How Sotogrande has become Andalucía’s most desirable place to live
It is believed that Guadiaro – a village bordering the elite Sotogrande urbanisation in southern Andalucía – is home to more professional golfers per capita than anywhere else in the world. With its tucked-away setting, outstanding sporting facilities and irresistible Mediterranean lifestyle and climate, it’s no surprise that premier athletes (along with many others) are drawn to this exclusive corner of Spain.
“From the start, I enjoyed the lifestyle here,” says James Stewart, who landed in Sotogrande in 1982 after a decade working in South America and Southeast Asia, having developed a “love affair with Andalucía” while spending time in Seville in the 1960s. “The people here were nice, the golf attracted me. It had rather a special feel about it, and I’ve been here ever since,” he adds.
Now a local resident for more than four decades, Stewart has seen Sotogrande morph from a Mediterranean enclave for affluent Spanish families into an elegantly understated resort with around 6,000 homes, a year-round international population, and many more second-home residents.
Much of the port area, which was the original pocket of Sotogrande to be developed, is still popular with a Spanish crowd, particularly during July and August. “Their houses are passed from generation to generation,” says Stewart.
These days, the coastal location is a key part of the appeal for Sotogrande’s multilingual, multi-nationality community. Two international airports await nearby – Gibraltar (13 miles southwest) and Málaga (65 miles northeast) – and the joys of Andalucía’s major cities are all on the doorstep, from tapas-bar-hopping in Seville to discovering Spanish art in Málaga. Stewart also praises the local area’s safety, security and low crime rate, along with the easy access to extensive facilities. “Within Sotogrande, whether you want to play golf or sail or shop, everything is 10 minutes,” he says.
Many families with children are tempted here by the respected Sotogrande International School. Wide-open green spaces are another major draw. Bordering the meandering Guadiaro River, the entire Sotogrande area was originally a cork forest, and the wooded land trickling down to the estuary (a protected nature reserve) remains rich in birdlife – including plenty of species spotted flying between Europe and Africa during the migration seasons.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Sotogrande is a place that lends itself easily to an outdoor lifestyle. There are five prestigious golf courses, along with a glamorous puerto deportivo (yachting marina), an equestrian centre and a raft of polo clubs and tennis academies. The Real Club Valderrama golf course ranks among the world’s finest, while the first Ryder Cup ever held outside the US or the UK happened in Sotogrande in 1997.
Adventurous souls can go kayaking along the Guadiaro River and surfing off Torreguadiaro beach, or pop over to Tarifa (a 45-minute drive southeast) for the lively kitesurfing and windsurfing scene. In winter, it’s possible to be on the ski slopes in Granada’s Sierra Nevada within a three-hour drive of Sotogrande.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how Sotogrande makes an attractive proposition for those looking to invest in a luxury property in southern Spain. Fresh investment has also upped the game all over Sotogrande since 2014, courtesy of Europe-based Orion Capital Managers, which acquired full ownership of the resort in 2017. “They’ve risked building houses at a higher level and a higher price range than has ever been achieved before,” says Stewart.
For those who call Sotogrande home, it is one of Spain’s most inspiring corners. “You’ve got the mix of space, low-density living and sport – and the great climate,” says Stewart. Indeed, it’s easy to see how so many local residents arrive for just a year or two and eventually end up staying for a lifetime.
Add the concept that it has become a place with the most sustainable and outstanding residential architecture in Europe.
Learn more about Sotogrande’s newest villas, created by ARK Architects.