In February, I was travelling on a short trip with my family through Andalucia and we decided to stay one night in the small hill-top town of Carmona, just 20 kms from the city of Seville (see map).
Carmona in Andalucia is home to one of the most beautiful parador hotels. If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘parador’, you’re not alone. They are not all that well known outside of Spain, mainly due to a lack of marketing or promotion to foreign markets and for this reason, you’re not likely to meet many non-Spanish guests while staying at a Parador.
Google’s chosen definition of a Parador (below) could lead you to believe that they are miserable cheap pensions, when in fact, they are luxury historic hotels such as converted from monasteries and palaces. They are spread throughout Spain and run a great many deals and bundles that groups such as the under 30s and over 55s can take advantage of.
This was my first experience of staying a parador, despite having travelled throughout the country and living in Alicante for 9 months in 2007-8. It was a completely new experience for me and when I found out the price of the hotel (about €100/night for a twin room) I wasn’t expecting such luxury. For the same price as a cheap and nasty hotel in central London, we got luxury, space and amazing views. Not only this but terrific service and super friendly and accommodating staff, the kind that remember you, your room number, your tea/coffee preference and a number of other things.
Our room had a great view across the plains (see photos) and was terrifically spacious and comfortable. The solid window shutters ensured that I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages, followed by a sumptuous buffet breakfast featuring every fruit, cake, pastry and cooked item you could ever think of. Whilst this seemed quite expensive at about €17, the evening meal, at €30 for three courses, was a great deal and offered a great selection of local specialities that were exquisitely cooked. The parador seems too make a great effort to keep their offerings, such as the dishes, ingredients and wine, local and will always make recommendations to help you understand the choices. Parador andalucia.
After my first stay in a Parador, I’m really looking forward to planning my next trip to Spain to enjoy at least a few different paradores outside of Andalucia.
The next Parador I’ve got my eye on is….
Parador de Jarandilla de la Vera
Situated 215 kilometers from Madrid in the Extremadura region of Spain, this Parador is quite spectacular looking. Surrounded by orange and olive trees, it overlooks the river gorges and chestnut woods of the La Vera region. The parador’s restaurant serves traditional extremaduran food such as Patatas Revolconas (Paprika mashed potatoes) and Migas (fried breadcrumb balls). In the town of Jarandilla de la Vera you can see various mausoleums and hermitages alongside medieval bridges.
In the nearby Vera and Jerte valleys or in the Natural Park of Monfrague, you can enjoy hiking, horse riding and mountain biking and canoeing as well as relaxing with a swim in the natural pools.
This area is full of villages and towns worth visiting as well as the gorges through which the crystal water flows, such as the beautiful Garganta del Jaranda gorge.
From the parador you can enjoy day trips to the towns of Plasencia, whose Cathedral is one of the most important in Extremadura, and the picturesque Roman town of Caparra, which flourished in the first century.