“DRAGONSTONE” and the staircase of San Juan De Gaztelugaxte
Game of thrones has enthralled me with its performances and unsuspecting story line however another aspect of this television series is the exotic locations used to shoot the sequences. I envy the profession of these locations scouts travelling to places which I like to call the ‘Travelers Dream’
Season 7 has started and one of the most impressive things about the first episode was the Dragonstone Castle, the ancient Targaryen House in the Blackwater Bay . The castle has appeared in the earlier seasons too yet never demonstrated in its full glory.
When the gates to the castle open, you are welcome with a winding staircase leading up to a castle. The directors have ensured you are tempted and titillated with the sequence when the camera pans to a castle majestically sitting atop a rock on an island. Astonished with the beauty, I immediately embarked on a mission to search for the place.
In the Bay of Biscay in North Spain, is a small islet of San Juan de Gaztelugaxte housing a small church dedicated to John the Baptist. The staircase crossing the stone bridge in the sequence is the same leading to the castle and comprises of 231 steps which were undertaken by The Queen Daenerys. The views from the bridge to the sea below add to the beauty of the place. The castle may have been animated but it takes nothing away from the destination.
How to Reach
The nearest city to San Juan is Bilbao which is 18 kms from the place, whereas the nearest habitation is the small town of Bakio some 4 kms away from the islet
By Air: 400 kms north of Madrid, the fastest way to reach is to take a flight to the city of Bilbao. Iberia Airlines, Norwegian Shuttle and Vueling operate regular flights from Madrid and Barcelona to Bilbao and they cost approximately EUR 60-80 each side.
By Bus: Buses are available from Madrid to Bilbao and it takes 4-5 hours for the journey and cost around EUR 30
Once you reach Bilbao take a bus from Moyua Square in Bilbao and takes you to Bakio which is the closest town to San Juan
By Car: You can hire a car from either Madrid or Bilbao depending on the preference. It takes less than an hour to reach San Juan from Bilbao and is a very pleasant drive
Things to See
John the Baptist: The climb atop the stairs takes you to a hermitage. The hermitage was originally built in the 10th Century but was destroyed many a times by fire. The last time it came up was in 1980.
Walk the Coastline: Take a walk along the coast from the town of Bakio to San Juan and view the beautiful Bay of Biscay
Surf in Bakio: Bakio has a couple of surf school where you can learn to surf. The beaches are good for all levels of surfers and will be a wonderful experience
Wineries in the Basque Country: Visit the vineyards and winery at Doniene Gorrondona. Doniene Gorrondona Txakolina is the evolution of the traditional farmhouse into a modern winery, where txakoli, a young wine with fruity notes is produced