Desierto de Tabernas Natural Area

Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park

The Desierto de Tabernas Natural Area is a semi desert and is the only one in Europe.  Located between several mountains its appearance is almost lunar.  It is somewhat desolate but spectacular with its strange shaped ravines and dry river beds.


Sendero Rambla de Tabernas is a 8km walk, which takes you along the sandy bank of a seasonal river.  Springtime is the best time to do this walk as the river bank is covered in flowers.  If you prefer, the route can be cycled instead of walked.

Gérgal is well worth a visit due to it’s a well-preserved castle.  It also has astronomic observatory, Calar Alto, which is at the highest point of the Sierra de los Filabres (2,168m). From here, magnificent views of the Desierto de Tabernas can be enjoyed.

Mini-Hollywood is a film set which was created for the famous film A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone's and also used for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the Magnificent Seven and many others films. Tabernas is home to a ruined hilltop castle dating back to 14th-century. There is also a Mudéjar church dating back to the 15th-century. In order to see spectacular views of the desert it’s worth a visit to the astronomic observatory north of Gérgel.

As the Desierto de Tabernas Natural Area is desert it only receives rain a few times during the year, however when it does rain its torrential.  These rains have carved out sheer-sided gullies.  Piping is common place which has created a swiss cheese effect is some places.  (piping is caused when water permeates through the top of a slope and emerges further down through a hole).  Many millions of years ago the sea covered the Tabernas desert. There is now a strip of fossilised coral dunes which marks out the former coastline.


Reptiles are ladder snakes are common here along with some lizards including the  spiny-footed lizard. Frogs, terrapins and natterjack toads can be found in the more moist areas.

Although not resident in the Desierto de Tabernas Natural Area, the birds of prey such as bonelli’s eagles and peregrines use the desert as their hunting ground. Resident to the area are blue rock thrushes, rock sparrows, and rock buntings, these are found around the dry river courses.  Many other birds species inhabit the area, these include common kestrels, little owls, warblers, goldfinches, golden orioles and serins.  The trumpeter finch finds a refuge here as well (more common in the Sahara!).

Mammals are much less common than birds due to the arid environment.  The Algerian hedgehog is one such mammal, along with rabbits, hares and dormice.

Xerophtye plants are found throughout the Desierto de Tabernas Natural Area – these plants are adept at surviving in arid conditions.  There are some plants that are only found in the Desierto de Tabernas, this includes a rare sea lavender (limonium insignis) and toadflax (linaria nigricans lange).


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