Lawyer Raymundo Larrain sheds some light on what makes Sotogrande special and why you should buy property there.
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Inset photo: The 40th anniversary of Sotogrande’s Gold Cup where team Las Monjitas defeated team Ellerston 11-9. Rider: Fran Elizalde
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Abogados
8th of June 2022
Continuing on last month’s trend (Where to buy property on the Costa del Sol), I thought it would be appropriate to write on this ‘hidden’ gem. Sotogrande doesn’t really need an introduction - much less from me - but I need to begin my article somewhere, and the beginning is always a good place to start.
Sotogrande, to many of us this word evokes images of unspoiled sandy white beaches, unending forested areas, superb views at dusk against a dashing blue sea, free roaming horses on green fields, and luxury secluded villas. To be honest, every time I’m there, it strongly echoes the Marbella of the 70’s I once knew, unblemished and blissfully underdeveloped.
Sotogrande has a very low building density by rapport to neighbouring towns, with very few constructions actually reaching two stories high. The plots of land are huge, allowing nature to take over. It belongs to the Andalusian province of Cadiz. Meaning all the lenient tax breaks and allowances I have collated in previous taxation articles apply, making Sotogrande an area of ultra-low taxation.
Sotogrande, by Spanish standards, is a very unusual place and that is good! If you take a moment to drive through its wide avenues, you can’t help but notice it bears an uncanny resemblance to a US leafy suburb; you would be forgiven if you thought you were in the US, and you would in fact be right. Col. Joseph Ralph McMicking, a retired US serviceman, bought in the 60’s several adjacent plots of land and set about developing them devising a huge housing estate reminiscent of Boston.
As a result of his ambitious overarching vision, through sheer force of will, this forerunner developed a very exclusive estate that stretches lazily from the coast all the way up to the gentle mountain slopes, adjacent to land earmarked by the Spanish Army where building is banned. This results in a huge estate that is cleverly surrounded by green belt land. This sprawling estate is dotted with lakes, lush forested areas, 18-hole golf courses (such as the Real Club Valderrama, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1997), and a top private school. Sotogrande is renowned for its beautiful and elegant polo matches during the elegant summer soirees.
If you are the kind of person that shies away from the bling and glitz of sister upcoast resorts, and rather place value in discretion, choice, and exclusive gated communities that keep to themselves, Sotogrande is right up your alley. Sotogrande’s game, unlike other tacky neighbouring coastal resorts, is not about distasteful antics showing ostentatiously what you have, but rather, about enjoying what you have. It is home to discreet affluent individuals from all over the world.
Sotogrande is split broadly into three distinct areas, which I’ll gloss over.
This is the part of the estate that borders the coastline. You will find lavish mansions built in huge independent plots of land. Its wide sprawling avenues, with green sidewalks that make them distinctive, are dotted with impossibly tall palm trees that look taken straight out of a postcard from Miami Beach. What they lack in views is compensated by vast plots of land.
This is the part of the estate that sprawls over the gently rolling green hills with commanding views over the Atlantic coastline and Gibraltar. Impressive views are guaranteed at dawn & dusk. No palm trees here, it’s a leafy suburb. A mantle of evergreen lush vegetation covers the ground whilst a mature canopy, that belongs to the Atlantic climate, provides a welcome respite of shade. You will find multiple impressive gated estates within, such as La Reserva, where discretion is cherished, mum’s the word.
La Marina de Sotogrande
Strictly speaking, it’s located within Sotogrande Bajo. But it has such a distinctive personality, that it warrants being featured as its own space. This is where the port is located, Sotogrande’s main social hub and its vibrant heart. Its unusual bright pastel colours, Moustique like, catch visitors’ eyes. Most homes boast their own private moorings, door-to-door, much like in Venice! The marina is lively and vibrant, dotted with glam cafes and trendy restaurants that cater to all tastes where one can mercifully rest his weary bones basking in the warm sunlight, sipping a coffee, whilst watching life gently passing by; with younglings amorously courting each other, against a backdrop of sailboats and luxury yachts, in a never ending cycle that only gets interrupted, from time to time, by the bickering of seagulls flying overhead.
Sotogrande International School (SIS)
To close, I need to mention a school that was our feared sports rival when I studied in Marbella a long, long time ago.
Nestled high atop the mountains, surrounded by tall pine trees, lays a school with commanding views of the coastline (you’ve got to see the view at the crack of dawn, simply gorgeous) that is one of the finest private schools in all of Spain, directed by Mr. James Kearney.
Once again, I don’t really need to introduce what in time – and by its own merits – has become a renowned academic institution. The syllabus followed is the International Baccalaureate. The school attracts students from all over the coast, not only from Sotogrande, that flock to receive a privileged education from a passionate and dedicated faculty. They have recently built dorms so students can reside on campus during the academic year.
A special shout-out to teacher Mr. Carmelo (Tino) Sanchez, Head of IT, whose indelible passion for teaching his students cutting-edge ‘engineering’ courses, designing and developing all types of ingenious aquatic devices in tandem with local companies, is so advanced that it borders a university course.
Because of its superb sports facilities and installations, which they continuously expand upon through the approval of its ever-watchful Board, it generously hosts every year sports events that gather schools from the area, and beyond. I myself attended several as a kid, representing first Swans School, and later on Aloha College. But we, the underdogs, held our own, and even managed to beat’em at some events, heh!
Did I mention the school’s beautiful views? Simply breathtaking!
Sotogrande, heaven on earth. Sans soucis.
“My main language was music, and my teacher was nature.” – Vangelis
Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou (1943 – 2022). Was a Greek musician, composer, songwriter, and producer of electronic orchestral music. He was best known for his Academy Award-winning score to the spiritual Chariots of Fire (1981), sci-fi noir films such as the mythical Blade Runner (1982), Missing (1982), Antarctica (1983), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), and Alexander the Great (2004). He also left a mark for his masterful use of music in the 1980 documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan. Vangelis was one of the greatest modern composers of our time whose magic music will echo down the ages, standing the test of time; a hallmark reserved only for a handful of artists.
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