Spain’s dying villages get a new lease of life with the Covid-19 pandemic

Gaucín, one of the quintessential 'pueblos blancos’ of Andalucía property for sale
Gaucín, one of the quintessential ‘pueblos blancos’ of Andalucía, is listed

Spain is full of pretty villages in attractive countryside that are slowly dying as the young have moved to the cities in droves over the last 50 years . A website called ‘Come Live in a Village’, or Vente a Vivir a un Pueblo in Spanish, has been set up to help people move in the other direction, especially after the pandemic.

The website venteaviviraunpueblo.com was set up by a TV presenter called Ramón Pradera who loves riding around Spain on his Harley Davidson visiting sleepy villages in the country’s large and emptying interior. He did a programme on motorbike rides around Spain that helped him “get to know really, really well, the reality of Spanish villages,” he told the property portal Idealista.

“With almost one and half million kilometres clocked up travelling around Spain, I could appreciate the enormous potential of these villages,” he says. “I could see how, in so many of these marvellous villages, the youngest person was almost 80 years old, and when these people disappear, the villages disappear with them.”

These villages seemed destined to a slow death until Covid-19 came along and changed people’s priorities. 

“If we can take something positive from this frightful year so terrible for all of us,” Pradera says, referring to 2020, “it is that, in the lockdown, city-dwellers started wondering if a better life was possible, a healthier life, a cheaper lifestyle, essentially a better quality of life. And that is when they started looking at moving to a village and thinking that is where they can find a better quality of life, and they are not wrong.”

Ramón Pradera, founder of Venteaviviraunpueblo.com

Unlike most other websites that catalogue villages in Spain from a tourist perspective, his website looks at villages from a lifestyle perspective, including housing, jobs, internet connectivity, public services like health and education, and the cost of living. You can navigate by map, or search the directory. Each village has a fact sheet and video that gives you an idea of what it is like to live there. You can compare villages, and find Spanish property for sale and job opportunities. 

There are currently 110 villages listed around Spain, most of them in Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Castille & Leon, and Galicia. The biggest selection is in the province of Málaga, which is also a popular destination with foreign buyers looking to escape to the South of Spain. There is very little in the Valencian region, and nothing in Catalonia. 

The website has been created with young Spanish city-dwellers in mind, and is only available in Spanish. However, it is easy enough to navigate around even if you don’t understand Spanish, and you can use webpage translation tools like Google translate to make it even easier.

There is a political movement in Spain called ‘España Vaciada’ or Empty Spain set up to push politicians into paying more attention to Spain’s rural and largely unpopulated interior provinces that have been slowly declining as the young moved to the cities in recent decades. I know that lots of families living in cold northern climates like the idea of relocating to southern Spain in search of a better quality of life, especially if they have the skills to work as digital nomads. Websites like venteaviviraunpueblo.com make it easier to find the villages in Spain that need new blood. If only the Spanish government also made it easier to move to Spain with tax incentives and streamlined bureaucracy. That would help breathe new life into Spain’s old villages, many of which are hanging by their fingernails. 

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