When the Conquistadors sailed from Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries to discover fame and fortune in the New World, they came from one relatively small area: Extremadura, an autonomous region in the southwest of the country that borders Portugal.
Today, Extremadura is an obscure and little known region, even within Spain, but apart from its wonderful history, it is a fascinating area where property is cheap – up to 40% cheaper than in the rest of Spain – serious crime is rare, the climate is delightfully agreeable and the air is pure and clean.
Welcome to the ‘real’ Spain…
This is the “real” Spain. The people who visit here are the adventurous types who are not swayed by golden beaches and expat communities, for neither exist here. English is not widely spoken either, and there is no international airport, though the road network is excellent. Why then would anyone want to come to such a far-flung place? Ah, why indeed! The answer to that is probably Europe’s best kept secret.
You can buy a small village house in Extremadura with two or three bedrooms from as little as $50,000, though at that price it will be fairly basic, but expect it to have all the necessary amenities. If you have $150,000 to spend, you could get a two-storey house in an urban setting with four bedrooms, for example, all modern amenities, a patio, a pool, spectacular views and total privacy.
Views to die for…
If you wanted to buy a property that was really special, then what you get for say, $500,000 will amaze you. For example, you could have a six bedroom, two-storey Villa with 500 square yards of living space, set in 10 acres of stunning countryside, close to a major town or city, with perhaps a few olive trees, a pool and of course, views to die for.
Long-term rentals of a small apartment with say, two bedrooms, for example, in a large town or city start around $480 a month. In a more rural country or village setting it can be closer to $400.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France once said, “Give me Extremadura and I will feed all of Europe”. Nothing much has changed in the 200 years since Napoleon was in Spain. Extremadura still has an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit at prices that will amaze you, often around 50 cents a pound or even less. If you like cheese, you will think yourself in heaven.
Meat is more expensive and can equal or even be more than in the U.S. However, once you have tasted jamón, or cured ham, from Extremadura, you will not give price a thought. This is as good as it gets.
Jamón, Jamón with wine too…
The meat industry here has protection under protected designation of origin (PDO) status, which ensures a consistency of quality. Jamón Dehesa de Extremadura is a brand that often cannot keep up with demand; such is its popularity.
Extremadura is not known as a major wine producing region. However, it does produce many fine wines, and while they may not be as well known as wines from La Rioja or Ribero del Duero, they are perfectly acceptable, nevertheless.
A modest village bar will sell you a glass of Pitarra for around 75 cents. A bottle of decent Extremeñan wine will cost from around $3.50, and if you want to splash out to the tune of $10 for a bottle, expect to get something that’s very nice indeed.
A region with fine new highways…
The nearest international airport to Extremadura is either in Madrid to the northeast or Seville to the south. There are excellent bus services to both over fine new highways. In fact, the roads in Extremadura are surprisingly good, and apart from some of the smaller rural roads, they are all in perfect, pristine condition.
Living in Extremadura is pleasingly inexpensive. A visiting backpacker could easily get by on around $40 a day, while a tourist preferring a minimum of three-star accommodation might need around $80 a day. For a couple living there full-time, the average monthly costs are around 25% to 35% cheaper than in the U.S.
While English is not widely spoken in Extremadura, this need not be a major setback. At least one real estate agent, based in the city of Trujillo, can operate totally in English. He can also take over all the legal paperwork and necessary administration, leaving you free to think about more pleasant things.
All the amenities and services you need…
Extremadura, like the rest of Spain, has both private health care and nationalized public health care. The care provided through health clinics and hospitals is excellent, even in the more rural parts.
Every community, from the smallest village to the largest city, has good, fast Internet provision. Calling home can be surprisingly inexpensive too. The deregulation of phone carriers has meant that prices have tumbled in recent years, which of course is great for the consumer.
Extremadura is a walker and hiker paradise. Some of the areas are so sparsely populated that getting away from it all is a quick and easy process, but you are never really all that far from the nearest village or town.
If you love the environment, clean healthy air and nature in its wildest, but manageable, form, then this is definitely the place for you. If you love to watch golden sunsets, you can blissfully overdose on them most nights of the year. In fact, this place is so close to perfect in every way that you will soon start to wonder why the Conquistadors wanted to leave in the first place.