Drive a few miles north of Almería in Spain and things start to look oddly familiar, even if you come from Cleveland or Glascow.
Foto de De Dgalan CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69271734
This is the Tabernas Desert. But where could you have seen the Tabernas Desert before?
In cowboy movies.
“Yucca City” in Tabernas (Almeria) Spain (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license photo by Gordito1869)
The Tabernas Desert is genuine cowboy country–gray, dusty, barren hills that make your mouth dry just to look at them. Remember how hot and dusty Lee van Cleef and Clint Eastwood looked in A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?
Those movies were filmed here, along with a hundred others. This was where Sergio Leone shot his Spaghetti Westerns. (See movie excerpts here.)
But Tabernas might look familiar because of other movies too, not just westerns. Remember the hills of Arabia in Lawrence of Arabia ? Those were Tabernas hills. And the strange barren mountains the little troop marches through at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the train races through at the end? Tabernas mountains. You might remember backgrounds from Cleopatra, Doctor Zhivago, Patton, The Wind and the Lion, and many others too. They were all shot in Tabernas.
And now a great treat: from the highway you suddenly see a real Far-West town, like the ones in all the movies. For a moment as you drive down the dusty lane and lose sight of it you wonder did you see right.
There was an old wooden church, a saloon, a barber’s, a blacksmith’s, even Indian teepees outside of town. A gallows too!
But then when you reach the gate there is no doubt: a cowboy walks up to your car and draws a Smith and Wesson on you. “Welcome, folks!” he says with a poker face. “There’s a show at 12 and another at 1. We hope you’ll stick around. We’ll meet you at the saloon.”
Read here about an exciting visit to one of the theme parks in Tabernas.
“I went to Mini-Hollywood, the longest established of three theme parks existing in the area…Its heart is a Wild-West set, what one critic calls “your standard Spaghetti-Western town.” And most of it is deliciously, authentically false-real, phony buildings that were actually used in films…”
Tabernas is on the N-340, less than an hour’s drive from Almeria, Spain.
See more photos and read this article if you can in the Spanish newspaper El País.
Enjoyed your blog. Love those spaghetti westerns. By the way, I do a blog on classic movies.
Sarah Douglas at cinemascooper.com.
Thanks, Lisa! Yes, the post is old and I haven’t been back to Tabernas since just before I wrote it. I hope it hasn’t changed much and those actors at the tavern still put on a good play. Have fun there. I sure did.
I find this part of Spain ruggedly beautiful. We will be moving near there very soon. I know you posted this blog long ago and would like to comment on how well written it is. Thank you for the information.
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Anonymous: In your dreams may be just as good. And you have the movies.
Thanks for the info. I’d love to visit there one day but, I’m afraid it would only be in my dreams.
Thank you for this website ! I am a Fan of Sergio Leone ! next year when i go to Spain I will visit Almeria desert . where Italian director Sergio Leone filmed and directed most famous spagetti westerns , Mike from Vancouver , Canada
Margot: There are several visitable sets in Tabernas. I went to the first one I saw along the road. Then on the way out I noticed signs pointing to others and wondered if I had chosen the best. I drove on and came to a much bigger one–a real theme park with a zoo. From there I could see yet another Western town set which looked as attractive. So I don’t know which to recommend. I was surprised to see that those places don’t advertize themselves much–why, I don’t know.
For those of us in Morocco, it’s so great that you included a MAP with this post, of how to get there! This looks like a place my husband would love to visit.
Margot, in Marrakesh
Thank you for the pics and description of spaghetti western heaven! It’s great to see where filmic history was made.
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