Tarifa+in+a+campervanI’m always up for seeing more of Andalucía, and for trying something new and fun. This September I cycled the length of Spain, and I can tell you when you pedal every meter from the North to the South of Andalucía you appreciate both its beauty and its size. It’s a region which is approximately two thirds the size of England, and includes numerous amazing national parks with stunning countryside, the Sierra Nevada ski resort, amazing treasures like Granada, Cadiz, Malaga, El Chorro, El Torcal, Jerez de la Frontera, Guadix and Cordoba to name just a few. In short a superb place to go touring.

Last weekend we opted for something new and did our first Campervan holidays. And what a great way to see the region, with your own self-contained, well equipped, apartment on wheels.  We collected ‘Carmela’, our modern VW camper, from Flamenco Campers just near Malaga airport. Carmela has two sisters, Lola and Manuela, with a new addition to the family (Pepa) coming soon!

We wanted to compare the camper experience to camping, another great way of seeing the region, and as we had not found time to do our twice annual trip to the stunning beaches of Tarifa yet this winter, due mainly to my personal cycling trips to Italy and across Spain the past two months, we took the opportunity of taking Carmela along to Tarifa.

For those who have not yet visited Tarifa, I’d highly recommend it. Although it’s just a 2 hours drive from Malaga, its stunning beaches, proximity to Africa (just 9 miles from the shores of Morocco), pretty town, high sand dunes and relaxed chill out vibe make it feel like a different country. Due to the reliable winds over the Atlantic Ocean through the Straits of Gibraltar, Tarifa is very popular with surfers, wind surfers and kite surfers alike, so the VW camper fitted in very well!  It’s also a great place for dolphin and whale watching. Get along and find out why it’s one of the most popular weekend escapes for those living on the Costa del Sol.

We usually escape to Tarifa for a long weekend, twice a year and camp. Generally, about 90 minutes after our arrival in Tarifa, I can feel my heart rate drop by about 20 beats – to its full relaxed pace! But it was different this time – Travelling with Carmela, it was probably about 5 minutes after arrival that my heart beat reached its fully chilled out rate!

It’s just so simple – pull up, plug the electricity into the camper, put the chairs and table out overlooking the Ocean and the African coast, take the chilled cava out of the on board fridge, pop the cork, pour and relax! Superb. No hammering bent pegs, arguing with the family about who is doing what, fighting with a flapping canvas, blowing up airbeds, loading up, etc!

Campervans+in+AndaluciaWe camped at our usual favourite, the Torre de la Peña campsite, and this time of year it’s easy to get a front line pitch looking straight out over the Straits of Gibraltar. The campsite has a superbly located bar/restaurant right on the water’s edge. In fact this time, due to the tide being at its peak on our first evening, our usual favourite table was too close to the water’s edge!

A concern of mine about taking the camper, over camping, was the worry that once we had set up, it would be hard work to pack up and use the camper to drive anywhere. But this turned out not to be the case. When we decided to head off to discover Zahara de los Atunes during our stay, it only took a few minutes to unplug the power, drop the roof and we were ready to roll.  I now see what makes the campervan such a great tool for going exploring. Global campervan hire seems to be on the up, especially in countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It’s great to have a place right here in Spain, as it’s such a great way to explore Andalucía. It takes minutes each evening to set up the beds, or drop the beds and depart on a morning. And you have the freedom to move at will, staying extra time where you find somewhere you really like, and simply driving on when you are ready to find another great destination.

A little more information about Carmela, and some practical information on the campers in general. The camper vans, although they vary a little in terms of layout, sleep four, with a double bed up in the roof, and another in the main cabin.  Inside you have a gas stove, sink, storage, running water, a surprisingly big fridge and plates, cutlery, etc. You have inside seating and a table, which comfortably seats four people, which was great when we had a little bad weather. It was very cosy sat with the lights on, playing some family games round the table, listening to the wind and rain outside.

Gonzalo at Flamenco Campers is a great guy, passionate about the region, and supplies numerous extras like duvets, tables, chairs, barbeques, satnav, bikes, etc. He also has a well-stocked library of travel books about the region, camp site guides, etc for those exploring the area.

For those of us lucky enough to live in Andalucía it’s just so easy to give it a try – no flights or hassle getting to Spain, simply choose and book your favourite camper, finish work and head over to pick it up from near the airport.  Load up the fridge and get out the map or Sat Nav!  Where will it be? – Granada and Sierra Nevada, the Alpujarras, Conil and Vejer, Cordoba and Antequera, Ronda and Jerez, Sevilla…. There are just so many great choices! And as stated above moving on is so simple, there is no need for any fixed itinerary – move at will!  Choices, Choices!

Highly recommended, to sum it up I guess I should leave the last words to the wife (shouldn’t you always!) – “I’m not going to want to go back to camping after this!”

Posted by Paul Bell, a good friend & founder of yougodo.com