Paradors of Spain … A Brief History
The idea of converting such historic buildings into state run hotels dates back to 1926 when King Alfonso XIII gave his support to the idea of rescuing and restoring landmark sites in Spain as well as promoting tourism in lesser known parts of the country. The first Parador opened in the Gredos mountains to the west of Madrid in 1928. Today there are 91 paradors located all over Spain of which roughly a third are historic buildings. The others are tastefully designed lodgings constructed in styles befitting their regions, often located in picturesque villages or idyllic coastal spots.
Because there are now so many Paradors spread throughout Spain it is possible to plan a whole holiday around them. Particular routes that are recommended include: the land of Don Quijote, a tour of Andalucia’s white villages, discovering the Pyrenees and a journey along the pilgrim’s trail of the Camino de Santiago. Such routes are recommended on the official Parador website.
You’ll find many companies offering cheap car rental in Spain if you’re planning a driving holiday. Having researched many of them we’ve found Economy Car Hire tend to regularly offer the best deals and don’t seem to have as many rules and regulations when making a booking as some of their competitors.
If you’re arriving from the UK then consider bringing your own car on Brittany Ferries which offer services to Santander from both Portsmouth and Plymouth. The P&O ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao no longer operates. This then gives you the option of heading along the foothills of the Pyrenees towards Barcelona or going west across to Galicia. There are some fabulous paradors on both routes.
Our Favourite Paradors
Having travelled around Spain over many years I’ve been privileged enough to see many of these fine buildings. Now my aim is to stay in them all. Below are just a few that spring to mind as favourites though there are many others I could add to the list. This just gives you a taste of what the Paradors are about:
This is a relatively modern building but the views across to Toledo are so stunning that you must consider it if you’re visiting the city.
This is recognised as one of the finest of all the Paradors. Historically it was home to the Order of Santiago (a group of knights charged with protecting journeying pilgrims). The building was expanded and converted into a monastery some 400 years later.
If you’re driving down to Granada from Madrid you should seriously consider a night here. It was originally built by the Moors in the 10th century on a cliff high above town which you can spot from the main road over to your right.
Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos, Santiago de Compostela
This place is stunning and is recognised as one of the finest hotels in Europe. Originally it was a hospice for pilgrims who were completing the Camino de Santiago. Standing right in the main square next to the Cathedral bookings need to be made well in advance.
You can book Paradors at their official website but the process can be a little tedious at times. Alternatively, you can browse and book Paradors on the Venere Hotels website. Below are links to their booking pages: