Like so many others, we just love a bit of warmth to break up the grey British weather, so let’s get into the mood with our top tips for a Winter Motorhome trip to Spain.
Ok, so we’re not the only ones who like to head South for the Winter – far from it. That’s because the popularity of all-year motorhome travel has exploded in recent years and with it has come a whole new generation of motorhome adventurers driving to Spain.
So, let’s get stated with our top tips for a Winter motorhome trip to Spain and find out just what you can expect when you arrive.
For those wanting to drive to warmer climates in a motorhome, there aren’t many options available. Unless you head to Portugal’s Algarve or cross the Mediterranean to Morocco, then the South coast of Spain is about the easiest and warmest location.
Otherwise, most of Europe is pretty damn cold in Winter, despite having hot Summer’s in many regions. In other words, you have to be quite far South in order to have warmth from the sun in Winter.
I’m going to be honest here – Southern, coastal Spain isn’t our favourite destination, but it does what it says on the tin and that’s all you can ask.
Above all, it offers what we all want from a Winter trip – plenty of sun, clear blue seas, a reasonable cost of living and plenty of motorhome stopovers. Last but not least, it’s a friendly kind of place too.
When it comes to reaching the Spanish Mediterranean coast there’s basically two options – drive through France or catch a ferry to Northern Spain.
First is the ferry crossing options from Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao – both of these ports are in Northern Spain and take either 20 or 24 hours.
Now for the important question – how much does it cost? Well, to put it bluntly, a ferry to Spain from the UK is not cheap.
For example, for a mid-week crossing departing mid-January and returning mid-March in a motorhome up to 8m long and up to 3m high would set you back £760 for a return trip. This quote was for 2 adults without pets.
The downside of the ferry, has to be the weather or should I say – if you’re unlucky and end up with bad weather! Yes, if those storm clouds flare up, then the rough seas will start. With it comes the possibility of a very memorable crossing – for all the wrong reasons.
Next, comes the issue of having to drive some distance once you arrive in Spain, because both ports are located in the North of the country.
At the end of the day, this means there’s still a long way to travel before any chance of catching those Winter rays of sunshine.
Lastly, the actual travel time to the Mediterranean coast from both Santander and Bilbao are not that different. That’s because both ports are relatively close together – being about a 1 hour drive between the two.
|Girona||6 hours 30|
Remember, there will still be fuel costs for the above distances to consider.
I have to say – this our preferred route to Spain, taking the 30 minute Eurotunnel to Calais, before the long drive through France.
However, I know it’s not for everyone and on top of that France is absolutely miserable in Winter! There’s also the issue of motorhome services being closed for the season. Basically, you have to be prepared, ensuring you fill up and empty wherever you find a working service area.
In addition – preparing for bad weather is also important. I’m thinking about a time when we were snowed-in in Northern France – on a motorway!
Thankfully, we had snow socks and snow chains, although we’d never thought we’d need them.
The journey through France will inevitably involve toll roads. However, in our opinion this isn’t too costly, considering the distance is about 780 miles.
For example: On a journey from Calais to Port Vendres – which is situated close to the Spanish border – we spent €220 return on tolls.
This was for a motorhome under 3.5t — which is a Classe 2 but included the Millau Viaduct.
However, in our A-Class Carthago, which was 4.2t and a Classe 3, the differences were never that great. Even better – if we were able to ask at the toll area for a reduction to a Classe 2, the staff very often obliged.
Another consideration is the cost filling up with fuel – for example, the cost from Calais to Port Vendres – came to €460 return on this trip.
|Tolls – Calais To Port Vendres||Fuel – Calais To Port Vendres|
|€220 Return||€460 Return|
The good thing about driving through France, is that you’ll always find somewhere to stop the night. Although it’s worth pointing out that Aires may be closed or might not look so appealing in Winter.
Personally, we don’t like to stay on motorway Aires, instead choosing the Aire de Camping Car options found throughout France. In general campsites will be closed in Winter, so you can’t rely on these for an overnight stop.
