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Travel to the Tower of Joy

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While the show has seen seven successful seasons with elaborate sets and locations, there is always a new Game of Thrones location to travel to.

This week, we have a look at the Tower of Joy, which is connected to the mysterious past of Lyanna Stark, and can for the first time be seen when Bran has a flashback of Ned Stark entering the Dornish Mountains to rescue her. (Imprisoned in a tower at the time, giving birth to a baby boy we later come to know is Jon Snow.)

Located in Spain, the Castillo de Zafra portrays - in GOT known as the Tower of Joy - has quite the history of its own.
Firstly, let’s have a look at some fun & interesting facts about Game of Thrones:
  • The look and feel of Daenerys’ dragons was taken from observations of geese and bat behavior, said effects supervisor, Sven Martin (Wired, 2013). Various birds and mammals were studied for their wing movements.
  • During the filming of Season 6, Kit Harrington was made to hide under umbrellas each time a drone passed above to keep his character, Jon Snow, being resurrected a secret.
  • He had to film 15 hours of fake scenes just for this (Games Radar, 2017).
  • The most expensive death in the series was that of Meryn Trant, in season 5 due to the special effects used. (Watch it here.)
  • Peter Dinklage is actually a vegetarian (Peta, 2011). The meat shown to be eaten by Tyrion on the show is obviously not authentic. (View his Peta campaign here.)
  • Jack Gleeson, the actor who plays Joffrey Baratheon, quit acting once his character was killed off in Season 4, to focus more on academics (Independent UK, 2014 ).
Lets have a look at this week’s featured GOT Filming Location:

Castillo de Zafra

Location:  Spain
Known in Game of Thrones as: Tower of Joy
The Castillo de Zafra or Zafra Castle (Castles, 2001) lies in the province of Guadalajara in Spain.

Located in the Caldereros Mountain Range, the closest village, Campillo de Dueñas, is about 5 kilometers from the site.

Although the present castle was built under the Kingdom of Aragon in the 13th century, it was an important site during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and even during the times of ancient Rome.

The castle we see today stands in place of another Moorish castle, which was conquered when the Christians occupied it in 1129. It then gained strategic importance as a center for control over many territories, since it lay between the Christian and Muslim-ruled regions.
Historical Timeline of Castillo de Zafra:
  • 11th century: The first castle on this site is built by the Moors. Excavations reveal earlier Bronze and Iron Age remains as well as those from Roman, Visigoth and Celtiberian times.
  • 12th -13th centuries: The whole region is conquered by the Christian kingdoms of the north. (The castle is further reconquered by them as part of the Reconquista in 1129.)

    Kingdom of Aragon is now in power, and a  new castle is built on the rock in the latter half of the 12th century and during the early 13th century by noble families, to consolidate their hold on this important strategic area.

    Castilian King Fernando III attempts a hostile takeover of the fortress, but fails.
  • 14th – 15th centuries: During the Castilian Civil Wars of the 14th and 15th centuries, Castilian forces repeatedly tried to overrule the castle, which had a strong defense system in place, yet, failed.
  • 16th century onwards: The castle starts to fall into disrepair and ownership is passed to royals, conquerors, dignitaries and religious groups.
  • 1971: A descendent of the 15th century owner, Don Antonio Sanz Polo, from the Sanz family, bought the Castillo de Zafra from the Spanish government for 30,000 pesetas, and has since spent 30 years restoring it.
Interesting Facts About Castillo de Zafra
  • The Castillo de Zafra is now privately owned by the Sanz family, therefore, visitors need permission to tour the grounds and the castle.
  • In fact, the castle was public property up until 1971 when Antonio Sanz bought it for 30,000 pesetas (Trip Historic). His family then began restoring the castle, which was in a state of disrepair.
  • If rumors are to be believed, the castle has secret rooms carved into the rock beneath it.
  • It was once so heavily fortified that even residents found it hard to enter and exit (Grundhauser).
  • The only means to enter the castle is through climbing a ladder up the high rock face (Grundhauser).

