The (not so) rough guide to the Wild West

Where to find the locations and film sets used in Hollywood's Wild West movies.

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 23 Nov 2014, 10:00 GMT, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 14:57 BST

Where can I find the settings for Hollywood's best-loved spaghetti westerns?

From Utah's Little Hollywood to the deserts of Arizona, when it came to filming, the Wild West was a peripatetic concept. But it was Spain's hostile Tabernas Desert that saw the most gun-slinging action, with some 200 movies filmed in this remote Iberian hinterland between the 1950s and '70s.

Duck, You Sucker! If you thought the most iconic Westerns were set in America's West — such as this joyously titled final film from director Sergio Leone — you'd be wrong. If you want to wander alongside the tumbleweed seen in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon A Time in the West and For A Few Dollars More, then head for the Spanish province of Almería.

Some of the locations have been converted into Western-style movie theme parks where you can hunker down in a saloon or re-enact a shoot-out. But most have been abandoned, to be slowly reclaimed by the desert: sand-blown sheriff's offices, creaking gallows and peeling 'wanted' signs lending the locations an authenticity that a theme park tour could only hope to muster. Waymarked desert walking trails lead hikers through some of this terrain, including Trail Cortijo del Fraile, taking in the farmhouse featured in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. And if you don't fancy tackling the elements on foot, 4WD, horseback and camel tours can be arranged by Malcamino's.

Wild West film sets you can visit

Oasys Mini Hollywood: A family-oriented Western-themed village, with saloon shows, a general store and the chance to stick 'em up at regular Wild West shootouts.

Fort Bravo: Two film set villages, a saloon, restaurant, and riding stables plus stage coach rides and Wild West shows.

Western Leone: Originally built for Once Upon a Time in the West, staring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, those who remember this Sergio Leone classic may recognise the desert town of Sweetwater and the McBain Ranch.

Published in the December 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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