Ygritte’s Rock – a report from Iceland

You will enjoy this detailed report from a visit to Iceland, filed by our reader Michael, who scouted out the wildlings’ camp set location. Now that we know how to find it, more visitors may decide to hike there and enjoy the beautiful location if they find themselves in Iceland. As long as they are mindful of nature and know how to behave in a national park, we do not mind that one bit.

Ygritte’s Rock

by Michael Denis

 “Strike hard and true, Jon Snow, or I’ll come back and haunt you.” – Ygritte

We all know that Game of Thrones shot its second season in a variety of European locales including the Balkans, Ireland, and Iceland, but where precisely were particular sequences shot?

On a recent trip to Iceland, I made special efforts to locate these areas. With respect to Jon Snow and the Night Watch’s long patrol north of The Wall, some of these scenes were shot in studio (Kraster’s Keep, for example), while many were shot in Iceland in November 2011.

Unfortunately, wasteland scenes of nondescript mountains are tricky to locate using only the show itself as a source. One scene, however, stood out because of its use of glaciers and glacial lakes (indicating certain areas of Iceland), particular mountains and ridges (indicating a particular glacier) and lead actors (indicating a reasonable proximity to roads and accommodations). While hiking on the eastern edge of Kristinartindar, a moorish bluff overlooking Skaftafellsjökull and other glaciers, I noticed a distinct “mountain on the upper north east of the glacier-long ridgeline to the east of the glacier” pattern that suggested to me a scene from Episode Six “The Old Gods and The New.”

The scene in question was where Jon Snow beheads a certain kissed-by-fire freewoman. About twenty minutes into that sixth episode, Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand’s team sneak up on Wildling watch-post at the foot of the Frost Fangs. The sneak attack works swimmingly, although Jon Snow captures an adversary alive, and she turns out to be a sassy red-headed babe: Ygritte.

Upon close examination in-person the next morning, it became apparent that Game of Thrones shot this sequence a few dozen spear throws east of Skaftafell National Park’s visitor center, just off Route 1, the “Ring Road,” Iceland’s main highway. Skaftafell is a premiere hiking location full of mammoth glaciers and wind-swept sand fields in “the South,” actually the south-east, of Iceland.

The precise location of Ygritte’s Rock, and really the entire sequence of the sneak attack, the beheading, Ygritte’s escape, Jon Snow’s chase, and both characters sliding around on the glacier was shot on Svínafellsjökull or “Pig Mountain Glacier.” This is the fourth glacier mouth that a visitor to the area heading anti-clockwise around the Ring Road will see in the Skaftafell region. In relation to the visitor center, it is the second glacier over to the east.

To get there from the visitor’s center, return to the Ring Road and turn left, heading east, and drive slowly for a few hundred meters. Upcoming and on the left will be a dusty unpaved road trailing towards the northeast, veering towards the western side of a glacier narrowly bordered by two ridges and flanked in the distance by (likely) year-round snow-capped mountains. Take this road. At its end is a large gravel parking lot, some hills, a glacial lake, and the Svínafellsjökull glacier. If there is any uncertainty, then a large blue sign tells the glacier’s name.

From the gravel parking lot, proceed east by northeast along a well-trod walking path and through a gate in a wire fence. A tall ridge will be to your left, a glacial lake will be to your right, and the Svínafellsjökull glacier itself will be in front of you.

The path along the rocks will continue towards a glacier overlook. From there, narrower paths proceed in two directions. Below is an access point to the glacier, where the park recommends experience, special equipment, and extreme caution, whereas above is a steep-but-manageable rock face with ample stair-like footholds. Take this latter route upwards, remaining on the rock face.

Not far above will be another natural end to the trail. There sits a small open area circled by boulders. Watch your back, for you now stand where Ygritte and her Wildings stood as the Night’s Watch attacked. Turn slightly to your right and look towards the south-eastern part of this small clearing, and there you have it: Ygritte’s Rock.

The rock itself is moss-covered and distinct. One can imagine it taking a blow from even the best of blades.

One can see the glacier behind to the east and where a lass in desperate circumstances might slip down as she escapes from a sword-wielding virgin.

To your right and south of Ygritte’s Rock is a triangular-shaped rock leaning away from the ridgeline. It was from this rock that a Night’s Watch archer fired his opening volley into the Wildlings.

The area is stunning in its beauty. Tall mountains stand prominently in the north, oftentimes draped in puffy white clouds that cling to the glacier’s cold surface. The use of the location is superb and Game of Thrones does an impeccable job of capturing a remarkable setting and planning and editing the scene across the topography of a dynamic and dangerous landscape. The sequence occurs a few feet from a precipitous drop-off, and the howling winds and alien glacial landscape do little to assuage fears of lurking shadow-cats. Ygritte’s escape path leads down into the glacier and then out towards the lake, and these are all real features and not filmmaker trickery (except perhaps her agility), lending additional realism to this memorable scene.

