Traditional Summer Spanish holiday or an exciting campervan tour…. Or both?

Pre 2019, we always looked forward to our annual foreign holiday. More often than not, this would be to Spain or one of the Spanish Islands… and why not? the sun was more or less guaranteed, the beaches are great, and amongst the vast choice of resorts on the Costas, there is pretty much something for everyone.

However, after the dreaded you know what, when foreign trips were either just not possible or a great deal of hassle, we decided, like many others to take a leap of faith and enter the world of the campervan! Apart from the annual big holiday abroad we regularly went on mini breaks throughout the summer months, often in North Wales, usually staying in a cottage, but occasionally camping (more in our younger days admittedly).

With the increased demand for holiday accommodation pushing up the prices the time seemed right to take the plunge. It’s been great, we’ve visited loads of places all over the UK. Some have been only 20 miles from home in the Peak District but we’ve been as far north as Loch Lomond and as far South as St Ives. The weather has played its part but by and large we have been lucky.

Roll on to 2023 and with the dreaded you know what seeming a thing of the past, our thoughts turned once again to holidaying abroad. As appealing as the sun, sea and sangria was, something felt strange about just booking a package holiday. Holidaying in the van had given us a real sense of adventure. Could we combine a campervan adventure tour with a holiday in Spain... you betchya!

First, we had to decide on what we did and didn’t want to do. We wanted to see parts of Spain that you wouldn’t normally see with a traditional package holiday. We wanted to cover as much of Spain as was feasible in two weeks, but we didn’t want to spend hours and hours behind the wheel in between stops. On the other hand, however we also wanted to spend some time on the coast enjoying the fun and vibes of a traditional Spanish holiday. And love it as much as we do, we didn’t want to spend every night in a campsite!!

We decided that as it was to be a Spanish trip, we should get ourselves and the van to Spain as expediently as possible. A ferry from Portsmouth to Bilboa was booked via Brittany Ferries. It wasn’t what you would call cheap, but we did leave it quite late. The ferry trip itself though was great. We boarded the ship early morning and set sail around midday for a 24-hour crossing to the northern Spanish port. The ferry was more like a small cruise ship, with fantastic restaurants, shops, cinema, and a swimming pool. The cabins are very comfortable, and the experience was just super relaxing, topped off by seeing a huge adult Fin Whale come right up close to the ship in the early evening sunshine as we made our way through the Bay of Biscay. A lovely meal and few more glasses of wine and it was time for bed.

The next morning, we arrived in Bilboa. Although it’s on our to do list of places to visit, we had decided to get a few miles under our belt, and our first port of call was around an hour’s drive West to a small beach side surfing resort of Somo on the outskirts of Santander. We stayed at a campsite on the edge of town. What a lovely place. Maybe not a traditional whitewashed fishing village, but lovely non the less, with the hole place revolving around the surfing scene. The beach was amazing as were the waves. Equipment hire was less than 20 euros. What a place, and what a start to the holiday. The temptation was to stay another couple of days, but the next afternoon we stuck to the plan and headed South. This was one of our longer stints behind the wheel, travelling about 350Km over 3 and a half hours to the university town of Salamanca. The time flew because the scenery was spectacular. As we drove through the Cantabrian mountains It felt more like driving through the Alps, with the alpine style buildings. It didn’t feel very Spanish at all! The roads were clear with very little traffic, and before we knew it, we were arriving in Salamanca. The campsite was just south of the city centre, and was huge, and we practically had the place to ourselves. The pitch was shaded and surrounded by olive trees. The facilities were superb, oh and the pool was an Olympic size pool… it was amazing. A 10-minute bus ride and we were in the city centre. Wow, what a place. The Plaza Mayor was stunning, the whole placing dripping in history, oh and fantastic tapas bars! The nightlife here was lively (I guess with it being a student town) and relatively inexpensive. We had two days here, and it was extremely enjoyable.

Back in the van and an hour’s drive South up into the Sierra de Francia mountains to a castellated village called Miranda del Castañar. Again wow! Our campsite was outside of the village, set on a ridge overlooking it. The view was stunning. We walked into the town, which looked about as medieval as any place I had ever been before. Everyone was so friendly, and we had a great evening wondering around and enjoying the local hostelries. The next day, the Dutch owners of the campsite suggested if we fancied a swim to head down to the river. We did, and it was great.

Back on the road and we headed south again for 2 and a half hours to the historic City of Badajoz, which is just 4km from the Portuguese border. This time we had decided to book ourselves into a hotel close the Cathedral. First impressions of the city as we drove in were that it was a busy, industrial place, but the centre was very pretty, and like many Spanish towns in the South, had a strong Moorish influence. The hotel was very nice and inexpensive, and ideally located for wondering around the Alcazaba. Badajoz has several renowned museums, including the Museo de Bellas Artes de Badajoz (MUBA) which has a collection of around 1,400 paintings, drawings, engravings and pieces of sculpture by artists including Dali, Picasso and Velazquez.

After a lazy morning the next day we set off for a longish drive to the Andalucian capital, Seville. We had booked a lovely hotel close to the city centre, paying a little more for one with a pool. The hotel was still very reasonably priced, and we found out why. Seville is known as one of the hottest cities in Europe, and to be honest, everyone else seemed to have worked this out and headed for the coast. The temperature was well in the 40’s and it didn’t drop too much even at night. We had two days here and visited the amazing Cathedral, which was nice and cool, and wondered around the Parque de María Luisa, but to be honest, the temperature was stifling, and we seemed to spend lots of our time seeking out air-conditioned tapas bars and taking on liquid refreshments!

We left Seville feeling like we hadn’t done it justice, and we will return, but maybe not in the middle of summer next time.

By now, we had seen a lot of Spain, most of which had born little resemblance to the Spain of the main Costas where ewe had holidayed in the past. But that’s not to say that we don’t still love those places... they are popular for a reason! We jumped back in the van and headed southeast to the Costa del Sol, and more specifically Marbella, via a scheduled stop in Rhonda for lunch and a quick tour of the city. We had booked into a large hotel for four nights and we parked up the van and slipped into a different mindset of relaxing fun in the sun. It was so different to the first half of the holiday, but it was just as rewarding. The 5 days flew by, but with all the different places we visited it also seemed like we had done so much.

We were kind of dreading the trip home, and the plan had always been to do as much as we could on the way down and bomb it back much quicker on the way back north. When we planned the trip, we were mindful of not trying to see too many places. We were tempted by a longer trip north, stopping at Cordoba and Granada amongst other places, but we decided with the time we had we needed to save these places for a future trip. We spent pretty much the hole day on the road, stopping every 2 to 3 hours at small towns or even just services as we headed back to Salamanca. One last night out on the town, then we were up early heading to the ferry port, this time from Santander.

I think we slept for at least half of the boat trip back to Portsmouth, but it was a pleasant crossing which by the time we docked in the UK we felt refreshed.

The trip was fantastic, we enjoyed every bit. It wasn’t the most relaxing 2 weeks we’ve ever had, but it felt like an adventure, broken up in the middle with a ‘proper’ Spanish holiday.

I’d probably do a few things differently but not much. I think we probably should have broken the trip back up with one more overnight, and as lovely as it is, maybe not have spent as much time in the super red-hot Seville, but that’s only if I’m picking at it. Most of it was common sense. If you’re staying in hotels, make sure they have secure parking, which your van can fit in! Make sure your van is in tip top nick and the air con is working before you set off. If you want to travel bigger distances, avoid taking the busy coastal routes, as these can get busy.


make an enquiry with van & bus, the campervan conversion specialists


make an enquiry with van & bus, the campervan conversion specialists