What Are Casas Rurales?

house in southern Spain
••• Photographer: Marcos Welsh / Collection: Photodisc / Getty Images

Casas rurales are literally 'rural houses', but the term covers all sorts of accommodation types: furnished rooms, mini-hotels, farmhouses, villas and sprawling ranches. What they all have in common is that they are out in the beautiful Spanish countryside and are overlooked by most tourists - 90 per cent of reservations in Spain's 13,000 casas rurales are by savvy Spaniards escaping from hectic city life.

Since many of today's travelers want a natural environment, regional food and wine, intimate ambiances and contact with local people, the casas rurales program ​is ideal. Adding to the enormous success is attractive pricing (non-euro-based travelers, take note), although it varies considerably depending on the style, region and quality.

Examples of Casas Rurales

Some typical casas rurales, with sample prices.

  • A room in a simplistic house - 15€ per person.
  • The 740-acre El Caserío de Lobones country manor, nine kilometers from Segovia's aqueduct - 110€ for a double.
  • The historical Can Talaias in the north of Ibiza, the former home of British film star Terry Thomas, an eight-room agrotourism hotel - up to 290€ for a double room.

Other Features of Casas Rurales

  • Casas Rurales can often be rented in their entirety.
  • complimentary breakfast may be included.
  • Lunch and dinner, always a regional menu, are extra.

    Where are the Casas Rurales?

    Casas rurales can be found in the following locations in Spain:

    Coupled with eco-tourism such as hiking and camping activities, other nearby activities include golf courses, stables, swimming, bike rentals, bodega visits and more.

    The hosts are prepared to guide guests to the right activity or, in some cases, offer their own pool for a dip.

    How to Reserve a Casa Rural

    If travel plans include specific towns and regions, it is possible to find lodgings through a refined Web search and reserve independently. Many are listed on a regional tourist bureau's Web site or as part of a network (see the links above).

    • ASETUR (www.ecoturismorural.com) is a state society offering the largest selection of rural accommodations direct from the owners.
    • Casas Rurales-info.com has an extensive listing by locale of rural and charming hotels, tourist activities and restaurants.
    • TopRural has introduced Spain's countrywide rural accommodation to guests for 17 years, amassing a huge inventory in the process. The easy-to-navigate site lists 8,000 places with 100,000 photos and 30,000 user-submitted travel reviews. Doesn't allow you to book online but provides full contact details.

    From Casas Rurales to Posadas Reales: High-End Casas Rurales in Spain

    Competition for the discerning traveler wanting top-quality accommodations in natural settings, towns with historical importance, traditional architecture restored to unimaginable beauty and white-glove service created the new, 45-member Posadas Reales trademark of excellence in the Castilla y Leon region (see Posadas Reales in Castilla y Leon).

    The government-regulated upgrade to this ultra category is unique for Spain's rural tourism program. Popular cities within the region, such as Salamanca and Segovia, are an easy side trip from Madrid and boast 11 Posadas Reales within their environs. The region has more than half the country's historic and artistic patrimony and the country's largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites. By the end of 2007, the high-speed AVE train service should have been extended to Valladolid. Considering the trip from Madrid will take a mere 55 minutes, expect the Posadas Reales to be even more popular with Spaniards. They have already made the region their most popular national destination.

    Regulation of the Casas Rurales

    Over a decade ago, a government plan offered funding to landowners, noblemen, rural folk and small hotel owners to spruce up their properties or create new ones in rural areas.

    Known as casas rurales, rural tourism or eco-tourism, the directive also enticed non-hotel people to invest private money into up-market establishments and join the casas rurales bandwagon. But the large influx of takers created a mishmash of styles and quality due primarily to Spain's 17 regions implementing their own standards and controls. What resulted is a wide interpretation of the term "rural home." The chaos has evened out somewhat, and the funding is gone, but the mix still includes lower-quality homes and apartments with massive centuries-old manors exquisitely decorated with family heirlooms, to drop-dead gorgeous small hotels, to new chalets outfitted with a minimalist's flair to generations-old, cozy roadside homes. Today, the establishments that are government-regulated must have an operating license. Be sure to look for that number on a property's Web site. If not there, ask if the local government approves of the accommodation.