Gaztelugatxe, the famous stairs from Game of Thrones

At first, the news that there would be a TV adaptation of the fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin raised many doubts among the fans, mainly because this complex fictional world, so thoroughly portrayed in the literary saga, seemed almost impossible to bring to the screen. In other words, they found it hard to believe that Game of Thrones could accurately depict the fantasy universe they had found in the books. Those iconic sceneries wouldn’t remain in their own imagination: they would also be able to see them.

Therefore, it was essential to wisely choose the locations that were about to embody the grandeur of the North American author’s writing. One of the sceneries they used for that purpose is located in the Basque Country; yes, we’re talking about the shrine of Gaztelugatxeko Doniene and its stairway to heaven —a heaven full of dragons, for sure.

Dragonstone and the return of the queen

The island from above, with the blue sea and the stairs reflecting the sun

The shrine of Gaztelugatxeko Doniene. | Shutterstock

Dragonstone is a key scenery of the series (spoiler alert!) in the seventh season of Game of Thrones. In fact, that’s exactly where the season starts, in the castle that House Targaryen of Dragonstone escaped to after surviving the Doom of Valyria, although later on it was conquered by House Baratheon. Dragonstone sheltered House Targaryen hundreds of years ago, opening a new chapter in the history of Westeros. When Daenerys Targaryen returns to the island of her ancestors, she reaffirms her goal of conquering the land than once belonged to her bloodline. Daenerys believes she is the rightful heir to the throne, and she won’t stop until the Mother of Dragons herself sits on it.

Watching the world from above

A view from the foot of the stairs, with a rocky slope and the sea in the background

The stairs of Gaztelugatxe. | Shutterstock

The place used to portray Dragonstone should convey the same feelings the castle of House Targaryen does: the sense of being unreachable, of flying over the Seven Kingdoms, above everything. After all, it’s a dragon’s lair, one of those places that are naturally inaccessible to humans, for only those exceptional creatures can reach their sacred den. That’s what Dragonstone should feel like, and the shrine of Gaztelugatxeko Doniene in Bizkaia perfectly fits the description, standing above everything like House Targaryen. It leans out on the Cantabrian Sea, and it belongs more to its dark blue waters than to the shore. If we want to access the temple, we’ll have to cross a wooden bridge and climb up a total of 241 steps.

Indeed, one of the most striking scenes in the seventh season of Game of Thrones takes place in the never-ending stairs of Gaztelugatxe. Even if the shrine was digitally replaced by a magnificent castle, they achieved their original goal: to display a place that felt as inaccessible as majestic. And of course, a place where three mighty dragons crossed the sky.

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