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Parking for the Night in Spain – Rural Car Camping

Parking for the Night in Spain – Rural Car Camping

Parking for the night in Spain? We take a look at how to find and enjoy the perfect rural spot to wild camp with your overland vehicle in Andalucia.

Wild camping is not permitted in Andalucia but there are ways you can wild camp in some areas. Wild camping in Spain is tolerated in some places and the key is to keep as low on the radar as you can – especially when sleeping in your vehicle.

Spain is a big country with large expansive areas many of which are mountainous and covered in woodland [usually pine], it is here that we will look at parking up for the night and enjoying some time outdoors under the stars for the night.

Choosing the ideal spot

Google maps is your friend. While you can just rock up to an isolated area it is better to plan and know where your spot is and crucially how isolated it is as this can make a big difference. Rural Andalucia has thousands of tracks that lead through the ‘campo’ or countryside, many of these tracks also lead through woodland and mountain areas.

Parking for the Night in Spain
finding isolated areas in the Andalucian campo

What you need to look for is where these tracks simply stop – they are not hard to find and are good places to park for two reasons:

  1. No through traffic
  2. Very isolated but still accessible

There will be no warning that these tracks are not going to lead anywhere other than that they will become more narrow, more challenging and elevated, all of a sudden you will find yourself in the wood or on top of a hill with nowhere left to go. This is good as it means you will be on your own undisturbed, the most traffic you may see is a shepherd and his sheep [evidence of sheep will be on the ground].

Not all locations will be ideal, some will be too exposed if the weather is windy. If you can find some wooded hillside with some cover then this is better. Beware of woodland trails – there are many obvious and some less obvious trails leading into woodland, these are used by farmers and beekeepers so although they look ideal to seek out a secluded spot you may get more passers by and a resulting visit from the authorities.

This is my land

Landowners, if they see you will want to know what you are doing there. This happened to us near to our local village on a day out, we were taking photos next to an old ruined cortijo when we noticed a car approaching at speed. There were two people in the vehicle and they asked what we were doing then accused us of trying to get a ‘quick get away’ which was of course absolute nonsense.

Overlanding the Altiplano Granada
wooded hillside in southern Spain

We also had a our little boy with us. there were no private signs or signage of any description and our reasons [taking photos] appeared to fall on deaf ears no matter which way we tried to explain it. Our vehicle was also photographed as we left which we challenged.

There were two people in the vehicle and they asked what we were doing then accused us of trying to get a ‘quick get away’

The point here is that landowners can be aggressively protective of their land in Spain, yes it’s over the top but it’s best avoided wherever possible. There is no point in entering a discussion about it.

Leave no trace

It goes without saying to leave nothing and take only photos. There is enough rubbish and disregard for rural areas already so helping by not leaving any more and picking up others rubbish from around you [if there is any] is both rewarding and helping the environment.

Outdoor fires

Outdoor fires are a big issue in Andalucia especially given the risks of wildfires, we have covered open fires in previous posts but as far as wild camping is concerned you will be asking for trouble if you light a fire. The problem is that a fire can be seen for miles around, obviously at night but smoke during the day can potentially end up with a fire being reported and a visit from the forestry guys to find out what is going on – they [nor the Guardia] will be happy.

Risk of fire spreading is very high during the summer even for seasoned camp fire enthusiasts, it only takes one spark… In order to keep a low profile it’s best not to use a camp fire and stick to the gas for cooking and heating water although water for washing will heat up quite nicely in the Spanish midday sun.

Sound travels

On a recent hike we were 3 km into the mountains and we could almost hear a conversation word for word coming from the industrial estate near the village. Sound travels especially at night. In rural areas and in the mountains it gets so quiet at nightime you can almost hear a pin drop…

Parking for the Night in Spain
admiring the view

Any talking will get picked up from miles away, add a couple of lights to that noise and the risk of being reported rises significantly. Best practice for wild camping in Spain [in any capacity] is to keep your low profile, keep the noise to a minimum and go to bed early if you can.

One night only

Parking for the night in Spain means just that – for the night. In an overlanding situation a vehicle will eventually be noticed. Even if it is noticed this does not mean people will report you but…, outstay your welcome and the chances are higher that they will. Arrive late and leave early if getting your head down for the night is your main purpose.

In areas that you know you may feel more comfortable and there are no rules to say that you cannot pull out the awning, set up the table and chairs etc for a nice day out. This is very similar to the tents you see on Spanish beaches where camping is strictly forbidden, it is allowed because it is during the day, it’s not camping if your’e not sleeping [after 8.00pm is the current 2022 rule].

sleeping in your car in spain
Morning sunrise across the Altiplano de Granada

So, what happens after dark? What happens if you, like many of the Spanish do, like to eat late and want to socialise into the early hours? Perhaps you like astrophotography…

Perhaps it is the act of ‘sleeping’ that makes it all illegal, okay there is more to it than that but using common sense and keeping your ‘base’ for the night tidy and minimal will go a long way to avoiding ‘the knock’.

Parking for the night in Spain?

What is your take on it as far as car camping and overlanding is concerned? Do you find the rules and regs too restrictive or are you happy to use campsites and designated areas?

1600 900 Mac

Mac

K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.

Mac

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