Spain Backpacking Guide

Welcome to our Complete Guide to Backpacking Spain – a journey through a very special country. My name is Matt, and together with my partner Anna, I’ve been fortunate enough to explore Spain in depth. Anna was born in Barcelona and I myself have been calling Barcelona my home for over six years. Back in 2015 we also lived for three months in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. Our adventures have taken us across this beautiful country by plane, train, bus, and even in our own camper van.

This guide is born out of a deep love for Spain, a country I first discovered at the age of 10 and have since returned to, time and again, to uncover more of its secrets. It’s designed to be straightforward and accessible, aiming to equip you with all the insights and tips you need to explore Spain as best and as deep as possible.

I have also written more in-depth articles on several cities across Spain. I will link to each city throughout this guide.

Let this guide be your companion as you discover the beauty, history, and warmth of Spain. Welcome to the adventure of a lifetime – let’s make it unforgettable together.

What to Expect: A simple Overview

Along with France, Spain is one of the most popular countries to travel in the world. It is an absolute dream for backpackers to travel around: the transport is easy, prices are affordable, and the hostels are amazing. You can expect a fantastic hostel culture all around Spain. Even in smaller destinations, you will find cool hostels offering tours and activities.

As for exploring, you have almost everything. The northern regions offer dramatic peaks perfect for hiking, while the southern and eastern coasts boast some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches and islands. Cities like Barcelona, Sevilla, and Madrid are world famous for their beauty.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

As with any travel budget, these are approximate costs to help you plan your trip to Spain. Prices can vary significantly based on the specific region, the current season, and economic factors at the time of your visit. Always check for the most up-to-date prices and deals when planning your journey to ensure the best value for your experience.

Suggested Budget per Person

Low: €45 – €70 per day
Middle: €100 – €180 per day
High: €220+ per day

Detailed Costs


Low: Hostel dorms might range from €15 to €30 per night.
Middle: Mid-range hotels, Pensiones or B&Bs typically cost between €70 and €150 per night.
High: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments start at €200 and can go much higher, especially in prime locations.


Low: tapas restaurants offer dishes from €6 to €20. In local bars, you can find sandwiches for about 3€. At local restaurants, you could eat for about 12-15€ per person.
Middle: A more substantial meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost €20 to €40.
High: Fine dining experiences begin at €50 and can increase significantly based on the restaurant’s prestige and location.

Tips for Enjoying Cheap Food in Spain:

Tapas and Pinchos: These small dishes are a staple of Spanish cuisine and can be an affordable way to try different foods. Many bars offer tapas or pinchos for just a few euros each. In some cities like Granada, tapas come free when ordering a drink.

Mercados: Visiting local markets (mercados) is not only a cultural experience but also a way to enjoy fresh, affordable food. Markets like Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel or Barcelona’s La Boqueria offer a variety of food stalls.

Menú del Día: Look for the “menú del día” at restaurants, a set lunch menu that often includes a starter, main course, dessert, and a drink, ranging from €10 to €15. It’s a great value, especially in comparison to ordering a la carte.

Things to See and Do

I have been all over Spain. I got around by train, bus, bike, and even my own camper van. This country has it all. Rich history, culture, and natural beauty offer an endless array of experiences for every type of traveler.

Below I’ve categorized the top things to see and do into themes: Top Cities you should cover, Historical Landmarks, Natural Wonders, and Cultural Experiences. Whether you’re drawn to the whispering of the past, the call of the wild, or the vibrancy of contemporary life, Spain has something special in store for you.

Absolute Top Cities

Barcelona: A city where art, culture, and architecture collide. Marvel at Gaudí’s whimsical creations like Park Güell and Casa Batlló, wander the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, and relax on the urban beaches. Barcelona is a city that never sleeps, known for its lively nightlife and delicious Catalan cuisine.

Valencia: A harmonious blend of the old and new, Valencia is home to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, alongside centuries-old monuments and the charming Barrio del Carmen. Don’t miss the chance to try the authentic paella, a dish native to this region, and explore the Turia Gardens, a green oasis in the city’s heart.

Madrid: Spain’s capital boasts an impressive array of historical landmarks, world-renowned art museums like the Prado and Reina Sofía, and sprawling green spaces like El Retiro Park. Madrid is also famous for its vibrant nightlife, offering a plethora of bars, clubs, and tapas restaurants that come alive after dark.

