Happy Independence Day for all you ‘Mericans out there! When we quit our jobs to change a lifestyle and moved to Spain for a family gap YEAR that turned into 1, 2, 3. . . and counting, we didn’t think about family camping road trip across Europe at all. Heck, my wife and I were still arguing about what to do with the kids who were then 1.5 and 5 years. Do we home school them? What about our car? Will it arrive in Poland intact or all rusted with sea salt from the Atlantic crossing? What about money!?? Yeah, that’s a big one!! Will we survive a year without work?
Well, apparently we did and surviving and living at the edge of our comfort zone. The money has long gone dry but the fountain of time well-lived with kids still keeps on flowing from Rio de Guadalquivir to the River Wisła. And we managed to have, not one, but four 6-week long road trips every summer from Spain to Poland and back again, most of it camping. Welcome to our semi-nomadic gypsy lifestyle. Big Smile! #fefR4
If you need more info, text follows at the end of the pictures below. Enjoy!
what to do in Bolonia
Apart from climbing the sand dune of Bolonia and taking in the beautiful panoramic views from the top, what else can you see or do while here?
- Playa de Valdevaqueros--one of the most beautiful beaches in Andalucia with a wide soft sandy beach and a view of surfers, kite flyers nearby and distant Africa.
- Playa Punta Paloma is a bit more pristine (less touristy) area further down (southwest) from Playa de Valdevaqueros into the protected/reserved park area.
- About 100 meters behind and in between the two beaches is the sand dunes of Valdevaqueros which is nice to see in the backdrop and good enough to get to the top of if you cannot make it to the more famous and imposing Dunes of Bolonia nearby.
- If you are into trekking or hiking (senderismo in Spanish), there’s plenty of trail on the northern part of the protected park area. If you are fit and adventurous (and perhaps without kids like us) you can spend a day hiking over to Bolonia and discover remnants of the ancient Roman colony in the area. Note: these are wild and not so-easy trails.
- Baelo Claudia–a well-preserved ancient Roman settlement that you can visit for FREE (as a resident of the European Union) or some token entrance fee for others. It’s well worth it. Check out our linked post about what to see or do in Bolonia in Cadiz, Spain.
- And of course, TARIFA–the windsurfing capital of Europe is a mere 15-minute drive/12.5-kilometers away, and beyond that, a little ferry ride away across the Strait of Gibraltar is Morocco, Africa.
where to Camp in Bolonia
Peaceful camping among the pine trees, that’s what we liked about Camping Paloma, near Tarifa and Bolonia in southern Spain. Full grown trees surround the camping site and in between pitches that help protect the campers from the heat of the Andalusian sun and the noise of the highway and other motorists, except when your a nearby tent would decide to play loud music all day long. With pine trees though you gotta watch out for the sap overnight. But so far, I haven’t seen anything that could be a problem.
Check out our review, with pictures, of family Camping Paloma.
Playa Valdevaqueros Beach
ROAD RAMBLINGS (notes from the road): Bolonia
This is day 2 of our 4th family camping road trip. Success! We’ve done everything that we planned and more. Woke up early. Had a good breakfast. The kids were, more or less, cooperating, cleaned up and off we went to Bolonia as early as we could. We’ve been there before at the beach and cabin on the mountain and a pleasantly unexpected tour of an ancient Roman village called Baelo Caludia, but we never made it to the famous sand dunes. So, before leaving Spain, we made sure to have a detour south of Jerez and be here and enjoy Bolonia’s hidden gem of a tourist destination.
The kids were a little reluctant at first. Once we got there, they loved it, and as usual didn’t want to leave. And so we slowly climbed the dunas and took as many pictures a we could; the boys had some martial arts training on top. Best of all we just picked a spot on top, looking, admiring the marvelous views down the beachside, the coast, and the mountains of Spain and in the distance, Africa that just seem to be very close.
Sand Dune of Bolonia
The sand dunes of Bolonia is quite a family-friendly, kid-approved and unique thing to do in southern Spain, especially when you are in Cadiz or Tarifa.
We went through the woods. There was a little incident before we went to the dunes. We parked at a public parking place in the village that has signs to a “secret” or at least special passage behind a restaurant through the woods and into the dunes. The restaurant owner was charging 2 euros for each car to park in the area near the restaurant, even it clearly stated public parking space. It might have been illegal for them to do so. But most people complied because it’s not that much money and you can park there all day long.
But then, there were some ladies who just refused to pay and ended up fighting with the lady parking collector calling her a bunch of nasty names. It was an unfortunate incident and it just, you know, confirmed that there are many crazy bad people out there. Not the gypsy lady collector. But those people who were determined TO FIGHT and NOT TO PAY the couple of euros that could have easily been alms for the poor on a Sunday mass.
