Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri April 01 2016

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | April 1, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Parador Paradise: Unique Lodging in Valencia, Madrid and Granada

    Parador Paradise: Unique Lodging in Valencia, Madrid and Granada

    PHOTO: Parador de Granada. (photo by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates)

    The parador tradition dates back to 1928, when the Spanish government decided to create a network of lodging for visitors and travelers. Historic buildings that reflected Spain’s cultural heritage were converted into intimate, elegant hotels and they attracted both local and international travelers. Today, after 85 years of offering unique travel experiences across the country, paradores represent the ultimate in Spanish travel, with 94 singular hotels scattered among natural and urban settings. I’ve had a great time exploring the varying amenities and history of different paradores, and here are the standouts:

    Parador de El Saler (Valencia)

    Laid out on rolling green fields with an award-winning golf course, Parador de El Saler encompasses the beauty and tranquility of its natural environment. Perfectly positioned between the Albufera Lagoon and the Mediterranean Sea, this hotel boasts wide windows and balconies from which to enjoy the scenery. The decor uses clean lines and modern furnishings to display an open, relaxing space. The par-72 golf course draws most of the attention, but if you’re a beach lover like me, the path to the beach in back of the parador is just as appealing.

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    Amenities include a full spa with waterfall, Turkish sauna, thermal bath and hot tub as a few of the options and a gourmet-level restaurant that serves up impressive pans of Valencia’s signature dish, paella. Parador de El Saler is located just 30 minutes from Valencia so it's a great choice for travelers who want to visit both the urban and natural side of Spain.

    Parador de Alcala, Madrid

    Everything about this elegant hotel reflects history, from its location in a 17th century monastery school, to the surrounding area, which as the birthplace of Cervantes, is designated a World Heritage City. 

    Despite such ancient legacies, Parador de Alcala feels contemporary and chic, with high, sculpted ceilings and minimalist pieces. There’s also a business center, conference center and spa offering an extensive list of treatments such as a candle massage and “Dusk in the Cloister,” with hot volcanic and semiprecious stones.

    One of the standout features of paradores is that you can taste the local cuisine in the restaurant and Alcala supplies helpings of migas alcalainas (fried breadcrumbs with pork, peppers and grapes) and piononos (sponge cake dipped in syrup and topped with burnt cream).

    What I enjoyed about this parador was that it’s situated in a college town so the cobblestone streets and plazas are filled with the lively energy of students. It’s also conveniently located about 30 minutes from the airport and about 10 minutes from the train station.

    Parador de Granada

    Tucked into the lush grounds of the Alhambra Palace, Parador de Granada is the pinnacle of parador luxury. It’s not just that you are in a UNESCO World Heritage Site built between 1332 and 1354, but you actually get to sleep in a fairytale castle, complete with heavy brass-studded doors, ancient tapestries and indoor fountain. The parador is part of the Alhambra’s Mosque complex and its entranceway is through a garden brimming with roses and herbs. There are only 40 rooms in the parador, each one with a different design. My room was light and airy, with polished floors, embroidered cushions and perforated shutters.

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    It takes months and sometimes a year to get a reservation at the Parador de Granada so many visitors settle for a meal in the dramatic dining room, which displays a carved 16th century ceiling, linen tablecloths and heavy silver flatware. The menu is traditional Andalucian, with gazpacho, morcilla (blood sausage) and habas a la granadina (fava beans with artichokes). Besides the magical experience of staying inside a castle, the parador provides convenient access to the rest of the Alhambra complex and the nearby Albaicin neighborhood.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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