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Tabernas Desert
A view of the desert
Tabernas Desert is located in Spain
Tabernas Desert
Tabernas Desert
Location in Spain
Tabernas Desert is located in Europe
Tabernas Desert
Tabernas Desert
Location in Europe
Area280 km2 (110 sq mi)
Native nameDesierto de Tabernas (Spanish)
Autonomous communityAndalusia
Population centerTabernas
Coordinates37°00′N 2°27′W / 37°N 2.45°W / 37; -2.45

The Tabernas Desert (Spanish: Desierto de Tabernas) is a semi-desert in Spain and Europe, located within Spain's south-eastern province of Almería. It is in the interior, about 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of the provincial capital Almería, in the Tabernas municipality in Andalusia.[1]

Due to its high elevation and mountainous location, it has slightly higher annual rainfall (more than 22 cm (8.7 in) per year) and lower annual average temperature than coastal areas of Almeria. It is a nature reserve (protected area) that spans 280 square kilometers (110 square miles).


A sunrise in the Tabernas Desert

The Tabernas Desert is defined mainly by a cold semi-arid climate and a cold desert climate. Situated between the Sierra de los Filabres to the north and the Sierra de Alhamilla to the south-southeast, it is isolated from the humid winds of the Mediterranean Sea, in an area with little precipitation known as Levante.

In the lowest elevations of the Tabernas basin (about 400 m (1,310 ft) above sea level), the average annual temperature is close to 18.0 °C (64.4 °F).[2] Due to its relative proximity to the coast and its relatively high altitude, temperatures in winter vary between 0–12 °C (32–54 °F) in the higher altitudes to 6–15 °C (43–59 °F) in the lower altitudes while temperatures in the summer vary from 16–29 °C (61–84 °F) in the higher altitudes to 20–31 °C (68–88 °F) in the lower altitudes.[3] The annual average precipitation is 15–22 cm (5.9–8.7 in) (depending on the zone[3]: 1 & 4/30 ) with only one-third falling in the hot season (May to October). The average annual sunshine is about 2900 hours.[citation needed]

Thus the climate, from 400–800 meters (1,310–2,620 ft), is an arid type.[4] This characteristic is also aggravated by the foehn effect.[citation needed]

At the highest elevations, 800–1,000 meters (2,620–3,280 ft), the precipitation increases, thus reducing sunshine during the summer, while the temperature drops during the winter. At these elevations, the Tabernas basin climate is not arid any more but Mediterranean, or at the highest points, even continental temperate, experiencing several frozen winter months.

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

Geology and biology


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

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 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.[5]

Reptiles and amphibians

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 approximately 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

Because of its similarities to deserts in the southwestern United States, northern Mexico, northern Africa, and Arabia, Tabernas has been a popular area to shoot many films since the 1950s. The Spaghetti Westerns were shot at the three main studios, Texas Hollywood, Mini Hollywood, and Western Leone.[6][7][8]

The sixth season of the TV series Game of Thrones was shot in locations from Andalusia to Catalonia, including the desert,[9] which is the Dothraki Sea, a gigantic steppe in Essos, the largest continent.[10]

Nowadays, many video clips and television commercials are shot, although from time to time it is still the setting for a film or television series, taking advantage of the photogenic landscape of the Almeria desert and thanks to the western settlements that are still standing. From the late 1950s to the present day, more than 300 films have been shot in this desert, most of them westerns.

In 2002, it shot the comedy western film 800 Bullets, directed by Álex de la Iglesia and starring Sancho Gracia. It was also filmed an episode of the seventh season of the well-known British science fiction series Doctor Who, entitled A Town Called Mercy, broadcast on BBC One on September 15, 2012, as well as several episodes of the third season of Penny Dreadful in 2015. In 2016, the desert was used as a set for the music video of Shout Out to My Ex by the British girl group Little Mix included in their fourth album. The same year scenes were also filmed for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, depicting Dothraki territory. In 2017, the exteriors of the Black Museum episode of the fourth season of the Black Mirror series were filmed.[11]

See also


  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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Valores climatológicos normales". AEMET. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  4. ^ Georges Viers (1990), Éléments de climatologie, Paris, Nathan
  5. ^ "Almería Medio Ambiente". Archived from the original on 2007-05-10.
  6. ^ Top Movie locations Retrieved 19 November 2012
  7. ^ Hall, William (1982). Raising Caine: the authorized biography. p. 129. ISBN 9780137526758.
  8. ^ Simmons, Bob & Passingham, Kenneth. Nobody Does It Better: My 25 Years of Stunts With James Bond and Other Stories, 1987, Blandford
  9. ^ Smith, Oliver (11 April 2019). "Spain's incredible Game of Thrones filming locations". Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  10. ^ Pedraza, Jacobo (25 April 2016). "The new Spanish settings for 'Game of Thrones'". El País (in Spanish). Prisa. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Almería se luce en el último capítulo de 'Black Mirror'". LA VOZ DE ALMERIA. Retrieved 7 January 2018.