Here’s a list of Aires in France we’ve stayed at in Winter, en-route to the border with Spain. Finally, the approximate drive time from Calais to Collioure (close to the Spanish border) is 11 hours.
|Wissant – |
Approx 15 minutes from Calais
|Mixed parking area –|
buses leave early – approx 15 mins walk to beach
|St.Armand Montrond |
(South of Bourges)
|Next to canal and a few mins walk to shops||Closed Winter||Free|
|Port Vendres||10 mins walk to town with nice walks close by||Toilet, Water dump||€6 per night|
|Collioure||At a Park and Ride – |
Steep walk down steps to lovely harbour town
|Toilet and dump||€9 per night|
Our route from France has taken us into Spain just beyond the French coastal town of Collioure. Once you reach the South coast of France, the weather should have changed to the Mediterranean Winter you’d expect.
However, this isn’t necessarily hot! The average January temperature is 10C with a low of around 5C, so you’ll still need some warm clothing.
One of the last towns you drive through in France is Cerbére, before crossing the old border point to Spain.To be honest, we noticed the difference straight away between the two countries, as the more affluent regions of the French coast were left behind.
This route brings you to a rather mountainous area of Spain, crossing the border into the rugged landscapes of a winding pass and the Catalonia region.
From now on, if time allows, the motorway network is best left behind, in favour of coastal routes and country roads towards the well known Costa Brava.
With the exception of a few coastal locations just North of Valencia, we were able to tour along the entire coast. Starting in the Costa Brava and travelling as far as the Costa Almeria without using the motorway network.
Well this all depends which part of the coast you go to, for example, The Costa Brava which is the further North has an average high temperature in January of 14C. On the other hand, the more Southerly region of Costa Almeria has a January average high of 17C.
In general, expect a mild Winter with blue skies and pleasant daytime temperatures, but don’t reach for the bikini or Speedo’s just yet. Above all, go prepared with light layers and a coat, with the possibility of some nice warm spells in a sheltered spot when the sun is shining.
Well, I would say, it was far better than the cold, grey, wet and windy weather we have in Britain. In fact, in comparison to the UK, spending Winter on the coast of Spain is a treat! That’s because the skies are generally clear and blue, so the sun is shining which makes us feel better, although it’s not necessarily beach weather.
On the whole, it’s just a pleasant way to spend the Winter, with a bright feel to the day and little in the way of endless cloud cover and rain.
The below table shows the average high temperatures across the main regions in the months of January and February – some areas are not quite as hot as you’d think!
|Region||Average January High Temperature||Average February High Temperature|
In short the answer is Yes, although these do differ slightly to Aires you’ll find across France. This is mainly because many motorhome stopover locations in Spain are private.
Having said that, there are still Motorhome stopover areas provided by the local authority. Although, generally they are few and far between in these coastal regions.
Because most of the Motorhome stopovers are privately owned, many will offer extra facilities – such as showers, toilets and electric points. As with any stopover type system, these vary enormously and sometimes they can be just a parking area.
Yes there are.
There are some public Motorhome service areas, but most are located at either private stopovers or at a campsite.
Most will have a small fee applied for using them.
Absolutely! One thing to remember with motorhome Winter trips to Spain – is that the rest of Europe want their share of the sun too!
So, with that in mind, expect to share the campsite or motorhome stopover with plenty of Europeans.
It’s worth knowing that on our trip, the campsites and private motorhome stopovers were full, with many people spending the entire Winter in one place. In addition, we soon found out that many areas are booked up well in advance and have little in the way of vacancies for the whole season.
Public motorhome stopovers are less busy because people tend to move on more or have to do so due to the rules of the principality. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many of them though.
We found that the first regions across the border – So – the Costa Brava to the Costa Dorada were very quiet. This was mainly because they were pretty much closed for Winter. Probably due to the weather in these regions not being as good as those further South.
However, there are still some nice areas to see, but it all feels a bit like a ghost town! Once you reach the Costa Valencia, there are a lot more places open, people visiting and less of an empty atmosphere.
Further South again, you reach the main Winter destinations of the Costa Blanca, followed by the Costa Calida and Costa Almeira. It’s now that the weather becomes more settled and the best of the Winter sun resorts spring into action.
