Andalusia is known for its Mediterranean climate, over 70 miles of sandy beaches and romantic Moorish architecture. Plus, lots of sunshine, fresh seafood, wine, flamenco and a generally healthy lifestyle are just some of the reasons why Andalucia is not only a popular tourist destination, but also a sought after retreat.
Add accessible health care and affordable housing, and you have the recipe for a successful retirement plan.
I will officially reach retirement age in a few years, although I do not plan to retire. However, I think of all the things that one considers at this phase of life. As a travel writer, I can and will continue to work long after retirement age, but I don’t plan to travel as often as I do now. I’m not looking for a quiet retreat — I’m looking for an idyllic place with plenty to keep me busy. After a recent visit to Andalucia, I concluded that it had everything I needed and most things I wanted.
Beauty of all kinds
Let’s start with the man-made beauty of this region, such as the ornate Alhambra in Granada and the huge Plaza de España in Seville. And with 600 miles of coastline from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, Andalucia lays claim to the world famous beaches of the Costa del Sol – and the coastal towns of Malaga and Marbella.
Andalusia is also known for the Pueblos Blancos, or “white villages”, hilltop villages with whitewashed buildings surrounded by forests and natural parks. Why not retire surrounded by beauty?
I’ve always lived in sunny places and I can’t imagine living in any other type of climate. Andalusia receives approximately 320 days of sunshine per year. In the western part of the region, you also get a lot of rain in the winter. When I visited at the end of April, it rained frequently and it was quite cold too. Andalusia is a large region, so the weather can vary a lot depending on where you are.
Accessibility to exciting cities
I am truly a city dweller at heart. As I get older, I appreciate small towns, but I still want access to an urban environment without having to travel too far. Andalusia lays claim to Seville, one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of the region. Seville is a major cultural center and has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Seville Cathedral, the largest medieval cathedral in the world. Who knows, maybe I will choose to live in Seville.
Proximity to the rest of Europe
After decades of flying from the United States, having the rest of Europe so close will be a dream. No more jet lag. No more long and uncomfortable flights. A flight from Seville to Paris only takes 2.5 hours. I plan a lot of weekend getaways.
History and culture
Andalusia is a treasure trove of culture and history; the list of cities with ancient ruins, UNESCO sites and incredible architecture is long. There’s Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda and more. I could just focus on visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites and probably be busy for the rest of my life. As a travel writer, I couldn’t ask for more.
This city is best known for the beautiful Islamic fortress built into its hills. When the Catholics took control of Granada in 1492, the Moors had been in power for over 600 years. Fortunately, the Catholics did not destroy the Alhambra or build a cathedral on top of it. In 1984, the Alhambra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as exploring the Alhambra, Granada is a wonderful place to simply enjoy life – to drink wine and eat tapas or visit the Sacromonte to catch a flamenco show.
Pro Tip: Granada is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; it is therefore one of the best places to admire panoramic views and instagramable sunsets. The journey awaits you‘own Inka Piegsa Quischotte has more about the beautiful Granada.
“Siesta” is Spanish for a siesta or a short respite. Naps are a beautiful tradition, and I don’t understand why the whole world doesn’t embrace this way of life. In the summer, when it’s extremely hot in the afternoon, it makes sense to take a break and relax for a few hours before getting back to work and the chores of the day. Most stores close for 2-3 hours for lunch and siesta. Spaniards also tend to stay up later in the evening, so taking a siesta is definitely a must.
Spaniards are generally warm and welcoming, and there is also a large expat community in Andalucia. There are lots of festivals all year round, and people gather outside in squares and cafes — it’s an important part of Spanish culture, and I think it makes meeting new people a bit easier.
I am not fluent in Spanish, so I would need to take lessons as soon as possible. It should also allow you to meet new people.
Ham, churros, seafood, olives and wine… Andalusian cuisine is delicious!
I particularly like to eat tapas. Tapas means small plate or appetizer, and it is typical in Andalusia to eat several tapas instead of one big meal, as we do in the United States. In fact, it’s common to go from tapas bar to tapas bar, eating a little at each place and drinking something like a beer or a glass of sherry. It’s a fun way to try lots of different foods. Everything I ate on my tapas adventure was fresh and prepared on the spot. I don’t think we have anything in the United States that compares to tapas bar culture. Overall, I think this way of eating is healthier.
I like the idea of being car-free and taking trains in Europe. Because public transport is so reliable and well served in Spain, I think it would be possible to live comfortably in Andalusia without a car; and if you need a car, you can always rent one. Bonus: In Spain, trains tend to run on time.
Andalusia is well connected by public transport to the rest of the country. I have traveled from Barcelona to Granada by train and bus (about 530 miles) and recently took the train from El Puerto de Santa Maria to Madrid. Public transport in Spain is safe, affordable and comfortable.
In Andalusia there are several small airports and two international airports – one in Seville and one in Malaga. Malaga is the busiest. Depending on your final destination in Andalucia, you can fly to Madrid or Barcelona and catch a train to Seville, then connect to some of the region’s smaller towns.
Learn more about Andalusia
I don’t know all the ins and outs of healthcare for an expat in Spain yet, but I’ve heard positive reports. I had to go to the emergency room in El Puerto for an ear infection and I paid €150. Not bad when you compare that to the cost of an ER visit in the US.
I am planning another trip to continue my research on Andalusia. I’m looking for a place with access to things like affordable housing, good food, lots of sunshine, reliable public transportation, accessible health care, and nice people. So far, Andalusia seems to be winning.
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