10 Interesting Facts About The Tabernas Desert

One of the most fascinating deserts in the world covers a relatively small area in the southeastern corner of Spain in southern Europe.

In this post, you’ll be able to discover the most fun and interesting facts about the Tabernas Desert, a place that once served as a replica of the Far West in popular Western movies!

1. It’s located in a province in the Andalusia region of Spain

The Tabernas Desert is a semi-arid region (which means it’s not as dry as a real desert) in the southeastern part of Spain. It’s situated in the province of Almeria which is part of the Andalusia region in southern Spain.

The desert is located in a mountainous region just north of the capital of the province, a city also named Almeria, at a distance of about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the north.

The closest town in the area is also called Tabernas and is situated right on the edge of the desert.

Tabernas town
Tabernas Town / Maksym Abramov / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

2. The desert covers a relatively small area

The province features multiple extremely dry areas which are the driest in all of Europe. These dry regions are part of the larger Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park.

The Tabernas Desert is also a nature reserve, which means it’s a protected area. It covers an area of about 280 square kilometers (110 square miles), which is relatively small compared to other famous deserts in the world.

Tabernas Desert facts
View of the desert / Amjad Sheikh / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

3. It’s bounded by 2 mountain ranges in the area

The area of the desert consists of mountainous terrain and ranges in altitude between around 400 and 900 meters (1,312 to 2,952 feet). That’s because it’s bounded by two mountain ranges in the area.

The south and southeast it’s bounded by the relatively small Sierra de Alhamilla. To the north, it’s bounded by the largest mountain range in Almeria called the Sierra de Los Filabres.

The highest and most famous mountain of this mountain range is the “Calar Alto,” which reaches a height of 2,168 meters (7,113 feet). Its peak is home to one of Spain’s most famous observatories called the “Calar Alto astronomical observatory.”

Tabernas desert mountains
Desert in between mountains / Colin C Wheeler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/es/deed.en

4. The region receives very little yearly precipitation

Because of the presence of these mountain ranges, the desert receives very few humid winds of the Mediterranean Sea. This means that the desert is situated in an isolated region with extremely dry winds, something referred to as the “Foehn effect.”

One of the most remarkable facts about the Tabernas Desert is that the desert still receives more precipitation in the higher parts than the coastal regions of Almeria. The average yearly rainfall exceeds 200 millimeters.

Rocks in the Tabernas desert
The semi-arid desert / Colin C Wheeler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/es/deed.en

5. The highest parts of the desert aren’t semi-arid

The area of the desert situated at an altitude of between 800 and 900 meters (2,624 and 2,952 feet) even seizes to be semi-arid and is classified as a “Mediterranean climate” or “dry summer climate.”

This is simply because these areas are less protected from the nearby mountains and still receive humid winds of the Mediterranean Sea.

Tabernas desert clouds
Clouds above the highest parts / Roy Luck / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

6. The average yearly temperature fluctuates based on the altitude

While the higher portions of the desert are slightly wetter than the coastal areas of Almeria, these are generally a lot colder as well. In fact, this part of Spain is actually pretty cold during the winter months because of the high altitude, and the peaks of the nearby mountains are often covered in snow!

The highest parts of the deserts see winter temperatures of anywhere between 0 °C (32 °F) and 12 °C (54 °F), while the lower parts reach temperatures of anywhere between 6 °C (43 °F) and 15 °C (59 °F).

The summer months are much hotter with average temperatures fluctuating between 16 °C (61 °F) and 29 °C (84 °F) in the higher parts and between 20 °C (68 °F) and 31 °C (88 °F), which is obviously quite enjoyable.

Fun facts about the Tabernas desert rainfall
View of the desert / Graeme Maclean / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

7. The rain is the reason for the desert’s magnificent landscape

Whenever it rains in this area of Spain, it literally pours. This often causes flash floods, which in turn cause erosion. This has resulted in the marls and sandstone in the region being sculpted magnificently by nature.

This type of landscape is referred to as “badlands,” one of nature’s most fantastic features. This consists of dry terrain that has been systematically eroded by rain and wind for an extended period of time.

This has resulted in the amazing landscape of the Tabernas Desert.

Tabernas desert erosion
The result of erosion / Colin C Wheeler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/es/deed.en

8. Many types of reptiles and birds are common in the desert

While the number of mammals living in this desert is scarce and only includes the Algerian hedgehog, rabbits, hare, and some dormouse species, the number of reptiles living here is far higher.

Some of these reptiles include:

  • Yellow scorpions
  • Ladder snakes
  • Spiny-footed lizards
  • Ocellated lizards
  • Marsh frogs
  • Natterjack toads
  • Terrapins

It’s also home to some very scary spiders such as tarantulas and black widows, even though these aren’t considered to be as dangerous as their American counterparts.

When looking up into the sky you can also often see several birds of prey, including:

  • Bonelli’s eagles
  • Peregrine falcons
  • Kestrels (types of flacons)
  • Eagle owls
Ladder snake
Ladder snake / Benny Trapp / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

9. Multiple Western movies with Clint Eastwood were shot here

Perhaps one of the most fascinating facts about the Tabernas Desert is that this fascinating semi-arid landscape was considered to be the perfect location to shoot some Western movies in the 1960s.

The most popular movies that were shot here were the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” featuring stars such as Lee van Cleef and Clint Eastwood. These turned out to become the movies that turned Eastwood into an international movie star.

The movies in this amazing trilogy directed by the Italian director Sergio Leone are:

  • A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
  • For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

All of these were shot here and remain ultimate classics of the Western genre!

clint eastwood movies
Clint Eastwood in the Dollars Trilogy / Wiki Commons

10. It features a popular Western-style theme park

The filming of these movies happened in specially built studios that resembled the Far West in the Western part of the United States. What’s remarkable about these Western towns is that many of them have been repurposed and are now popular tourist attractions.

Some of these theme parks are Texas Hollywood, Mini Hollywood, and Western Leone. Mini-Hollywood is definitely the most popular as it’s situated right next to the town of Tabernas, pretty close to Almeria.

Mini-Hollywood is where the most popular movies were shot and it also features an exhibit with items used during the shooting, definitely a must-see if you enjoyed these amazing films!

Mini hollywood town square
The town square in Mini-Hollywood / Emilio del Prado / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en