Ygritte’s Rock is an easy-to-access location, one of my favorite sequences from the book, “A Clash of Kings,” and a testament to the boldness and success of Game of Thrones. If you have a love for the show or the books or even cinema more broadly, then perhaps this guide will allow you to enjoy a known filming location.

Photography by Michael Denis
Michael Denis © 2012


  • Wow, thanks so much for taking the time/effort not only to find this, but to write up such clear directions so that other people can too. That’s really awesome of you.

    Now I just need to get to Iceland.

  • The Icelandic tourist board should make sure ‘Ygritte’s Rock’ will from now on be included on the maps from the area.

    Thanks Michael, when I visit Iceland I’ll be sure to go pay tribute to this lovely place!

  • A wonderful account, Michael. Dedicated fans will benefit from your good work, and more will be aware of it because of the fine quality of your writing about it, which welcomes the reader in. I would bet longships to lemoncakes that at least one set of travellers will find this place because of your report than would otherwise have seen it.

    Well done! The park might be well served to publicize this a little bit, maybe even to erect a sign.

  • Andy D,

    Yes seriously, where have you been? I am not the only one on this site who regularly vies for the privalege of being first.

  • Andy D,

    Hahaha someone’s going through a dry spell :P

    On topic Icleand seems beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to camp there during winter :)

  • Wonderful post Michael, thanks for sharing! Doubt I will ever get to travel there so it’s great to see the wide shots of the scenery. A woman is impressed by your photography as well, was that a fish eye lens perchance?

  • This one is happy you weren’t attacked by a sword yielding virgin. See this as proof
    everyone that GoT is real ! I don’t care what Maroon Five says (:

  • WildSeed,

    He probably wouldn’t have complained if he was attacked by a Wildling Woman that was kissed by fire…mmmm…wonder if that’s possible. Step 1 buy a plane ticket to Iceland, step 2 procure a Valerian blade, step 3 search for hot red headed spear wife.

  • Yes but not thee topic. Create a post on the phenomena of “firsties” and we can talk about it there.
    For now let’s talk about how we all want to go GOT sightseeing.

  • “We all know that Game of Thrones shot its second season in a variety of European locales including the BALKANS, Ireland, and Iceland, but where precisely were particular sequences shot?”

    OMG, again(???) with that.. And here I thought we finally managed to convice people that Croatia is in fact NOT in the Balkans and that besides a periferal and marginal connection when talking in the terms of geography we don’t share neither the culture, nor the religion, history, customs, architecture, traditions etc….

  • Karlstadt,

    Is that a jape ? There may be some ( Americans in particular ) that may not be
    familiar with the Balkan Peninsula but others are ” convinced ” that it’s
    geopolitical and cultural ties (through out SE Europe) share many connections.
    This of course includes Croatia. I’m not familiar enough with SEE but I’ve visited
    in the past and studied Geography and Cartagraphy. My closest friend describes
    herself as Serb and has family in Zagreb. That’s my 2 cents. Anyway this great
    post may intricately connect some in the environs to go hiking ( what lucky fans!)
    The rest of us will just have to look at a map, close our eyes and say ” You know
    nothing Jon Snow”. And by others I don’t mean the White Walkers.

  • Aegon the Conqueror,

    I flew over Iceland last year in route to Amsterdam from California. Beautiful blue
    glaciers. No way I would live like Ygritte or a Wildling in the Frostfangs. I’m a
    Wolfgirl but a true Summer Islander in my heart.

  • How great. I often wonder exactly where this stuff is sometimes…. and to find its so accessible is even better.

    Thanks for finding the ROCK and telling us how to as well

  • “One can see the glacier behind to the east and where a lass in desperate circumstances might slip down as she escapes from a sword-wielding virgin.” XD

    Amazing work and a delightful write-up!

  • That’s pretty cool. The scenery for the Jon/Ygritte storyline was amazing this season. Definitely made me want to go to Iceland. It looks like another planet.

  • What an awesome article Michael, and great photos, too. Thanks for writing and posting this. Good on ya, for a cool trip!

  • WildSeed,

    Your point being what? That if someone describes him/herself as a Serbian and living in Paris that makes France a Balkan nation? Come on… As I said no ties except from the period from 1918 till 1990…

  • WildSeed,

    Me neither, South Africa is known for its warm days and sunny skies. If the temprature comes near 41degrees farenheit we complain bitterly about the cold! If I were to go to Westeros it would probably be to Dorne or the Stormlands.

  • Aegon the Conqueror:
    Andy D,

    Yes seriously, where have you been? I am not the only one on this site who regularly vies for the privalege of being first.

    Where have I been? Reading mostly, commenting on topic occasionally.

    People that claim first are pathetic, if it’s a regularly done thing here then the average IQ of a ASoIaF is less than I thought it was, sadly. It’s the kind of thing I’d expect to find on ebaumsworld or other teen sites.

  • Andy D,

    Well it happens quite often here. If that irks you then go be a dick someplace else and leave those who are having fun alone.