Sevilla: The essence of Andalusian culture shines brightly in Sevilla, with its iconic Alcázar, the Gothic Sevilla Cathedral, and the flamboyant Plaza de España. The city is steeped in history and tradition, hosting the annual Feria de Abril, a week-long celebration of dance, food, and socializing.

Granada: Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is a jewel of Moorish architecture and history. The Alhambra, a stunning complex of palaces and gardens, offers breathtaking views and a peek into Spain’s Moorish past. The city’s vibrant street life and student population make it a lively spot for nightlife and cultural exploration.

Cordoba: Once the capital of the Islamic Emirate and a major center of learning in the medieval world, Cordoba is home to the mesmerizing Mezquita, a cathedral-mosque that symbolizes the city’s layered history. Wander through the flower-lined streets of the Judería, Cordoba’s old Jewish quarter, and cross the ancient Roman bridge for stunning views of the city.

Historical Landmarks

1. The Alhambra, Granada: A masterpiece of Islamic architecture, this fortress-palace complex stands as a testament to the Moorish culture in Spain. Its intricate artistry and lush gardens offer a glimpse into a bygone era of opulence and sophistication.

2. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona: Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece is a symphony of Gothic and Art Nouveau forms, a landmark that defines Barcelona’s skyline. Exploring its detailed facades and towering interiors is a must.

3. The Roman Aqueduct of Segovia: One of the best-preserved monuments left by the Romans in Spain, this ancient aqueduct is a marvel of engineering and a symbol of Segovia’s rich historical tapestry.

4. The Historic Centre of Toledo: Once known as the “city of three cultures,” Toledo’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities once coexisted, reflected in its diverse architectural heritage. It is important to know, that Toledo is expensive and not budget-friendly at all. Better cut your stay short here. The cheapest option is to come to Toledo only as a day trip from Madrid.

Natural Wonders

1. The Picos de Europa National Park: A paradise for hikers and nature lovers, this national park offers rugged mountain views, deep gorges, and lush forests, showcasing the natural beauty of Spain’s northern regions.

2. Caminito del Rey, Málaga: Once known as the world’s most dangerous walkway, this path has been safely restored, offering breathtaking views of the Gaitanes Gorge for thrill-seekers.

Special Hostelgeeks Tip: You need to pre-book the Caminito del Rey, Málaga ahead of time. It has limited access! Check the official website here.

3. The Beaches of the Costa Brava: From secluded coves to expansive stretches of sand, the beaches along the Costa Brava are some of Spain’s most beautiful, offering crystal-clear waters and rugged natural beauty.

4. Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote: This otherworldly landscape formed by volcanic activity is a testament to the power of nature, offering visitors a chance to explore a ‘Martian’ terrain unlike any other.

Cultural Experiences

1. Flamenco in Seville: Experience the soul-stirring passion of flamenco in its birthplace. The intimate tablaos of Seville offer an authentic glimpse into this UNESCO-listed art form.

2. Tapas Tour in Madrid: Embark on a culinary journey through Madrid’s bustling tapas bars. It’s not just about the food; it’s a social experience that embodies the Spanish way of life.

3. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona: For those seeking adrenaline, the San Fermín festival offers the chance to participate in or observe one of Spain’s most famous and controversial traditions.

4. La Tomatina, Buñol: Dive into the world’s biggest tomato fight in Buñol. This annual tomato-throwing festival is a unique and exhilarating way to engage with Spanish festive culture.

Itinerary Ideas

As mentioned before, I have traveled all over Spain; from North to South, and the famous Balearic Islands. I even moved to the Canary Islands for 3 months; more specially Fuertventura.

Below I am listing a few ideas and suggestions for an itinerary. Each of these itineraries can be customized based on your interests, whether you’re drawn to urban exploration, historical sites, culinary adventures, or natural landscapes. I recommend checking the transport options beforehand.

