For some unfathomable reason, sunshine and green fields aren’t the first things that spring to mind when people think of Iceland. Perhaps it has something to do with Game of Thrones‘ scenes of the frozen north being filmed largely on location in snow-covered Icelandic hills.

Miles upon miles of largely untouched landscape make Iceland an ideal filming location for shows or movies that require great sweeping backdrops without the use of a green screen and CGI. Christopher Nolan shot a significant portion of his upcoming sci-fi film Interstellar in Iceland, and a couple of years prior it was one of the main locations used in Prometheus. It’s wise to tread lightly, though, as the island is known for its violent geysers and active volcanoes.

A new featurette for Game of Thrones includes interviews with the cast and crew during last summer’s filming of the show’s fourth season, and provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the show’s location shoots. Despite the fact that the trailers so far have promised pretty dark times ahead, the weather couldn’t be more beautiful in Westeros’ real-world stand-in. Rather unfortunately for the actors who are trying to enjoy the sunshine, as fashion in the north leans heavily towards layers of armor and/or fur.

Described as “an expensive operation any time of year” by producer Chris Newman, filming extensively in Iceland is one of the luxuries that Game of Thrones can just about afford, having one of the highest per-episode budgets in television history. The money gets poured not only into locations shoots but also into the 105 built sets that were used for season 4.

What keeps the fans coming back, however, is the story and the characters as much as the lavish sets used in Game of Thrones. After the shocking developments of season 3, the show’s fourth season will find the last few remaining members of the Stark family scattered and Westeros careening towards a war on several sides. Perhaps the whole situation could be remedied by having Joffrey “accidentally” step on a geyser.

Game of Thrones returns to HBO on April 6, 2014.

Source: HBO