Oh this is a difficult one because we wild camped most of the time. However, it was messy – Motorhomes, caravans and vans were everywhere and most were camped up for the whole Winter.
I have to say we didn’t really like the feel of it all and it was obvious that the locals didn’t either! For us, we didn’t have much option in many places, simply because everything official was so full.
In most places, there were multiple motorhomes parked up – this being on streets, beaches, car parks, even along storm trenches.
However, the authorities have since stopped this wild camping madness in some areas, so if we visit again, we’d hope to find space at one of the many official motorhome stopovers that were under construction.
Campsites are very full, with many visitors staying the whole Winter and in the process bringing everything with them for their stay.
By this, I mean anything from outdoor furniture to a spare fridge, trailers with scooters, tow cars and just about everything else including the kitchen sink!
Motorhomes can be huge – the bigger the better when it comes to some nationalities and pitches are well maintained. Most sites have a wide range of facilities and are well equipped for the repeat visitor, ensuring excellent cleanliness and extremely tidy landscaping.
Last but not least, entertainment and activities are arranged on many sites, allowing for those long-term visitors to keep active and stopping them from becoming bored. Then of course, this may be not everyones cup of tea!
Yes you can book some private motorhome stopovers. Most will have a small office on site with someone available to take bookings and keep a watchful eye on the area.
We called off-chance at several different locations, unfortunately though, there was little in the way of availability.
Unfortunately, one country we’d been warned about in the past is Spain, more often than not, this was because of theft and we weren’t immune to problems.
When it comes to wild camping, the risks are even greater, so it’s worth weighing up the risks. In recent years we’ve spoken to several people who’d had their motorhomes broken into, usually though forcing a window in the habitation area. Then another route being to enter the van through the cab door.
Having said that, these instances can occur in other countries, so it’s not unique to Spain and it’s important to put that into perspective. For example, in our 20 years of travels in Europe, we had never had an incident – that is until we went to Spain!
You’ll have to keep an eye out for our next blog post to find out more about what happened to us whilst wild camping in Spain.
Finally, in all fairness, when staying on a campsite or an official motorhome stopover, especially a private one which has an office – then the risks from theft are probably no greater than anywhere else.
Last but not least – it’s important to remain vigilant and take extra precautions against theft before leaving home.
Yes, there are tolls on some motorways and you can pay at the toll booths.
Now on our visit to Spain, there were so many new motorhome stopover areas opening up, that it was impossible to keep up!
So, we think the best way to find a stopover is through a mix of using an App, as well as looking out for the motorhome signs in locations across the regions.
We like to use the Camper Contact App – https://www.campercontact.com/en because this is operated by the Camper Club of The Netherlands and as a result it only lists official, authorised stopovers.
In other words, you won’t find “wild camping spots” on here or areas that haven’t been checked by their publication team, prior to listing on the App.
There are other Apps out there which also list official stopovers and campsites – such as Park4Night and Search For Sites.
These also list “wild camping” areas submitted by users of the App, however these may not necessarily be locally authorised locations – so be sure to check for any signs at the locations. Also, double check for fines and rules of where you are about to park up overnight.
Yes it is, especially at lunch time when many beach bars and restaurants offer a set 3-course menu, often including a drink and all for around €10.
Yes there are plenty of British travellers, but probably more German and some Dutch.
To be truthful, we found some of our European neighbours fairly unwelcoming, especially when we arrived at busy motorhome stopovers or wild camping spots.
We were told that we couldn’t use certain free pitches – because those already there were expecting regulars or friends, despite there being no reservations.
It seemed to be a case of leaving places free, for those that had that same parking place each year, regardless of who may arrive in the meantime.
We were passing new motorhome stopovers being built on a regular basis, then on our return a few weeks later, these were finished and open.
One important thing to remember in our top tips of a Winter trip to Spain – it still gets dark early! For example in mid January, you can expect a Sunrise at about 8.15am and Sunset at around 18.15pm.
In other words, it can be a long night in the motorhome!