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Whether it's tent camping, campervanning, or even for the hire of a
chalet or mobile home, Spain is a country with masses of opportunities
for campers; and they don't only come in the form of sprawling
high-density camping estates, crammed in between leisure parks and
high-rise hotels, along the worst parts of the Spanish costas.
Camping on the Spanish coast
There are plenty of attractive small-scale rural
campsites all over Spain, and to find them the general rule
of thumb is to search anywhere more than five kilometres from the
coast. Yet even right on the coast, there are some hidden gems, if you
know where to look for them.
It would be self-defeating to provide here a list
of small attractive and uncrowded campsites on the Spanish coast, as to
do so could lead very rapidly to their becoming crowded with people
looking for uncrowded campsites...... But to avoid the worst excesses,
and if it's a campsite on the coast that you are definitely looking
for, the first rule is to avoid the busiest tourist sectors of the
Spanish Mediterranean coast, those sectors close to a motorway or
within 40 minutes drive of Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante or Malaga.
There are still some smaller reasonably attractive coastal campsites to
be found on sections of the Spanish Mediterranean coast between these
sometimes hyper-urbanized areas. The same is true along Spain's
southern Atlantic coastline, to the west of Gibraltar.
There are, along Spain's Mediterranean coast, a number of
Natural Parks (these are like national parks, only managed by the
provinces); planning regulations here are strict - or meant to be - and
exclude the development or vast campsites. Those that do exist are
generally on a human scale, and blend into the landscape.
However, for the best selection of small coastal
camping in Spain, the area to head to is northwest Spain; there are
plenty of opportunities for camping on or near the coast in the
provinces of Asturias
and Galicia; and even to a lesser degree in the western part of
Cantabria. Western Asturias and Galicia, in particular, remain to this
day largely off the tourist trail - except for pilgrims heading to
Santiago de Compostella - and there are not so many XXL campsites in
Nonetheless, even in these areas a word of warning
is necessary. Not un-naturally, the Spanish themselves enjoy camping,
and from April through to October, and more particularly in the summer
months, many Spaniards take any opportunity they can to head out of the
cities and enjoy a weekend in the country, or on the coast.
Consequently, campsites that may be relatively deserted from Sunday
night through to Thursday night, may suddenly become full-up on Friday
night and Saturday night; so for tourists and other visitors with more
time to spend, it is often best to avoid reaching a campsite late
Friday or on Saturday, as there is a real risk of finding it full - or,
which is not much better, largely full, so that the only spaces left
are the least attractive ones, those next to the restaurant or a shower
block, or the dustbins.
The full at weekends pheonomenon can include
campsites anywhere on the coast, except in the most remote
locations..... and there are not many of these in Spain.
Note, finally, that camping on the beach
is generally illegal in Spain. Additionally, in the summer months,
overnight parking of campervans is also frequently illegal, outside
regulated areas or campsites; though during the rest of the year, when
the tourist season is over, few places will complain about couple of
campervans holed up on an otherwise-deserted seaside carpark. On the
contrary, a few off-season campervans can bring in just a little
business to local shops, bars and restaurants, even if they are parked
in inland Spain
What is true for coastal campsites in Spain is also true, to a lesser
degree, for campsites in inland Spain. For instance Madrilenos,
inhabitants of Madrid, are as likely to enjoy a weekend's camping as
are people from Barcelona or Santander or Seville; and while some may
take any opportunity they can to head for the coast, the coast is a
long way from Madrid, so Madrilenos are more likely to head out in to
the Spanish countryside for their weekends.
Particularly popular with Madrilenos are campsites
in the mountains around
Madrid, the Sistema central to the north and west of
Madrid, and the Sistema Ibérico to the northeast and east.
These attractive mountain areas are largely unknown to
visitors from outside Spain, so campsites in these areas, which lie in
the provinces of Extremadura,
Castilla y Leon
and Castilla la Mancha,
tend to be very busy at weekends and reasonably quiet from Monday
through to Thursday nights, except in the school holiday periods.
There are campsites thoughout inland Spain, and
often they are quite small. Except along the Mediterranean coast, most
rural campsites in Spain will close during the winter months. It should
not be forgotten that much of central Spain is a high plateau, parts of
it over 1000 metres in altitude, and it is an area that can get cold in
winter, very cold. Not really camping country, except for the hardiest
of campers; and certainly not an area where there can be any economic
justification for keeping a campsite open yearlong.
In addition to regular campsites, there are also
free camping areas in many Spanish national parks or natural parks; but
these may not have any facilities other than, maybe, a public toilet
and a water tap (not necessarily drinking water). For campervanners,
there are plenty of places for overnight stopping.
There is a fairly extensive map of Spanish
; the site is in Spanish, and for most of the small campsites
indicated, there are no details, and no contact information. But it
gives an idea of where there are campsites in Spain ..... which is
pretty well everywhere.
Do I need to reserve?
The short answer is no, except at peak periods. Even in July and
August, except for busy coastal campsites, it is normally possible to
turn up and sign in.
of campsites in Spain
Like hotels, campsites can be classified, but there is no national
scale. Classification of campsites is down to the autonomous regions of
Spain. That being said, there are some commonly used scales; there is a
traditional classification by category, with four main categories;
"Lujo" (luxury), 1st category, 2nd category or 3rd category;
and there is a more recent classification by stars, from
five-star to one-star. The star system is essentially based on the French
campsite star system.
useful sources of accommodation information: