Sotogrande is the largest privately owned residential development in Andalusia. Originally a gated community, it is located in the municipality of San Roque, Cádiz, Spain, southern Europe and is composed of a 20 square kilometres (8 sq mi) stretch from the Mediterranean Sea 25 km east of Gibraltar, back into the foothills of Sierra Almenara, providing contrasting views of sea, hills, cork forests and green fairways, including the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco.
Some of the richest and most powerful families of Spain have summer homes in Sotogrande. Regulars and inhabitants of Sotogrande include Sir Peter Caruana, former Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Tony Blair, Emilio Botín, Ana Rosa Quintana, Royal Shakespeare Company actor Mike Gwilym, as well as HRH Prince Louis Alphonse, Duke of Anjou, the legitimist pretender to the throne of France.
Sotogrande was established by the generous couple Joseph Rafael McMicking y Ynchausti, an heir to the Philippine multi-national conglomerate Ynchausti y Compañia, and, Mercedes Zobel de Ayala y Roxas, of the prominent Zobel de Ayala family, both are Spanish Filipino.
The Zobels, having seen the idyllic coasts in 1962, bought five neighbouring farms, with the idea of creating a luxurious residential development by the Mediterranean. McMicking succeeded in creating what has become one of the most luxurious urbanizations in Europe, in May 2006 it was featured in The Times as having the most expensive homes in Europe.
The jet set appeal of Sotogrande lies in the natural beauty of the site, enhanced by the early landscaping, planting of avenues of palm and conifer trees, underground infrastructure and wide, two-lane roads. There are a number of artificial lakes and 5 golf courses, including the world-famous Valderrama, created by Jaime Ortiz-PatiñΩ and the San Roque course.
Sotogrande property Architecture
Sotogrande is well known as an architectural showcase on the Costa del Sol, with styles varying from the traditional Andalucian to mid century modern, all the way through 21st century design and even more unusual designs, including moorish/mudejar style homes and even a Swiss chalet. In 2008 the local government declared three buildings as of cultural interest, protecting them from reform or demolition. These architectural gems were the Biddle House, by Francisco Javier Carvajal, the Zóbel house by José Antonio Coderch, and the Real Club de Golf by Luis Gutierrez Soto.
Things to do and see in Sotogrande
Golf in Sotogrande
Sotogrande is world renowned for its golf courses. Sotogrande’s jewel in the crown is the Valderrama course, which hosted the Volvo Masters and Ryder Cup and is the one of the best courses in Europe. Other golf courses and country clubs in the Sotogrande area include: the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, which was designed by Robert Trent Jones; Club de Golf La Canada, La Reserva de Sotogrande, Almenara Golf, and the San Roque Club. Alcaidesa Links and Heathland courses only 10 minutes away.
All golf enthusiasts including novices, intermediaries and expert players will be enthralled with what Sotogrande golf courses have to offer – breathtaking views, challenging holes and beautifully landscaped courses.
The Sotogrande Marina
The Sotogrande marina is the heart of Sotogrande – this exclusive 550-berth leisure port is situated 16 km north east of Gibraltar, and is the first destination yachts see as they enter the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. The development of the marina began in the 1960s; today it is one of Europe’s most exclusive cosmopolitan communities with the nearby shore tastefully lined with exclusive condominiums, trendy boutiques, boating shops, elegant bars and chic restaurants.
The marina offers all the facilities one expects when docking including fresh water, electricity, security, showers, saunas, gymnasium, a marine supply store and heliport. The port has an impressive sailing club, and visitors are able to charter a sailboat, yacht or other vessel. Jet skiing rental services are also available here for water sport enthusiasts. The marina holds competitive annual summer regattas, which are exhilarating for both spectators and participants.
The Santa Maria Polo Club
The Santa Maria Polo Club is said to have Europe’s best pitches, and is dubbed the ‘’Wimbledon of polo pitches’. Watching a match here is unforgettable and thrilling, and best of all – it is free! Though not many people can afford to play polo here, there is nowhere better to watch the exhilarating sport being played. The nine fields of Santa María Polo Club are located in three different places: Los Pinos, Río Sotogrande and Puente de Hierro. The pitches are protected by mature trees and are flanked by the Guadiaro River, with beautiful views of the sun, skies and distant mountains.
The club is where the crème de la crème of European society come to socialize, and is a great place to spot royalty and celebrities. El Torneo Internacional, one of the sport’s most prestigious trophies is held every August in the Santa Maria Polo Club, bringing together the best polo players in the world. This tournament attracts the rich and famous from all over the globe, and is a wonderful treat to watch.
Natural Area River Guadiaro Estuary
This UNESCO protected natural park lies on the west bank of the Guadiaro River, and is an important resting, feeding and breeding place for local and migratory birds. Although it is the smallest natural area in Andalusia, it is nevertheless an important site as it is one of the few natural spots left on the Costa del Sol. Birdwatchers have access to numerous bird species via wooden walkways that cover the 27 hectares of marshland.
The natural area is abundant with gorgeous flora which is similar to other coastal areas of the Mediterranean region, such as reeds, saltmarsh bulrushes, tamarisk, wild olive and ash trees. The area attracts several migrant birds due to its location near the Strait of Gibraltar. Common visitors include penduline tits, flamingos, spoonbills, purple herons and ospreys. During winter, jack snipe, gulls and waders are spotted easily. The estuary is also populated by otters and eels, whilst badgers, hedgehogs and Egyptian mongooses are found in the surrounding area.
Beaches in Sotogrande
Sotogrande’s 12 km coast has several stunning beaches that are beautifully maintained by local authorities, and charming in their own way. Most of the beaches in this area are sandy, with soft golden sand or hidden rocky coves. Visiting the beach is a must for tourists and residents alike. Sunbathing is popular from mid April until late September, which is when beach bars are open, with sunbeds set out and water sport facilities available in certain areas. The peak season is July, August and September (in between summer and autumn), during which time, parking can be difficult. Local policemen patrol the coast off Sotogrande and Torreguadiaro beaches. Here are some of the best beaches to visit around Sotogrande:
Playa Sotogrande (Playa is Spanish for Beach) is a 2 km long, 35 m wide beach that fronts the Sotogrande estate and is situated west of the Guadiaro River estuary. This semi-urban beach boardwalk has a medium occupancy level and basic facilities such as toilets, lifeguard huts and parking. Visitors can obtain day membership at the Sotogrande Beach Club for more facilities.
Playa Guadalquiton is a 5 km beach that stretches between Sotogrande and Alcaidesa to the south. The beach is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of other beaches – it is quiet, tranquil and isolated. However, there are no facilities available. Visitors can access this beach on foot from the Playa Torrecarboneria to the west and Playa Sotogrande to the east.
Laya Paseo del Mar is a small triangular shaped 1 km long beach, situated between the mouth of the Sotogrande Marina and the Guadiaro River. The beach is located in front of the Paseo del Mar urban section and the Octagon Beach Club (El Octógono), where day membership can be obtained. The beach is quite popular during the summer. Facilities include showers, toilets, lifeguard huts, a chiringuito (beach bar) and water sports centre.
Torreguadiaro Beach, also known as Playa de las Conchas, is a semi-urban sandy beach which lies between the village of Torreguadiaro and Sotogrande port to the east. The beach is small – just a little over 1 km long, but gets very busy especially during summer. There are several facilities available here such as a chiringuito, sunbeds, showers and lifeguard posts, which lie towards the village end of the beach.
The Cala Chullera Beach is perfect for diving and rock fishing, with thick lush sand and rocky areas. The beach is divided into two zones by a rocky projection and is located on the feet of the tower of Chullera. The coastline consists of small sandy coves with rocky outcrops, and boasts excellent views.
Sotogrande has two excellent beach clubs – El Octógono which leads to the Laya Paseo del Mar Beach and El Cucurucho – a members-only beach club named after the beach itself. Both clubs offer a wide range of beach-side facilities including swimming pools, activities for youngsters, restaurants, and even reception rooms for parties, meetings and exhibitions. These beach clubs are ideal hang out spots for the entire family.
All major supermarkets are available in Sotogrande, these include Supercor (owned by the famous El Corte Ingles Group) Mercadona which is a very popular mainstream brand throughout Spain and plenty of boutique organic shops for health supplies and niche products. New shopping facilities are opening up every month offering a world class supply of groceries, fresh products for a more discerning customer.
Medical care in Sotogrande
The quality of medical care in and around Sotogrande is extremely good, Humanline stands out as one of the main providers and accepts all worldwide insurance policies.
Eating Out in Sotogrande
Sotogrande is home to several haute and international cuisine restaurants – an eclectic mix brought about by the influence of the tourist industry. Many local restaurants and beach chiringuitos (beach bars) in the coastal areas specialize in traditional fish, shell fish and BBQ dishes, whilst other inland areas offer diverse fish and meat options. There are various snack bars and restaurants to cater to everyone at Sotogrande:
Cancha II is one of the most exclusive restaurants in Andalusia, serving delicious Argentinean meat of excellent quality in a relaxing fine dining setting. Although dishes are costly, the entire dining experience is worthwhile; making this restaurant an excellent place to celebrate special occasions.
PuraTapa is an informal, trendy modern restaurant that serves an incredible number of affordable Spanish appetizers or snacks – known as tapas. Although the menu is chalked on the wall in Spanish, waitresses help with translations and help diners choose. The restaurant does not take reservations, so it is wise to go early and get a table before it gets busy.
La Cabana is situated in an old country house on the hillside above Sotogrande serving excellent food at reasonable prices. Only open in the evenings, the restaurant consists of a very spacious interior room, and equally large terrace surrounded by exquisite gardens. The owners also run El Molino del Conde in Guadiaro.
La Quinta is an Argentinean restaurant set in a stunning location overlooking the Polo fields in the heart of the Sotogrande residential area. It is famous for its meat selections which are imported directly from Argentina.
Ke Bar is located on the edge of Sotogrande Port, with great views of the yachts and palm-trees and lovely apartment buildings. With various menus according to time of day, visitors can enjoy a drink, tapas, cakes, coffees, or lunch and dinner here.
Shopping in Sotogrande
Where to shop in Sotogrande?
Sotogrande has several opportunities for shopping enthusiasts with a wide variety of exclusive specialty shops and boutiques.
The marina, which has a good selection of Restaurants, Bars, shops and Banks also hosts a weekly street market and car boot sale every Sunday morning which is very popular with residents and tourists looking for up market antiques and crafts. During July and August, a smaller version of this market is held every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
There are three large supermarkets in Sotogrande – Supercor, Mercadona and LIDL which carry excellent fresh produce and wine selections. The stores are open from 9.30 am to 9.30 pm Monday to Saturday and are closed on Sundays.
Mar y Sol Commercial Centre is another centre with shops and restaurants. Notable shops here are Golfino – a sport golf shop and Tiger Lily fashion boutique. Shops in the Puerto Deportivo de Sotogrande – Plaza de las Palmeras include Brando & Co boutique for gifts and clothing and Haagen Dazs Ice cream.
During the month of August, during the International polo tournament, visitors can find a great selection of shops at the Santa Maria Polo Club. In addition, tourists in Sotogrande can enjoy VAT-free shopping in Gibraltar, provided they bring their passports and pounds.