Vacation rentals in Spain (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Staying in Paradores in Spain
Shannon Essa (Shannon)
Imagine staying in the oldest hotel in the world, an ancient castle, a Moorish fortress, a sixteenth century palace, or even an old jail. Then, imagine staying inside one of these historical sites for a very affordable price, so affordable that it is easy to indulge in a fine dinner of local specialties and an after-dinner snifter or three of good Spanish brandy.
Paradores de Turismo de Espana
In Spain, imagination can become reality. The Paradores de Turismo de Espana is a network of government maintained hotels located in historic buildings or in modern buildings in picturesque or historically significant areas. The paradores are comfortable, unique hotels that often offer the guest a bit more – a chance to "feel" history during a stay, or even during a visit for a glass of wine or a snack. The system brings visitors to locations that might not otherwise be visited, keeps historical buildings from falling into disrepair, and helps keep culinary traditions alive. It is a remarkable system, and the fact that the government keeps it all moderately priced is quite an achievement. As Jan Read writes in The Paradores of Spain, "the Paradores can be used as a point of departure for a historical pilgrimage, either of Spain as a whole or a particular region. They also form a springboard for a very different exploration." Travelling from parador to parador would be a really cool way to see Spain.
Room prices range from just over €80 to over €200, so if you decide to stay at a parador, investigate one of many promotions that run year round.
Unfortunately, these promotions are not valid for every night of the year. There is a calendar of available dates on the parador website, but the calendar is not always accurate and there are usually supplemental charges for the more popular paradores. Still, these promotions are a very good deal and are definitely worth looking into.
What to Expect
Rooms at the paradores are comfortable, clean, and nicely furnished with antique furniture and comfortable beds.
Room at parador in Santiago de Compostela
The restaurants all feature regional specialties and wines and room service is available. Food at paradores is moderately priced; and wine and beer in the bar is a downright steal for hotels of this caliber. For instance, a glass of the local Albariño in the glass-enclosed bar at the parador in Santiago de Compostela, overlooking the magnificent Cathedral of St. James, is only €4, and that is on the high-end for the paradores. That is a pretty great deal, considering the location.
Bar at parador in Santiago de Compostela
A Few of my Favorite Paradores
There are currently ninety paradores situated all over Spain; I have outlined a few of them here. If you ever decide to stay at a parador, don't forget to write a review for SlowTrav!
The parador at Santiago de Compostela is considered to be the oldest hotel in the world. The church just outside the front door is the Cathedral of St. James, the famous pilgrimage site at the end of the Camino de Santiago. Millions of pilgrims have arrived in the plaza over the centuries and from the 15th century until recent times many were housed in the Hospital de los Reyes Catolicos, the building that now houses the parador. This is one of the more expensive paradores and generally special promotions such as the five-night plan do not apply here. If you plan to stay in Santiago de Compostela, and want to stay in this remarkable building right on the plaza, you may pay around €200 for the privilege. Alternatively, you can walk around the grounds, have a drink in the lovely covered patio with a great view of the cathedral, or a meal of regional tapas in the bar. There is also a lovely restaurant, housed in the cellar, where you can dine on Galician specialties under an ornate stone canopy.
The parador in Cervera de Pisuerga is not generally the first choice of travelers looking for a choice to explore the Picos de Europa mountains; that would probably be the parador at Fuente de. Both are modern buildings with a rustic lodge atmosphere, but while Fuente de has an amazing location at the foot of an amazing granite face, Cervera de Pisuerga has more going for it as far as mountain lodges go. The rooms are incredibly spacious, but make sure to reserve one facing the mountains, not the parking lot. From these rooms you have an incredible view of the foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains, a reservoir below, and a balcony from which you can enjoy it. Downstairs in the main part of the building there is a lively bar (many of the parador bars we visited could not exactly be called lively) that extends outside to a large patio overlooking the mountains, the restaurant, a game room, and a library. Local specialties such as Patatas Picantes - potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes baked together in an earthenware dish - are wonderfully hearty and filling after a day of trekking around the Picos de Europas.
View from parador in Cervera de Pisuerga
The parador at Monforte de Lemos resides in the walls of a 16th century palace and a 17th century monastery on a hill overlooking the wine village of Monforte de Lemos and has views of the Ribeira Sacra all around. It is romantic, quiet, and intense up there on that barren hill. Taste some wine in the town below or visit some of the dozens of monasteries in the area, and then treat yourself to a dinner in the hotel dining room.
One of the most interesting paradores is in Hondarribia, on the border of Spain and France. The castle dates to 980 and many of Spain's illustrious figures have resided here, including Charles I and Juana La Loca. Napolean once laid siege to the castle, but it's thick walls kept him out. Some of the rooms have views over the picturesque Bay of Txingudi, and the dining room specializes in Basque seafood dishes.
In Granada, the parador is housed in the remains of a monastery founded by Queen Isabel in the late 15th century. It is one of the most popular and expensive paradores, but if you are going to Granada mainly to see the Alhambra, staying at the parador has its advantages as it is one of two hotels located on the grounds of the Alhambra. They have parking, a very nice outdoor sitting area, and some of the rooms have views of the Generalife. There is a lot of greenery and gardens around, and it is a very peaceful setting. Some travelers feel that this parador is a bit pricey for the quality of the hotel, while others are enchanted by both the hotel and staying on the grounds of the Alhambra.
Booking in a Parador
If you've been thinking about visiting or are planning a trip to Spain, consider staying in a few of the paradores. Value, quality and history intermingle and make the paradores a natural choice.
There are a number of booking portals but I suggest booking either with the official website (listed below), or directly with the individual paradores.
www.parador.es: Paradores, official website.
© Shannon Essa, 2007
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