PROVINCIA DE GUADALAJARA – A small town in the Alcarría region, 91 kilometres east of Madrid, with 776 inhabitants, it has no fewer than 734 swimming pools. That is almost one pool per person. Therefore, Illana (Guadalajara) tops the list of places in Spain with the highest pool density.
To get to the urbanisations of Illana, from the town of Estremera you have to take a road that winds through intense yellow cornfields. They contrast beautifully with green hills full of trees along which the river Tagus runs. Here are three urbanisations, El Soto, El Cuartillejo and Riollano, with chalets built on a hill in the 1970s. The houses are mainly used as second homes for Madrilenians. Most of Illana’s pools are located here.
The land, some 190 hectares, was divided into 990 lots, but many are currently empty. According to estimates by residents, about 400 homes have been built at the moment. Almost all with swimming pools. Usually not large and at this time of year already covered with tarpaulins or in disuse.
“Many people have a swimming pool here,” confirms Víctor in the EPE newspaper. He is responsible for the garden and pool maintenance of many homes here. “Most of the pools are now closed, or over winter,” says the Peruvian. He stands in one of the empty streets of the urbanisation, which is “guarded 24 hours a day,” as the sign at the gate at the entrance warns. “Almost everyone has already gone to their usual place of residence, they come here on weekends and holidays,” he says of the residents, who usually live and work in Madrid and come here in the summer.
In the urbanisations, according to estimates by the mayor of Illana, only between 150 and 180 of the 776 registered inhabitants live in the municipality. Francisco Javier Pérez del Saz (PP) explains that this is a “very floating population”. Moreover, some are registered, and others leave after a few years. It is true that we keep inhabitants thanks to urbanisation,” emphasies the mayor.
He also explains that this municipality at the beginning of the Alcarría region has two special characteristics. The first is that the three urbanisations, with some 900 houses and gardens, are located 17 kilometres from the city. However, the situation is such that to get from the El Soto district to Illana, you have to travel over land that is located in the province of Cuenca.
The second characteristic is that Illana is the place with more than 500 inhabitants in Spain with the largest number of swimming pools per inhabitant. According to the Land Registry data, Illana has 734 swimming pools, while 776 inhabitants are registered. Thus, converted it means that there are 950 swimming pools for every thousand inhabitants.
“This data is exclusive to the three urbanisations we have. In the centre of Illana, there are only between five and eight, and some are not operational,” the mayor apologises. He explains that many of the plots of the urbanisations had water reservoirs to irrigate the gardens. However, later, these were transformed into swimming pools.
1.27 million swimming pools in Spain
Spain currently has a total of 1,266,000 swimming pools, which equates to an average of one swimming pool per 37 inhabitants. In the ranking of municipalities with the most swimming pools, Illana ranks above El Casar de Escalona, in Toledo (780 swimming pools per 1,000 inhabitants) and Olocau, in Valencia (770 swimming pools per thousand inhabitants).
Many residents of Illana are surprised to learn that they lead that ranking. They don’t believe it. However, they rush to explain how responsibly they handle water. “There are residents who change the pool water every year, but most reuse it. We add products to the water that will last us four years,” explains Ramona, a resident of neighbouring El Cuartillejo.
Here, the spacious layout shows that the houses have even larger plots than in El Soto, with areas ranging between 1,250 and 2,500 square metres and with a market price between €80,000 and €179,000, according to the real estate portal Idealista.
Also read: How to winterize your swimming pool in Spain