Since most of you poor readers seem to be living in North Western Europe and just have your rainy season (behind you??) it is time to let you know about this place not far from here, where it is slightly different.
What’s the only continent without a single desert? According to the popular trivia factoid, the answer is “Europe.” But that’s not strictly true. There are a number of semi-arid spots dotted around Europe that qualify under various geographical definitions of “desert,” none more certainly than the badlands of southeastern Spain. The Desierto de Tabernas there is often called “mainland Europe’s only desert.”
The city of Almería, on the Andalusian coast, is world-renowned for its Moorish architecture and sunny beaches. But just 30 kilometers north of town, the landscape is very different: a hot basin sandwiched between two low sierras. Wet winds coming in from the Mediterranean drop all their moisture in the hills, and their “rain shadow” forms the arid Tabernas Desert. It is a little bit of the Sahara, just north of the Costa del Sol.
Tabernas is no desert in name only. In the summer, temperatures easily can reach 50ºC, as hot as anywhere in Europe. Yeah, I can hear you say that I have written here that Sevilla can be as hot as that. But this place under the sun has less than 70mm of rain fall in the dry season and what does come usually arrives in torrents, eroding the sandstone into dramatic mesas and gulches. Snakes, lizards, and cacti are common.
In fact, the rugged landscape of Tabernas makes it a dead ringer for much of the American southwest, but much cheaper so it’s become a popular location for movie crews. Sergio Leone filmed his famous “spaghetti westerns” there. The three mock-Western towns where he shot Once Upon a Time in the West and other classics have been made over as Wild West theme parks, where tourists today still enjoy re-enacted gunfights and roundups.
So if the rain isn’t over at your place yet you might combine your next visit to Cortijo El Guarda with Tabernas. Oops it (sincerely) just started to rain here….