Tabernas desert – Travel stories from Andalusia

The very beginning of my road trip in Andalusia was immediately wonderful. After landing in Alicante and made a stop in the ugly city of Torre Vieja we left the coast and the landscape started to change often becoming ever more arid and hilly. Although the final destination was Granada, I had already planned to cross and take a short break in the desert of Tabernas, province of Almeria. The way to get there is very easy, and as it approaches, I felt like I was experiencing the same beautiful travel emotions I had through the canyonland and desert in the States.


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The Andalusian desert landscapes are very similar to those in the west US. My adrenaline climbed up as soon as I felt the smell of beautiful photos.

Along the way, flat, arid land alternates with endless fields of small olive trees and then red rock and formations similar to the Arizona’s “mesa” and “butte”. We even cross a Route 66 petrol station alike. My emotion grows, along with that feeling of “wilderness” that frees the soul from all the stress accumulated in the everyday routines at work.


 (all the pictures in this post have been taken with an iphone 6S)

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My first landscapes photography in this journey. Fields of olive trees…


The road from Alicante to Tabernas

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Here, the road trip in Andalusia, begins…

The desert, once upon a time in the West

The Tabernas Desert, is very famous for having been, in particular in the past, the favorite location to shoot numerous western films.

Sergio Leone, the unforgettable Italian director, one of my favourites among others, has shot masterpieces here as A Fistful of Dollars(1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

We arrived in the afternoon, around 5pm, when the sun is still high and literally burns the rocks and the ground already dry. In the area, there are several Cinemas Studios, which have become theme parks. Unfortunately, what I wanted to visit, Fort Bravo, was closed to the public because they were shooting some scenes of a movie. Ok, next time then….

But it’s not a drama, because the landscape around, rough and natural, is incredibly beautiful. Driving around a little at random, I stopped to photograph some of the nicest spots. At this hour of the day, around 17:30, the light becomes warmer and less sharp, an ideal condition when photographing landscapes

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Another stop to photograph a beautiful desert landscapes

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Selfie time!

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Selfie also for my brand new Leica SL

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The abandoned western movie set

At some point, along with the road, I spotted what is probably a part of an abandoned old western movie set: a saloon alike house, or rather just the main facade. Around, some dry whitewashed trees and agave plants. A spot I cannot ignore, so, of course, we parked and walked through this dry and pungent countryside.

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The abandoned set

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For a moment, we felt we were catapulted into an old village in the west and I was expecting in a moment to hear the sound of the hooves of a horse, ridden by a cowboy with old spurs boots.

Ready to finally use intensively my new Leica SL

Back to reality, I finally started using intensively my brand new Leica SL for the first time, both for landscape photos with the Summicron 28mm f2 ASPH or for nice portraits (of my wife) or details with the Summicron 50mm f2 and the Pentacon 135mm F2.8 M42, which fortunately I just put on the bag a few seconds before leaving. At the first use, without reading anything from the manual, the Leica SL results really easy and comfortable, but the most useful feature I discovered and enjoyed is digital zoom through the small button on the back, that allows you to focus precisely with ease and speed. With the small Leica M and the rangefinder focus mode, it was more difficult.

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Walking in the arid field toward the movie set

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Detail of the arid ground

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The adapted Pentacon M42 135mm f2.8. It gives great results on the Leica SL

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The city and the castle of  Tabernas

Before leaving the desert and drive through the gorgeous Sierra Nevada to get to Granada, it is well worth a visit to the ruins of the Tabernas Castle that overwhelms the sleepy town.
Access to the site is free, indeed, everything seems completely abandoned, there is no barrier or gate to cross. Just leave the car in the free parking of a small sports center and walk up to the top.
Once on the top, the ruins themselves are nothing special, but all the best offers the view of both the town, overlooked by the rocks behind it and the desert view. Unfortunately, for time issues, I could not wait for the sunset… I imagine it would have been wonderful.

Sadly, I had to leave the desert, but this short break made me discover a truly unique and spectacular area of Spain, and I promised myself to photograph It again on a dedicated trip.


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The car we used for this road trip

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The way up to the castle

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The city of Tabernas seen from the castle

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I highly recommend spending a few days in the desert of Tabernas and the Sierra Nevada because they have nothing to envy to the most renowned and scenic West US deserts.

This European desert is definitely a must-see location for landscape photographers!

6 great tips to note down:

  • The distance from Alicante Airport to Tabernas is around 277 Kilometers, there are several speed limits below 100km / h during the route.
  • The highway is quite new and in perfect condition.
  • Don’t miss the view from the Castle of Tabernas at sunset!
  • Visiting the ruins and the area around is totally free
  • Main photography subjects: landscapes and textures
  • Recommended lenses for this area: wide angle for endless landscapes and telephoto (90mm or 135mm or more) to capture the beautiful patterns that form in the desert and among the rocks.

a presto, Sabino

Fotografo corporate e di eventi.