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Going beyond the Wall into real 'Game of Thrones' lands (pictures)

Crave's Eric Mack recently visited the northernmost reaches of Westeros, but he didn't have to go over the Wall. Instead he took a red-eye flight to Iceland.

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Eric Mack
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1 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

A waterfall in the north?

The crew of "Game of Thrones" trots around the world filming in diverse locations to create the world of Westeros. But perhaps the most iconic region of this alternate universe lies "beyond the Wall" in the far north. Many of those scenes are actually shot in Iceland, which, while appropriately named, is much more than just permafrost and snow.

Many of the landscape shots that serve as the backdrop for scenes in the North weren't shot far from this spot, Iceland's Godafoss or "waterfall of the gods," where the nation officially declared itself a Christian country centuries ago.

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2 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Not the Wall

Driving around Iceland this month, I found that many of the innumerable flat-top volcanic mountains and ridges seem like they could easily stand in for the great Wall in "Game of Thrones," like these (pictured) near the northern city of Husavik. The actual geologic formation that stands in for the fictional Wall is likely to surprise you, however.

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3 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Mud pots

While you wouldn't guess it, boiling-hot water and mud helped to create some of the far-out landscapes north of the Wall. One of the filming locations was the geothermal field full of hot pots and steam vents in Iceland's Hverir area.

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4 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Steam or snow?

When snow was in short supply, the "Game of Thrones" crew actually used the steam from a vent like this one at Hverir to create the illusion of a blizzard through which Samwell Tarly could flee from white walkers.

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5 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Jon Snow's love cave

This small cave near the shores of Iceland's Lake Myvatn served as the backdrop for the consummation of Jon Snow and Ygritte's affections. While much of the actual scene had to be shot elsewhere because there was too much steam to shoot here, this is the actual grotto that inspired the romance.

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6 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

A deep, dark (tiny) forest

One thing is undoubtedly in short supply in Iceland -- trees. So when the "Game of Thrones" crew needed a deep, dark forest for Samwell Tarly to run through, this small stand of trees across the water from the wildlings' camp had to do.

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7 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Wildlings' campsite

While the wildlings' camp in Season 3 of "Game of Thrones" seems distant from civilization, it was actually shot on the shores of gorgeous Lake Myvatn, a vacation destination for Icelanders and Crave writers alike.

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8 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Behold. The Wall

Seriously, this is it. While there are a number of wall-like ridges around, this large volcanic crater named Hverfjall is the real-world stand-in for the Wall, at least before the "Game of Thrones" special-effects crew works a whole lot of digital magic on it.

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9 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

Glacial tongues make Frostfangs

The icy peaks and glacial tongues of Iceland's southern side set the scene for "Game of Thrones" moments set in the shadow of the fearsome Frostfang mountains, aka the Frostfangs. This particular glacier in Vatnajokull National Park was also used in the filming of "Interstellar."

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10 of 10 Eric Mack/CNET

It's not all frozen

Iceland displays brilliant green and pastel hues when it springs to life in the summer. This area in Thingvellir National Park was also used as a location during the warmer months to stand in for scenes set in mid-Westeros. But even if the "Game of Thrones" crew is warming up to the sunnier side of Iceland, the frigid temperatures and howling winds during my April visit will always make it the land of endless winter in both my memory and imagination.

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