Wild camping in Spain - legal or not?
Updated: Sep 4
Every time I see this question posted on a Facebook group, most people will respond that 'camping in Spain is illegal', which is not true.
Free camping is permitted under certain circumstances.
Sadly, there is no law at the national level - each region has its own law regarding camping.
Each region is listed below, along with what is permitted and what law applies.
Why the complications? Let me explain...
Spain comprises 17 autonomous communities, along with two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla on the African coast - Wikipedia updated). What this means is that much of the power is devolved down to the local level, and therefore laws are made at the local level. So, if you wanted to walk a Pitbull across Spain and wanted to know if it was classified as a dangerous dog, for example, and what rules applied to it, you would have to check the laws for each region you planned on walking through!
What about wild camping, though?
Each region has very different laws.
If you are considering walking any of the caminos, and want to know if it is legal to camp, you need to check the laws for the particular regions you are walking through. For example, if you are walking the camino frances (the French Way), you'll need to check the laws for each of the following: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, and finally Galicia.
To make it easier for you, I have listed each of the regions below and the laws regarding wild camping. This information has been taken from a webpage called Jurides, which is a Spanish firm of lawyers, written in Spanish, but translated into English here. Please note that I accept no liability for any inaccuracies in this post, either legally or in translation. If you have any doubt of the legalities of what you are proposing, consult a lawyer (see disclaimer below).
Different types of 'camping'
There is an infinite variety of different types of camping, but we will focus on four of them, as they are the most common.
CAMPING*: Human activity that consists of temporarily placing a dwelling (such as a tent or caravan), whether portable of improvised, in a place in order to inhabit it.
PERNOCTAR*: Spending the night in a certain place, especially outside one's home, in a shelter or structure (often considered dusk till dawn camping).
BIVOUAC: Spending the night in the open, without any structure to protect yourself, being able to use a sleeping bag or mat.
TOURISM CAMPING: Public tourist establishments that are duly delimited and conditioned to live in the open air (public and regulated).
*The principal difference between camping and pernoctar would be the purpose: spending the night (dusk to dawn) instead of living temporarily (staying beyond dusk to dawn).
National level Order of July 28, 1966.
Often used to indicate the legality of camping in Spain, but this law has been REPEALLED.
To clarify, we need to go back to the 1978 Constitution and the transfer of powers to the Autonomous Communities in relation to tourism. Each territory had to regulate and implement all European regulations in this regard, which, in 2010, was considered to have been fulfilled, and ALL STATE REGULATIONS ON THIS MATTER WERE THUS REPEALLED.
*FOR THIS REASON THERE IS NO NATIONAL STANDARD THAT REGULATES FREE CAMPING*
LAWS FOR CAMPING AT REGIONAL LEVEL
Very restrictive legislation. Article 1, Decree 26/2018, generally prohibits camping and overnight stays for leisure or vacation purposes outside of official campsites. Violation is penalised via Tourism Law 13/2011, which means they cannot levy a fine, but they can force you to move on.
Article 14 of Decree 61/2006 prohibits free camping THROUGHOUT the autonomous territory. Legislative Decree 1/2016 of Tourism Law considers free camping a serious offence, with fines from €600 to €6,000!
According to Law 7/2001, any type of free camping is prohibited. A minor offence, with fines from €60.10 to €600.01.
Law 13/2016 regulates free camping, which generally prohibits it. It does not consider overnight stays in a motorhome in urban areas as free camping. In non-urban areas, it is the Town Hall that decides.
Decree 95/2002 prohibits free camping outside of tourist camps for more than 24hrs. Tents, etc. may be set up under the following conditions:
Maximum 3 structures
No closer than 500m to urban centres
No closer than 1km to a public campsite
No closer than 100m to rivers or roads
Carvans and motorhomes and the like are not permitted except in official campsites
CASTILLA Y LEON
Order FYM/510/2013 prohibits all free camping outside of authorised campsites.
CASTILLA LA MANCHA
This Autonomous Community is one of the most regulated on this issue. Decree 63/2006 generally prohibits free camping in the following places:
Protected Areas, Hunting Reserves, Forests of Public Utility or others owned by the Board, forests subject to an agreement or forestry consortium, Protective Forests and on Livestock Routes that border forest lands. These limitations do not apply to the bivouac. In Protected Areas, the specific regulation will apply.
In the case of free camping in a cross-country regime, the Ministry may authorize it on the land listed for free camping. In these cases, only a maximum of 10 people can spend the night. This authorization may also be requested by anyone with a minimum notice of 30 days. Within a maximum period of 15 days, it will be resolved. Otherwise, it will be understood as accepted by administrative silence, except in the case of Protected Areas.
The creation of tourism camps and controlled camping areas is foreseen. They will be marked on the ground and the regulations will be published by each Provincial Delegation. In any case, in one of these areas, the maximum duration of stay will be 6 consecutive days. The installation of caravans is limited to areas with road access.
Catalonia regulates through Decree 55/1982 the requirements for the exercise of free camping:
Groups of maximum 4 structures with a minimum separation between them of 250 meters.
Maximum stay of 4 days.
More than 1km from population centers, crowded places or (public) campsites.
More than 100 meters from the road.
In addition, Decree 148/1992 establishes the need for prior authorization to camp in natural spaces, in national hunting reserves, and in controlled hunting areas.
Like Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura is another of the communities that has regulated this matter in detail. Law 2/2011, modified by Law 8/2011, distinguishes between:
Publicly owned camping areas.
Provisional camping for events.
Other modalities: free camping. Free camping would be found in this group, pending regulatory regulation.
In fact, Decree 170/1999 prohibits free camping throughout Extremadura.
Decree 159/2019 prohibits all free camping outside of official campsites.
Decree 14/2011 prohibits camping throughout the region. Also holds any landowner who gave permission as culpable (yes, it is even illegal to camp on private property!)
Madrid follows the same line as La Rioja: it expressly prohibits free camping throughout its territory. Although in the case of Madrid, Decree 3/1993 includes a caveat. Camping may be practiced outside the tourism camps when they are organized by a public or private entity for cultural, sporting or ecological purposes. Of course, as long as the stay does not exceed 4 days and with a maximum of 200 people. A permit from the General Directorate of Tourism will be required at least 20 days in advance.
Decree 19/1985 allows free camping under the following conditions:
Maximum of 3 structures with a minimum separation of 1km (?) between them
Maximum stay of 3 days
Maximum of 9 people per group
No closer than 5km to official campsite, urban centre, public or crowded places
No closer than 100m to rivers or roads
Decree 226/1993 prohibits free camping in the following areas:
Natures reserves and wildlife protected areas
Within 10m of a river
Within 3m of the Camino de Santiago, Cañadas, or Plazaola Itinery
Places suspectible to flooding or considered dangerous
Within 200m of drinking water collection sites
Within 100m of fountains and springs
Within 1km of official tourist camps and campsites
Within 100m of a monument
Within 200m of another free camp
In areas expressly prohibit by Town Halls and Dept of Territorial Planning & The Environment
Valencia includes in Decree 233/1994 the possibility of free camping as long as you have permission from the Department of the Environment. A single requirement is established: groups of up to 10 people. The request must be submitted at least 7 days in advance.
Information taken from Jurides website.
"Created in 2020, Jurides was born to simplify legal assistance and advice and speed up the first contact between client and lawyer as much as possible. We offer the best online consultation and advice service and provide a personalized response for each client in record time.
The Jurides team is made up of lawyers specialized in different matters, which allows us to offer you the best advice and management of your case. Our professionals will respond and prepare the necessary documentation, reducing the process times and reducing the cost of the lawyer's services."
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