Campsites in Spain come in four official generic classes, plus various special categories (see Campsites). But there are two general trends worth knowing: as a sweeping generalisation Spanish people think of camping as a cheap family holiday, but with as much ‘luxury’ as possible, especially facilities for children and good food. They do this either by renting a caravan on-site or taking their own and staying put for the duration. So campsites in tourist areas tend to cater for fixed or long-stay caravans. A significant minority, however, see camping as a good way to get close to nature and travel light, so there are enough sites that cater more for the travelling tent dweller. The two types aren’t quite mutually exclusive, it’s more a matter of personal taste. But many campsites that cater for caravans aren’t good for canvas dwellers as their plots are geared for motors and thus have hard surfaces, usually coarse gravel – yeuk!
It is important for the travelling biker to bear in mind is the nature of the terrain and the rigours of the climate: Spain in general is a pretty spikey place, and the ground can be extremely hard in dry weather. It is also important to consider the need for shade and, conversely, to bear in mind that in the mountainous interior the nights can be cold – even in August! The latter is also true of the north coast regions; although these get the ‘benefit’ (sic) of the moist Atlantic weather systems the benefits of the Gulf Stream have long petered out by the time it passes this far south – all that lovely warm water has been used up on the coasts of Cornwall and Brittany!
Getting an ‘eye’ for the vegetation is handy for making snap decisions for spontaneous traveller and at interpreting web sites for the long-term planners among us. While assessing the lie of the land can also be worth bearing in mind:
- campings set among olive trees or in orchards are romantic but have some practical problems. Fruit trees like olives and almonds thrive in dry conditions which means very hard ground. These trees also provide very little shade. But they also hate the damp, so will be sited well away from dew attracting dells – see below. So these make great sites in spring the latter part of autumn
- riverbank sites usually have plenty of grass and reasonably soft soil. They are usually planted with shady tree varieties so are good in summer. The downside is the possibility of heavy dews – hot weather in Spain leads to a thermal-inversion, where cool, damp air is trapped in the valley floors – so dew often lingers well into the mid-morning, a real pain when you want to pack your tent in an airtight bag alongside your sleeping bag – I bundle mine up in the separate groundsheet! Riverbank pitches are usually full of boulders just below the surface, however, so beware
- open pine woods make good campsites because they grow on loose soil and have reasonable shade. The main problems are that pines have long roots that run just under the surface and the needles get everywhere. Coastal campsites among pinewoods are especially good as here the ‘soil’ is fine sand
- coastal sites are often next to lagoons. These are often infested with mosquitoes even if the lagoon has been drained – sometimes because they’ve been drained!