Ideas on How to Find the Area in Spain that is Right for You

So you have decided to move to Spain – either giving up your life in another country or combining it with a second home in the sun. You have probably been to Spain before, possibly to different areas, and you might even have an idea where the ideal location for your new Spanish life might be. But how can you be sure – and what if you have no idea where to start looking?

There are certainly different approaches to this:
I know people who arrived in Spain, liked where they started off and never bothered looking at any other areas.
Others, like myself, came out on the quest to find the perfect spot, travelling up and down the coast and through the interior before deciding where to settle.
Another approach I have come accross is to focus on property rather than area. I have met people who look for their dream property on the internet, be it a ruin or a luxury villa, and then visit these places because of the house they like.

All these approaches can lead to excellent results, although I think the last one is the most prone to disappointment. You will never be able to get the correct feel for a property from looking at pictures on the internet, as the surroundings define the property just as much as brick, mortar and garden. A friend told me before I came to Spain: Do not look at properties before you know where you want to buy. Very good advice I think, and you can extend it to: Do not travel to an area just because you saw a house you think you might like.
Ok, so what should you do? I think it is pretty straightforward. I would suggest to make a list of what you would expect from the area you move to, i.e

  • Coast vs inland
  • How far to the next airport
  • Climate – Mediterranean areas do not differ that much, but the most northern regions have more rain and are not as hot. You might prefer this if you like it green. South of Alicante it becomes pretty much barren.
  • Do you want to be near a big city, like Valencia, Barcelona, Malaga?
  • Would you like to be part of an expat community? All the time?

Maybe you have already noticed: Most of the above and a lot more you can get in any coastal region of Spain:

  • There are British communities in all parts, you just have to find the right urbanisation or town.
  • Inland areas are quieter all along the coast (but in some parts you have to travel a bit further inland).
  • There are golf courses all over the place, most coastal towns have a marina if you like boating.
  • There are picturesque mountain villages in the north and in the south of Spain ..

Unless you have some really specific requirements (i.e. you need to find a millionaire, in which case you would already know you might want to move to Marbella), I think what it boils down to is the scenery (green vs not so green), climate (dry or even drier), distance from the rest of Europe (hop over the border to France to buy some Camembert vs buy Branston Pickle in Gibraltar) and of course price, as some areas are cheaper than others.
If you have the time and enjoy travelling, have a look at the different areas like I did. I do not think it is essential, I could have found a suitable spot in most areas I visited. So if you do not want to do all the travelling, do a bit of reading, narrow it down to one area or coastal stretch and then have a close look at just this area and spend as much time there as possible, finding out about the different places and amenities.

Just for the record: after travelling through Spain for six months I settled in the place where I had first arrived.