It’s a question that has stood since the publication of A Game of Thrones in 1996: Could Daenerys fly to Westeros on her dragons? In the book and TV series, Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion are all grown up now. Dany has used Drogon as her steed at least once in the books (and several times in the show). So what’s to stop her from just flying over to Westeros and burninating the countryside?
Honestly? Nothing. But also…kind of everything.
Physical barriers are the most immediate roadblock to Dany’s flight. Just how narrow is the Narrow Sea between Westeros and Essos? How long can Drogon fly without landing? How fast can he go? How fast can he go if he’s carrying Dany? And what speed can Dany withstand while riding unprotected on top of a dragon?
The speed of a dragon is the hardest variable to pin down in this list. George R. R. Martin’s books* give very little corroborating information for dragon flights. We know that Targaryens of old bred dragons and raced them from King’s Landing to Dragonstone, but we don’t know if they bred dragons specifically for speediness, or if these races were unbroken flights or ultramarathons where the dragon and rider would stop for rest at certain intervals.
*(It’s probably best to stick with examples from the books. The show, especially in season 6, doesn’t take realistic distances and travel times into account at all, so it can’t be used as a verifiable source of distances or speed. Although on the plus side it makes the show way more exciting.)
There’s a concise explanation of a fictional dragon’s speed-to-weight ratio on this page here at Anthony’s Generic Universal Role-Playing System, and it even calculates in the added weight of a Daenerys or two. Anthony posits an optimal flight speed for dragons of 70 MPH, but that dips drastically when the dragon is carrying a passenger, wavering between 20 and 35 MPH. Still, maintaining 20-35 MPH is faster than any other conveyance on Planet Westeros can manage. (Un-motored wooden boats can get up to 8 knots, but that’s still only about 9 MPH, which is the same as a person in a full-out run. Rowboats can get up to 15 MPH, but that’s with a massive synchronized crew going all out. The only thing that comes close is a horse, which can achieve 35 MPH for a brief period. But certainly not on water! Westeros needs steam-powered trains.**)
**(But that’s a whole ‘nother series…)
Even though Dany’s dragons are probably faster than anything man-made/man-used, there’s still the distance of the Narrow Sea to contend with. And while the Narrow Sea is narrow on a geographical scale, it’s still going to present a challenge for your average Unburnt Stormborn Mother of Dragons.
The Wall has been firmly established as being 300 miles across, so using that as a measuring stick, we can easily tell the distance between a variety of crossings of the Narrow Sea.
The above map is the one commissioned and used primarily by HBO. (Sorry it’s so blurry.) It matches the dimensions of the The Lands of Ice and Fire “Known World” map. The blue bars represent a distance of 300 miles i.e. The Wall.
As we see, the shortest trip (around 275 miles) is between the northern Pentoshi coastline and the island of Dragonstone, the latter of which is currently bereft of Baratheons and is probably ridiculously easy to alight upon. It’s also a nicely symbolic trip, as dragons first came to Westeros through Dragonstone, so if Daenerys flew there on Drogon her first step on Westeros would be upon her family’s former seat of power.
Still, that would be a long non-stop flight for a dragon: between 8 and 14 hours depending on the speed that Drogon could average. Could Dany hold on to Drogon for that long? There is record of a Targaryen and his dragon struggling to make it back to Dragonstone from the Narrow Sea, so we know that a partial journey is at least possible even if the dragon is wounded, under duress, and must leave without preparation.
Could Drogon maintain a 20-35 MPH cruising speed? It’s possible that jet streams in the upper atmosphere could help push Drogon along to Dragonstone (the Stone Drum tower on Dragonstone was named specifically for the sound it makes from the storms that buffet the island, so clearly Dragonstone is in the path of a consistent jet stream that flows from the east or the south) but Drogon would be limited to whatever current he could catch below 5000 feet, as Dany would have trouble breathing above that point. (The air temperature, interestingly enough, wouldn’t be too much of an issue until around 10,000 feet.)
Daenerys flying across the Narrow Sea is heroically difficult, but not impossible. Considering that Daenerys is accustomed to tearing through the world doing impossible things, a solo flight across the Narrow Sea actually seems like something she would seriously consider. These are minimum estimates that I’m using, as well. If Drogon is faster (which is possible because hey, Drogon Is Magic!!!) then Dany’s trip becomes easier.
This estimation also doesn’t take into account an alternate route that Daenerys could take: Hopping across the Stepstones from Essos to Dorne.
Meereen is directly east of Dorne already, and the islands that comprise the Stepstones are never more than 80 miles apart from each other. Daenerys could easily just fly east, taking small two-to-four hour hops across the Narrow Sea until she arrived in Dorne. It would be slower, but not much slower; two or three leisurely days instead of one long one.
Hopping across the Stepstones also gives her a tactical advantage that she wouldn’t get from landing upon Dragonstone: the element of surprise. Any court still present on Dragonstone will send ravens immediately calling for help once they see a dragon swoop down out of the sky. Word of Daenerys’ return will reach King’s Landing rapidly (either directly or indirectly) and whatever crazy person is in charge there will immediately rally defenses.
If Daenerys lands on the tip of Dorne, however, then any panicked town or city will request aid not from King’s Landing, but from the ruling house of Dorne: a House that already knows of the dragons, considers a union with Daenerys as natural and right, and which has no love for the current House that sits upon the Iron Throne. If Daenerys entered Westeros through Dorne, it’s very possible that the Dornish would make every effort to ally with her, subsequently hiding her arrival from the rest of Westeros and preserving Daenerys’ advantage of surprise.
It would also make the Dorne plotline finally relevant to the larger story. (Hooray!)
So why hasn’t Daenerys already done this? Probably because she’s cognizant that even with dragons, it is her army that will truly take Westeros. Her dragons would give her the edge when it came time to attack and take King’s Landing, but she needs the Unsullied to hold the city, and presumably the Dothraki to expand from that point. Dragons are powerful, but they can’t affect a widespread area like an army can. They can dominate a building, a city, a battlefield, but not an entire kingdom. In the end, Daenerys needs to get her armies onto boats to have a real chance at taking Westeros.
Can Daenerys fly to Westeros on her dragons? Absolutely. But only if she wants her life’s campaign to end in failure.