I remember my first time wild camping in Spain, it was in January 2020. I was on a bike touring trip from Barcelona to Rome.
On my first night I found a tremendously beautiful camping spot on the Pyrenees, the vast mountain chain separating France from Spain & stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
Besides spending some of the most beautiful (but cold) nights under the stars, I remember having many questions related to wild camping in Spain. Such as: “Is wild camping here legal?”, “Is wild camping safe in Spain?”, “Am I able to make a bonfire?” etc.
In this article, I’ll be answering all the questions I had on my first wild camping adventure in Spain.
Let’s get started!
Wild camping in Spain – Questions answered.
Is wild camping in Spain legal?
Legality over wild camping in Spain is a rather complicated topic, let’s break it down for you.
This law is Article 46.1 of the order for July 28th, 1966. I think it’s worth quoting and translating:
“El artículo 46.1 de la orden del 28 de julio de 1966, señala que “fuera de los campamentos de turismo no podrán instalarse conjuntamente más de tres tiendas o caravanas, sin que en ningún caso pueda exceder en diez el número de campistas, ni prolongarse la acampada en el mismo lugar durante más de tres días. Se entenderá que la acampada es conjunta cuando entre los grupos de tiendas haya una distancia inferior a 500 metros”.
“Article 46.1 of the order of July 28, 1966, states that “outside the tourist campsites, no more than three tents or caravans may be installed together, without in any case exceeding the number of campers by ten, or prolonging the camped in the same place for more than three days. It will be understood that the camping is joint when there is a distance of less than 500 meters between the groups of tents”.
Now of course there are a few commonsense exceptions to the above law.
However, in 1978 the new Spanish Constitution was introduced, making things a little less clear cut. Seventeen ‘autonomous regions’ were created, each with their own level of power to make varying legal codes based on their own territory.
Thus, in Spain, authorities, municipalities, and nature conservations have different jurisdictions over certain regions of Spain.
It’s for this reason that there are different guidelines and penalties depending on the region in which you wish to wild camp.
Where wild camping is and isn’t tolerated
In principle wild camping in Spain is tolerated and dealt with more loosely in the following areas:
- On the Atlantic coast (beaches are taboo nevertheless)
- In rural areas.
- Away from tourist areas and the coast.
Authorized zones, i.e. subject to national rules:
The Basque Country, Catalonia, Madrid, Castilla y León and Castilla la Mancha
Wild camping is more strictly controlled in the following areas:
- On beaches and tourist areas
- Nature reserves
- On the Mediterranean
Wild camping totally prohibited:
Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Extremadura, Galicia, Navarra and Valencia
If you happen to be caught by authorities in these areas, it is possible you’ll have to pay a fine ranging between €30 to €800 ($33 to $896).
Coastal areas are much more strictly patrolled, even if the beaches aren’t accessible by any paths and tourists don’t frequent them. Sometimes, authorities even use helicopters to track down wild campers.
Are bonfires legal in Spain?
Spain as a country is extremely sensitive to wildfires, especially in summer time when very high temperatures and sometimes longer dry periods prevail. In June 2019, a massive wildfire broke out, burning down over 4000 hectares of forest. You can only imagine the devastating effects this had on the endangered local wildlife and fauna.
My advice – Do not light a fire anywhere. The potential consequences will not be worth the extra added comfort.
Is wild camping in Spain safe?
Make sure to research the region in which you wish to camp. In some parts of Spain there are poisonous animals, like scorpions, spiders and snakes like the Lataste’s Viper which is present in the Spanish peninsula. In the north of the country, bears and wolves are still around. Although its very unlikely you’ll ever encounter them, make sure you are aware of this when setting up your camp. Find out about Spain’s dangerous/poisonous animals here.
Lots of beaches lead to Ramblas, which are often overlooked by tourists and campers. These Ramblas are actually dry riverbeds that look like dirt roads. However, when it rains, they can fill up extremely fast, inevitably building into torrential currents which can sweep you away. Avoid camping next to these sorts of areas.
Many large areas throughout Spain are hunting grounds. You should be able to recognize these areas if you spot a black and white sign that says: “Coto privado de Caza”. Avoid wild camping in these areas at all costs, as hunters are up and about in the early hours of the morning. I remember hearing gunshots on one of my bicycle touring trips.
How to find wild camping spots in Spain?
There are certain spots within Spain that are more frequented. One of the most amazing apps available for anyone seeking out camping adventures on the fly is the iOverlander app. I use it whenever I’m on one of my bike touring expeditions.
The great thing about this app is that it allows all sorts of travellers to add their very own camping experience to a map. You can filter the map by selecting various different place types such as: informal campsite, wild camping, eco-friendly etc.
Whether you are travelling by bicycle, van or by foot you can get real up to date information on potential wild camping opportunities.
One thing to keep in mind is choosing the right camping gear for your trip. Especially in inland locations, the ground consists almost entirely of rocks and sharp stones. Bringing the right tent set up (one that doesn’t require spikes to stand) will be a smart move.
The bottom line
If you are unsure of whether or not you are able to wild camp in your region of interest, it is best to contact the tourist board of each region. You can click this link to Wikipedia, where you will find a map of all the regions. Use it to follow through to the relevant home page of each government.
If this all seems to complicated, just type (“your region” turismo) into Google and you should get the necessary information.
For more basic information on wild camping in general please visit this page.
If you still have questions after reading this article, please feel free to ask me anything in the comments section below. I’ll try to answer them lifesaving-ly fast!