Tabernas Desert

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Tabernas Desert
Almeria 02.jpg
A view of the desert
Area280 km2 (110 sq mi)
Native nameDesierto de Tabernas
Autonomous CommunityAndalusia
Population centerTabernas
Coordinates37°00′N 2°27′W / 37°N 2.45°W / 37; -2.45Coordinates: 37°00′N 2°27′W / 37°N 2.45°W / 37; -2.45

The Tabernas Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Tabernas) is one of Spain's semi-arid deserts, located within Spain's southeastern province of Almería. The desert is located in the interior, about 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of the provincial capital, Almería, in the Tabernas municipality.[1] Due to its high altitude and inland location, it has slightly higher annual rainfall (more than 200 mm per year) and lower annual average temperature than coastal areas of Almeria. It is a nature reserve (protected area) spanning 280 square kilometres (110 square miles).


A sunrise in the Tabernas Desert

The Tabernas Desert has various types of climates; from the hot desert climate and hot semi-arid climate in a few lowland areas to the cold desert climate and the cold semi-arid climate in most of the desert. The Tabernas Desert is situated between the Sierra de los Filabres to the north and the Sierra de Alhamilla to the south-southeast, isolating it from the humid winds of the Mediterranean Sea, in an area with little rainfall known as Levante.

In the lowest areas of the Tabernas basin (about 400 meters above sea level), the average annual temperature is of about 18.0 °C.[2] Temperatures in winter rarely drop below freezing at night while during the summer, absolute maximum temperatures can sometimes surpass 40 °C (104 °F) in the shade. The annual average precipitation is between 15-22 cm (depending on the zone, see same source pages 1 & 4/30) with only 1/3 falling in the hot season (May to October). The average annual sunshine is about 3000 hours.[citation needed]

Thus the climate, between 400 and about 800–900 meters, is semi-arid of "Syrian" type (see Georges Viers, Éléments de climatologie, Paris, Nathan, 1990) which means that the dry season occurs during the hot season (= 6 hottest months of the year). This characteristic is also aggravated by the foehn effect.

Above about 800–900 meters the precipitation increases, thus reducing the dry summer season, while the temperature drops. At these altitudes, the Tabernas basin climate is not semi-arid any more but Mediterranean.

Panoramic view of Tabernas Desert from A-92 (GPS 37.016773 -2.446092)

Geology and biology[edit]


The little rainfall that occurs is usually torrential, so that the ground, consisting of marls and sandstone with little vegetation, is unable to retain moisture. Instead, the rain causes erosion, forming the characteristic landscape of badlands. Arroyos formed by torrential rain harbor the scarce vegetation, as well as fauna such as swifts, hedgehogs, jackdaws, pin-tailed sandgrouse, blue rock thrushes, stone curlews, trumpeter finches, and crested larks.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The desert is well endowed with vegetation for a desert. Plants such as the sea lavender (Limonium insignis), which are teetering on the verge of extinction, manage to flourish in the semi-arid environment of the desert. In winter, the landscape of the desert turns white when the toadflax linaria (Nigricans lange) flowers. There are specimens of yellow scorpions (Buthus occitanus), tarantulas (Lycosa tarentulla) and black widows (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus) although it's not deadly as the American black widow. Coastal areas have lesser weevers such as Echiichthys vipera and Tachinus dracco, which usually live under the sand.[3]

Reptiles and amphibians[edit]

The reptilian population of the desert includes ladder snakes, spiny-footed lizards and ocellated lizards. Marsh frogs, natterjack toads and terrapins inhabit the moist areas of the desert.


Birds of prey such as the Bonelli's eagles and peregrine falcons roam the desert's skies. Lesser hunters include kestrels and eagle owls. Species such as the blue rock thrush, rock sparrow, rock bunting inhabit the rocky areas of the desert whereas warblers, goldfinches, golden orioles and serins prefer the ramblas near the dry river beds.[1]


The desert does not have a great number of mammalian species, with the total number a meager 20. The Algerian hedgehog, besides significant rabbit, hare and dormouse species, is one of the most important mammals inhabiting the area.


Map showing the different film sets built west of Tabernas
A street of Mini Hollywood

The Desert of Tabernas, because of its similarities with the North American deserts like the Far West of the American West, northern Africa, the Arabian deserts, and its lunar landscape, has been a popular area to shoot many films and westerns since the 1950s. The spaghetti westerns were shot at the three main studios, Texas Hollywood, Mini Hollywood, and Western Leone.[4][5][6]

The sixth season of the TV series Game of Thrones was shot in locations from Andalusia to Catalonia, including the desert,[7] which is the Dothraki Sea, a gigantic steppe in Essos, the largest continent.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Williams, Jo. "DESIERTO DE TABERNAS NATURAL AREA". Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ Y.Cantón, A. Solé-Benet, R. Lázaro. "Soil–geomorphology relations in gypsiferous materials of the Tabernas Desert (Almería, SE Spain), page 4/30)" (PDF). Elsevier. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 26, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2020.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Almería Medio Ambiente". Archived from the original on 2007-05-10.
  4. ^ Top Movie locations Retrieved 19 November 2012
  5. ^ Hall, William (1982). Raising Caine: the authorized biography. p. 129.
  6. ^ Simmons, Bob & Passingham, Kenneth. Nobody Does It Better: My 25 Years of Stunts With James Bond and Other Stories, 1987, Blandford
  7. ^ Smith, Oliver (11 April 2019). "Spain's incredible Game of Thrones filming locations". Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  8. ^ Pedraza, Jacobo (25 April 2016). "The new Spanish settings for 'Game of Thrones'". El País (in Spanish). Prisa. Retrieved 3 June 2019.

External links[edit]