Europe in a Van Part 16 – Spain: Zamora, Cantabria, Candás, Reinosa, Torrelavega and Bilbao

I can’t quite believe that this post is the last one about living fulltime in our van! Where did those nine months go?! We made the absolute most of our last week by cramming in all of our favourite things – sea, mountains, quaint towns and some outdoor adventures. Upon leaving Portugal, we headed into northern Spain, in the direction of Bilbao, our final spot.

Highlights and Lowlights


  • We went skiing for the first time! Something I wondered if I would ever be able to do!
  • Given that we only had one week left in our van full time, we made the most of every day – even the crappy bits
  • More free and beautiful camping spots!


  • It was so very very cold in the mountains – but it was amazing to be surrounded by snow
  • Return to work plans are still ongoing – looking forward to these being over so I can stop thinking about them

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

Stepping back in time in Zamora

Campsite Parking Pisones
Cost – free
Facilities – basic facilities only – fresh water, grey and black water disposal and two toilets. No electricity
Accessibility score – 2/ 5

See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.

There are two free camping spots in Zamora. The other one has much better views of the old town and castle but it was completely empty when we arrived. We chose this one instead. While we often camp completely alone in the middle of nature, we are a bit more cautious when it comes to staying in a town. Unfortunately, van break ins, anti social behaviour and noisy locals are all too common.

This was a very basic spot, with gravely parking spots and minimum facilities. As it was free, we really didn’t mind. We only spent a night here but it would have been perfect for a 2 or 3 nights stay. No efforts were made to make the place any way accessible.

A picture taken from a height. The view is of a large stone square tower and ornate church. The ground underneath is grassy with beige paths criss crossing it.
The view from the Castillo de Zamora

Things to see and do – we walked into the old town and visited the Castillo de Zamora, which were more ruins than a castle but they were cool the see. The views from the ramparts and towers were amazing too. We then wandered the narrow streets in search of some tapas, which we found. This little town is like something out of medieval times, The old buildings, cobbled streets and magnificent castle made it feel like we were in an episode of Game of Thrones.

Feeling Chilly in Cantabria

Campsitethis wild camping spot
Cost – free
Facilities – no facilities
Accessibility score – N/A

This place was STUNNING. It was a wild camping spot just off the road, right on the edge of a reservoir, surrounded by snowy mountains. It was one of those places that you just stand there in awe because its just so breath-taking. And it literally was breath-taking, it was bloody freezing.

We only spent one night here, and while the parking spot was free, the tolls getting in and out of the area cost us €25. Now a fiver of that was because we made a mistake and had to pay the tolls twice, but it still felt a little steep.

Windy Candás

CampsiteCamping Perlora
Cost – €23 per night
Facilities – a snack bar during high season
Accessibility score – 2/5

It was the location of this campsite that really sold it to us. It felt like it was on the edge of the world! It was set atop a rocky, hilly outcrop into the ocean, with waves crashing all day and night. I don’t think the wind stopped once when we were there, which kind of added to the murky magic of the place.

A rugged grassy and hilly coastline juts out into the grey sea. The coastline continues to the right, under a grey and cloudy sky
The views from Camping Perlora

This was just a three night stopover for us as the driver worked and I did a job interview. It fit the bill just fine and it was just what we needed. More could be done to improve the accessibility of the place. I headed to the bathrooms when we got there and immediately tripped up an imperceptible step. The toilet signs were crap too. Maybe I should lower my expectations? Mmm no.


This was mad. A part of might just assumed I would never put on pair of skis – ever. The combination of bright white snow, speed, other people and lack of control doesn’t really fit with a visual impairment. Also, living in Ireland means we would normally have to go abroad to a ski resort for a week to try it out and neither of us were likely to invest that kind of time or money to try it.

Well, we might just be eating our words! It was AMAZING! We booked in for a beginners lesson as we had zero clue about what we were doing and we got this super instructor. We told him about my VI and he was so understanding and really looked after me. He actually has a friend with albinism who has only 3% vision and she skis regularly – such a funny coincidence!

I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous and hated it at the start. Part of me is a perfectionist, and when I don’t get something first time, I get really annoyed. Anyway, I got over myself and just kept trying and eventually it clicked, and there I was skiing down a slope – wild! We have plans to go again but with the unseasonably warm weather here, we might not be able to.

Aoife is standing at the end of a ski slope, holding orange skis over one shoulder, and ski poles in her other hand. She is dressed all in black, wearing a black helmet and sun glasses
Me with all my gear at the Ski resort

Campsitethis wild camping spot
Cost – free
Facilities – none
Accessibility score – N/A

This was just a place to spend the night near the ski resort. Nothing much to talk about – it was a car park of a restaurant in a pretty mountain town.

A Quick Stop in Torrelavega

Campsite Área de Autocaravanas de Torrelavega
Cost – free
Facilities – none
Accessibility score – N/A

The free camping places in Spain are deadly – there are so many around, nearly all have facilities like water and disposal and they are purpose built, which makes them a pleasure to use. Brownie points for Spain. This one was in Torrelavega, a cute town with good shopping and zillions of bars and restaurants. We spent a night here and took a wander in to the centre to get bread and coffee the following morning.

Settling Down in Bilbao

Campsite this wild camping spot
Cost – free
Facilities – none
Accessibility score – N/A

The night before we were due to check in to our Bilbao AirB&B we headed up to the mountains to enjoy the city from above. It did not disappoint! Well, the torrential rain was disappointing but apart from that, it was a great little spot. We spent the night just enjoying our time in the van, appreciating the views and getting excited for the next stage of this journey.

The following morning we got up to yet more rain. After a leisurely breakfast, we went to a nearby motorhome service area to empty our water and toilet before we headed into the city.

A view from a hillside, overlooking a city. Green fir trees are in the centre, under a grey sky, with more mountains in the background
A cloudy view over Bilbao

Don’t get me wrong, we have loved (nearly) every second of vanlife over the last nine months. However, we felt it was time for a bit of a holiday from our holiday. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture of a place for a while, learn some Spanish and just settle down for the next 7 weeks, to really recharge before we head home to work and normal life (whatever that is). So, we decided to park up Vanessa and get ourselves a little apartment for the rest of our time away. We’re now temporary residents in Bilbao!

Weekends with Vanessa are still going to be a regular occurrence, and we’re bringing her home at the end of April. In the mean time we’ll be doing a lot of chilling, some work, and enjoying some space! My plans for the blog are to continue writing blog posts, focusing on more general topics on life with a visual impairment. My Instagram content will also change, focusing more on yoga for people with a vision impairment – stay turned there for more on this!

Thanks you all so much for sharing this journey with The Driver and I. I hope you have found it interesting, informative and empowering. Aoife x

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