1 Week – Highlights of Spain:

Days 1-2: Explore Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Gaudí’s masterpieces, and enjoy tapas in the vibrant El Born district.
Days 3-4: Take a high-speed train to Madrid. Visit the Prado Museum, stroll through Retiro Park, and experience the lively nightlife.
Days 5-6: Head to Seville. Marvel at the Alcázar, the Cathedral, and catch a flamenco show in Triana.
Day 7: Spend your final day in Granada, visiting the Alhambra, before flying out from Málaga or returning to Barcelona.

2 Weeks – North to South Exploration:

Days 1-3: Start in Barcelona, soaking in the city’s architecture and beach life.
Days 4-5: Move to San Sebastian for its beaches and culinary scene.
Days 6-7: Experience Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum and vibrant cultural life.
Days 8-9: Travel to Madrid for art museums and historical sites.
Days 10-11: Head to Cordoba to see the Mezquita and explore the old town.
Days 12-13: Spend time in Seville, enjoying its historical heart and Andalusian culture.
Day 14: Visit Granada’s Alhambra before concluding your journey.

1 Month – The Ultimate Spanish Adventure:

Week 1: Follow the 1-week itinerary above for a fast-paced introduction.
Week 2: Add Valencia for its City of Arts and Sciences and paella, then explore the beauty of Alicante and Murcia.
Week 3: Venture into Andalusia more deeply with stops in Ronda, Málaga, and the white villages like Zahara de la Sierra.
Week 4: Head north to Galicia to experience Santiago de Compostela and the rugged coastline, finishing your trip with some relaxation in the Canary or Balearic Islands.

Where to stay on a Budget in Spain

The hostel game in Spain is big! Similar to Portugal, you can expect many amazing and backpacker-friendly hostels all over the country. Even in smaller destinations like Costa Brava or Alicante, you will find cool hostels you will love. Seriously, Spain is a hostel paradise for solo travelers.

Events: Many hostels organize events like communal dinners, paella nights, walking tours, pub crawls, and language exchange nights.

You should also know that there is a wide range of hostel types. You can find plenty of crazy party hostels as well as luxury, boutique-style hostels.

Important: Book Hostels in Advance

The great hostels are sold out fast! For popular destinations, booking in advance is crucial. Especially in high season like summer, we do not recommend to book last minute; you will be left with the worst hostels.

Few Hostels we love

While there are countless amazing hostels across Spain, here are a few that stand out for their unique attributes, awards, or rave reviews on

1. Casa Gracia, Barcelona: Situated in a beautiful modernist building, Casa Gracia offers a boutique hostel experience in the heart of the city, complete with stylish decor, a communal kitchen, and a lively downstairs bar.

2. The Hat Hostel, Madrid: Known as Madrid’s first boutique hostel, The Hat stands out for its commitment to sustainability, a fantastic rooftop terrace, and a vibrant atmosphere that encourages guests to mingle.

3. La Banda Rooftop Hostel, Sevilla: Packed with activities, it is one of the most popular hostels in all Spain.

Read our full guide on the best hostels in Spain.

How to get around Spain


For long distances or if you’re short on time, flying can be the most efficient way to travel between regions. Spain’s main airlines, including Iberia, Vueling, and Ryanair, offer frequent domestic flights connecting major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and Bilbao. Booking in advance can secure you competitive fares, especially outside of peak travel seasons.

Money-Saving Tip: Sign up to the newsletters of these airlines, especially Ryanair. They love to send incredible deals here, for Spain and Europe alike.


Spain’s extensive rail network, operated by Renfe, offers a range of services from high-speed AVE trains to regional trains. The AVE connects major cities at speeds of up to 310 km/h, making it possible to travel from Madrid to Barcelona in under 3 hours.

Tip: Look into the Renfe Spain Pass for tourists, which offers flexibility and savings. Booking tickets in advance can also yield significant discounts.


Buses in Spain are a cost-effective way to travel, often cheaper than trains, and can reach destinations that trains do not. Companies like ALSA and Avanza cover extensive routes, offering both short and long-distance services.

Tip: Overnight buses can be a good option for long distances, saving you a night’s accommodation cost.


Renting a car offers the freedom to explore Spain’s diverse landscapes at your own pace, from the rugged coastlines to the rolling hills of the countryside. It’s ideal for reaching remote areas or for travelers who prefer setting their own schedule.

Tip: Consider car-sharing services like BlaBlaCar for shorter distances or if you want to split the cost of travel. Always check for toll roads along your route, as these can add to your travel costs.

