Last Updated on August 4, 2022

The Tabernas Desert is located in the province of Almeria and is the only desert in Spain, as well as the only true desert in Europe, and the location where many western films by Italian director Sergio Leone were filmed.

It is not a desert of yellow sand and high dunes moved by the wind: in Tabernas the landscape is gray, still and only a few greenish shrubs break the monotony of these mountains. What we find in Tabernas are the so-called badlands, a typical environment on the North American continent.

Tabernas Desert, the only desert in Europe
Tabernas Desert near Almeria, Spain.

The only desert in Europe

This particular environment was formed as a result of the climate in this area, which goes from Mediterranean to arid to cold, and it is characterized by extremely low precipitation. An inhospitable habitat where water is scarce and during which 50 degrees Celsius (122°F) can be reached in summer, this is the only area in Europe which can be classified as a desert. As in the most classic western movies, in the Tabernas Desert it is easy to encounter rolling tumbleweeds down the road.

The birthplace of Spaghetti Westerns

The Tabernas Desert has been, and continues to be, a favorite setting for filmmakers around the world. This arid landscape is suited to particularly accommodate Western films. Sergio Leone found his second home here and shot so many spaghetti western movies. “Once Upon a Time in the West“, “A Fistful of Dollars“, “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” are just a few of the great Italian director’s films. American filmmakers have also chosen this location for their works, among which certainly worth mentioning are such masterpieces as “Lawrence of Arabia“, “Django“, “Cleopatra“, “Conan the Barbarian” and “Indiana Jones“.

Tabernas Desert - Mini Hollywood for Spaghetti Western and more
The Tabernas Desert in Spain is the filming location for many Western movies.

Mini Hollywood

In the Tabernas Desert there is an amusement park inspired by western cinema and the world of cowboys. This amusement or theme park, called Mini Hollywood Oasys Park is precisely located nestled in the desert in the province of Almeria. The Mini Hollywood experience is suitable for children and anyone who is a fan of the genre, and includes a real far-west style heist script with live actors.

Cabo de Gata and Nijar

There is not only desert around Almeria: the coast of Almeria is full of less touristy but incredibly picturesque locations with beautiful beaches. To the east of Almeria, among imposing cliffs and headlands, lies the coast of Cabo de Gata with its wonderful beaches washed by turquoise and crystal clear waters. This coastal strip is about 60 kilometers long includes several fishing villages, runs from Retamar to Agua Amarga, and is home to the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Nijar. About 35 kilometers northeast of Almeria, on the road to Murcia, between the Sierra Alhamilla Mountains and the extreme southeastern coast of Spain, right on the edge of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park, is the picturesque and traditional Moorish village of Nijar, famous for its handcrafted production of fine pottery, decorated with Arabic motifs and vivid mineral colors, and colorful striped cotton carpets known as jarapas. If you wish to buy original souvenirs Nijar is the ideal place to do so.

Cabo de Gata
Cabo de Gata coast near Tabernas Desert, Spain.

Getting there

Getting to the Tabernas Desert is nothing as complicated as you might think, but the area can only be traversed by car or bus. The nearest city is Almeria.

  • From Almeria, the distance to cover is about 30 km and you can reach the desert in about half an hour. ALSA buses serve the Almeria-Tabernas route every two hours. The duration of the bus ride is about 40 minutes.
  • From Granada, the distance is about 140km and the duration of the drive just over 90 minutes.
  • From Malaga, the distance rises to 233 km, with an estimated travel time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Read also: Sandboarding in Spain logo icon

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