Spain’s parador hotels are an invaluable part of its hospitality industry. These are luxury hotels housed in former castles, palaces, convents, monasteries and an intriguing range of other historic buildings. Andalucía is blessed with some of the best examples of paradors and has 16 spread across the region.
The parador concept
The concept of the parador hotel dates back to 1910 when the Spanish government chose the Marquis de la Vega Inclán to devise a Spanish hotel chain that would enhance Spain’s international reputation. The first of the current 93 Spanish paradors was El Parador de Gredos, in the mountains near Avila. This stunning building, surrounded by pine forests and rivers, with panoramic views over the valley, is a prime example of why the Spanish parador became such a successful concept.
During the 1920s and early 1930s the number of paradors increased quite rapidly as the Royal Tourism Commission enthusiastically scoured the country for suitable properties, preferably in areas of natural beauty.
The post-Civil War expansion
The Spanish Civil War halted the venture, but in 1945 one of the most sought-after paradors opened in Andalucía: the San Francisco convent in the grounds of the world famous Alhambra palace. The success of this Granada parador prompted the Tourism Commission to open another in the Gibralfaro of Málaga.
The 1960s saw a great growth spurt in parador openings across Spain and by 1991, the government set up Paradores de Turismo de España S.A. to run them all. It is the only hotel chain to be exclusively owned and run by the Spanish state.
Themed parador routes
Visitors and local residents may be interested to discover that there are themed parador routes lasting between three to seven days. For example, if you’re interested in Moorish culture and Spanish history there is a Culture route that takes you through Andalucía. If you prefer the Nature route you will travel through the Costa de la Luz to the Picos de Europa. Wine lovers can enjoy the paradors of the main wine regions including Rioja, Navarra, Ribera del Duero and Rueda. The spiritually inclined may take the Pilgrimage route that includes the road to Santiago de Compostela and other monasteries or convents.
A trip to Ronda
And if you are in the Marbella area of the Costa del Sol, there is a parador in nearby Ronda, a town that is worth a visit for many other reasons, including its famous bullring. Regardless of the reason you visit this town, don’t miss a visit to the Ronda parador, even if it is just for a drink on the terrace where you can take in the fabulous views across the Tajo gorge.