Paradors are the state-run hotels that can be found throughout Spain; to visit Spain and overlook a stay at a parador is to miss out on a major portion of the country's lore and historical heritage.
Many are lovingly restored medieval castles, Arab fortresses, palaces, monasteries, and convents, while the remainder were built with an architectural style that complements the locale. Paradors are found throughout mainland Spain and on the Canary Islands. And they're hardly a new thing: the Parador de Gredos near Avila was inaugurated in 1928 (by King Alfonso XIII).
Regardless of the parador's age or style, all are outfitted with modern amenities, although not all accommodate high-tech travelers (ask about wireless before reserving) or those with special needs.
There are issues in historical paradors where it's not feasible to destroy an old staircase to install an elevator. And except for original and often exquisite furnishings, amenities are supplied by a central parador... outlet. The conformity is easy to overlook especially when you know the bath towel will wrap around twice wherever you stay. An interesting parador factoid is the manufacture of its soap, which requires its own factory.
Topped off with traditional cuisine, local and national wines and special gastronomic events served in elegant dining rooms, it's no wonder that half of the network’s profit is derived from the restaurants. A parador culinary school in Leon trains the majority of chefs where many ancient and local recipes are modernized for today’s table, not to mention producing experts such as the fish chef and the chocolate chef. And menus can cater to diabetics, vegetarians, gluten-intolerant guests and include children’s favorites.
01 of 10
Parador de Siguenza is former castle perched on a hill that was once fortified by the Moors in 712 and was the residence of bishops and cardinals until the end of the last century.
The region of Guadalajara is a short drive from Madrid.
02 of 10
Parador de Santiago de Compostela is believed to be the oldest hotel in the world and faces a wide square. It was a former refuge and final point for the pilgrims who completed their arduous trek to the birth of St. James.
Read more about Santiago de Compostela.
03 of 10
This parador is located beside El Tajo, a gorge of renown, and has an outdoor swimming pool. Restaurant favorites are white garlic soup and almond cheese.
04 of 10
This a 15th-century convent that has fountains, large windows and a Moorish ambiance accented with gardens.
Read more about Granada.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Located in the birthplace of the discoverers, this parador is a 16th-century convent with a lovely cloister. Iberian ham from the region is a restaurant specialty.
06 of 10
This is a former Benedictine monastery situated where the Miño and Sil Rivers meet. Vineyards are along the rivers and the parador has a complimentary boat ride for scenic excursions to the surrounding monasteries and countryside.
07 of 10
This is a modern parador (built in 1966), but it’s situated inside an older fortress. The sea surrounds the area on three sides. The sunsets are spectacular, too.
08 of 10
Parador de Leon former Monastery of San Marcos and built in the 16th Century to lodge pilgrims making their trek to Santiago de Compostela. There’s a coffered ceiling, church, sacristy, a cloister and choir stalls within the parador.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
This is a part of the Royal Summer Residence and built for King Carlos III in the 18th century. Menu highlights are La Granja’s large white beans and local trout.
10 of 10
This is one of only two paradores inside a national park. This one rests at the foot of Mt. Perdido in a nature preserve in the Pyrenees. Aragonese-style fried breadcrumbs is on the menu.