The Desert of Tabernas in the Levante, is the only ‘real’ desert in Europe, known for its strange lunar landscape of parched river beds and barrens slopes, high temperatures year-round and dry climate. The rain, when it comes, is torrential and the resulting erosion of the sandstone is responsible for creating the characteristic landscape of the badlands of Spain. The protected wilderness area is home to reptiles, hedgehogs, and birds. Look out for blue rock thrushes, crested larks, stone curlews, rare trumpeter finches, kestrels and eagle owls.
Located in a province of Almería between the Sierra de los Filabres and Sierra de Alhamilla, the Tabernas Desert looks similar to the Far West of America and has featured as the setting for Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, Clint Eastwood and Indiana Jones classics and many other films. Visit the film studios to imagine a taste of the wild west, as some of the sets remain preserved as theme parks. Texas Hollywood and Western Leone off the A92, and Mini-Hollywood, 7km south of Tabernas, are where you can stage your own showdown in a recreation of the classic American Wild West village, sets from Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and the Magnificent Seven.
The desert flora may look sparse but is actually varied and unique to the region, including Xerophyte flora which includes sea lavender ‘limonium insignis’ and winter-flowering vanilla scented white ‘toadflax linaria nigricans lange’, found on the solar Platform of Almeria – a forest of solar panels making the most of the vast hours of sunshine. Succulents like prickly pears adapted to semi-arid zones and crucifer euzomodendron bourgaeanum cosson are also seen growing in the river beds.
The Tabernas ruined hilltop castle was built in the 14th Century and is famous as the refuge of Ferdinand and Isabel during the siege of Almeria. Star gazing under clear desert skies is spectacular, with a hilltop astronomy observatory built at Gérgal, the highest point of the Sierra de los Filabres offering a magnificent view over the desert and high power telescopes to give you the best view of the stars.