It’s a country with picturesque mountains, stunning beaches, history-filled villages, and some of Europe’s best national parks. So it’s no surprise that the idea of wild camping in Spain is popular with outdoor enthusiasts from across the world.
But can you wild camp in Spain using your tent or motorhome?
Unfortunately, it’s not legal to wild camp in Spain. However there are exceptions to note, as in some places wild camping is tolerated despite it officially not being allowed. That includes parking in a motorhome too.
We explain all of that next, as well as give you some tips to be a considerate camper.
Wild Camping in Spain: The Rules
Whilst wild camping – also known as free camping – in Spain is not allowed, there are a few exceptions where it tends to be tolerated. However it’s best to start with the areas that are completely forbidden.
Camping on the Beach in Spain: Forbidden
In Spain camping on the beach, or any form of sleeping on the beach, is forbidden and you can face harsh fines for doing so – upwards of 1000 euros in some municipalities.
In fact coastal areas should be avoided completely – particularly the Mediterranean Coast – as these regions are regarded as completely off-limits for wild camping.
The Spanish police (Guardia Civil) are always looking for wild campers in the Mediterranean coastal regions, so if you choose to camp here there’s a high chance you will be caught.
Camping in Spain’s National Parks: Forbidden
National parks are completely off-limits too, so make sure to check maps so you can avoid wild camping in any national park.
The Guardia Civil are often on the lookout for illegal campers in these areas as well.
Sleeping in a Vehicle Overnight: Permitted Depending On Where You Park
An important exception is that sleeping in your car is legal in Spain if you are parking in an area where cars are allowed to park – like a public car park. That is true whether you’re in a small family car or a motorhome.
To stay on the right side of the law, do not set anything up outside your car or RV, such as camping chairs, awnings, or a BBQ. If you have a caravan, it must remain attached to your vehicle and you cannot sleep in it.
If you do any of the above, then you are officially ‘camping’ and are likely to be stopped and fined. In fact even keeping an outward opening door or window open is also considered camping. You can see the full list of regulations (albeit in Spanish) here.
There are often signs at the entrance of public parking that state motorhomes are forbidden. Those signs are actually illegal, and Spanish law makes clear that sleeping overnight in a vehicle is permitted.
If you are fined you can appeal, but do mention Article 93 of the General Road Traffic Regulations and Manual 08 / V-74 which states your right to sleep in a vehicle overnight.
Lastly, if you come across police that are insistent you move despite the law, our advice is to do so. It will save you hassle in the long run.
Where Free Camping in Spain is Sometimes Tolerated
Free camping in Spain tends to be tolerated if you have the permission of a private landowner. So if you find an area you would like to pitch your tent or park your motorhome, then seek out the owner and ask permission. They may request a small fee.
We have also found that if you’re hiking or walking a long trail then wild camping in Spain tends to be tolerated.
That’s because hikes and walks can take more than a day to complete and so walkers will need a place to sleep overnight. Just make sure you camp away from the main trail as a matter of courtesy.
Likewise, wild camping in the mountains – like in the Pyrenees – as well as very rural areas is sometimes tolerated too. (Related: Camping in the Pyrenees).
If you really want to wild camp near a beach, wild camping near the Atlantic Coast is tolerated more than any other coastline in Spain. But you will still have to be discreet. We give you tips on how to be discreet next.
Wild Camping in Spain: Camping Without Permission
If you are planning to go free camping in Spain – and can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite instead – we’ve compiled the following guidelines to help you camp in a considerate manner, and hopefully keep you out of trouble:
- In general, campfires are not allowed in Spain so never make a campfire when wild camping. The fines for starting a wildfire are huge, and you could even face jail time.
- You should camp in the same place for one night only, and pitch your tent or park your motorhome discretely and in a remote place which will not be easily seen. Therefore don’t camp in or near settlements, someone’s farm or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, always try and seek out the landowner and ask permission. They may request a small fee.
- If you have a tent, set it up at dusk and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet, blends in with the landscape, and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a lightweight walking tent like this one would be a great investment for someone planning to go wild camping in Spain.
- Respect the leave no trace policy and take any rubbish with you. Leave your camping spot exactly the way you found it.
- If you need to go to the toilet and don’t have one (for example if you’re tent camping) then do so at least 30-50 meters away from water sources, such as rivers. Make sure to use a trowel (like this folding one) to bury any human waste at least six inches under ground. Take any tissue paper with you – use a ziplock bag to store it and dispose of it in the nearest bin.
- Remember to always have plenty of water on you when you’re walking and camping. A space-saving collapsible water bottle would be a good purchase.
Some of the Places Where you Should Never Camp:
- Beaches and areas close to the coast
- National parks
- Cultivated land
- Land clearly attached to a building (private garden, backyard)
- Sports fields
- Schools and school land
- Building sites
- Working and disused quarries
- Land close to houses, settlements, road, and cultivated land