9 Reasons for Living in the La Safor Region of Spain
- Good infrastructure with easy access to the UK from a choice of airports
- An authentically Spanish area that is not an ex-pat “ghetto”
- Friendly, welcoming local people
- Beautiful and diverse coastal and mountain scenery
- Excellent climate lacking the extremes of other areas
- A prosperous economy and a healthy environment
- Good recreational opportunities
- Choice of good educational options for children at all levels
- Wide range of great value property to buy or rent
The La Safor region is an area of the Valencian province which is almost completely unknown to the foreign traveller, but has remained a favourite destination of the Spanish visitor for many years. With the thriving town of Gandia as its capital, the area is well served with transport infrastructure. Not only does it have rail connections to Valencia city (and onwards from there to anywhere in the country) but it also benefits from the A7 coastal motorway which provides easy access to the airports of Valencia and Alicante and beyond.
La Safor is a great region to consider when thinking about relocation to Spain, whether it is for a permanent move or just for a part-time second home. Obviously everybody’s requirements are different, but it is all too easy to focus on the better known areas of the country and overlook the general region that lies to the south of Valencia city – all too often left as a ‘blank’ on travel itineraries and tourist maps.
Very often, non-Spaniards say they want to find an area that is not already over-run by their fellow ex-pats. This is not necessarily because they have anything against their own countrymen, but rather because they don’t want to move to somewhere that could almost be like their own country, but with much better weather – in other words somewhere that has shops, pubs, restaurants, etc that are often owned and operated by fellow ex-pats and a community that keeps itself very much to itself. This is something that most certainly cannot be said about the La Safor region. Yes, there is a limited ex-pat community here, but generally speaking it consists of people of many nationalities who have chosen this area precisely because they want to integrate into the local community and not be part of some almost ghetto-like existence in the sun.
The local people themselves are very friendly, open and receptive and always very appreciative when foreigners talk to them in their own language. This is another quirk of this area, however, in that their own language is actually one of two possible choices. Of course there is traditional Spanish – or Castillano – but also the local language of Valenciano, which is basically a very close relative of Catalan, but most certainly a very different language from Castillano. Local people will happily talk amongst themselves in Valenciano but then switch to the national language when talking to foreigners, and whatever effort you make in learning Spanish will be well rewarded by their appreciation and willingness to engage you in conversation.
When considering an area in which to live, everybody has individual preferences about the sort of place they might want to settle in – mountainous, rural, coastal, urban, etc. All these options can be catered for in La Safor, with its brilliant mix of vibrant towns, quaint mountain villages and rural hideaways, but the unique quality of the region is the close proximity of all these contrasting environments to each other. The region is justifiably famous for some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole country, but within a short drive of these, the scenery changes to high mountains and inland plateaux. This sharply contrasting physical make-up of the area is also responsible for the creation of a micro-climate that helps make the region one of the healthiest parts of the world in which to live. Benefitting from mild winters and warm summers, the La Safor region is protected from the more extreme weather conditions that are to found only a comparatively short distance away. Drive south for little more than half an hour, and the scenery changes from verdant green to a much more arid landscape – more in line with the sun-baked brown commonly thought of as typically Spanish.
The economy of the region is founded on an agricultural base, chiefly citrus fruit, but it has also diversified to include a wide range of light industry and obviously tourism too. Plentiful water supplies in the area have historically been responsible for the production of rice nearby – hence the fact that the traditional Spanish dish of paella originates from the Valencia area. Because of this economic diversity, the region is a comparatively prosperous one and (apart from the areas of specific beach development) is not reliant solely on the holiday industry for its wealth. For anyone thinking of buying into the area, this is something very positive to consider – there can be nothing worse than seeing a property and deciding to buy during the busy summer months, only to find that one is living in a virtual ghost town once the holiday season has passed. For the most part, all the towns and inland villages have a resident population and economy that remains constant throughout the year, with only the specifically tourist beachfront areas becoming empty of life during the winter. There is therefore a permanent community into which the newcomer can integrate and become a part – something that is very important in creating a feeling of permanence and belonging and thereby helping the foreigner to put down some roots in his new country.
Recreation and Leisure
Recreational opportunities abound in La Safor, mainly as a result of the geographical nature of the region. The most obvious, since the area lies at the northern end of the Costa Blanca, is anything to do with the coast and the wonderful beaches that stretch southwards from the city of Valencia, so if your interest is boating, yachting, swimming diving or fishing, then the area has obvious attractions. However, because of what else the region has to offer in the way of its geography and scenery, there is so much more to do than just enjoy the sun and sea. There are literally hundreds of walking and hiking routes to be explored, many of them officially endorsed and well signposted, as well as tracks and trails that can be walked or followed on mountain bikes. Bird watching is also a favourite pastime for many, and La Safor lies on the migratory path for countless types of birds so there are opportunities to see not only native species but also many foreign birds that are just passing through. Many hiking expeditions in the local mountains have been enriched by sighting local eagles soaring around the peaks.
For those people thinking of settling permanently and who have children, then obviously this opens up a whole range of other considerations to take into account. Again, there are good choices available in and around the area regarding education and you can consider whether (possibly depending on the ages of any children involved) you want to opt for a Spanish education, or whether you should choose one of the international schools, some of which even follow a curriculum based on the English exam system. Further education is also well covered, with a large university in the city of Valencia, which also has a campus in La Safor’s capital Gandia for certain courses of study.
So once you have decided on a part of the country that would suit your needs – and assuming La Safor ticks enough of the boxes – the obvious thing to look at next is property and there is certainly no shortage of supply when it comes to good value homes on the market. Everybody is aware of the problems currently facing the Spanish economy and the effect this has had on the property market. However, on a positive note, this means that although it might be bad news for those who bought here at the height of the boom and now wish to sell (and are therefore looking at sustaining a significant loss on the money they invested) there are large numbers of properties of all kinds now on the market that offer excellent value for money. In years gone by, Spain was regarded as a great place to buy property since, by northern European standards, you could get a lot of home for much less than you would pay in your own country. It is true to say that this is once again the situation in Spain generally, and particularly in this extended area. Historically the Valencian province has always offered better value for money than many other parts of the country – the Costa del Sol for example was always much more expensive, and still is, and likewise the cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
The La Safor region, however, has always benefitted from property prices that were slightly lower. Possibly this was because less foreigners were aware of the area and therefore prices were less driven, but whatever the reason it still holds good today. As far as types of property are concerned, there is a huge choice. You must think about whether you want to live in an isolated, rural setting or a large town … a mountain village or a fully serviced, gated estate … a modern apartment or a traditional Spanish townhouse … a villa with a pool or whatever. No matter what your preference may be, there is certainly an awful lot of good value property available to buy at the moment – and also of course to rent.
This is a potentially very useful option to consider in the first instance and one that many more people are taking advantage of. It can be beneficial to rent a place of the type you think might suit you in the longer term simply to see if your thoughts were right, or even to see if you really do like the area as much as you thought you would. Many people now think of renting for as long as a year or two before deciding to buy a home of their own – and if it turns out that the move abroad was not the right one, then it is far easier to move back to one’s own country without the hassle of selling your home here first.
So to sum up, when thinking of a place to start a new life – or maybe just somewhere to escape to for part of the time – consider what your priorities and preferences are. If you are wanting to find a region that has all that La Safor has to offer, then maybe you should come and have a look for yourself.