The spectacular Bardenas Reales in Spain is a rugged and inhospitable desert in the Navarre region in the north of the country. The Bardenas Reales consists mostly of bizarre ocher-colored clay landscapes spread over several hundred square kilometers. Partly, here one feels like in the Grand Canyon, although, of course, everything is much smaller.
Nevertheless, the desert is a spectacular highlight in northern Spain and should not be missed on any northern Spain road trip. We tell you now what there is to experience and what you should pay attention to when visiting the Bardenas Reales Spain.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Bardenas Reales Spain
The semi-desert Bardenas Reales de Navarra has a size of more than 400 km². But you can only visit a small part of the desert. A large part of the desert is closed to visitors. Among other things, because it is a restricted military area.
The Bardenas Reales desert consists of chalk and clay rock that has been washed away by rainwater over the millennia, leaving behind bizarre shapes. Here, wide, completely flat plains alternate with canyons and hills several hundred meters high with spectacular escarpments.
The climate in this semi-desert is characterized by hot summers, cold winters and very little rain.
Accommodation Tip in the Vicinity
If you have more time to visit this Spanish desert or you even want to walk through it, you should stay overnight nearby. If you are traveling without a camper, we have found the following accommodation for you:
Accomodation close to Bardenas Reales Desert
This accommodation* is super close to the Bardenas Reales desert and also offers super comfort.
- only a few minutes by car from the Bardenas Reales
- for up to 4 persons
- own modern apartment
- own roof terrace
The Different Regions of the Desert
The Bardenas Reales desert can be divided into 3 different regions:
El Plano in the North
El Plano is a small plateau through which the river Aragón flows. The area is even used for agriculture (unlike the other parts of the desert).
La Blanca Baja in the Center
This is the most visited part, because you are allowed to drive through this area by car. Here it looks very desert-like with rather little vegetation.
Plana de Negra in the South
Here there are many limestone formations (similar to the Algarve in Portugal) and many pines and oaks in the landscape which creates a rather dark atmosphere, hence the name of the region.
How to visit Bardenas Reales
If you want to drive through the Bardenas Reales by car, there is not much to think about, because there is only one route that you are allowed to drive and this route leads once in a circle through the park and thus past all possible Bardenas Reales viewpoints.
Along the route you first automatically pass the Bardenas Reales information centre (Google Maps) where you can pick up a paper map of the desert and also get some explanations on what you are allowed to do (get out) and what not (leave the road).
You then continue straight on the paved road until you come to the military base, which is located on a small mud hill in the middle of the desert. Here you should turn right and you are already on the circular path that leads you once through the nature park. You can’t go any further and after about 35 km the circular route will lead you back to the asphalt road from which you came.
Do not leave the road
Officially, you are not allowed to leave the road. You are allowed to stop anywhere and walk on the road, but it is forbidden to leave the road. On one side to protect the incomparable nature and on the other side because of the restricted military area that starts right behind the road. Practically, however, there are no fences or guards anywhere to stop you from leaving the road.
Bardenas Reales Viewpoints
Actually, the whole desert is the highlight and you should definitely take the route that is open for cars (and RVs) and leads once through the nature park. You will automatically pass all the beautiful landscapes and Bardenas Reales sights.
There are several viewpoints in the park from which you will have a great view of the surrounding desert landscape. In between there are also spectacular limestone formations or clay hills where it is worth to stop. There are no designated parking areas, but it is always possible to stop at the roadside.
8 Things To Know Before You Go
Do the Bardenas Reales charge admission?
As with so many other northern Spain highlights, visiting the Barenas Reales Desert is completely free and does not cost an entrance fee. It doesn’t matter if you want to go through the desert on foot, by car, by camper or by bike.
Even though you don’t need an entrance ticket to get into the desert, there are official opening hours. The Bardenas Reales are open every day from 08:00 in the morning until one hour before sunset.
Is it possible to hike or bike in the Bardenas Reales?
Yes, there is the possibility to hike (and also bike) in the Bardenas Reales, but this makes little sense in the area that is open to cars. On the Bardenas Reales map, which you can get at the visitor center, you will see designated areas where you can hike. But there it is forbidden to drive with a car. But this way you can get to areas of the desert you would never get to with a car.
Large routes exclusively for bicycles are located in the northern region El Plano and in the southern region Plana de la Negra. The access points for these routes are located a few kilometers away from the official visitor center.
The only exclusive hiking route is located in the Plana de la Negra region and is called Peña del Fraile. Detailed information about the hiking route can be found at Alltrails.
Is there a Bardenas Reales Tour?
If you don’t want to visit the desert alone you have the possibility to visit the Bardenas Reales with a guided tour*. During the tour you will drive along the visitor route and learn a lot of information about the desert and the animals living there.
Bardenas Reales Camping | Is it allowed to stay here overnight?
There are some cool places for wild camping in this spectacular desert, but for understandable reasons it is not allowed to camp or stay overnight in the Bardenas Reales with an RV.
For this, use the free campground in the neighboring municipality of Arguedas (Google Maps).
Can I take dogs to the Bardenas Reales?
Yes, it is no problem to take a dog to the semi-desert Bardenas Reales. The only condition is that they are kept on a leash.
In the desert there are even some water points or ponds where your dog can swim or refresh itself in very hot weather. But you should not count on it, but always have enough fresh water for your four-legged friend, because it can get very hot here.
How much time should I spend in Bardenas Reales Spain?
We stopped very often and took pictures, enjoyed the view or flew around with the drone. Still, it only took us about 3 hours to see everything and do the big loop through the nature park once. If you want to enjoy everything more intensively, then it can also quickly become 4 hours. Half a day should be enough to visit Bardenas Reales.
If you also want to try one of the hiking trails or see the sunrise or sunset, then you should plan 1-2 days in the area.
The Best Time to visit Bardenas Reales Spain
Due to the heat in the desert, it is best to visit the Bardenas Reales early in the morning or in the evening. Not only is the temperature more bearable then, but the light is much more beautiful and the desert glows in wonderful warm red tones during Golden Hour.
We hope you enjoyed our article about Bardenas Reales Spain. If you have any questions or further tips, please leave us a comment.