wild camping spain 5 - Is wild camping in Spain legal? What to do?

Is wild camping in Spain legal? What to do?


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Disclaimer: All information mentioned in this article is based on our own experience and thorough research. However, as the rules of wild camping in Spain might alter depending on the region, do your homework and check the latest updates before heading to Spain. 

Breakfast in a pine forest, sunset on a calm beach, and indulging in some freshly made tapas in between when wild camping in Spain sounds like a dream. Reality is a bit tricky though, and while wild camping in Spain is officially prohibited, there are some exceptions where it’s more tolerated so you’ll be able to avoid campsites if this is what you are looking for. 

Wild camping in Spain — why so complicated?

The simple answer is nature and safety. Spain cares about their natural resources, thus there are strict rules regarding camping, including wild camping. To make things even more challenging, each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions has its own rules that tend to change infrequently. Go figure! 

The other reason why Spain is so rigid with their rules of wild camping near the beaches in particular is the safety of visitors as there are around 400 casualties of drowning annually. 

In this article, we’ll sum up some essential rules to follow when wild camping in Spain so that your road trip doesn’t turn sour. Especially when the fine for illegal camping in Spain ranges between 30 — 3000 €, depending on how much space you occupy on the grounds and some other circumstances. For example, you’ll pay a 600 € fine for camping in a nature reserve, Valencia charges 1500 € for pitching a tent on a beach, not to mention fines for littering cigarette buds, setting a fire in wild nature etc. 

Rule of thumb: the more popular the region, the stricter the rules. In Spain, the north is less visited by holidaymakers, therefore you might find wild camping rules more lenient. 

Are you parking or camping?

Not knowing the language of a country you are travelling through does not justify the fact you are not familiar with their rules. It’s good to know that there is a difference between parking and camping in Spain, so you can avoid paying a fine or interacting with the police. There are more entertaining ways to practice your Spanish. 

If your vehicle (car, motorhome, campervan) 

  • has ALL wheels on the ground (no levelling blocks, wedges or stabilizer allowed)
  • has no extra equipment attached to it (awning, table, chairs)
  • has a caravan that is attached to your vehicle 

then you are PARKING

LevelingBlocks23 Featured e1691738692550 1 - Is wild camping in Spain legal? What to do?

But if you:

  • are using any kind of support for your wheels
  • set up your camping gear (table & chairs, portable toilet)
  • put your car tent up (roof tent, tailgate tent or an awning)
  • cook outdoors
  • in the case of a motorhome – your outward door or window is open (might vary in different regions, outward door or window means mostly any door or window other than the ones on the driver’s cabin, or doors used for living/camping, not to operate the vehicle or transport passengers)

then you’re CAMPING.

This information should help you when prepping for setting up your campervan or pitching up a tent. For more details, check out this instruction from the Ministry of Interior (only in Spanish). 

Where you are NOT ALLOWED to do wild camping in Spain

  • ALL places with a NO CAMPING sign
  • beaches. This applies to the whole country. The only way how to enjoy the beaches in Spain is to park in an official parking spot, without performing any sign of camping (see the list above). 
  • national parks
  • hunting zones, signed as COTO DE CAZA, or black and white diagonal. Read a detailed article on the signs in Spain here.
  • private properties (this is relative, check the list below).
coto de caza sign - Is wild camping in Spain legal? What to do?

Regions where wild camping is not allowed or tolerated to a minimum: 

Andalucia, Aragon (allowed only from 1500 m of altitude), Valencia, Navarra, Galicia, Extremadura and Asturias. 

Where is it ALLOWED to do wild camping in Spain?

  • official parking areas for campervans and motorhomes

Note: as a rule, you can stay here only for a night, very rarely for two nights. I’d suggest moving between parking areas more often.

  • rest areas 
  • RV parks (it’s limited only to RVs, but you’re allowed to stay here for 2-3 nights for free, without fear that a policeman would knock on your window at dawn). 
  • private property (yes, you can do that after asking for permission, and you should not stay longer than a night unless an owner invites you to camp and chill in his olive grove for a week.)