  • Does anyone know if Game of Thrones was nominated for the critics choice awards the other day ? I think Gus from Breaking Bad won the best supporting actor.

  • Thank you kind ser er my lady ser.

    I wonder if this is a sign of things to come, I completely forgot about Gus from BB.

  • FWIW, True Blood Episode 2 first-viewers were down, way down: 4.4 million (compared to 5.2 million last week).

    As Cassandra predicted, it’s possible TB’s numbers will meet GOT’s before the end of the season. The TB reviews are generally tepid-to-terrible.

  • DH87,

    I think this is the year Thrones passes True Blood. I think there will be some back and forth with True Blood having higher numbers for the pemiere and the finale, but this will be the last year of TB being ahead of Thrones IMO…

    I was a fan of True Blood, but Ball has just destroyed the show. This year I was actually bored by the premiere… in the good parts. I was outrighted annoyed and forwarded through the bad parts this week. I’m not sure I will make it through the season at this rate…. I cna enjoy the books for whatthey are still… Too bad the series is nothing like the books at all anymore.

  • Sigh…judging by the comments on this thread alone WiCnet as we once knew it is gone. The show is popular, the show is controversial, we have trolls and douches galore and that old community has been divided. I pray for some casting news soon so we can carry on like we usually did.

  • darquemode,

    I agree. AB began the dismemberment as soon as he departed from the much-mocked books but the show skated along on its good-looking cast for three years. Now that the show is unwatchable everyone is finally thinking, enough is enough. I’m glad the fall is taking place on AB’s watch, since he brought it on himself.

    So much for the theory that a TV “genius” can out-think a little Arkansas lady novelist. He’s an egotistical guy with about three ideas that he recycles every season.

  • DH87,

    I like Bsll and think he can do some great work, but I don’t understand him in this case. Why does someone adapt a series called The Southern Vampire Mysteries and sytematically remove the mystery from the show and turn it into a supernatural soap opera?

    Plus he is doing another thing that I do not understand. He is turning a series with a single lead and a select few strong co-stars into an ensemble with a cast of characters that is just not strong enough to be an ensemble. (nothing against the actors, it is the lame one-note characters IMO) I love ensemble series, but when they are designed that way from the begining – not when they are forced to evolve into that.

    He has 3 capable “lead” quality actors and each year they get less and less important as the supporting cast gets bigger and bigger roles. It’s nonsensical.

    I agree with Joshua Taylor….
    Bring on the casting news or at least some more rumored roles to be cast!

  • And here I thought I’d find some interesting comments about Iceland, rather than inane comments about True Blood and the “first” phenomenon. I’m actually a little surprised no one is talking about Bush.

  • DH87,

    And I thought I was the only one who thought true blood was getting a bit silly? It really is going down hill!

    But back on topic, I’m booked to go to Iceland soon, so I’ll be using this as a guide to find the rock, maybe have a picnic there or something!

  • DH87,

    Have you seen the TrueBlood Dart Board post ( I forget the link but I found
    it at SVB blog under S5 review ) it was both accurate and sickly amusing.
    I tried to watch last week’s episode as I was curious of ” Tara ” rumors ,
    I found a reason to become busy in the kitchen and returned only to hear the
    closing song. I’d much rather be in Iceland or hiking in Yosemite.

  • Karlstadt:

    I was not aware that Balkans is supposed to be anything else than a geographical location (of which Croatia definitely is a part of). Nor was I aware that Balkan countries were supposed to have some sort of a common cultural, historical, religious, architectural or whatever sort of heritage that a country has to “share” in order to be properly called a Balkan country. Basically, I find this whole notion is absurd.

    Acting butthurt because an article mentioned your geographically correct location reeks of a pathetic inferiority complex, as well as an unhealthy contempt of your neighbors. I sincerely advise you get over it.

  • WildSeed,

    I did see that dart board post, but it’s important to me that I meet Lex’s standards for comment relevance, content, and interest, so I’m now going to submit all of my posts to him and to Onion Knight for moderation prior to posting. I’m hoping this comment passes muster—keep your fingers crossed!

  • Yeekim,

    Since you are misinformed I am glad to set you straight. It is primarily a political term. As to what you find absurd or not I don’t really care. If you knew the first thing about geography and history you wouldn’t be saying such nonsense but I guess YOU are the one who is too butthurt to think properly… I hear it can be a bit taxing at times to think when you are in such a state. I recommend some soothing ointments.

  • Book Nazi: Seriously?And his response affects you how…?

    Seriously? And his response affects you how…?

    (I intend to keep this going)

  • I watched this episode recently and was surprised to see that I recognized that site from my trip to Iceland last summer. Ironically, though I spent a good hour and a half right by that spot, it took me two viewings to recognize it. When I was there, it was August so there wasn’t much snow around.

    I took a bunch of pictures there, it starts with this one and continues for 25 pictures if anyone is interested – Flickr Link