Spain’s Paradores: Sleep In Your Very Own Castle For The Night
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
By Susan Radcliffe
As anyone who’s been there knows (especially in the summer), Spain is a very popular holiday destination. The Costa del Sol is overrun with tourists and some of the country’s most beautiful beaches are marred by the crowds and the concrete high-rise hotels. But this wasn’t always the case.
At the beginning of the 20th century, before the advent of cheap flights and package holidays, the country was virtually empty of tourists. In 1910, the government asked the Marquis de la Vega Inclán to create a network of hotels to accommodate visitors and improve Spain’s international image. This was the beginning of the Paradores de Turismo.
The first hotel was built in the Gredos Mountains and finished in 1928, opening up that beautiful landscape to many who had never seen it before. During the 1930’s, several historic buildings including castles, palaces, fortresses, monasteries and convents were turned into hotels and became part of the network of Paradores. The hotels grew in number and popularity over the years and became a wonderful advertisement for Spain’s natural and historical treasures.
Today, there are 93 establishments across the country. They are owned by the state and all the profits go back into preserving and developing the network. These spectacular buildings and settings can provide a refuge for travelers on the run from the Costa del Sol. Here are a few of the most notable:
This hotel was once a convent on the site of the Alhambra, the famous collection of Moorish palaces in Granada. This is a place where Christian and Islamic architectural ideas collide. For more than 200 years, Granada was part of the Nasrid Kingdom, until the city was surrendered to Catholic Monarchs at the end of the 15th century. At that time, they ordered a convent to be built in the home of Moorish prince.
The building was converted into a Parador in 1944 and Arabic and Christian styles are combined in the furniture, portraits and embroideries that decorate each bedroom. The restaurant has a traditional menu and visitors can take a meal of Gazpacho Andaluz (a cold soup) or Tortilla de Sacromonte (the local omelet), while sitting on a terrace overlooking the spires and the citadels of the Alhambra.
Parador Cuenca is a former monastery that sits at an altitude of 1,000 meters in a remote spot outside the town of Cuenca. It was built high over the Hoz del Huécar gorge in the 16th century, and transformed into a Parador in 1993. It retains a sense of austerity and solemnity with its original religious paintings and coffered ceilings, but this is softened by the modern fabrics and furnishings on the beds and sofas. Some of the rooms have views over the ravine to the famous hanging houses of Cuenca, the medieval buildings perched precariously on the very edge of a cliff top. From your room you can wave to the brave souls who step out onto the wooden balconies that jut out over the sheer drop below.
Parador de Santiago de Compostela
Possibly the oldest hotel in the world, this building started life as a Royal Hospital in 1499, providing shelter for the pilgrims arriving in the city of Santiago. It was built in a grand and imposing style for these important guests, taking 10 years to complete its carvings and sculptures, gargoyles, patios, altars and fountains. The building became a Parador in 1958 and since then has provided luxurious accommodation for modern travelers, including various kings, queens, emperors and intellectuals. The restaurant is famed for its Galician delicacies and guests can explore the Parador’s corridors and cloisters before falling asleep in a four poster bed beneath an inscribed stone arch.
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Parador Granada: Hotel Site
Parador Cuenca: Hotel Site
Parador de Santiago de Compostela: Hotel Site
Paradores Spain (Main Site): Main Page
Susan Radcliffe is a writer and researcher with five years of travel experience under her belt. An admirer of Spanish life and culture, she has visited many different locations in the country. When not exploring Spain, Susan writes for hotel price comparison site sletoh.com and uses the comparison service to book hotels in Spain.