Good to know when wild camping in Spain 

  • maximum 3 vehicles or tents can camp at the same place (max. 10 people) for up to 3 days
  • distance between the vehicles or tents must be bigger than 500 meters, otherwise, they are considered as one group (see p.7, Article 46.1 in this official document of Ministry of Information and Tourism in Spain. Only in Spanish though).
  • no cutting trees, weeding out the area you are camping in, no hunting  
  • minimum 100 meters away from a water source
  • lighting fire only in designated places
  • clean the area from all trash before leaving, and other tips when camping and mistakes to avoid.

Places where wild camping is more tolerated: 

Catalonia, Canary Islands, Basque County, the Pyrenees, Cantabria and the Atlantic coast

My own experience and wild camping in Spain tips

Use common sense and don’t camp in any lucrative locations – you are asking for trouble. You can visit the location during the day, then drive 30min-1hr somewhere else, to a quiet location to sleep overnight in your car. There’s no need to pull out a tent and all your camping gear if you are just sleeping overnight on a road trip (which is how I prefer to do it).

Instead of thinking of it as camping, where you stay in one location for longer and want to cook, use a camping table, maybe a tent, I think of it as a road trip and sleeping in the car is just needed rest. We stop somewhere just before sunset, don’t attract too much attention to ourselves and leave early (if the spot gets busier) or when we want (if the spot stays quiet).

This way you get to experience the best of both worlds – the exploration of the country and its hidden spots and staying in interesting places overnight.

And if we fancy slowing down and staying in one spot for longer – we just pay for a nice camp with all the amenities you want – showers, a shop, a bar etc. Because the longer you stay in an unofficial location, the more likely it is that you will get noticed.

Here are a few tips based on my own experience:

  • go off-season if you can – Spain is always warm and you will have quieter parking spots or even some popular areas might be fine to camp in
  • don’t worry about driving around for a bit – you will eventually find a good spot, just keep looking!
  • stay away from big roads – you’ll find better spots off rural roads, nearby villages, in local forests
  • don’t block any forest roads – the last thing you want is an annoyed farmer shouting at you from his tractor. It is also ignorant and irresponsible as you could be blocking people from doing their jobs. Find a forest road, but always park on a parking area – maybe there’s a clearing where vehicles turn or there is an official parking slot for trekkers to leave their cars, a resting place.
  • learn some Spanish – even if someone spots you, if you are nice to them and speak their language, they won’t mind – say Hola! with a smile, ask about the area or what do they do, you might even get some good tips.
  • stay away from inhabited areas – no people is best. You never know who will get nosy at night, or local kids pulling pranks on you

Best spots for wild camping in Spain

To save you a hassle with deciding where to go wild camping in Spain, here are some useful apps full of unique and far-flung camping spots: iOverlander (covers 96 countries), Campanyon for oodles of private campsites, and popular Park4night.

Or, as I prefer to do it – use Google Maps, switch to satellite (real) view and manually search nearby forests for roads and spots that look secluded, so you will not be disturbed at night. This works best away from touristy areas – anywhere in rural Spain (or any other country), where you are not in the way of local farmers or forest workers. You wouldn’t believe how many lovely spots I found this way (and a few very odd or mosquito-filled ones too – it doesn’t work out great every time! :D).

Or just by driving around and scouting for good locations – ones where you don’t disturb anyone, but still get a nice view. Here are a few photos of our wild camping spots in Spain throughout the years:

1. Mallorca wild camping

We rented a standard passenger van and slept across the seats – it wasn’t very comfortable, to be honest, the seats are not meant for sleeping – we slept better in a Fiat 500! This was off-season, the roads were empty and so were parking lots, many with a great view :).

I wouldn’t normally sleep so close to the road (1st photo), but as it was off-season, there was almost no one there.

2. South Spain – Tarifa wild camping

We were sleeping on the front seats of a rented Fiat 500 and it was not too bad. Of course, having my own Sharan camper would make it a whole lot more comfortable, but that wasn’t the option at the time – I was just getting started with wild camping :).

This was off-season too, we parked in official parking areas that were always empty – sometimes with a view of Africa (2nd photo)

3. Anywhere in Spain wild camping

I camped around the whole of Spain – the east coast, the north, the west coast too, but don’t have any images. Same rules I mentioned above apply – the more rural the area, the easier it was. If you drive up the hills in the middle of nowhere, there will be plenty of love spots with a view.

Do you have some experience with wild camping in Spain yourself? Share it with others in the comment below!

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Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.

Check out my thoughts on a balanced life: sensimism.com

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