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By Regina Winkle-Bryan
I’ve mentioned before on The Spain Scoop that I grew up in Oregon, in the Western U.S.A. Part of being from the Northwest is having a love of nature. This means you own a pair of hiking boots and use them frequently, you have considered buying a ‘Bear Bell’, you can spot at least a few native trees and plants, you have an REI membership card, and you go camping several times a year (which means you inevitably have camped in the rain – it’s the Northwest after all!).
When I moved to Spain I was excited by all the campgrounds lining the coast and dotting the interior of Catalonia, not far from Barcelona, where I live. But after a couple trips ‘camping’, I realized that my concept of a campground as a woman from the Northwest was very different from the Spanish version. In most cases, campgrounds here are more like staying in a KAO than on a patch of land deep in the woods. Usually, there’s a swimming pool, a store, bungalows or cabins, a cafe, a mini-market and a restaurant.
I can see how this deluxe set-up would be ideal for many families looking for camping holidays in Spain, as camping is generally less expensive than booking a hotel. Many times, Northern Europeans will come for several weeks or months to Spanish campgrounds to take in the sun, sand and cerveza while their kids have a blast in the pool.
That said, I want nature and hiking when I go camping more than pools and bar service. This may be because I don’t have children. In any case, I recommend the southern area of Catalonia near Tarragona for excellent camping, hiking, and climbing. Siurana is one of the best areas for these activities. The Costa Brava is ideal for beach camping and Montseny, just an hour from Barcelona by car, is also an excellent camping option for those who want to be in (small) mountains. On my last trip to Montseny I camped right next to a creek and listened to it bubble and babble all night – which is heaven for a Oregonian (I dare you to find me an Oregonian who dislikes the sounds of nature! Doesn’t exist).
A few things to keep in mind if you’re going to be camping in Catalonia:
-Generally, bonfires are not allowed (Bummer! No S’mores…).
-Many campgrounds do not allow dogs (Bummer for the Blog Dog).
-You are usually charged by the person, dog and car. More cars equal more money. A night can run you €15 to €20 or more depending on the place.
-Many campgrounds have RV hookups as well as cabins and tent space.
-I’ve never seen a campground here without hot showers, a kitchen area and BBQ area.
-August is the peak time for camping in Spain, and you’ll pay more. July is also more expensive.
-While bears are not an issue in Catalonia or most of Spain, you should keep a clean camp because wild boars are common.
A few camp grounds we’ve tried and tested: