Jan 242012
Summer holidays in Spain - Gandia


Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun team (including the lovely Jasmine Harman), who were filming in my area.  They have some house hunters who want to move to the Gandia area, which gave the A Place in the Sun team a reason to come here and their first experience, to the best of my knowledge, of Gandia – which must be one of the best kept secrets on the Spanish coastline.

In fact, one of the oddities of living in Gandia is that, whilst it is well known in Spain, the town is virtually unknown outside the country.  This is despite Gandia being a large coastal town (pop. 80,000) with one of the finest beaches along the Mediterranean (it stretches some 7.5km and is comprised of a wide area of golden sand).  There is also a marina and port and an area of nightclubs and entertainment famous for its vibrancy – throughout Spain.

Meanwhile, immediately inland of Gandia beach are extensive, evergreen citrus groves that lie between dramatic mountains that are perfect for walking, climbing, cycling, bird watching and other outdoor activities.  Indeed, the countryside around Gandia is a delight and is what makes the area so seductive to Spanish holidaymakers and the few foreigners living here.

Bird watching in Spain – the stunning diversity of Valencia          Climbing around Gandia

And when I say the ‘few foreigners living here’ the word ‘few’ hardly does justice to the situation.

Acting as the local expert for A Place in the Sun for their Gandia filming, I checked out how many Britons live in Gandia (the town, the beach, the port area and the lovely Marxuquera valley) – and found that the records show that there are only 316 Britons on the electoral role (the Padron)!


Of course, it is virtually impossible to know how many foreigners come for their summer holidays to Gandia.  However, the numbers are pathetically small and, if you are on Gandia beach in August, then you will probably be just about the only foreigner there, surrounded by Spaniards from Madrid and the interior of Spain.

So, why is Gandia so little known outside of Spain – is there some ‘skeleton in the cupboard’ or a good reason non-Spaniards do not come here?

Well, the truth is that Gandia has remained a ‘secret’ to the world outside Spain because it has never needed to attract foreign tourism.  It has been able to rely upon its popularity with inland Spanish as ‘the’ place to go for their summer holidays in Spain.  Equally, Gandia remains a very popular destination for Spaniards thinking of retiring – the busy, user-friendly, town of Gandia does not suffer the ebb and flow of mass foreign tourism, has its own economy (agriculture and very light industry) and is perfect for permanent living.

The consequence of all of this is that Gandia must be one of the few, perhaps only, coastal towns within Mediterranean Spain which is still properly ‘Spanish’.  It has not been trashed by having to bow to the demands of mass foreign tourism, it has not been anglicised and it has a culture that remains largely untouched by commercial tourism.  This also follows for property surrounding Gandia, which is notable for lacking the huge new estates with hundreds of ‘Design A, B and C houses’ – so common to many parts of coastal Spain.  Around Gandia there are estates but these are small and contain individual and wildly varying properties the majority of which are owned by the Spanish themselves.

Property for sale Gandia area         Accommodation Gandia     Rental accommodation Gandia

Great stuff – and one of the reasons why I have delighted in living in the Gandia area, for the past nine years.  It is also why I was a little dubious about acting as an expert for A Place in the Sun which, with its enormous popularity, will draw attention to Gandia and open up the secret of Gandia to the world (which those of us living here have done our best to keep!).  However, the charms of Jasmine Harman are nothing if not persuasive…

In any event, if you are thinking about your summer holidays in Spain or moving to Spain then you really ought to think of coming to Gandia.

However, be prepared for somewhere different and, importantly, somewhere that is properly Spanish.  So, if you want the Red Lion pub in Spain, buckets and spades, lots of menus in English, identical retirement homes and the Great British Breakfast – then Gandia will definitely not be for you!

Nick Snelling– Culture Spain


Gandia, Valencia Province, Spain

Property for sale Gandia area

Bird watching in Spain – the stunning diversity of Valencia

Climbing around Gandia

Accommodation Gandia

Rental accommodation Gandia

Gandia area in detail

A view of La Drova near Gandia

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  3 Responses to “A Place in the Sun and the best kept secret on the Spanish coastline”

  1. Nick

    I don’t think you need worry about being swamped by Ch 4’s P. I. T. S. viewers. Think about all those telly cooks knocking out stuff – how many of the multitude of viewers end up cooking any of those recipes?And all they’ve got to do is include the ingredients in their regular shop and then do the business in their own kitchen.

    To infest Gandia with hordes, a great many punters would have to part with serious dosh, amongst other inconvenient demands, at a time when there’s not a lot of spare about.

    Like the cooking and house make-over progs, A Place In The Sun is entertainment. It certainly is when the toothsome Jasmine is on screen. Graham H says she’s 6’2″. I saw somewhere she claims to be 5’9″. We demand the truth! ‘Fess up!

    She married one of the prog’s cameramen, John Boast. If ever a man warranted his surname – he has a lot to boast about.

    I expect the prog will go out just as Spain goes into melt-down, gets thrown out of the Euro, Merkozy and the ECB/IMF mob have kanipschins….

  2. Chris you are cynic. Jasmine and the A Place in the Sun team were delightful and very professional.

  3. Hi Nick – you are certainly blessed and I really need to get to come and see you! Out of interest does Gandia (and Jativa) still have the threshing floors mentioned by V S Pritchett in The Spanish Temper?

    Also, a book your readers may be interested in is Fabled Shore, from Pyrenees to Portugal by Rose Macaulay – reviewed for us this week by Michael Eaude (Catalonia, a cultural history, Barcelona, the city that reinvented itself):

    The novelist, Rose Macaulay, toured the coast of Spain, from Portbou to Huelva and along to Cape Saint Vincent at the South-west tip of Portugal, by car in the late 1940s. Thus she was a visitor who caught the country just before the massive changes starting with the 1960s economic boom. “We got to Marbella, which had a large, hot, quiet beach,” she reports. She drove onto the beach and swam alone.

    Macaulay’s eye darts rapidly from people to landscape to buildings and she is erudite on history and architecture. These are the coasts that saw Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. She has a strong feeling for the past in the present and wears her learning lightly, moving the book along through vivid description and an ironic jauntiness of tone. Here she is at Ronda (she makes several inland forays from her beloved Mediterranean): “I looked down into the gorge, which is certainly very singular and noticeable… whether it improves the look of the town or not might be argued”.

    Rose Macaulay is an eccentric. And if she’s not, she acts as one. She uses the rarity of a woman driving a car and her age -she is in her late 60s- to chat to people. One criticism, and curious in someone who was a pacifist: you would hardly know that Spain was suffering impoverishment under a cruel dictatorship. In this, Fabled Shore is inferior to Brenan’s The Face of Spain, published in 1950, a year later.


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