Thursday, 6 November 2014

Visiting Spain: Renting a casa rural

If you're looking for a plan for the December puente or just a different place to stay outside the city, consider renting a casa rural. With the growing popularity of local travel, these country cottages offer an opportunity to see somewhere different, get a bit closer to a community and to enjoy more freedom than you'd get at a hotel. And while Airbnb is great for Spanish city stays, it's yet to catch on in towns and the countryside, so you're better off using homegrown booking sites.

So, what exactly is a casa rural? They're self-catering houses, cottages or even apartments in small towns or villages, usually located in the countryside. Sounds pretty picturesque, doesn't it? Well, they usually are.

How to rent a casa rural

The choice of casas rurales is so vast that it really helps to have an idea of the area you want to visit. There seem to be slightly more north of Madrid than to the south, but wherever you want to go, you should have a choice of places to stay. 

The main listing and booking sites for casas rurales and apartments in off-the-beaten-track towns are Toprural and Escapada Rural. There's also Niumba, which is linked to TripAdvisor and offers a variety of types of property around Spain. I've used Toprural as a search engine, but booked direct with the owner: many Toprural listings contain links to each casa's own website. Some properties also offer booking through Toprural, but it's mostly a 'shop window', as is Escapada Rural, while Niumba offers secure reservations. Alternatively you can just use a search engine to look for casas rurales in your chosen area, but it's less time-consuming to let one of these sites do the work for you, as you can filter by property size and facilities. They also show user reviews to help you narrow down your search.

Casas rurales sleep from two to over twenty people, so they're ideal for couples and groups of friends or family. From simple mountain lodges to some luxe-looking properties with hot tubs, they vary wildly in style. Prices are generally low, starting from around €10 per person per night for a large property. They also depend on season, and a lot of places have a minimum stay over Spanish holidays, so it's worth checking fiesta dates when you're booking. You can check prices and a bookings calendar either on the listings sites or the property's website.

Given the rural nature of these properties, you usually need a car to reach them. However, some are in (small) town centres and can be accessed by public transport.

My casa rural experience

For the December puente a few years ago, a couple of friends and I decided to rent a casa rural. We were surprised by the choice on offer: from luxury barn conversions decorated in boutique style, to rustic lodgings, to cute cottages and places big enough to sleep over twenty people.

Rural enough for you? View of Cerveruela

We finally decided on Casa Larrueda in the tiny village of Cerveruela in southern Aragón. It was exactly what we were looking for on a winter weekend: a very photogenic, well-decorated cottage with a wood-burning fire and a supply of board games. When we arrived in Cerveruela, we realised that travel didn't get much more local than this – the village was so small that it didn't even have a shop. In true Spanish style, there was a bar though, frequented in the evenings by elderly gents playing dominos.

The casa was just as pretty as in the photos, and its owner was friendly and helpful. She provided a folder of information on the area, including several walks starting in Cerveruela. We set out on a 4 kilometre walk to a hilltop church and back thinking we would start with a gentle stroll, but it turned out that it was 4 kilometres there and another 4 back. Fortunately it was worth it for the views: countryside as far as the eye could see, not another town in sight.

Walking in the countryside near Cerveruela

When all the walking and Scrabble playing got too much, we followed the owner's recommendation and visited the nearby town of Daroca, explored its medieval walls and dined in the chic Cien Balcones Hotel for a bargain price. Cerveruela is also close to the Laguna de Gallocanta, Spain's largest natural lake and a haven for cranes. We spent the afternoon driving around the lake and spotting the giant birds – not exactly rock and roll, but it was a beautiful sight.

La Laguna de Gallocanta

If you're looking for a country escape in Spain which involves plenty of relaxation and a bit of outdoor exploration, renting a casa rural is the perfect option. There are properties to suit all tastes and budgets (our cottage was just €90 each for 3 nights, and the website informs me the price has since dropped), and a stay in a rural area is a great way to unwind (in a sustainable, eco-friendly way, of course).


  1. Your pitch worked--this post makes me want to rent a casa rural asap! I had actually been curious about them, as l almost booked a casa rural in Chinchón a few weeks ago. The amount of options surprised us, too! We ended up canceling the trip, but l still have a few places bookmarked.

    Do you have any other future casa rural dates planned?

  2. I would definitely recommend that you do it any time you get chance! I think there's something particularly appealing about staying in one in winter and cosying up in front of the fire. The amount of choice is incredible! Nothing planned at the moment but I'd definitely like to try a casa rural in a different area - hopefully early next year!


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