Bardenas Reales: Spain’s Incredible Desert


Wild and extreme, Bardenas Reales could not be more different to the cosmopolitan cities and beach resorts of Spain if it tried. Made up of 42,000 hectares of incredible desert shapes including canyons, plateaus and isolated hills called cabezos; Bardenas Reales has more aesthetic relation to Nevada than the land of sangria and tiki taka football.

Located in central Spain just a few hours south of the beautiful port city of Bilbao, Bardenas Reales is a surprising addition to the nation’s landscape. Located in a valley at the foot of the mountains of the Yugo, Bardenas Reales is split into two distinct areas: White Bardena and Black Bardena.

The White Bardena encompasses much of the central area of Bardenas Reales, and is mostly represented by a large desert ploughed by deep gorges which flow with rivers during the rainy season. Covered in a beautiful white sand (which gives the area its title), the White Bardena creates an almost lunar impression upon visitors.

Located in the south-eastern part of the territory, the Black Bardena boasts a higher level of vegetation to its lighter counterpart. Furthermore, the Black Bardena possesses a more varied landscape, with a series of plateaus and troughs dotting the landscape.

Bardenas Reales 2 - Miguel Ángel García.

Touring Bardenas Reales

Despite its sometimes inhospitable appearance, Bardenas Reales can be easily explored on foot, bicycle, horseback or even by motor vehicle. Drinking in the incredible landscape, visitors will continuously find themselves amazed and their sense aroused by the sights, sounds and smells of the Bardenas.

Designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Bardenas Reales is a must-see for any European geologist or natural scientist – professional or amateur. And the effects of corrosion provide a wonderful exploration through time, and the changing face of the planet.

The national park of Bardenas Reales is open between 08.00 and 17.30, providing plenty of opportunity for visitors to explore the breath-taking vistas.

Xavier Béjar - Bardenas Reales

Game of Thrones

Bardenas Reales’ incredible landscapes may soon become less of a hidden Spanish gem in the coming weeks, with the sandy tundra providing the backdrop for a number of scenes in the new season of HBO’s incredibly popular Game of Thrones.

The extreme aesthetic and European location proved perfect for the set planners when looking for a setting for the Dothraki Sea. Typified as endless plains without water, the Dothraki sea will be walked and explored by Daenerys Targaryen during season six – and the area’s great heat will emerge as another threat for the mother of dragons.

The lusher parts of the Dothraki Sea have been filmed in Northern Ireland, in regions such as Ballymoney and Sandy Brae – a fair jaunt from the sandy plains of Bardenas Reales.

If you’re interested in visiting Bardenas Reales and the surprising hidden gems of Spain, visit our dedicated cruises to Spain page. Alternatively, for a full range of Cruise1st deals call our friendly sales team on 0808 2746 777.

 Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Miguel Ángel GarcíaXavier Béjar

Bardenas Reales: Spain’s Incredible Desert
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Bardenas Reales: Spain’s Incredible Desert
Our cruise experts take a look at one of Spain's lesser known gems, the incredible deserts of Bardenas Reales.

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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