The Bardenas Reales (also known as the badlands) is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. This semi-desert landscape is somewhat reminiscent of a miniature grand canyon and can be found in Northern Spain in the Navarra region. This area spans over 100,000 acres, a lot of which is protected as it is part of a Nature Reserve.
The soils are made up of clay, chalk, and sandstone. Due to erosion, the landscape has been transformed into surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures, and isolated hills, called Cabezas.
What To See
Perhaps the most well-known natural phenomenon in the Bardenas Reales is the Castil de Tierra. The name Castil de Tierra translates as Earth Castle and it’s easy to see why. This pyramid mound is truly breathtaking. What photos don’t show, is that it is completely surrounded by canyons, which makes this landscape even more impressive when you see it up close and personal.
One of the most underrated things to do in this region is to explore the surrounding villages and towns. Whilst we were visiting the Bardenas Reales, we also visited Arguedas. This small village is located just outside the nature reserve and is home to cave dwellings. Many of which were used up until the 1960s! These caves are in great condition and really allow you to get a sense of what life used to be like in these rural villages. You are free to explore the caves, there even is information about the individual caves on signs inside and outside of them.
How To Get There
Due to the remote nature of the Bardenas Reales, driving really is the only way to get there. Obviously, you can motorbike, or even cycle if you are particularly sporty. However, we recommend driving. The road to reach the Bardenas Reales from the nearest city of Pamplona is smooth and a relatively easy 90km drive. However, once you enter into the nature reserve, it is a different story. The roads are bumpy, gravelly, and full of potholes and ditches.
We recommend staying the night in the small village of Arguedas prior to entering the nature reserve. This will give you an opportunity to explore the cave dwellings.
For more information regarding parking overnight and wild camping in Arguedas click the link below
Is it Easy To Navigate?
It is relatively easy to navigate as there is a circular route around the national park. Most people choose to follow to ensure all the highlights are seen.
However, if you are like us and like to get off the beaten path from time to time, you may find yourself in some trouble.
We managed to get stuck in the mud when trying to perform a three-point turn after we made a wrong turning. So, you’ve been warned!
When Is Best To Visit?
Due to the nature of it being a desert, there will be very high temperatures during the day in summer and incredibly low temperatures at night in winter.
We visited in January 2022 and it was very quiet. Although we are undoubtedly biased, we believe that the winter months are the best time to visit as there will be fewer tourists, the temperature is manageable (between 5-15 degrees), and finally, the sunsets will be better.
Alternatively, in springtime there will be lush greenery around the area, making it a completely different experience.
So, is it worth visiting the Bardenas Reales?
The short answer is, YES. This unique landscape is something that can’t be found anywhere else in Spain, maybe even all of Europe for that matter.
The Bardenas Reales is an undeniably spectacular region of Spain that so few people know about. Its unique blend of unusual history, natural significance, and awe-inspiring landscapes make it one of Spain’s best secret destinations.
If you are considering visiting the Bardenas Reales, do it! You won’t regret it.
And if you have a campervan make sure to check out this unbelievable wild camping site just outside the national park. It is the best place we have ever parked to date.