June 6, 2013 at 11:53 AM ET
The season three finale of the HBO hit “Game of Thrones” airs this Sunday, but fans like Heather Mattingly, a 42-year-old medical transcriptionist from Tennessee, are still in shock and disbelief over last week’s murderous "Red Wedding" episode.
Still “rocked to the core,” Mattingly vows to stop watching the show if next season the producers kill off main character Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage, but she says it would be a “dream come true, for sure,” to be able to visit some of the sites around the world that have stood in for the continent of Westeros in the first three seasons of the show.
If Mattingly can make her way to Northern Ireland or Croatia she can get her wish.
San Francisco-based travel company Viator, which offers “Sex and the City” tours in New York, “Dr. Who” tours in Cardiff and “Sopranos” tours in New Jersey, has launched two “Game of Thrones”-themed tours, one in Belfast, the other in Dubrovnik.
“People love to go behind filmed scenes and see the real places,” said Kelly Gillease, Viator vice-president of marketing. “And while Game of Thrones can be quite graphic and scary for people, fans want to see the castle, the cool bridge and the other things that invoke the spirit of the places in the show.”
The three-hour Dubrovnik tour costs about $72 and participants are taken to some of the city’s Old Town locations that now stand in for the fictional King’s Landing – the capital of the Seven Kingdoms realm – and to Lovrijenac Fortress, the 11th century castle where many of the show’s battle scenes take place.
“The tour guide for that one was an extra in the series” said Gillease, “and shares a lot of stories about what the actors are really like.”
The Game of Thrones Northern Ireland tour takes place in Belfast, where many key scenes for the show have been filmed. The mini-van tour lasts nine hours, costs about $111 and makes stops at the caves in Cushendun, where the show’s Melisandre gave birth to a ‘shadow baby,” in Ballycastle, where Varys was born as a slave and to the scenic and much-photographed Dark Hedges road, a key location in Ayra Stark’s escape from King’s Landing.
“Both cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so even if you’re not a fan of the show you won’t be disappointed with the scenery,” said Gillease, who notes that Viator is working on setting up additional “Game of Thrones” tours in Morocco, Malta, Iceland and other locations where scenes from the show have been filmed.
Many Game of Thrones fans, now faced with a summer of show re-reruns, seem intrigued by the tours.
“One is very short, only three hours. The Belfast one looks better; 9 hours, more involved,” Zerin Dube told NBC News.
“I’d want to go to Dubrovnik, where King’s Landing is shot. It’s gorgeous,” said Jen Miner of Los Angeles. “I’d also like to see Baelor's Sept, where Ned got his head lopped off in the first season.”