From the desert of Tabernas to the Camino de Santiago. The magic of cinema leaves its mark on many Spanish sites which attract followers and visitors.
Desert of Tabernas, the only desert in Europe turned into a great studio
They say Clint Eastwood arrived at the Tabernas desert fleeing Hollywood. And that by then, Sergio Leone had already surrendered to the beauty of a wild landscape, with an immense plain and a golden canyon, continuing in the footsteps of other great film directors. A great natural scenery. A grand parade of stars. Steven Spielberg, Peter O’Toole, Charlton Heston, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Anthony Quinn, Omar Shariff, Sofia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Roger Vadim, David Lean, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger… Europe’s only desert turned into a great studio. Since the 1960s, it has been the setting for hundreds of films and is now one of the world’s major film production centers.
A powerful booming industry that boasts a Provincial Film Office and employs dozens of people. Almeria is the Wild West or Afghanistan, a World War II battlefield or the legendary desert of Lawrence of Arabia, a rendezvous for Indiana Jones’ adventures, the setting for Game of Thrones or Rescue Under Fire (Zona Hostil)…
It is part of the story of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Patton’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘Conan the Barbarian’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, ‘The Things of Love’, ‘Living is Easy with Eyes Closed’, ‘Never Say Never Again’ or ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’…
The magic of Almeria in addition to the magic of cinema. And so we continue…
Just over an hour by car, the Parador de Mojácar completes the adventure and adds magic to the itinerary.
The Mirandilla valley, in Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos)
The Westerns legacy includes the mythical scene of the final duel in ‘ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ The meeting at Sad Hill Cemetery was actually recorded in the Burgos region of Arlanza. The same places served as a stage for Sergio Leone’s Longstone Bridge, San Antonio Mission, and Betterville Prison Camp. The Sad Hill Association works, through crowdfunding, to recover this place that has become a place of pilgrimage for fans of the genre. Moreover, its popularity continued growing, thanks to director Guillermo de Oliveira who premiered ‘Unearthing Sad Hill’ there in 2018.
Just thirty minutes away, the Parador de Lerma is a must-see.
Seville and its movie secrets
David Lean and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ turned Seville into historical Damascus. George Lucas filmed in the mythical Plaza de España the Naboo of Star Wars Episode II. Seville also boasts some locations from seasons 5 and 7 of the award-winning series Game of Thrones. The Royal Alcazars was chosen to house the residence of the rulers of the kingdom of Dorne, and the majestic gardens of the Royal Palace became the Water Gardens of the exotic realm. Seville is a small synopsis of the world created by George R. R. Martin. The producers realized that the Alcazar was so close to what they were looking for that it wasn’t necessary to add any digital tweaks. One of the peak scenes of the seventh season was filmed in the ruins of Italica, the ancient Roman city just a few kilometers away. In its spectacular amphitheater gathered the kings and dignitaries of all the kingdoms, including Princess Daenerys, who appeared on stage on the back of one of her dragons.
A great place to enjoy the route is the Parador de Carmona. The building rises above the ruins of an impressive 14th-century Arab fortress that crowns the village and offers a fabulous swimming pool and terraces overlooking the countryside. The restaurant, an old refectory, is one of the most spectacular in the Parador network.
Segovia, chosen by the Romans and Hollywood
For years, the Segovia Provincial Council has had a location agency that has turned the city into the stage for significant films and series. Several routes take visitors to feature films such as “Mister Arkadin”, “Orgullo y Pasión”, “La Batalla de las Árdenas”, “Los fantasmas de Goya”, “Las trece rosas” or “Torrente IV” and series such as “Isabel”, “Toledo”, “Cuéntame” or “Águila Roja”. The cobblestone streets and corners through which time seems to have stopped join special locations such as the women’s prison or the nearby Valsaín Forest, where “The Kingdom of Heaven” was created.
El Real Sitio de La Granja is a charming village at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama. It is the setting for the impressive Parador composed of the Casa de Los Infantes, built in the 18th century by Carlos III, and the Cuartel General de la Guardia de Corps, which houses a modern Congress and Convention Centre. A visit to its modern spa is highly recommended.
‘La Vaquilla’ in Sos del Rey Católico
In 1985, Luis García Berlanga chose this town in Zaragoza for the shooting of “The Heifer” (La Vaquilla). Nowadays you can find numerous sculptures and references to the Valencian filmmaker’s movie. The filming left its mark on the town, which provided nearly 500 extras and even removed the television antennas from the houses to make the environment more credible.
Also, the City Council is part of FilmSet, a European project managed by an association of Spanish, French, Italian, Belgian and British organizations coordinated by the University of Zaragoza. The goal is to promote a thematic tourist route of European cinema.
In the heart of the village awaits a Parador of noble artistry. An Aragonese style building that follows the monumental, historical and artistic style of the town. Its decoration is elegant. Space and light are common denominators in rooms with large windows. The restaurant offers both tradition and authenticity in the aromas and flavors of the cuisine of the Comarca de las Cinco Villas, the region that gives it its name.
The ever-present St. James’ Way
To close the circle, the magic of Jacobean cinema. Who hasn’t heard of ‘The Way’? The American drama, featuring Martín Sheen and Emilio Estévez, caused so much excitement among American spectators that thousands of people have since traveled the Spanish spiritual route.
In 2016, Juan Manuel Cotelo filmed a documentary on the Camino de Santiago called ”Footprints: el Camino de tu vida”, bought by the giant media platform Netflix, a sign of the interest this topic arises; Fernando Cortizo signed ”O Apostolo”, a Spanish film nominated for the 2012 Goya awards for best-animated film; Roberto Santiago left the Spanish stamp on ”Al Final del Camino, 2009”, a funny, romantic comedy. In the same vein is ‘Saint-Jacques… La Mecque (Peregrinos)’, produced in France in 2005 under the direction of Coline Serreau; or ‘Americano,’ 2005, starring Joshua Jackson and Leonor Varela and directed by Kevin Noland.
‘Tres en el Camino’ completes this sample of an endless list, a Spanish/English documentary, where you can appreciate the true essence of the Camino de Santiago. Exceptional. At each leg, a Parador. Find your favorite.