by Telegraph Reporters, The Telegraph, September 8, 2017
People may be illegally downloading Game of Thrones in their billions, but that hasn't stopped them from stumping up the cash to descend upon the little-known pilgrimmage sites that comprise the show's set.
Spanish tourism authorities have been left worried for the welfare of a heritage site called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the country's Basque region after 75,000 tourists have visited its staircase, which was used to film Thrones's Dragonstone scenes.
Although there is no castle at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – that was generated by CGI, and instead there is a modest church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist – its winding steps frequently provided a backdrop in Thrones as Daenerys, Jon Snow and Tyrion discussed strategy and the existence of White Walkers. It was on these steps that Ser Davos famously challenged Jon about his affection for Daenerys (whom nobody yet knows is his aunt), with the memorable line: "I've noticed you staring at her good heart".
Until this summer, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe drew attention only from a small number of religious visitors. But Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that during July approximately 2,500 tourists descended on the site each day.
Local tradition dictates that visitors must ring a bell that hangs above the church three times and make a wish, as a reward for climbing the steps. But the bell-ringing has become a problem, and officials are worried about the damage that the site could suffer.
They are now discussing limiting the number of tourists allowed to visit the site and charging visitors to climb the steps.
It's not the first instance of Thrones tourism threatening a historic area. In 2016, the ancient city of Dubrovnik, which provided the backdrop for Kings Landing in the show, saw record number of tourists. Just this week, the mayor of Dubrovnik revealed he was planning to cap the number of visitors to stop crowding.