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Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree: Area order and progression route

Here's our recommended route through the Shadow Realm's main story and sidequests.

A warrior stands in front of a Miquella's Cross and the Shadow Keep in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree
Image credit: Eurogamer/FromSoftware

If you're wondering what the recommended area order is for Elden Ring's Shadow of the Erdtree DLC, we're here to help. After all, the Shadow Realm is a big place, with several optional areas that have no relation to the main story. This can make navigating Shadow of the Erdtree a little tricky if all you want is to follow the critical path and get to the final boss, so we've kept our area order reasonably fluid, covering the broad areas related to Shadow of the Erdtree's main story, followed by our recommended progression route through all of its optional areas as well.

You can, of course, tackle the optional areas in any order you like, and if you want to complete all of Shadow of the Erdtree's sidequests, then you'll almost certainly want to visit them all before hitting the final boss, as the final story area is where many of them reach their conclusion. As such, treat this Shadow of the Erdtree area order guide with a degree of flexibility, as the joy of FromSoftware's RPGs is often in the thrill of exploration.

Still, if you need a steer on where to go next, read on below for our recommended area order and progression route for Shadow of the Erdtree.

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Shadow of the Erdtree recommended area order

Below, we've annotated Shadow of the Erdtree's map to help guide you through our recommended area order for Elden Ring's DLC. Each area is colour-coded and numbered to show what order you should tackle them in, with black numbers denoting the progression route for the main story, and white numbers highlighting where Shadow of the Erdtree's optional areas can be found.

The map of Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree, colour-coded by area progression order.
Our recommended area order for Shadow of the Erdtree. | Image credit: Eurogamer/MapGenie/FromSoftware

We've also got the same information in table form below, once again prioritising area order by the main story route, with optional areas listed beneath:

Area order Area name
1 Gravesite Plain
2 Belurat, Tower Settlement
3 Castle Ensis
4 Scadu Altus
5 Shadow Keep
6 Ancient Ruins of Rauh
7 Enir-Ilim
8 (OPTIONAL) Cerulean Coast
9 (OPTIONAL) Recluses' River
10 (OPTIONAL) Abyssal Woods
11 (OPTIONAL) Scaduview Hinterland
12 (OPTIONAL) Jagged Peak / Charo's Hidden Grave

As mentioned above, you'll likely want to visit most, if not all, of Shadow of the Erdtree's optional areas before you take on the final boss in area (7), Enir-Ilim, so by all means take your time exploring the map as you see fit.

You can see from the map that Shadow of the Erdtree's main story route mostly takes place in the north-western corner of the map, and if you were to draw an arrow from start to finish, it would probably look like a kind of reverse C as you progress from Gravesite Plain through its first two dungeons, Belurat Tower Settlement and Castle Ensis, into Scadu Altus, up round to the east side of the Shadow Keep and then back round through the Ancient Ruins of Rauh until you finally reach the final dungeon of the DLC, Enir-Ilim.

But Gravesite Plain also has several other exits that lead to Shadow of the Erdtree's optional areas. You could quite easily travel down to the Cerulean Coast from there, for example, then come back around to Scadu Altus, or start exploring the Jagged Peak and Charo's Hidden Grave by coming out the other end of Gravesite Plain's optional Dragon's Pit dungeon.

There are several optional areas leading off various sides of the Shadow Keep, too, both from the Shadow Keep's Back Gate to get to the Scaduview Hinterland and Finger Ruins of Dheo, and through its secret coffin to get down to the Recluses' River and Abyssal Woods.

A warrior rides their horse into the sunset in Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree.
Image credit: Eurogamer/FromSoftware

What's the best area order for Shadow of the Erdtree's sidequests?

If your main priority is to complete as many Shadow of the Erdtree sidequests as you can before hitting the final boss, then you'll want to progress the main story as slowly as possible, as there are several important moments where events will progress of their own accord if you barrel through the story too quickly:

  • Approaching the Shadow Keep (or entering Rauh Base for the first time): you'll know when you've hit the first major plot progression point, as you'll hear a bell toll in the distance, and the message "Somewhere, a great rune has broken..." will appear on your screen. This marks the moment where the charm binding all the sidequest NPCs together is lifted, and from this point onwards their individual storylines will start progressing as they all start gradually turning against each other.
  • Completing the Shadow Keep: with several sidequests taking place within the Shadow Keep itself, completing this dungeon and beating its boss Messmer the Impaler is the second major point in Shadow of the Erdtree where you can unintentionally advance the plot if you're not careful. As such, you'll want to slow down here if the sidequests are important to you.