Anyways, so although overall it was a very good experience, we got a little sunburned. Well I got a little sunburned because my husband and kids are already dark and they don’t really get sunburned. I’m red like a lobster but it was worth it. The views were unforgettable!
Then we came back to the camping site and we chilled for a little bit. Then the boys went swimming at the pool, which they were waiting for, for a long time, since yesterday! The kids love the swimming pool. They could probably spend their whole day there and that will be the best friend they would ever had. Then we chilled again, and went to the swimming pool again. That’s the first time I see a bar right next to the swimming pool which is a nice addition because you could have a drink and watch your kids swimming. Very pleasant because it was not crowded and that’s not the end of the day.
We decided that we wanted to see the beach. Father like a rose and it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches and Andalusia. So we took that opportunity and walked 15 minutes from the camping site to the beach side and it was a very good discovery. True what they say about thisbeach! Very, very beautifully located beach with hills and windmills all around. And horses and ladies without bras and nice, tits, all kinds of good, all kinds of good reviews for everyone. So we had a quick dip because the water was freezing cold. Hey, it’s already early in the evening. And that’s the way we said goodbye to the Atlantic Ocean because tomorrow, we’ll be on our way up north and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Hey. All right, let’s go.
Can you hear it? Even if I whisper Jesus Christ, Spain. I was praying and Give me money, Jeff Bezos. This is the wrong person.
Select all copy.
Ninety percent solution, right?
Road trip. Number four.
F@*king finally, 3 years in the making!!! I’ve been wanting to come to this place and we finally made it. Bolonia. Bolonia. Bolonia. Not Polonia. Not Bologna in Italy, as in Bo-f@#king-logny! Yeah, this one! Home of a Roman Claudius emperor up your analyst stinky fish jar, a colony of the Roman Empire.
Something like that. We posted something about it already but somehow when we came here some three and a half years ago, when the boys were young and we could manage them a little bit more, we visited the ruins of the Roman colony that specialized in producing an ancient fermented fish sauce condiment called “Garum”… Played in the beach. Ate real good seafood at the “cheering guiteau” (that’s AI-generated transcription for “chiringuitto” or a beach shack for quick drinks and snacks). Stayed in a rustic cabin up on the wild mountain side and did some trekking with the kids, running into a herd of free-roaming cattle, even an albino one.
Except, somehow, we missed the sand dunes of Bolonia. You know me being all umlaut and sh!t. I cannot possibly leave the province of Cadiz without ever seeing this 200-meter-wide by 30-meter-high nature’s wonder.
So, finally, we made it here. That’s the sole objective of our 88.5-mile detour. Even though it may not be as impressive as the top sand dune of Europe in Duna du Pilat in France. The dunes of Bolonia has a different charm because you can see Africa. You can also look over the easily accessible Playa Del Valdevaqueros–one of the most beautiful beaches in Andalusia. And you know, the Andalucian coasts have a lot of nice beaches. And this one has many topless patrons. I mean seriously, nice cold and rounded with beautiful cherries on top kind of beautiful, not old hanging apple gardens of the ancient near east that can be swung over the shoulders come time for washing. Just appreciating the little mountain views and views of the mountains of Morocco. OK, enough art appreciation digression.
On top of the dunes, it seemed like a models’ colony, you know, a lot of people there: buffed, men and women, nicely tanned and all the sh!t, nicely trimmed. Endless Poses. Like there’s a group there that just went for an hour of just posing for the camera in different angles, jumping repeatedly to get that best shot, and doing all kinds of YouTube (or maybe Tik Tok) stuff. But you know, there are a lot of naked women there too, doing the same thing without a care about the people walking past them. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We support strong independent women!
But the view over the crescent-shaped beach towards Tarifa and Africa is trumps it all! The emerald waters of playas de Bolonia just below in the foreground. Almost like a fairy tale caricature in the background. It’s just superb! t’s actually a perfect location for a music video.
So, mission accomplished. What else?
TipS for Visiting DunA de Bolonia
Hey, this is a tip for you happy family campers out there: COME HERE EARLY. Early early early, say ten o’clock at the latest. Why? Because the sand gets hot, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. We recommend actually visiting Bolonia in the winter when most of the tourists are gone and the dunes and beach of Bolonia are happily near-empty. So you can enjoy that really absolute near silence, sort of, you know, what the f*ck happened with humanity, kind of feeling if you visit in the winter.
But if you can only come in the summer go early, because not only does the sand gets hot, the parking can be a pain-in-the-you-know-what, right? So wake up before the Spaniards wake up and you’ll get here much more smoothly. In and out with plenty of time.
