There is a secret in Iberia, a tidbit of information so valuable that even a worldwide economic recession wouldn’t keep you from visiting the peninsula. It’s called a casa rural, or a rural house. Generally quaint and charming, as each one is a reflection of its owner, these houses dot the Iberian landscape in perfect camouflage. (Flickr photo by albertitoglez)
What is a Casa Rural (Spain) or Turismo Rural (Portugal)?
A casa/turismo rural is a house located in the sticks, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s meant to be a getaway place, somewhere to hang up your hat for awhile and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. This is where you’ll find an 16th century house nestled in a walled city of 200 people or a modern and newly renovated house overlooking the perfectly blue Mediterranean Sea. And depending on your needs, you can share your experience among other renters over a fully catered meal, or you can have a house to yourself ranging in size, style and service.
How to Find the Right Casa/Turismo Rural for Me?
Finding the right space you is completely dependent on what you need. Therefore, I would begin this process by asking yourself the following questions:
- What kind of experience am I looking for? This is a very important question because depending on whether you want a cultural, historical, gastronomical or vinicultural experience, just to name a few, the location of where you go in Iberia will alter greatly. Example, you won’t find a wide range of vinicultural options in Andalusia in the south of Spain, but you will find ample amounts of rich historical and cultural experiences.
- What Time of the Year is Ideal for My Chosen Location? Depending on where you are in Iberia, there are seasons filled to the gills with tourists and seasons when every store is bolted up with a sign on the door saying “gone fishing” (maybe more accurate “visiting family”). As logic would dictate, coastal towns are generally swimming with people during July and August, and mountain towns are generally packed in December and January. Be sure to ask the owner of the house when is the best time of the year is to visit, or when low season is if you want to avoid hoards of people, and do a bit of internet research to back up his/her response.
- Will I Rent a Car? Casas/Turismos Rurales may be located in a very remote part of the region. Therefore, if you do not plan on renting a car, I would make sure that you are walking or biking distance away from restaurants, as well as a relatively large town, full of activities that appeal to you. Example: if you decide to visit Siurana in Montsant and despise rock climbing, hiking and wine, find somewhere else to go.
- What Type of House do I Want? There are several varieties of houses in Iberia. You can rent an entire house to yourself, rent a room in a house, or stay in a bed and breakfast. There are pluses and minuses to each of them depending on what you need. Example: You may have to share a bathroom in a casa rural where you rent a room, or if you rent the full house, you may not have all the cooking accoutrements you’ll want if you’re a gourmand. The house you choose may also be dependent on the number of people you have. For 3+ people, it may be more economical for you to rent the entire house, but make sure there are enough bedrooms! Hint: If you rent a room in a casa rural, or visit a bed and breakfast, check dining hours, because they may be earlier than typical Spanish meals.
- Is this House Children or Pet Friendly? Many places in Iberia will let you bring your pet, but may have certain restrictions that apply. Additionally true, you may have a fabulous house but it doesn’t have any activities that meet your children’s interests. On both counts, it’s always good to get more information from the owner.
- What is your Budget? Prices can vary dramatically between high (generally July and August) and low season. Make sure that you are clear on how much you want to spend and what you’re willing to sacrifice to meet that price range, such as location or services.
- What Amenities are Important to Me? For us, free Wifi is important, but for you air conditioning or a pool may be the deciding factor. Make sure you are clear exactly what amenities you need to make your experience a worthwhile one.
How do I Find a Casa Rural/Turismo?
There are several sites you can reference for both Spain and Portugal. Although you will find less information for Portugal, as this is a relatively new tourism trade, they do exist. Check out the sites below for more information:
- Top Rural (Spain & Portugal) We’ve used this site for years and have continually found some great locations. The major highlight of this site are the comments left by previous visitors. Although generally in Spanish, at least it gives you an idea of what people have found both good and bad about their experience. Here you can search by: location, type of lodging and price.
- Sawdays (Spain & Portugal) Justin Roberts from Catavino tipped me off on this website as of recent. Having browsed through it, I must admit, I’m extremely impressed. Primarily focused on quaint, comfortable homes run by warm interesting people, there is not much else you can ask for in a recommendation. If you used this site, please let us know what you think.
- Owner’s Direct: This is another site that Justin referred to me. What’s interesting to me is that you can not only search for houses, but for boats and mobile homes as well, which is great if you’re keen on taking a roadtrip across Iberia! And as there are loads car camping spots, it may be a fun way to go. Plus, its database has well over 4,000 entries, giving ample choices to choose from.
- 1000 Casa Rurales (Spain) This site is only in Spanish, but its extremely well laid out, offers updates on new offers via its blog and is highly intuitive to search. The downside is that you can only search by region, and as its still seeding its database, there are several regions without houses.
- Central Nacional do Turismo no Espaço Rural (Portugal) A friend suggested this website to me. Again, I haven’t used it as we’ve never stayed in a Casa Tourism in Portugal, but having perused the site, I like it. Provided in both English and Portuguese, you can search by manor houses or rural houses either located in quaint traditional villages or in the countryside. Also very unique is that you can search by specific needs. For example, you can search for houses that have: a church close by, a snooker table, jacuzzi, children’s playground, and whether they can speak English/German/French or Spanish. (Flickr photo by by . SantiMB . (inspiring))
Also check out our DO Montsant report for suggested Casa Rurales: https://catavino.net/montsant/places-to-stay/
Tell us Your Suggestions
For those of you who have taken advantage of these houses, let us know what you think! Are their questions we should consider when looking for a casa rural/turism that weren’t mentioned? Are their quality sites you suggest for searching out the ideal casa rural/turism in Spain and Portugal?