to after saving her from the ambush at the Mereen fighting pits. A Dothraki army suddenly appearing from nowhere would not be out of place here.
From Manila, fly to Caticlan airport (Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines fly daily). From Boracay, ride a boat to the Caticlan Jetty Port. Buses to Culasi wait outside the jetty port. The ride takes about two hours, fare is about P80. Get dropped off at the Culasi market. From there, take a 15-minute boat ride to Malalison. Boat rental costs about P1,500 roundtrip, good for four people.