Relationship to the Game of Thrones Series

You would have noticed several scenes filmed at Castilo de Zafra in the GOT series by now:

 

Video – Filming GOT at Castilo de Zafra

A behind the scenes YouTube video about filming GOT at Castilo de Zafra:
The Top Attractions at Castilo de Zafra
  • The Castle: Since the castle is not accessible to unauthorized public visits, the best way to observe it from the outside via hiking (Trip Historic).

    To get to the castle, dirt roads lead from the village five (5) kilometers away. The use of a four-wheel drive vehicle is advised, especially in summer.

    The dirt roads were unmarked earlier, but following the GOT shooting, they have been marked so visitors can easily find their way.

    You will also notice upon a visit that the sandstone castle is built on large eroded flagstone, running east to west, and surrounded by steep slopes. Prairies also surround the grand structure where flocks of sheep may be seen grazing.

    Notice the vestiges of old buildings at the foot of the large rock. A rock staircase also leads into a dark tunnel, yet, visitors are warned to enter at their own risk.  

19360 Campillo de Dueñas, Guadalajara, Spain

  • Campillo de Dueñas: This is the closest village to Castillo de Zafra, five kilometers away and with a little more than 100 inhabitants, according to the latest census.

    Although it is a very small village with basic necessities, visitors can book into hotels here to stay the night on their way to the castle.

    The village’s only church was built in the 17th century and is the town’s symbol of wealth and grandeur (Turismo Castilla La Mancha). Notice the baroque work on the altar.

    Our Lady Antigua forms the 100-year old hermitage at the exit to the town.

    Nearby stone pillars bear religious images and inscriptions dating back to the medieval Molina period  (Turismo Castilla La Mancha ).

Campillo de Dueñas, Guadalajara, Spain

Why Visit Castillo de Zafra
Though there is nothing much to do here, the Castillo de Zafra stands as a true testament to time with its varied past.

It is one of the few remaining forts in Spain from the Moorish days, and has seen much reconstruction and renovation.

The castle also gives a lesson in medieval Spain’s defense strategies. Furthermore, for Game of Thrones fans, it serves as a check mark on their quest to discover where their beloved characters churned out their favorite show.
Other Noteworthy Attractions close to Castillo de Zafra
Molina de Aragón:
Around 30 minutes’ west of Castillo de Zafra, lies Molina de Aragón, an important city in Guadalajara, and the capital of the erstwhile nobility of Molina during the Middle Ages. (Once a frontier town during medieval times, it today boasts a castle of the same name.)

Interesting Fact: The village has kept its medieval neighborhoods intact alongside the urban ones, enclosed by fortifications.

The town also has many important buildings, such as the Romanesque San Martín Church, the Santa María la Mayor de San Gil Church, the 18th century Convent of San Francisco, built onto the old Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles Church, and the 13th century Convent of Santa Clara, among others.

There is also an old Jewish quarter here.
Zaragoza:
Located about 2.5 hours by road from Castillo de Zafra, lies one of the biggest cities of the Aragon region, Zaragoza, which is halfway between Madrid and Barcelona.

This 2,000-year old town is full of monuments from the Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian eras, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Spain’s fifth largest city is also famous for the work of Francisco de Goya, who was born nearby in 1746.

Don’t miss out on the Aljafería Palace, which was an Arab castle built for defense as well as recreation in the 11 thcentury.
Guadalajara:
The capital city of the province of Guadalajara lies about two hours west of Castillo de Zafra, on the banks of the River Henares.

Its origins date back to the Roman period; later it fell under Arab dominion, during which time it was called Wad-al-Hayara or Stony River, from where its present name is derived.
It is best known to be the stronghold of the Mendoza family of the 15th century, when it rose to its zenith.

The most popular places in Guadalajara are the Calle Mayor, Plaza de Dávalos and the Infantado Palace (Ayuntamiento de Guadalajara), the symbol of the city.
Enjoyed this Article?
Let us know in the comments below, and share your own experience while visiting this GOT location with us.  We would love to hear from you.

Till next week.

Happy travels!
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