After almost a decade my love affair with Andalucía is still in that blissful honeymoon stage; I’m still discovering things to remind me why I’m in love.
This remarkably seductive part of southern Europe is home to a history and culture that is iconic of quintessential Spain. With an extraordinary diversity in coastline, countryside, cities and villages, it’s understandable that Andalucía is one of the world’s great travel destinations.
Before the explosion in visitors in the late 60s and 70s, with the coming of the jet age and package holidays, a journey to Southern Spain was either for the travel elite or the adventurer. Accommodation was either extremely upscale, or small and personalised. The hotel sector is returning to these roots, and Andalucía now boasts a superb selection of upscale, world-class properties together with some truly individual, boutique and personal hotels. I could easily choose more, but here are five of my favourites.
Hotel Alfonso XIII – Seville
In the heart of Andalucía’s magical capital of Seville is probably one of the city’s most extraordinary buildings, the Hotel Alfonso XIII.
This magnificent landmark hotel is part of The Luxury Collection, and understandably so, as it has recently undergone a total restoration. Expect fancy new bathrooms and immaculate vintage decor in the guest suites.
The San Fernando Restaurant, with its Andalusian patio is creating quite a buzz in the gastronomy world; but a favourite of mine is to enjoy a drink in the American Bar, rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of this capital city.
Opened in 1929 for the Ibero-American Expo, the 5 star Hotel Alfonso XIII celebrates Andalucía’s Moorish heritage in the style of a genuine European Grand Hotel. So a stay here is all about the history of the place; so check-in and check out the glamour and style of this theatrical and breathtaking hotel.
Hotel La Almendra y el Gitano – Almeria
In southern Spain it is still possible to discover hidden coves, lapped by crystal-clear azure waters. Some of Europe’s finest beaches and the best weather can be found in Almeria’s Cabo de Gata Natural Park. This is an extraordinary protected area of stunning semi-arid landscape punctuated by rugged volcanic mountains and striking agave plants. Tucked away, minutes from a beautiful beach is the evocatively named Hotel La Almendra y el Gitano.
This rural haven offers informal, friendly and relaxed accommodation that is close to the charming coastal village of Agua Amarga, yet in a truly peaceful valley. A stay here is meditative, and rejuvenating.
The spacious suites overlook rolling countryside, and feature a large private terrace, with steps down to a swimming pool hidden amongst palms. Once you arrive, breathe in, relax and enjoy the silence.
Hotel Finca Cortesin – Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol probably has more than its fair share of posh hotels, but in my mind there are very few genuine world-class properties. Yet as soon as you arrive at the estate of Hotel Finca Cortesin, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. The purpose built resort resembles a classic Andalusian cortijo and is a mix of the old, such as charming rustic white walls, shady bougainvillea clad arcades and peaceful courtyards; with the new, including high tech, upscale guest suites designed by Ana and Christina Calderón, impeccable service and attention to detail.
The pool suites are huge, with double height ceilings and outside, a private pool!
Many come just to eat at Schilo, the signature restaurant renowned for its unique fusion menus; but I also think it’s the sublime spa with a large heated pool, and the stunning Cabell B. Robinson designed golf course that keeps guests coming back.
But since I’m no golfer, I’m just happy to soak up this little slice of heaven from the terrace with a drink in hand, enjoying the view of those manicured fairways and greens. Once you arrive you won’t want to leave, I promise you.
Hotel Casa La Siesta – Cadiz
The picturesque hilltop ‘pueblo blanco’ of Vejer de la Frontera in Cadiz province is chock-full of boutique hotels. Maybe it’s the charm of the town or the unspoilt surrounding countryside that has made this place so popular for small, intimate, high quality hotels.
I know that the term ‘boutique’ when applied to hotels has been somewhat devalued in recent years, but Hotel Casa La Siesta in my mind holds true to the notion of a individually designer and furnished property, that’s not part or a chain or international brand, and one that offers something different, a little quirky and unqiue.
This family run hotel is bursting with character, whilst the guest rooms are individually and creatively decorated, with a mix of contemporary comforts like roll top baths, rain forest showers and king size beds, together with authentic features like reclaimed tiled floors, old beams and antique, rustic furniture. If you’re feeling flush, ask for the superior suite, with the large roll top bath and fabulous views.
It’s informal, relaxed and more like being a pampered house guest. Help yourself to a drink at the bar, and later share with other guests a slap-up organic homemade supper.
What’s more, if you love horses, then their Natural Horsemanship Centre will be pleased to kit you out and set you off on a trek through the countryside.
Hotel Rumaykiyya – Granada
Since it is winter, I wanted to mention a destination in the Sierra Nevada. Although better known for its beaches, Andalucía is of course one of Europe’s most mountainous regions and Granada’s Sierra Nevada range climbs to a staggering 3100 metres. There are over 39 pistes, 100 kilometres of runs and some 44 lifts, and a season that extends until well after Easter. So there’s really no excuse this winter for not heading up to enjoy some fun in the sun and snow.
Hotel Rumaykiyya is the established 5 star property up in the ski village of Pradollano, and is built in a traditional alpine lodge style. Rooms, looking out over the snow-covered slopes, are warm and toasty, with crisp white bed linens, and bathrooms that feature muscle-relaxing power showers, perfect after a day on piste.
The bar is cosy and is a great place to meet fellow guests and share stories about the day, before heading either to the posh in-house restaurant or out into the village to one of the relaxed pizzerias or bars.