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Real countries that inspired Game of Thrones

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, April 10, 2015, 2:23 PM -

Season 5 of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones premieres Sunday night, much to the delight of the internet.

As the story has developed audiences have fallen in love with the characters -- and the lands they inhabit.

That got us thinking about some of the more popular regions in the Game of Thrones known world, and the real-life countries (and climates) that inspired them.


NOTABLE CHARACTERS: Khaleesi, Khal Drogo

MOST COMPARABLE TO: Mongolia, North American Great Plains

The Dothraki Sea is a dry grassland on Essos inhabited by the Dothraki people who live in in hordes called khalasars, each of which is led by a chief called a khal.

According George R. R. Martin, the mastermind behind the Game of Thrones series, The Dothraki were fashioned after a number of cultures – one of them being Mongols.

From a climatological standpoint, one could argue that the Dothraki sea represents a drier version of Mongolia.

Both climates contain steppes – i.e., large areas of flat, unforested grasslands typically found in Siberia.

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Mongolia, for example, is home to the Manchurian steppe – which not unlike the plains where the Dothraki and their horses make war.

"I would say the Dorthraki region is also comparable to the Eurasian steppe, where temperate grasslands meets savannas meets shrubland," says Weather Network meteorologist Dayna Vettese.

"Vast stretches of uninhabited grasslands are very similar to that of the Eurasian steppe." 

Meteorologist Gina Ressler agrees.

"The Dothraki Sea is inspired by places like the North American Great Plains or the Eurasian Steppes," she says.

"These types of climates are semi-arid (dry), and typically found in continental interiors some distance from large bodies of water. In Canada, the Dothraki Sea is comparable to the dry prairie regions in southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan, sometimes called Palliser's Triangle. Try to imagine the landscape before permanent settlements developed."

Photo courtesy of HBO/Game of Thrones/Facebook


NOTABLE CHARACTERS: John Snow, Mance Rayder


While this portion of the show was filmed in Iceland, the Land of Always Winter is probably more comparable to northern Canada, according to Martin. 

Although he has never visited Iceland, he once said that the fictional region is “considerably larger than Iceland — probably larger than Greenland,” adding that the “area closest to my Wall is densely forested, so in that sense it's more like Canada — Hudson Bay or the Canadian forests just north of Michigan.” 

RELATED: Snow headed for northern Canada

So there you have it. While Atlantic Canada may feel like the land of always winter it isn’t – at least not as far as Game of Thrones is concerned.

John Snow photo courtesy of HBO/Game of Thrones/Facebook

Northern Canada: The Land of Always Winter?

Northern Canada: The Land of Always Winter?

GAME OF THRONES REGION:  The Free City of Braavos


MOST COMPARABLE TO: Venice, Belgium, the Bahamas

The fictional City of Braavos is spread out over hundreds of tiny islands linked together by canals and bridges in northwestern Essos. 

It’s a seafaring region known for water dancing, a variation of sword fighting.

In terms of culture and appearance, Braavos bears resemblance to Venice, but according to the Game of Thrones Wiki, “in terms of climate and weather, it is more akin to northern European cities like Amsterdam. All-in-all Bruges [Belgium] (one of the places often referred to as "the Venice of the North") would be a good match.”

"You could argue that Braavos is also similar to the Bahamas, as it is a tropical Savannah," says Vettese. "Temperatures are always above the freezing mark."

Illustration of Venice, courtesy: Wikipedia

Illustration of Venice, courtesy: Wikipedia




MOST COMPARABLE TO: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Alberta, northern Quebec

The North is home to Winterfell, the castle that houses the Starks. It’s built over a natural hot spring that sends water through the walls, warming the rooms.

Season 1 of the show shot Winterfell in Northern Ireland, but the show’s set designer said that it is based on a Scottish castle.

Ressler sees a Canadian connection as well.

"The North has a cold continental climate with rugged terrain, including forests and mountains.  In Canada, this might be similar to northern Alberta or northern Quebec," she says.

"Martin himself has compared it to Scotland. Summers can be pleasant, but when harsh winters occur, The North feels the brunt of it with powerful snowstorms and frigid temperatures. Many Canadians can relate to this type of climate."

Speaking of Europe, parts of the continent have seen some extreme weather recently -- which would have been a challenge for House Stark, given the limited drainage systems in the Game of Thrones universe.

RELATED: Signs of destruction as severe storm hits Europe

"Climate records indicate that the 2013/2014 winter was the wettest winter Scotland saw in over 100 years and the second wettest winter in Northern Ireland since 1910," says Weather Network meteorologist Monica Vaswani.

"There were numerous significant flooding events as well and dangerous sea conditions along coastal areas as a result of at least 12 major winter storms that pounded the region."

Imagine the amount of damage those storms would cause in the North.

Photo courtesy: Flickr/lju photo

Photo courtesy: Flickr/lju photo


NOTABLE CHARACTERS: Joffrey Baratheon, Cersi Lannister

MOST COMPARABLE TO: Medieval Paris, London, New York City

King's Landing has a walled-in main city, dominated by three hills. With a population of about 500,000, the city is populous but it considered unsightly. Martin has compared the region to medieval Paris or London.

"King's Landing, located farther south that Winterfell, possesses a temperate climate," Ressler says.

"Summers are warm, and winters are cool but not frigid. King's Landing is near the ocean, but is far enough inland to likely experience a humid continental climate, which could be comparable to New York City."

Photo courtesy of HBO/Game of Thrones/Facebook

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