And don’t argue with the gypsy woman, man, if you manage to end up at the end of the road to where Google says, you know, you should be (it says is military zone actually). But these are hand-painted signs, right? It says also parking residential that looked like the locals painted. Don’t need to argue if that’s legitimate kind of thing, right? Hey, it could be a scam but just go with it. Rules of the ‘hood… of the street! It’s like giving giving offerings at church on Sundays. Besides it’s just two euros. 2 euros for parking from 10:00 in the morning to 11 o’clock at night. Come on! It’s not gonna kill you especially if this for parking in front of their house or restaurant.
Don’t be like the car with that group of old feminazis. Worse: they asked the lady for directions on how to get to the sand dunes. They didn’t even give her any tip or didn’t want to pay for the parking and even worse: they called her names like, “you’ve got an ugly face”, you know. And according to according to my older son, they even yelled, “where’s the f*@king road?” or something like that. Very nasty. You cannot always fight. But if you have to, pick your fight well. This one you cannot win. Locals live here! That’s just my beat man. I mean, just, just be nice, man. In the old school world where I come from, if you do something haughty taughty like that, the locals will just smile at you and then, when you come back, either your car is all robbed or scratched up with a key. What are you going to do? You can file a complaint to the cops, but the cops are probably their cousins, you know. That’s if they even do anything. So don’t be an idiot. Give 2 euros with a smile and just be nice to the lady. She’s nice, you know.
Anyway, off through the secret passage behind the restaurant, through the forest for about 15 minutes and out onto the scorching sand dunes of Bolonia.
The boys were inspired by the skinny lizard looking ladies and their buffed boyfriends doing acrobatic stunts atop the dunes. So they wanted to do their own Taijutsu (martial arts) training. But it was more like jumping around, falling, laughing and stumbling down the fine sand, with a great panoramic and calming backdrop. It was great.
Climb the Dune First, then Down to the Beach
Unlike the number one dune of Europe (Duna du Pilat in France), the dune of Bolonia is much more accessible. It is not as steep too. If you wanted to go to the beach on the other side of the Dune of Pilat, it would be a long walk down. But that’s NOT the problem. Beautiful as it is, you got to think about going back up up. Here you can actually go all the way to the beach of Bolonia from the top of the dunes in a matter of 15-20 minutes or so.
In the end the boys just wanted to be at the piscina (swimming pool). Can’t blame them. It’s hot. “When are we going to be there?” “When are we gonna swim?” Camping for them, it’s just all about the swimming at the pool or at the beach. Don’t care, whatever it is. But, hey, they’re kids, right? So, home, pool, tent, take break and lunch. Take a break and then swimming pool again with my wife for a little bit more and then headed to the nearby beach (Playa del Valdevaqueros) for sunset, which was actually my wife’s great idea. We had a quick, I would say, 66-second dip in the ocean. It was windy and a little tricky with the strong waves. The sand was quite soft and the water quite clear. And it was cold. But not as cold as Galicia or Poland. Believe me, if I can manage to be in the water for more than one minute, it’s not that cold! Yeah, but it was fun. It was peaceful just sitting at the beach, having a conversation, while the boys played football and a group of kite surfer-flyers formed in the middle of everyone else. Gotta watch out! With such a strong wind that huge kite could fall and hurt someone.
Of course, don’t forget the teta status status. Nice ones, too! With nice backdrop of the other hills with wind turbines on top, Tarifa farther down and Morocco’s coastal mountains. Morocco is all the way to where the Rif mountains go down to the two waters of the Strait of Gibraltar. From here, as my wife pointed out, it really look so close, even closer than the 15 or so kilometers that separates Europe and Africa.
Playa del Valdevaqueros also has sand dunes. They’re not they’re not start as impressive as bologna, certainly not as impressive as Pilat.
Needless to say, after all this word, were tired. Dead tired in fact. And what do you like about this camping? Too tired to think about that. Maybe that’s for tomorrow’s recap. Okay, that’s it.
Next Stop: Setenil de las Bodegas
Onwards, upwards. . . . to Andorra! Here’s the first half of our family camping road trip. . . number FOUR! 1,617-something kilometers from Jerez de la Frontera, detour to Bolonia, then Setenil de las Bodegas, the white villages of the Alpujarras, the caves of Guadix, Baeza, Ubeda, Ossa de Montiel, the hanging houses of Cuenca, Lake Caspe and finally the little country of Andorra. . . at least for the first half of this trip!
Last stOP: on The Road Again
This fourth European roadtrip of ours will definitely be a bitter-sweet experience… saying goodbye to our Andalusian paradise (for now) and being excited about our new Polish adventure at the same time. Ready or not, here we GO! Road Trip In Pictures, Day 1: On the Road Again From Bolonia to Polonia + Review of Camping Paloma Near Tarifa, Spain
Thanks for checking us out!