Once our family decided to live in Spain, we then had the fun and difficult task of deciding where to live. We pulled out a map of Spain, scoured the internet, asked friends, read books, and were determined to find the best places to live in Spain.
Our top considerations for finding the best place to live were:
one of the regions on the coast for warmer weather and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea,
a Spanish village or small town vs a big city,
an international school option for our children should the local school not work out, and
places full of Spanish culture and character, perhaps one of the those white villages?
We initially focused on the less populated “ends” of the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. A recommendation from a friend of a friend also drew our attention to the Valencia region. From there, we googled international schools and plotted them on our map.
With four places in Spain on our short list—Spanish villages in the Andalusia and Valencia regions—we rented houses in each for several weeks, planning to use the summer months to determine which we liked best and where to live. We were off.
Nerja and Frigiliana
The white villages were high on our list, and Frigiliana was our first destination. We spent three weeks in a house between the village and the small seaside town of Nerja. Frigiliana was known as a beautiful white village with a local baker, fishmonger, butcher, and wine-merchant. It sounded like an ideal Spanish village to me, full of Spanish culture and character. Unfortunately, Frigiliana never got much of a look. Our settling-in needs took over, and we traveled into Nerja those first weeks for groceries, internet connections and the beach. We discovered the old town of Nerja fairly quickly with its cobbled streets, difficult parking, and many English speaking expats. Other Spanish villages up and down the southern Spain coast had more appeal to us, Almuñécar and La Herradura both. And there was an international school in Almuñécar which made it appealing. It was larger too and felt like a working Spanish town, full of Spanish culture and not a tourist destination.
Places in Spain Near Valencia
From Frigilana, we headed northeast toward the regions of Alicante and Valencia. There were a handful of Spanish villages within the Jalon and Rectoria Valleys nestled amongst the grapevines and orange trees we were interested in exploring for the best place to live. We stayed in a very small one, Benimeli, which was incredibly quaint with its 350 inhabitants and local baker named Delores. The Rectoria Valley had much more Spanish culture whereas the Jalon Valley was fairly built-up with British expats and golf course homes. While both were beautiful, neither felt like the place to live in Spain we were looking for.
We really enjoyed Javea, which had a population of about 30,000 and was on the sea. It reminded me of southern California without the attitude and sprawl. The arenel area felt like a beach town, the port full of Spanish culture and lively with restaurants. We heard a lot of Spanish being spoken, though German, French and English, too. There were two international schools, great weather, great beaches and the Montgo mountain. We liked what we were seeing in Javea.
The White Villages of Casares and Gaucin
We moved to the mountains next, traveling back down to the western edge of the Costa del Sol, near Estepona, then up to Gaucin and two weeks later to Casares. Both Gaucin and Casares were beautiful, breath-taking white villages, but ultimately felt too small and remote for our family. Gaucin was a wonderful place though for an authentic Spanish holiday in one of the white villages, and we enjoyed our dinners in the squares and walks to the local swimming pool.
Casares, at only nine miles to Estepona and the coast, had been high on our list of Spanish villages. It was a picture postcard white village with a population of around three thousand and supposedly had avoided the tourists. From the top of the town, some 1,400 feet above sea level, you could see the African coast with the Rock of Gibraltar looming in the foreground.
Javea is Where to Live in Spain
Though we enjoyed our travels in all of the regions in Spain we explored (of course, we experienced travails as well), by this point in our journey, we chose Javea as the best place to live in Spain for us. We eagerly committed to a rental house and schools. We also had Denia, Valencia and Barcelona very near for further travels. The weather seemed perfect, and the sea and mountains were all around. Of all the places in Spain we visited, Javea felt like the place to call home.
Which places in Spain do you think are the best places to live? Tell us which Spain region, city or village you’d choose.