This Desert Destination Is Considered The One Most Filmed In Europe

When you visualize Spain, it's typically palm trees, teal waters, and more paella than you know what to do with. You probably don't think of Western movies, yet the Iberian Peninsula has been home to many a Hollywood set. With endless sand dunes, salt flats, and rugged cliffs that hang more than 300 feet over the Mediterranean Sea, the Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park makes an excellent backdrop for desert-themed projects.

Cabo de Gata sits inside the only desert in Europe, home of the most arid region on the continent, notes the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). With its volcanic geography and unspoiled scenery, it's been used as a filming location for many movies, shows, and Spaghetti Westerns — the industry term for a Western movie made in Europe, popularized by Italian director Sergio Leone in the 1960s. Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" starring Clint Eastwood was filmed here, along with scenes from other instant classics like "Lawrence of Arabia," "Indiana Jones," and "Game of Thrones."

How to get to Cabo de Gata

To get to the Cabo de Gata desert, fly into Malaga Airport (AGP) or take a train to Malaga's Maria Zambrano train station. From there, you can rent a car or catch a bus from the Malaga Bus Station, which is right next to the train station. Once you arrive in San Jose, catch a guided tour of the park for €118 ($124) a person. Film buffs will enjoy a full-day guided tour of filming locations in Tabernas for €78 ($83), including a Wild West-inspired show that brings the saloons and shoot-outs to life.

To see the desert from another point of view, you can book a kayak tour for €25 ($27). You'll depart from San Jose for a two-hour excursion offshore, exploring the region's many coves and bird havens along the rugged cliffside. Of course, a snorkel break is included to enjoy a dip in the clear waters and catch a view of the lively coral reefs below. With just eight inches of rainfall a year, per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), you'll want to pack a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of SPF. Round out your trip with a walk along one of the region's many undeveloped, uncrowded golden beaches — a true rarity in Spain. That alone is worth the visit.