Freestanding or wild camping in northern Spain is one of the best things to do when you’re on a road trip along the rugged northern Spanish coast. Just being able to stop and spend the night wherever you want, plus having a spectacular scenery right in front of your eyes, can make a northern Spain vacation unforgettable. There are so many beautiful beaches and incomparably beautiful cliffs in northern Spain that the desire of every camper to be free in the middle of nature is understandable.
But is it allowed to do so? Is free standing and wild camping forbidden everywhere or is it sometimes tolerated in the north of Spain? We inform you about the legal situation regarding wild camping in Northern Spain and give you the most important tips for free standing, so that your Northern Spain road trip will be unforgettable.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Camping in Northern Spain
Camper & Motorhome Rentals in Northern Spain
If you don’t own a camper (yet), you can rent one locally. Fly to Bilbao or Santiago de Compostela and rent a camper on the spot. There are many providers on site, some of which also allow a one-way rental. That means you can rent your campervan e.g. in Bilbao in the east and return it in Santiago de Compostela in the west.
We can recommend the following comparison website for Spain if you want to travel by car and rent a campervan locally: Cheap Car Hire*
Northern Spain Wild Camping | The Legal Situation
The legal situation for free standing and wild camping in Northern Spain (as well as in the rest of Spain) is very unclear. There is one national law (wild camping is forbidden) and many regional and municipal laws and rules, which unfortunately do not give a uniform picture. Some municipalities allow free standing and others prohibit it but still tolerate it. It is hardly possible to be completely clear about the rules in advance.
To make a long story short: Tolerated is free standing and wild camping in northern Spain actually almost everywhere. We traveled 3 weeks through northern Spain and have stood the whole time wild in nature. Only twice we were sent away by the police, but this almost over-friendly and without having to pay a fine.
One of the reasons for this is that northern Spain, in contrast to the very crowded region of Andalusia in the south, is still spared from mass tourism. Therefore, there is not such a strict RV regulation here as, for example, in Portugal at the Algarve.
Parking vs. Camping in Northern Spain
It makes a big difference whether you are just parking or actually camping. Overnight parking is usually tolerated, but when camping in the countryside, the police is usually less relaxed. But what is the difference between overnight parking and camping?
Quite simply, when parking overnight, your motorhome or campervan just stands somewhere and it looks like you are parking. When you go camping, you extend the awning, place the folding chair and camping table on the grass and put your car on wedges so that it stands straight.
Conclusion: You stand much more unobserved and less risky if you don’t show any “camping behavior”. Especially at spots where controls are more likely, like at the coast or directly at the beach.
Campsites in Northern Spain
If you don’t want to wild camp, there are a lot of official campsites in northern Spain. The prices are 20-30 € for 2 persons in a campervan per night. Usually you don’t have to book the campsites in advance if you are flexible. Many campsites in northern Spain are located in a beautiful landscape directly on the coast and offer a more or less good comfort.
The best way to find available campsites in the area is to use Google Maps or the app Park4Night.
Northern Spain Camping & Freestanding – 8 Important Tips
#1 Leave your pitch cleaner than you found it
Sounds a little weird, but it makes total sense when you think about it. One of the reasons why wild camping has fallen into disrepute is that many campers leave their garbage and excrement behind. If you’ve ever gone behind the next bush at a nice campsite, you know what I mean: Mountains of tissues. This is not only disgusting, but it also harms the environment.
We always take our own trash with us and leave nothing behind. Additionally, we try to collect some trash (especially on beaches as well) to leave the place cleaner than we found it. Sometimes we even take a trash bag with us to collect extra small trash. If everyone collected just a little trash along the way, the (camping) world would soon look very different.
#2 Camping in the North of Spain – Public RV Parks
There are official RV parks in many northern Spanish communities that are more like a large parking lot. These are approved by signs for RVs or also restricted to them. These sites can be found in most municipalities and are always free of charge. Here you will usually find disposal stations and you can fill up your fresh water. Toilets, showers and electricity are not available. But you can stand here legally and don’t have to worry about the police.
Overnight stays are usually limited to 2-3 days.
#3 Public Toilets on a Road Trip through Northern Spain
One of the big difficulties I always find when camping is the issue of going to the toilet. We do have a camping toilet on board, which we really appreciate, but in some situations you do wish you had a proper loo. In northern Spain, the search for a proper toilet is thankfully quite simple.
Because in almost every big supermarket there are free public toilets that you can use without any problems.
#4 Showers while Wild Camping in Northern Spain
One of the most important reasons why we stay at a campsite during our camping vacations is the possibility to take a hot shower. We have a simple camping shower in the van, but it is not very comfortable. In Spain it is not that easy to get a hot shower if you are not on a campsite.
Nevertheless, there are hot showers at many highway gas stations, which you can use either completely free of charge or for a few Euro. The best way to find a shower is to use the Park4Night app.
Cold showers can be found for free at most beaches. Please note, however, that no shampoo or shower gel may be used here!
#5 Washing Clothes while Wild Camping in Northern Spain
Another problem with wild camping is the laundry that wants to be washed at some point. You don’t want to wear every T-shirt three times. Public laundromats or washing stations, which are usually found at gas stations or large supermarkets, can help.
There are many of them and you can wash your clothes while you are shopping and dry them afterwards. A wash cycle in such machines usually does not take much longer than 30 minutes. In addition, this is really not expensive (3-6€ per wash or drying) and super practical.
#6 Water Supply and Disposal
Every few days you simply have to dispose of your grey and black water when wild camping and of course fill up with new drinking water. This can be done at any campsite. But it is not necessary to go to a paid campsite in Spain.
Because there are also numerous free supply and disposal stations away from campsites. Partly they are on the parking lots of large supermarkets. Often, however, small communities have modern and free camping sites, where you can dispose of gray and black water without problems and fill up with fresh water. Rarely you have to pay a small fee.
Just use the app Park4Night described below.
#7 WiFi while Wild Camping in Spain
In order not to overload the data volume of our cell phones, we use, where possible, public and free WiFi hotspots. These are usually not so easy to find. In Spain, however, almost every large supermarket has a free and usually quite fast WiFi network. So you only have to go to Lidl, Aldi or other supermarkets to update apps or download Netflix movies.
#8 The best app for free pitches
But how to find the most beautiful pitches in the middle of nature in the north of Spain? One app that helped us a lot in finding a great pitch for wild camping was Park4Night. Here are super many accommodation options of pitches listed directly by the sea, in the middle of the forest or even directly on the road. Together with photos and meaningful ratings.
For us, this was really helpful finding a suitable pitch in the evening. Especially the timeliness of the data makes this app so valuable, because a site that was still allowed last year, may have been provided this year already with a “No Camping” sign. Therefore, you should always check the app for the latest comments.
We hope you enjoyed our article on Northern Spain Camping & Freestanding. If you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment.