A bit of history

The Bardenas Reales desert in northern Spain is one of the most beautiful deserts in Europe, and fortunately, it’s just a few hours from our border! There’s no need to travel across the world to visit a real desert. Located in the region of Navarre, it’s about a 15-minute drive from the town of Tudela and just 2.5 hours from Biarritz, for example.

The Bardenas Reales desert is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and covers nearly 43,000 hectares! It’s home to numerous species, and you can learn more about them by visiting the tourist center at the main entrance in Arguedas. This desert is a rocky landscape with strange and impressive formations that stretch as far as the eye can see.

The Bardenas Reales and cinema

Its beauty has made it a popular location for filmmakers, used in westerns, movies, and series.

One notable example is its use as a filming location for the series Game of Thrones. This expansive arid zone was ideal for portraying the Dothraki Sea and other scenes in the series.

How to get to the Bardenas Reales desert

There are several entrances to visit the desert, but if you want to stop by the tourist information point, you’ll need to enter through the Arguedas entrance. From the town, the entrance to the desert is well signposted. Once at the information center, you can pick up maps and information about the military base for free.

Please note, there is a military base located in the middle of the desert! It is strictly prohibited to enter, and depending on ongoing military operations, certain parts of the desert may be closed.

You can also enter from Tudela, where you’ll be greeted by a large shepherd statue. Yes, surprisingly, the desert is also used for grazing livestock.

When to visit the Bardenas Reales desert

The desert is vast, so you’ll never feel crowded no matter the season! However, being a desert, it can get quite hot. It’s best to avoid the summer months if possible. The desert is also very windy and can be quite cold in winter, so it’s preferable to visit during autumn or spring!

Where to stay to visit the Bardenas Reales desert

You can’t stay in the desert itself as it’s prohibited! Where you stay depends on how you’re planning your visit:

For motorhomes and camper vans

There’s a large free parking area in Arguedas, just 5 minutes from the desert entrance and at the foot of abandoned troglodyte dwellings, which are also worth visiting for free! Additional services like water and waste disposal are available with a token-operated system.

If you’re camping in a tent, you also have Camping Bardenas in Villafranca.

By car

You can easily find accommodation in Arguedas or Tudela.

What to do in the Bardenas desert

The map provided at the information center will give you access to various routes:

  • Routes to be done by vehicle on main tracks, but beware, these are dirt roads!
  • Routes for biking or walking only, as vehicles are prohibited due to narrower paths.

Of course, you can do everything by mountain bike, but since the path is very dusty, you’ll need to protect your face to ride near vehicles!

To summarize

  • Admission is free.
  • Prefer visiting in spring or autumn.
  • Stay overnight at the beautiful area in Arguedas.
  • Don’t miss the tour of the troglodyte houses in Arguedas.
  • Follow the viewpoints marked on your map provided at the information center in Arguedas.
  • The maximum authorized speed limit is 40 km/h.
  • The military zone is strictly off-limits.
  • Camping is prohibited.
  • Respect the wildlife and flora; do not litter!
  • Climbing on rocky mounds is prohibited unless otherwise indicated.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash.
  • No campfires!
  • The RV parking area is in Arguedas and is free of charge.

About Author

We are Sophie, Adrien, and our two adorable little ones. Passionate about travel, discovery, and gastronomy, we bought a 2007 Rapido camper van to travel differently, travel more, and introduce our children to the world. Here, we share our wonderful discoveries and tips for activities to do with children in France and beyond ! Welcome !

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