Spain’s La Mancha: An Affordable, Nature-Lover’s Dream

At the end of each week, my wife and I take an evening’s walk to the top of the town. From our perch overlooking the winding streets below, we watch as the sun sets over the mountains and reflect on how different our life has become.

Just two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined living in the Spanish countryside. But now, I couldn’t picture life any different.

Before moving to the small town of Campo de Criptana, in the La Mancha region south of Madrid, I had mostly lived in densely populated areas in the U.S. where the pace of life was fast and stressful. Moving to rural Spain was a shock to the system. People believe that you should work to live, not live to work—and this philosophy is apparent in every aspect of daily life here.

I make a living teaching online for a school outside of Spain. But even so, I quickly adapted to the local way of life. That’s not to say that I’m not dedicated to my work. But my priorities have changed—which is possible here because our cost of living is so much lower.

Overall, my wife and I spend an average of 25% to 35% of our salaries on necessities such as rent, utilities, and groceries. Rent for a home in the area ranges from $320 to $540 per month, with utilities adding an extra $110 on average. Grocery prices are comparable to the States, but buying local and in-season will save a lot. Because of this, we’re able to save quite a bit and still enjoy regular weekend and day trips around the region and throughout Spain.

Our love of the outdoors is well catered to here. La Mancha is covered in rolling fields of olive trees and grape vines. Small groupings of mountains rise in the distance and lakes dot the landscape. And the local wildlife features an exotic selection of animals, such as hawks, boars, lynx, and even flamingos. Cabañeros National Park—known for its high percentage of endangered species and our favorite place to visit—is just under two-hours’ drive away.

Sure, there’s rain every now and again. But most days we enjoy sunshine and clear blue skies. Temperatures can get cool in the winter and hot in the summer, but when the spring and fall hit, the only place you want to be is outside.

Of course, it’s not just the surrounding countryside that has kept us here. The town itself is a picturesque web of winding streets filled with cozy, white homes with old, tile roofing. And it has more than its fair share of architectural beauty—with picturesque churches, modern and old, and 16th-century windmills with their original structure and machinery preserved.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a wide selection of delicious local dishes available. Some of my favorites include the hearty, winter dish of gachas manchegas and the ratatouille-like pisto manchego. We enjoy dining out near the windmills the most, because of the selection of traditional restaurants and bars. If you enjoy a glass of wine with your meals, you’ll be right at home here. With such extensive agriculture of various grapes, you’ll find a wealth of local varieties in every bar and restaurant in town—a glass of which will only cost you between $2 and $3.

From the natural landscapes to the culture and people of Criptana, our move to La Mancha is one that we will never regret. In fact, it is our plan to settle here for good. We can’t think of a better lifestyle and culture in which to do so.

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