Camping in a country full of mesmerizing landscapes and great weather for most of the year – that’s how I’d picture camping in Spain.
However, there are some important precautions to be taken before heading out with your tent and a sleeping pad.
Spanish nature varies – you can find amazing coastline locations, but you can also travel to inland forests and mountain stretches. Everyone can make their camping dream come true here!
Spain is divided into 17 independent municipalities, each of them has different laws with regards to wild camping.
There are some freedom camping sites in Spain, but the information shared around the internet is very fractured and unclear.
That’s why I decided to dig it thoroughly from official and confirmed sources (as of April 2020) on where to stay, how to do it for free (legally) and where to find those spots which will provide you with guaranteed great views and unforgettable memories.
Please research official sources shortly before venturing out for your trip, as the legal side can change – we don’t want you to have unpleasant surprises!
There is a great selection of cheap campsites across the country.
Depending on what your requirements are, some of them have a healthy range of facilities, including showers, laundry machines, electricity and little shops with camping necessities.
If you want to find a place to camp during your holiday, plan ahead and check with local authorities.
Always read signs and follow the rules.
Basic Spanish language skills are highly recommended! 👌
In short, yes. Well, in a very-strict-way.
It is not easy to find a spot and it keeps changing all the time.
The goal here is to sleep for free, so of course it will require some effort and ‘homework’ from you.
To make it easier, you can see that Spain is spotted with free camping spots across the country. You may need to adjust your plans to have it on your way, without much diversion from the main road plan you have.
In Spain there is a state law on free camping from 1966, surprisingly permissive:
Art. 46. 1. Outside the tourist campsites, no more than three tents or caravans may be pitched together, without in any case the number of campers exceeding ten, nor camping longer than three days in the same place. It will be understood that the camping is joint when there is a distance of fewer than five hundred meters between the groups of tents.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more…
After the approval of the Spanish constitution in 1978, the Autonomous Communities took over the regulation of tourism and leisure on their territory, reinforcing the regulation on free camping.
That means each Autonomous Community can set its own law that overrides municipality regulations on camping matters. Most of them depend on:
Therefore, we have 17 regulations in this regard.
We went through each regulation one-by-one and found permissive loopholes where we could safely and legally pitch our tent.
It is true that there are some municipalities are more “tolerant” than others on the subject of free camping (at least at the regulatory level), such as Aragon, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Castilla La Mancha or Murcia – especially when it comes to camping in high mountains.
But there’s one more thing…
The councils themselves have the capacity to regulate free camping within their municipal area, that is, we have to go down on more granular level.
There are more than 8,000 councils in Spain, which surely after seeing one by one we would come to the same conclusion: most prohibit free camping throughout the municipality.
Besides, each protected area (parks and nature reserves) has its own regulations that prevail over the local ones.
It is true that the overnight stay is less persecuted than camping, but it is not always legal. For example, in Asturias, the law makes it clear:
Any form of free or non-legalized camping is prohibited… 2. Free camping is understood to be the eventual installation of tents, caravans or other mobile hostels with the intention of staying and staying overnight in places other than authorized tourism camps.
Well not always, for example in Extremadura the law is very clear about it:
The camper and, where appropriate, the owner of the property or holder of a legitimate right that authorizes the camping will be responsible for contravening this prohibition.
That means that you can’t camp even with permission. Now, it gets really confusing.
But we are not going to leave you stranded without a solution, here we are to solve problems.
Let’s dig into it.
There is still an alternative that we can legally consider legal camping: Controlled camping.
Now – the treasure hunt, where are these areas?
Who has seen them?
Is it true that they exist?
Well, apparently yes. They are areas with hygienic services, garbage collection, drinking water, etc.
And this is where you and the power of the community come in.
Below is a collaborative map with the areas of Spain where camping is allowed (in yellow). We have also added free shelters (in blue) where you can spend the night.
There are not places where ‘one day I camped out there and nothing happened.’
Only the controlled camping areas enabled by municipalities.
NOTE: Before camping at any of these sites, it is recommended to contact the city council that manages it for information. Governments change and the situation can change rapidly for an area.