Many guides and camping blogs note that Spanish campsites (called ‘campings‘ in Spanish but see Free camping) are more expansive than British and French. While this appears true at face value Spanish campsites tend to offer more facilities, especially the top class ones, and even the more basic sites have good bar/restaurants, shops and (unheated!) swimming pools – and all but the very basic sites have hot water! The more important issue is that away from the coasts and popular tourist areas inland, especially around the national parks, camp sites are few and far between. It’s not essential to plan in advance but if often pays in the long run.
Campsites are graded by Turespaña, which is part of the Spanish Department of Trade and Tourism. The registration and classification is objective, based on the facilities. Many sites display stars on their billboards but these are the same as the category – in reverse order of course! Turespaña produce an annual guide which is quite a handy reference; but sadly it’s not available on-line!
Categories – as they appear in Spanish:
- Luxe – Luxury: these site really do mean de-luxe! Most are open all years and may have heated, indoor swimming pools, health spas, etc. as well as high-class restaurants. They are in effect much resorts in their own right. Not quite what one expect in a minimalist biking holiday but what the heck – you get ***** star luxury for the price of a the cheapest hotel. Here’s a typical example on the Costa Brava near Girona – a very swanky part of Spain!
- 1ª C – First class sites are most commonly geared towards touring caravans. Unlike luxury sites their facilities are low key; bar/restaurant, shop, pool, play areas, etc. Most first class sites are located along the coasts and at popular inland locations. Here is a typical example in the Pyrenees near Jaca.
- 2ª C – Second class sites will have a bar/café (see Bars and restaurants) and at least the vestiges of a shop. Most have pools but they are usually limited, i.e. no heating or sun terrace. In a tourist area one should take a good hard look at a 2ª class site, but elsewhere they are the norm. The proportion os caravan friendly to tent friendly is about 50:50. Here is one at Potes, right in the hear of the Picos de Europa.
- 3ª C – Third class sites are very basic, with little more than the plots and essential facilities. They can be the best sites for the travelling biker to stay in because they are usually located in the more remote mountain regions and are attached to or integrated with outward bound style facilities. Here is an example in the mountains above Cuenca, south Madrid.
- ACR – Acampada Casa Rural: these are campsite associated with rural accommodation, often farmhouses. This is a nationwide classification but in Anadalusia and Catalonina have their own versions called CC – Cortijo Camping and CM – Masia Camping respectively, bases on the names of the traditional farmsteads in these regions. They are very similar to 3ª campings: here’s an example in the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park, Huelva in Andalusia
- AA – Area Acampada: these are campsite that don’t make 3ª grade! – a sort of catch-all category. With the caveat that there may be good reasons for a perfectly good campsite to remain in this category, change of ownership for example, as a rule it’s as well to have fallback option and not hold out too much hope. Many AA’s belong to local councils, whose ideas of how to manage them vary considerably. But it’s not all bad news; I found this one while looking for an example. I’m impressed because it’s part of an integrated scheme to manage an important natura space – so I’ll check it out on my Tour of Spain later this year – the ‘minimalist’ information is rather typical of the breed! But in general AA class campsites are the next thing to free camping – see next page!