Laid-back family camping for lovers of the outdoors
Road trip: Day 54 – 58. August 2016. Vall de Laguar, Alicante, Spain
After “sardine camping” (tiny pitches, squished up beside our neighbours) at a coastal site on the touristy stretch south of Barcelona we were more than ready to get off the beaten track. We were longing for big open spaces and “some peace and quiet” (quoting our 8 year old!).
In August, the key is to avoid the coast. We found this well-reviewed site half an hour inland in Alicante in a fertile valley called “La Vall de Laguar”. “Vall” is Valencian for the Castellan “valle” meaning “valley”. We got off the A7 at Ondara and soon began the climb to the camp site located at 450m above sea level nestled between the villages of Campell (in the south), Fleix (in the centre) and Benimaurell (to the north).
Camp sites are never stressful places, but this one is particularly chilled. It’s family run. The dad checks you in at reception, the son and daughter run the restaurant and pool bar, pumping out low level Bob Marley and the like.
Plots are marked out and separated by hedges. Set out in terraces, you can choose a higher plot with longer hours of sunlight or a lower one with better views of the coast. The owner helpfully directed us towards the area with the highest concentration of kids which also had great shade and views. Not surprisingly we settled in quickly, ended up cooking at home a lot and just hanging by the tent.
There’s a kidney-shaped pool at the highest level, with well shaded seating and views out over the valley and down to the coast. The water was pristine and got nice and deep at the deep end – we found this was a rarity at camp sites. There was also a small toddler’s pool.
There’s a not unpleasant old-fashioned feel to the place, like staying at your granny’s house… if your granny ran a campsite! However facilities-wise it was excellent – good bathrooms, no queues, good water pressure, hot water at the sinks and everything was consistently spotless.
You can see from the pictures how close the nearest town of Campell is – it’s literally five minutes walk. It’s a pretty sleepy place, with the same easygoing, friendly vibe of the camp site. It reminded me a lot of Sedella in Andalucia where we lived for 5 years. There’s a butcher, a baker, a shop for basics and a few bars with cheap as chips, no-frills tapas.
A hiker’s paradise
The whole area is a magnet for cyclists and hikers. There are a few well-marked trails of varying lengths starting at the campsite itself. The most popular is the “Barranc del Infern” (Hell’s Canyon), a 14km walk of medium difficulty taking you up to 1690 metres, too ambitious for us.
However we did manage two half day hikes, quite a feat in 30° (176) plus temperatures! The owner is a keen hiker himself and very knowledgeable about the area. He gave us maps, pointed out landmarks and recommended stopping-off points.
The first day we did a gorgeous walk starting off surrounded by tall aromatic pines, passing through vineyards dotted with lemon, fig and carob trees and sheltering in shady olive groves.
Another day we started in the cooler early morning temperatures and hiked steeply downhill to the Presa d’Isbert reservoir. (We later got a lift back up by the road)
Another thing I liked about this camp site – a small thing but I’ll mention it anyway – the “honesty” laundry, a dedicated space with a few washers and dryers, ironing board (not that I used it!) and even a pile of fashion magazines, a nice touch. No need to go to reception for tokens or whatnot beforehand, because you don’t always know in advance how many washes you’ll need. Just do your washing and pay after… in line with the easygoing attitude of this place.
This camp site is very Spanish. I think we were the only foreigners, certainly the only English speakers. It has a “keep the noise down” policy during siesta hours (2-5pm) and after midnight. We arrived midweek and this was well observed. That all changed on the Friday evening though when the weekend crowd moved in. The rules went out the window and everyone was barbecuing and chatting at high volume til well past midnight. In fairness there was some kind of rock festival going on in one of the higher villages that would have kept people awake anyway, so maybe it’s not the same every weekend.
They had very good recycling facilities, with frequently emptied bins near the bathrooms and glass disposal just outside the main gate.
Every Wednesday and Sunday evening during the summer months they show a movie in the pool bar, a nice setup with really good sound and picture quality.
The nearest supermarket is in Orba, a town about 7 minutes drive downhill towards the coast. Orba also has lots of restaurants and most things you’ll need. I highly recommend the Pizzeria Piscina at the municipal pool run by local personality Marcello – great atmosphere, crowded with locals and holidaymakers, serving really good food at incredibly cheap prices. It’s right beside a big play ground so the kids will love it too!
Camp site facilities
Open: All year round
Pitches: 39 (50 – 120m2). Marked out with some shade. Hard gravel surface. Terraced, some with panoramic views.
Permanent year-round pitches: 13
Rental accommodation units: 8
Credit cards accepted.
Electric hook ups.
Water taps at/near pitches.
Swimming pool. Toddler’s pool.
Marked out walking routes near the camp site.
Restaurant and bar (closed during siesta).
Communal barbeque area.
Entertainment: Outdoor movies on Wed and Sun nights during summer.
Shopping: Butcher, baker and basics in Campell, 5 minutes walk.
Nearest supermarket: Obra, 7 minutes by car.
Read more on La Vall de Laguar
Video below of hiking/canyoning in Hell’s Canyon