To help make sure you don't miss anything accidentally, we've listed each area according to which NPCs you'll find there during their sidequests, giving you an idea of how they intersect, and where you might want to explore first if you're interested in following a particular storyline:

Area name Related NPC sidequests
Gravesite Plain Freyja (1st meeting, Three-Path Cross)
Hornsent (1st meeting, Three-Path Cross)
Ansbach (1st meeting, Main Gate Cross)
Moore (1st meeting, Main Gate Cross)
Thiollier (1st meeting, Pillar Path Cross)
Igon (1st meeting, Pillar Path Waypoint)
Fire Knight Queelign (1st meeting, Belurat Tower Settlement)
Scadu Altus Needle Knight Leda (1st meeting, Highroad Cross)
Hornsent (2nd meeting, Highroad Cross)
Dryleaf Dane (1st meeting, Moorth Ruins Cross)
Fire Knight Queelign (2nd meeting, Church of the Crusade)
Count Ymir/Swordhand of the Night Jolan (1st meeting, and 4th and final meeting, Cathedral of Manus Metyr)
Cerulean Coast Thiollier (2nd meeting, Stone Coffin Fissure)
Count Ymir/Swordhand of the Night Jolan (2nd meeting, Finger Ruins of Rhia)
Jagged Peak Igon (2nd meeting, Foot of the Jagged Peak)
Igon (3rd meeting, Jagged Peak Summit)
Igon (4th and final meeting, Foot of the Jagged Peak)
Dragon Communion Priestess (1st and final meeting, Grand Altar of Dragon Communion)
Scaduview Hinterland Count Ymir/Swordhand of the Night Jolan (3rd meeting, Finger Ruins of Dheo)
Shadow Keep Freyja (2nd meeting, Storehouse Seventh Floor)
Ansbach (second meeting, Storehouse 1st Floor)
Hornsent (3rd meeting, Messmer's Dark Chamber)
Fire Knight Queelign (3rd and final meeting, Prayer Room)
Ancient Ruins of Rauh Hornsent (4th and final meeting, Rauh Ancient Ruins West)
Enir-Ilim Needle Knight Leda (3rd and final meeting)
Freyja (3rd and final meeting)
Ansbach (3rd and final meeting)
Thiollier (3rd and final meeting)
Moore (2nd and final meeting)
Dryleaf Dane (2nd and final meeting)

For even more information about each NPC questline, you can also read our dedicated walkthrough guides for each character:

Coming soon...

  • Needle Knight Leda's questline walkthrough
  • Freyja's questline walkthrough
  • Ansbach's questline walkthrough
  • Moore's questline walkthrough
  • Hornsent's questline walkthrough
  • Count Ymir's questline walkthrough
  • Swordhand of the Night Jolan's questline walkthrough

In short, if you find yourself steaming towards the Shadow Keep and are worried about missing any sidequest steps, this would be a good time to start exploring Shadow of the Erdtree's optional areas, especially the Cerulean Coast for Thiollier, Count Ymir and Swordhand of the Night Jolan, and the Jagged Peak for Igon and the Dragon Communion Priestess.

The Recluses' River area and Abyssal Woods are NOT associated with any NPC sidequest - the only reason to visit these is to find its map fragment and beat one of the 10 Remembrance bosses located there, Midra, Lord of Frenzied Flame.

That's everything you need to know about Elden Ring Shadow of the Erdtree's area order. Remember, take these suggestions as a rough guide on how to progress your journey through the Shadow Realm. There's much to explore and discover in Elden Ring's DLC, and many mysterious locations to find, visit and loot for treasure, so we hope you enjoy finding them all, at whatever pace suits you.

Need more help? Improve your stats by finding all of Shadow of the Erdtree's Scadutree Fragment locations and Revered Spirit Ash locations. Alternatively, see which Erdtree bosses you've still got left to beat, and track down some great new early weapons to help you on your adventure.

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