Why do people love good old Westerns?! Is it about those freedom-infused landscapes or maybe, the sense of danger and adventure… Ever since I´ve seen my first cowboy movie, I´ve been obsessed with visiting a Wild West Town somewhere around the world. So let´s channel our inner cowboys, sheriffs, and outlaws this week!
You´ll be surprised to find out that many of the top Hollywood Westerns were actually filmed in Spain. Let´s take a journey to Almeria – Andalusia´s iconic Wild West!
The ultimate Wild West Town Experience: Theme Parks in Almeria
Almeria: A Filmmakers´ Favorite
Better late than never – I´ve finally started to wrap up my April´s trip to one of the most sun-kissed regions in Spain, the province of Almeria.
Situated in southern Andalusia, Almeria often gets overshadowed by its famous neighbors. However, since more people discover a passion for the off beaten path places – Almeria lately appears on the radar a lot!
Also read: Best Places to Channel Your Inner Christopher Columbus
You might have already had a brief preview of Almeria´s wide and dry expanses, back when I shared the Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain. In GoT Season 6 scenes depicting the land of Dothraki´s were filmed in Las Tabernas Desert of Almeria.
Although what Almeria is really famous for is being the Spanish Wild West region, as many of the top Hollywood Westerns were actually filmed in Spain. This is the only place in Europe you could channel your inner cowboy while walking the streets of a Wild West Town.
Movies set in Almeria
Therefore, the list of movies set in Almeria´s Tabernas Desert goes far beyond Game of Thrones. And here we are talking about big Hollywood names. You can check IMDb´s full list here, I´ll just name a few:
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
- Cleopatra (1963)
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
- Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
- Trinity Is Still My Name (1971)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Dance of the Vampires (2001)
- Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
And there´s one more thing we should agree on here: when a certain place has such a long history with the filmmakers – there are always some traces left, aren’t they? Those impressive decorations, the key elements for an authentic Wild West Town experience. How can you miss it?!
Also read: Medieval Fairs in Spain
Therefore, if time-traveling to a good old Western and waling the streets of a Wild West Town is on your bucket list – there´s no better place to start than Almeria. 10 years ago, before I moved to Spain and started to travel extensively through the country, I´d swear by the fact that all of those Hollywood blockbusters were filmed in the USA, somewhere close to the Mexican border. But, nope! They were closer than I ever imagined…
Fort Bravo vs. Oasys Mini-Hollywood
Let´s start with two theme parks in the heart of Tabernas Desert – Fort Bravo and Oasys Mini-Hollywood. While reading the reviews of both places, we couldn´t choose in between them and ended up visiting both! Although each of these is focused on the Wild West, both appeared quite different to me…
For the comparison, we´ve spent less than an hour in Fort Bravo and could have stayed all day in Oasys Mini-Hollywood.
The first one has a real Wild West town, a fort built from trunks of wood, a small Mexican village area, and a typical Indian village, plus several expositions. Although a restoration wouldn´t hurt this place, as well as more animation and maybe, informative panels showing which movies were filmed where. An entrance fee of 20 euros didn´t seem quite reasonable to me here. It was not well-adopted for disabled or baby strollers. On the plus side, Fort Bravo was significantly less crowded and therefore, felt more authentic (if you can use this word to describe a movie decorations).
Oasys Mini-Hollywood is a complete theme park. The decorations are “prettier” and it feels way more touristic (including huge groups of kids on school trips). You have literally everything – Western Show, Can Can Dance Show, Carriages Museum, Cactus Garden, Zoological Reserve, cafes, photo corners… And yet it was an interesting experience: so far we´ve seen the Wild West decorations in large theme parks around the world, but I´ve never been to a park entirely focused on Western vibes.
Also read: Must-See Magical Forests in Spain
It shouldn´t come as a surprise to you that our kids enjoyed Oasys Hollywood more. The oldest one was in awe of all the decorations and atmosphere (and she loved that there were so many kids around). While the little one enjoyed a nice nap inside her stroller as we could walk around a lot (unlike at Fort Bravo).
To sum it up, I feel like visiting both parks could be an interesting experience. If you travel with kids in search of an ultimate Wild West Town experience- Oasys Hollywood is better, if you´re solo or with friends – Fort Bravo could be enough for you. However, if you´re a real fan of Westerns – make sure to visit both!
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