What could possibly be more romantic than staying in a castle hotel in Spain?!
Castles loom from out of a distant past, and beckon to us still today to come and experience the ambience of another time. To actually stay in a castle is to partake of that rare ambience – to walk in the footsteps of history, and to insert oneself into the feeling of that ancient time – even if just for a few days or weeks.
There are around two thousand castles and castle ruins in Spain. The Paradores de Turismo Hotel Network of Spain have gone to great lengths and spent many millions of dollars in order to acquire and restore some of the finest examples of these castles. They have been converted into castle hotels of the highest quality, and these provide fine accommodations of a kind not to be found in other types of hotels.
In each case, as much of the original castle as possible has been left intact. Of course, all private areas (your bedroom, bathroom, and living areas) have been modernized to meet even the most discriminating tastes.
There are currently fifteen castle hotels in the Parador chain. Some were built by the Visigoths, some by the Moors, others by the Spaniards during the reconquest, and later. These castles most often served as fortified residences that housed knights and barons, or kings and queens – as well as the local populace during times of attack and siege.
The architectural styles of these castle hotels runs the gamut – from just utilitarian medieval, to Celtic, Gothic, Plateresque, Romanesque, and Renaissance. They contain in varying combinations all the attributes that helps make castles so fascinating; towers and turrets, ramparts and moats, labyrinthine passages and fanciful courtyards. As well, many of the Parador castle hotels have on display the armor, weaponry, tapestries, and other authentic trappings of their epoch.
Each castle is situated in a strategic location. They invariably afford wonderful, panoramic views out over the surrounding countryside and city below.
The castles of Spain stand today as silent witnesses to the greatest events in the history of the country.
Almost all of the Parador’s fine castle hotels carry a 4-star rating, and they are spread out over the length and breadth of the land, so no matter what part of Spain you are visiting, there will be a nearby option to sleep in a luxurious castle.
In the far northeast of Spain, Galicia, you will find the old walled fortress of Baiona. This former governor’s mansion-cum-castle is situated uniquely on a fortified peninsula that juts out into the sea.
Moving southeast, you would encounter the 12th century castle-Parador at Benevente between Leon and Salamanca. Further east the picturesque castle of the Parador Olite south of Pamplona. Then further east still – inside Catalonia and near Barcelona, there is the mighty 9th century fortress at Cardona.
Going south from Cardona to just inside the border of Aragon, you’ll find the castle hotel of Alcaniz which belonged to the warrior-priest order of Calatrava in the 13th century.
Then on south of Alcaniz and near the Mediterranean is the castle hotel and Parador at Tortosa. Officially named the Castillo De La Zuda, it is from the 10th century with both Moorish and Gothic elements in it’s design. The traveler might now decide to cross back in a westerly direction and encounter the medieval behemoth that is the castle hotel at Siguenza.
Continuing a westward path all the way to near the Portuguese border, there is the historically important 14th century castle at Ciudad Rodrigo. The wonderful tower – the Torre De Homenaje – provides incredible views across the plains below. Traveling south towards Extramadura, the castle hotels at Oropesa and Jarandilla De La Vera provide a distinct difference in architectural styles – the former having a majestic and forebodingly powerful presence, while the latter has the feeling of a Renaissance Palace.
The castle Parador at Alarcon, between Madrid and Valencia, is one of the very finest examples of a perfectly preserved castle from the 8th century. It only has 14 bedrooms, so it can be somewhat of a rare treat when you manage to secure a room there. The great castle hotels in the south of Spain are at Zafra, Jaen, Carmona – and even across the straits of Gibraltar at Ceuta in north Africa.
The Parador castle hotels are true architectural and historical treasures. Your experience staying in these unique places will be far beyond the usual “charming bed-and-breakfast” hotel experience. In ancient times, their walls blocked out the incursions of marauders and attackers – and still today these same walls continue to block out the incursion of time itself.
To spend a few nights in one of these marvelous castle hotels is to take a step back into history.
Let yourself go . . . and revel in the romance, chivalry, and mystery of another age.
For more on all of Spain’s wonderful Paradors, go to:
SpainParador.com makes it easy for you to plan and arrange your next trip to Spain. This time stay in palaces, castles, and other places of great historical interest and rare beauty – the wonderful Paradors of Spain
By: Gary Bumpas