How to Find Places of Interest Overlanding Spain [including translations]
So you’ve planned the trip to Spain, the rig is serviced, full of gear and you’re packed and ready to go. Spain is a big country and you may have chosen certain areas you’d like to visit, the route is in the GPS but how do get to those locations off the beaten track? In this post we’ll take a look at how to find places of interest overlanding Spain.
What is a place of interest? From an overlanding perspective it could be somewhere to camp, a stop off point, somewhere to hike amongst many other things, it’s a knocking bet though that it will be rural and quite possibly in an elevated location.
“some of the best places we’ve discovered have been found by accident purely just by heading off down a random track to see where it takes us.”
These are the kinds of locations that you can only really plan for once you are in the area, they are too small and frequent to include in the ‘getting to Granada’ part of the journey especially if for example you’re coming from another country.
Google maps is your friend [or GPS app], we like Google maps as it tends to be quicker and the sat view is clearer, Google maps will give you pretty much everything you need but remeber when it comes to these smaller locations that they have been added by other people and the exact position may be a little ‘off’, this is the only issue.
Nacimiento [River Birth]
A nacimiento is worth taking a look, most can be found in rural locations with the actual spot itself made into a rural attraction, there may also be a waterfall or series of smaller waterfalls, good for photos.
These are indicated by a camera icon on Google maps and there are hundreds of them in most regions. Positions are high up and not all can be accessed by vehicle [even 4×4]. These Spanish ‘lookouts’ are found by the roadside, in woodland, natural parks and basically anywhere there is a fantstic viewpoint, overlooking reservoirs is another. Some can be a challenge to get to and others you can park on tarmac so they are a real mixed bag. Out in the countryside away from main arterial routes are the ones where you can remain undisturbed for hours…
Old watchtowers are dotted across the landscape in varying states of natural decay, the towers themselves don’t offer a tremendous amount of interest other than some photography opportunities but the locations are a different matter.
Due to their purpose most have a 360 view and are positioned high up in the mountains, across wooded hill areas and plateau’s. You may get your rig part of the way there but the last stretch will be on foot for sure. Very peaceful positions and a great quiet stop off.
There are more than 350 reservoirs in Spain and many attract a healthy dose of tourism, some however are more secluded and quiet. One tip would be to explore around the reservoir itself but further out, check your maps for nearby bodies of water, rivers, waterfalls etc. One give away will be a ‘picifactoria’ or ‘fish farm’ if you have one of these nearby there will be a stretch of water to explore for sure.
Not many of these in southern Spain compared to the north but still worth a look if you stumble across any [Jaen province for example]. You may also find them around nacimientos.
Go and visit the big caves like the ones the Nerja, they are impressive but you’ll also find other types of caves scattered around the Altiplano de Granada area as well as Granada itself. In the Altiplano caves are used as dwellings [read about our own cave here] and while many have now been converted into homes you can still find abandoned caves out in the countryside and on the outskirts of villages like Orce, Huescar, Benamaurel to name just a few. Caution when entering is required but if you want somehere to cool off for a break from the Spanish heat then an Andalucian cave will not disappoint!
Fuencaliente [Natural Spring]
Go early in the summer months to avoid the crowds, a fuencaliente is essentially a natural spring, some rural villages have them and many have been converted into an outdoor pool kind of set up. Worth a visit if you like a swim or just need to wake up in the morning…
Castles, lots of them and most are in villages and towns themselves, you can however still seek them out in the ‘campo’ [countryside] in various states, all are in great locations.
Bridges are always a good opportunity to get the camera out, keep an eye out for old railway lines where you can get underneath the bridge too.
Merendero [Picnic Area]
Plenty of picnic areas as you might expect in a country that boasts an average of 300 days sunshine a year. Good ones are kept clean and well maintained, most have BBQ facilities but be aware as fire is not permitted during the summer. Seating facilities are usually big logs or cement tables/benches and the majority of these areas are in rural locations, stop off and take advantage or carry on and a find a more quiet spot which will be just a minute or two away.
Area Recreativa [Recreation Area]
Recreation areas are very similar to picnic areas, in fact there is little difference as both can have the same or very similar facilities, recreation areas tend to be bigger, may have buildings or even offer controlled camping.
The woods… where you will be overlanding for at least some of your trip – guaranteed! Just keep an eye out for these guys.
Barranco’s show up on your map or GPS planner as ridges but are actually ravines, each has a name and these barrancos are fantastic places to get to providing you can.
Some are accessible by dirt track and can be a challenge while others you would have to walk to. Enjoy ultimate peace and back to nature in these locations.
Hiking areas, to be found frequently both near recreation areas and also in more remote places right out in the countryside, some hiking routes in Spain are marked but many are not so come prepared if you’re planning on a longer one.
Rivers in Spain are a big attraction due to the heat and arid landscape especially in the south, overlanding may see you in more rural locations where you will find streams and other bodies of water, just don’t expect to go boat cruising.
The 5 main rivers in Spain are: the Duero, Tagus, Ebro, Guadiana and Guadalquivir
Camping in Spain, wild camping is forbidden by law in most parts [there are rare exceptions] but the reality is that if you find a really rural spot you are unlikely to get moved on or be challenged [see our wild camping post here]. Camp sites are frequent throughout the country and are good if you need to get freshened up, use facilities or some extra comfort for a night or two during your overlanding Spain trip. Remember that the Spanish eat late so camp sites can be noisy into the early hours unless the site owners have a lights out policy.
“even on a planned full day trip we struggle to get to everywhere we had planned, there is simply too much to explore“
So, how to find places of interest overlanding Spain, there are plenty, numerous places of interest to discover and with the best will in the world you probably won’t get to see all of them you would like to, even on a planned full day or weekend away trip we struggle to get to everywhere we had planned, there is simply too much to explore and too many trails to navigate which, when the fun starts can occupy you and scupper your plans by a couple of unforseen hours at least!
How to find places of interest overlanding Spain – Our top tips from Andalucia
Planning the trip is one one thing, having it all go to plan is another. There are so many places to see in Spain it is impossible to see them all [even if you live here]. Our best advice is take your time and get adventurous, some of the best places we’ve discovered have been found by accident purely just by heading off down a random track to see where it takes us.
Granted, some trails lead to nothing but when they do it’s guaranteed to be worth it.
Don’t believe everything you see on online maps, markers for certain landmarks, viewing platforms, rock formations etc can be inaccurate, the place will be there for sure but it could well be a few hundred yards out.
On your overland Spain quest to find the best locations out there remember it’s always the hidden ones that deliver the best results, we are regularly adding places to Google maps as it doesn’t seem to be the done thing or at least not as popular in Andalucia to do so, just because it’s not on the map doesn’t mean it’s not there…