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tent camping catalunyaWhen I think of camping, I think huge skies, campfires, stars, wilderness, no electricity, no internet, escaping the buzz and grind of modern society for a while, and having the world all to yourself.

This sort of camping is difficult to find in Spain. I’ll admit I haven’t put too much effort into finding campsites like this, but indeed the lack of them adds to the difficulty of finding them. I have spent quite a bit of time trawling through internet forums, and driving about Catalunya to know that camping in Spain means something quite the opposite of what I have in mind.

The usual style here, it appears, are well developed campsites that cater mainly to caravans, mobile homes and a permanent summer time bungalow set up. This means blaring radios, TVs plugged in while men with beer bellies laze away in the shade, cervesa in hand catching up on TV that they may have missed in the weeks leading up to August Summer Holidays. Thousands of kids running helter skelter through the camp grounds, sunscreen smells, dive bombs in the camp pool, lights, teenage discos at night, bingo, picnics, laughter, loud conversation, dogs barking, a cacophony of the city in a campsite. Of course, this may be the perfect holiday spot for you, no doubt the kids enjoy their summer time gangs with few restrictions, late nights, endless sun, and plenty of activities.

But I want to escape it all. I want to pitch my tent in the middle of nowhere. Enjoy a skinny dip in a forgotten lake, paddle a quiet river, snorkel a mermaid pool with nothing but swaying seaweed and fish.

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I’m willing of course to compromise. I realise that I can’t have it all to myself. At least not in Europe. Summer is serious business here, and camp sites cash in. They also provide a way of life that many people have been enjoying for years. Returning to old neighbours and old campgrounds again and again.

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So where can you find camp sites that favour tent camping as opposed to the plug in caravan camping that is so common here? After visiting an endless number of beaches, mountains, coves, forests and hills and snubbing the endless camping grounds where nary a tent can be found, (let alone the space to squeeze one in, with a modicum of privacy, between the bungalows) I have found two, which check all my boxes! I shall share my secret with you!

Cala Llevado

A sprawling camp ground on the Costa Brava, located near Tossa del Mar. Although this camping has all the usual activities and accommodates caravans, mobile homes, tents et al, it’s layout does much to afford an almost private tent camping experience. Situated on a sloping mountain side, the tent pitches are scattered in terraces leading down to three beaches. The climb to and from your pitch to the beach may be strenuous, but it’s worth it, as it means your tent will often have a great view of the Mediterranean sea through the trees. The camp site certainly benefits camping in tents, as the landscape means that caravans have to be parked at the top of the slope, closer to the main restaurant and pool area. Camping with your own tent gives you far more pitch options to choose from.

The camp site is also huge, and this means that even though there may be plenty of people, you don’t feel over crowded. Of course my experience in visiting the camp site in their mid season (pre July), meant that this feeling of isolation was greatly elevated. We stayed overnight on a Sunday, and the Monday was so quiet, the beaches were practically private, which is something I have never seen in Spain, unless it was the dead of winter!

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We spent most of our time exploring the 3 or 4 beaches and coves that connect to the campsite, snorkelling, sunbathing and swimming. We also enjoyed a pretty healthy meal at the beach bar chiringuito Mar Azul, which consisted of a surprisingly good hamburger, a fresh-from-their-veggie-patch salad, and a seafood fry up. We had wanted to try the fisherman’s catch, but they only have that available when the fishermen bring in their local catch, which, delightfully, could be any day of the week. No guarantees.

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The water was clear, and we were lucky enough to spot 2 Mediterranean Moray Eels in the shallows, as well as a myriad of fish including some very pretty Ornate Wrasse. There is a diving school, water activities and you can hike through the scraggly pine trees, past several cliffside coves to Tossa Del Mar, if you wish. But with the inviting sea right at the foot of your tent, I’m not sure why you would want to.

Next time, I want to try to stay for longer, and I’ll be sure to bring some easy to slip on beach shoes to avoid burning my feet on the barbecue like sand and pebbles of the beach.

Facilities: Glamping Pods, Bungalows, Permanent Tents, pitches for your own tents, caravans, mobile RV, electricity, internet, pool, restaurant, supermarket, WC, laundry, Showers, Beach Bar, water activities. WEBSITE

Refugi Malnui

This spot, nestled in the mountains of the Pyranees, is more along the lines of what I have in mind when I think tent camping. I’m not even sure it’s an official camping spot, as it’s more set up for day trips and picnickers who hike up to the mountain top lakes, but when the day trippers head back down the mountain, and the temperatures drop. The stars light up the sky and you find yourself alone with some cows, horses, bells a-tinkle and a smattering of other campers. It’s wonderful. You feel as if you have the mountainside to yourself.

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Organised and run by a tiny mountaineer’s Refugio, they have all the facilities you could need but it’s certainly more rustic than some camping grounds. No laundry for one, and showers would be a dip in the lake, or a splash in the ablution block sinks. But it’s perfect. Rolling green hillsides sneak up to jagged cliffs, where mountain goats leap and vultures soar against a brilliant blue sky. Flowers push up through the grassy knolls, and the hike up to the lakes is breathtaking. You can cool off in the crisp waters, and sun yourself on a rock. The little Refuge for mountain hikers will serve you up snacks and some food if you book ahead, otherwise you need to come prepared. Bring some warm clothing, even in summer, as it can get pretty cool up in the mountain.

We spent a few nights here and loved every minute. There are a number of hikes, that range from easy to difficult, and you can get involved with the mountaineering club if you wish, to discover more highlights. In the middle of the night we were awoken to all the cows returning down to the valley, their bells ringing. The moon was bright, and reflected in the lake and streams surrounding the camping site. Night birds called, and the stars….

Facilities: Beds available in the Refuge, pitches for your own tents. NO caravans, mobile RV, electricity, internet, pool. Small restaurant, snack shop, WC, hiking activities. WEBSITE

No doubt I will endeavour to find some more camping spots for tents scattered about Catalonia and Spain and test them out. Do you know of any good camping spots in Spain? What kind of tent camping do you like?