An iconic filming location has become a tourism mecca for fans of Game of Thrones, changing the focus of a long-standing religious shrine from John the Baptist to Jon the Bastard.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on the tourism spike at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Basque, Spain, the location for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones. At least 75,000 people visited the site and climbed its steps in July alone, which rounds out to over 2400 people per day. The local government has welcomed the increase in tourists, but it's also running the risk of damaging a shrine that's served as a pilgrimage for many Christians.
The government's provincial Environment Department is working on ways to balance Game of Thrones tourism with conservation of the iconic religious shrine. Options include limiting the number of tourists and transportation or charging a fee to access the stairway.
Image: HBO via YouTube
The islet bears 241 steps that lead to a hermitage (later a monastery) for John the Baptist, who's believed to have once visited the island -- though it's never been proven. The hermitage has technically stood there since the 9th century, though it's burned down before and is no longer occupied. Once a pilgrim has climbed the stone steps to the monastery, they're encouraged to ring the church bell three times for luck.
Given that at least 2400 people were visiting the site daily, that means up to 7200 bell rings. Every. Single. Day. That would turn anyone into the Grinch. All the noise noise noise noise noise noise noise noise....