When traveling to a new country, I would much prefer to stay on the couch of someone I know than in a hotel. For me, hotels are generally sterile, void of warmth and personality, while someone’s home, albeit a touch “personal” at times, at least provides me with a sense of authenticity and cultural relevance. Everything from the photos on the walls to the aroma of native spices lingering in the kitchen makes me feel as if I’m actually experiencing a culture, as opposed to being an outsider feeling as if I’m looking into a fish bowl. Granted, a week in any given location, irregardless as to where I sleep, will not give me a comprehensive look inside someone’s world, but at least I can get a good, solid glance.
That said, what do you do if you’re planning a trip to Spain and neither want to spend time in a hotel nor know anyone that can offer you their guest bed? The solution, a Casa Rural. Casa Rurales can best be described rental houses dotted throughout the Spanish countryside that can range from little cabins without kitchens to a full on houses, fully decked-out with everything from chic wine glasses to a heated swimming pool. If you say a casa rural, people may also lump together rural bed and breakfasts within the same category, as well as room rentals within a rural self-catered house; but, by in large, the former definition is most commonly used.
Over the years, we’ve stayed in close to a dozen casa rurales from the Costa Verde in Asturias to the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains just north of Madrid, and every one of them have not only been totally unique, but allowed us to truly dive into the culture. Allow me to explain. If you’re someone who adores food, there is nothing more frustrating than having to spend your money in restaurants for every single meal, especially if you’re sharing your experience with family and friends. As our community is 100% food obsessed, we would much rather hit the markets and seek out locally sourced ingredients to create our own meal. Thus, we always look for houses with fully stocked kitchens and a beautiful terrace to enjoy the meal while overlooking the gorgeous scenery. And in all honestly, you’ll save a fortune, because as long as you don’t rent during the on-season, prices are dirt cheap for what you’ll receive.
To give you an example, when our parents came to town this past May, we took them to Masia Ferreres located in just north of Terrassa by an hour and a half, in the municipality of Ovan. The main house dates back to the 16th century, chockfull of historical artifacts that will make your jaw drop in awe; while two casa rurales sit in front of the massive 3 story family estate, flanked by roaming sheep, goats, family dogs, stray cats, cows and 3 gorgeous peacocks. Our Casa Rural, the larger of the two, was called, El Baluard, contained 3 large bedrooms with private baths, a fireplace, diningroom, living room, fully stocked kitchen, dishwasher, washer, bbq and one of the most beautiful terraces, all for 100 euros a night (25 euros per person). Was it worth it? Absolutely!! Now you can go to a local wine shop and market, stock up for your stay and enjoy your vacation in a more personal and relaxed manner. Additionally, if your hosts are as wonderful as ours have typically been, they will be a wealth of information as to where to find the best local restaurants, great cultural treasures, and best of all, where to source the best food for your bbq that evening.
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to rent a Casa Rural during your next stay in Spain, allow me to give you my top 5 tips for getting a great place!
Tip 1: Use a good Search Engine! Top Rural has always been a great resource for us. Easy to use, available in several languages (language tab at the bottom of the site), and capable of customizing your search with ease, it’s been our “go to” resource anytime we’re seeking out a good place. However, if you type in “casa rural” into your browser, there are several others to choose from. Additionally, if you’re looking for a super swanky villa, Home Away is another great site to use. Always remember to mark “self-catered house” if you want a private, fully stocked house with a kitchen.
Tip 2: Location, location, location: You might encounter a incredible house of your dreams, but if you’re in the middle of nowhere Spain, miles away from the things you love – such as hiking mountains, kayaking rivers, cultural attractions or vineyards – don’t do it! Think of your interests prior to searching for the house. Additionally, explore the unknown. If you love the sea, consider going to the northern coast before making a beeline to the Mediterranean. Or if you love nature, consider the Arribes del Duero Natural Park before heading straight to the Pyrenees. There are loads of unexploited treasures throughout Spain, it just takes someone willing to step outside the norm to take advantage of them.
Tip 3: Timing is key! If you can avoid the end of July, and the entire month of August, do it! Costs triple, and unless you’re in a high tourist district, much of Spain shuts down, including many restaurants. But as taking your vacation outside of those two months is not always feasible, you can still find amazing deals on Casa Rurales! Additionally, always remember to double check holidays in the region your staying. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been left scratching our heads wondering there was a parade prancing down the street, or why grates covered shop doors. And let’s not forget about the famed Spanish seista hours: approximately 14:00-17:00, Monday through Saturday, and all day Sunday, nothing is open except a handful of international shops. Don’t find yourself without a much needed staple ingredient and no way to remedy the situation.
Tip 4: Double Check Amenities. Although a house may say it has a fully equipped kitchen, don’t assume it has what you need. Every culture, and individual, has different perceptions as to what “essential” means, so I suggest making a general list of what you may require and running it past the owner. Example: wine glasses that are larger than 8oz.
Tip 5: Cash! In Spain, it’s typical to provide a deposit to hold your reservation, and on many occasions, they ask for a bank transfer. But, when the time comes to pay up, more often than not, they will ask for cash. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, you can typically do another bank transfer, and sometimes use a credit card, but make sure to discuss the terms of payment with the owner prior to your arrival. The last thing you want to be doing is running various pueblos trying to find a way to get enough cash to cover the bill.
In summary, I can’t suggest renting a casa rural enough. It’s absolutely worth your while and can provide you with a much deeper cultural experience if you take advantage of your surroundings, such as local markets.
If you’ve had an experience in a Casa Rural in Spain, please let us know. We’d love to hear about it!