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Wild camping in Spain, is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?

Not long ago I met with some acquaintances in one of those frequented sports stores, they told me that they were buying everything they needed to go hiking and spend the night in the middle of nature. Undoubtedly a very rewarding activity, hiking and sleeping under the stars, so let's try to solve some doubts about wild camping in Spain, is it forbidden? where and how can I do it?

Free camping in Spain: Is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?
Image by Kanenori at Pixabay

To many of us the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about this topic is that free camping in Spain is forbidden. This phrase has its part of truth and its part not entirely true. And the fact is that there is still in force a 1966 law that defines the terms of free camping. Broadly speaking and as an example, we would say that outside the areas designated for camping we can not be more than ten people, nor more than three tents or caravans together in the same space, nor can we spend more than three days in a row in the same place, etc.. But reality is more complex than any definition or clause that we can expose here, so the first thing is to clarify a couple of concepts.

Differences between overnight stay, bivouacking, camping, etc.

As we already know this issue is not as simple as it might seem because as we will see throughout the article at the end each region, each municipality and each natural area has its own regulations in this regard that we must know if we want to avoid financial penalties of some entity. Therefore it is important to have things clear and know the differences between:

Stay overnight

Its precise definition defines it as the action of spending the night in a certain place, especially outside one's own domicile. Therefore any form of spending the night in any place other than your home and in any way you can think of is considered an overnight stay.

Free camping in Spain: Is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?
Image by chanwit whanset at Pixabay


Continuing with the definitions, this time the action of making a bivouac or bivouacking is understood as staying overnight, without prior intention, at ground level and in the open, without the installation of tents and / or roofs, with only an insulator or mat for the floor and a bag and / or bivouac cover. We can also protect ourselves with the materials provided by the natural environment where we are, but always with the minimum possible alteration of it.

This is the figure usually used by people who spend the night under the stars to justify that they are not committing an irregularity. But the key word is the non-intention to spend the night, i.e. I spent the night because I had no other choice. Even so, not all the territories allow it, so we can get a surprise if we have not been well informed before.

Free camping in Spain: Is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?
Image by wolfgang11 at Pixabay


It consists of the action of placing a temporary dwelling (tent, motorhome, etc...) either portable or improvised in a place to make use of it, that is to say, to inhabit it. In this section we can differentiate several types.

Wild camping

As we have already explained, we have a state law that regulates this possibility, but which in turn delegates to each autonomous community the power for its implementation and specific regulation. In turn, and ultimately, it is up to each municipality to legislate, that is to say, to prohibit or allow free camping in Spain, even on private land. In addition, each natural area has its own regulations that regulate this activity within it and that is of a higher level than that of the municipality on duty. All this conglomerate of regulations can cost us dearly if we are not very clear about what we can or cannot do in the place where we intend to spend the night.

For example, in Aragon it is allowed from 1500 m of altitude, in Guadarrama from 2100 m and from 1700 m in certain areas, all this with more nuances of course, while in Asturias they are much more restrictive in this practice.

Free camping in Spain: Is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?
Image by Free-Photos at Pixabay

Controlled camping

There are also areas enabled for wild camping, but controlled, i.e., we are not talking about a private campsite, these are areas specially enabled by the corresponding town hall for the practice of wild camping. These spaces, usually free of charge, usually have certain services such as fountains, toilets and showers and even electricity. For now there are not a great number of these spaces enabled for the legal practice of wild camping in Spain, but the city councils have realized the boom of this activity and the need to protect the natural environment by regulating and controlling this activity.

Wild camping is prohibited in Spain.

As you may have already seen, this statement is not so true, but neither is the opposite so simple. There are opinions, regulations, legends and solutions for all tastes, and who has not heard for example that if you camp from sunset until sunrise the next day if it is allowed to place the tent, or that I asked a local man and he told me no problem, or so many other answers from professionals of free camping.

Free camping in Spain: Is it forbidden? Where and how can I do it?
Image by Vladimír Ješko at Pixabay


Spending the night under the stars in the middle of nature is an experience that every day has more followers, but it is subject to a complex regulation that we must know and respect. Do not lose the illusion to enjoy this practice when you see such disparate possibilities or limitations in each territory.

When we prepare a trip to the mountains or a hiking or trekking route, among the things we have to prepare and inform ourselves are the places where we can spend the night if necessary, and even more if our intention is to stay overnight, shelters, camping areas, legislation of the area on the subject, necessary permits, etc ... this will avoid unpleasant surprises.

Remember to enjoy nature and that the only trace that remains of your passage through it is the sole of your boot.


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