Combining Modes for Efficiency: Sometimes, the best strategy involves combining different modes of transportation. For instance, taking a high-speed train between major cities and then renting a car to explore the surrounding countryside can offer both efficiency and adventure.

Best Time to visit Spain

January & February: Ideal for winter sports in the Pyrenees or visiting the Canary Islands for a warmer climate. It’s low season, so expect fewer crowds and lower prices, except during Carnival celebrations.

March & April: Spring begins, and with it, the stunning Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions, especially vibrant in Seville and Málaga. The weather is mild, perfect for city tours without the summer heat.

May & June: A fantastic time to visit almost anywhere in Spain. Enjoy the Patios Festival in Cordoba and the beginning of beach season along the coasts. Temperatures are warm, and the tourist season is just kicking off.

July & August: The high season brings hot weather and crowds, especially on the Mediterranean coast and islands. It’s the best time for beach lovers and festivals like La Tomatina in Buñol and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.

September & October: The heat subsides, and the crowds diminish. Enjoy wine harvest festivals in La Rioja and the start of the cultural season in cities. It’s an ideal time for hiking and exploring the countryside.

November & December: Cooler temperatures and the chance to experience Spanish Christmas markets and festivities. It’s low season in most places, offering a more relaxed atmosphere and the beauty of cities lit up for the holidays.

Backpacker Essentials & Safety Tips

Traveling through Spain is generally safe, but like any popular tourist destination, it pays to be informed and cautious. Here are some essential safety tips and guidelines for responsible travel to ensure your journey is not only enjoyable but also respectful and sustainable.

Safety Tips

1. Beware of Pickpockets: Busy tourist areas and public transport in major cities are hotspots for pickpockets. Always keep your belongings secure, use anti-theft bags or backpacks, and be cautious of distractions that might be attempting to divert your attention.

2. Stay Informed About Local Scams: Familiarize yourself with common tourist scams, such as the ‘gold ring’ or ‘petition’ scams. Politely decline offers from overly friendly strangers and be wary of unsolicited help with luggage or directions.

3. Road Safety: If you’re driving, be aware that traffic rules may differ from those in your home country. Always wear seatbelts, avoid drinking and driving, and be extra cautious when navigating narrow or winding roads, especially in rural areas.

Packing Essentials

1. Comfortable Footwear: You’ll be walking a lot, whether exploring cities or trekking through natural parks. Bring durable, comfortable shoes suitable for multiple terrains.

2. Layers: Spain’s climate varies greatly, from the cooler north to the warmer south. Packing layers will prepare you for everything from chilly mountain air to warm Mediterranean breezes. It is also important to know that the winters can be very cold in Spain, too.

3. Sun Protection: The Spanish sun can be intense, especially in the summer months. A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are must-haves.

4. Power Adapter: Spain uses Type F plugs, so bring an adapter to keep your devices charged.

5. Lightweight Backpack: A sturdy yet lightweight backpack is your most important companion. Choose one that’s comfortable to carry for long periods and has enough space for your essentials.

Cultural Norms

1. Siesta Time: Many businesses close for a few hours in the afternoon, especially in smaller towns and during the summer. Plan your shopping and sightseeing accordingly.

2. Meal Times: Spaniards typically eat later than other Europeans, with lunch around 2-3 pm and dinner not before 9 pm. Adjusting your eating schedule will help you blend in with the local rhythm.

3. Tipping: Tipping isn’t as common in Spain as in some other countries. It’s appreciated but not expected, especially in bars and casual dining establishments. Rounding up the bill or leaving small changes is usually sufficient.

Resources and Planning

Specifically for Spain, here are some useful websites for planning your trip to Spain:

  • Renfe – find train schedules and stations on the official website for the Spanish train network.
  • ALSA– For long-distance bus travel across Spain, ALSA offers a wide range of routes connecting major cities and towns.
  • Bla-Bla Car – A very popular app and website for car sharing and carpooling. It is safe and cheap to use.

Find all our favorite websites and apps for travel planning here.


I could write about backpacking Spain the entire day. In this guide, I try to give you all of my best information around the country. If you have any questions and would love some more tips, please get in touch with me here or via Instagram. I am always happy to help.

Buen viaje!