Last week we stayed in three very different Paradores while we explored the area around Madrid. I’ve had a few inquiries about the trip, prompted by my Insta feed, so I thought I would share the details
If you aren’t familiar with the Paradores, they are a collection of hotels in buildings of historical or architectural significance located in areas of interest throughout Spain. The concept was originally introduced by the government in 1928 as a way of preserving ancient buildings and encouraging tourism, there are now 94 Paradores in lovingly converted monasteries, convents, palaces and castles.
A good place to start your exploration of the Parador network is Madrid, which is a grand and surprisingly compact city so you can walk to most of the main attractions soaking up the sun and making the most of its extensive café culture. From here it is just a short journey to three delightful locations.
Parador de Toledo
The historically significant town of Toledo is dramatically piled onto a peninsular which is isolated from the surrounding countryside by a deep ravine carved by the Tagus river. Once a thriving mixed community boasting a Catholic, Jewish and Muslim quarter the City became the Catholic capital of Spain in the 17th Century after the Spanish Inquisition had successfully imposed its will.
Free walking tours of the town start everyday in the square (just pay the guide a tip at the end). Our guide pointed out many architectural quirks that we wouldn’t otherwise have spotted as well as the major tourist destinations such as the cathedral and El Greco museum.
The Parador de Toledo is on a hill outside the town with an unbeatable view. Most rooms have a spacious balcony, large bed and white marble bathroom and look out over Toledo which is beautifully lit at night. Once a private dwelling, the Parador is elegantly furnished and solar panels installed over the covered car park means it is reducing its carbon footprint too.
Parador de Chinchón
Just 46km south of Madrid Chinchon is a quaint destination in stark contrast to the cosmopolitan buzz of the capital. Start your tour in the town centre where ancient buildings, uniformly painted green and white, crowd round the square which doubles as a bull ring during the summer. The clutter of balconies, many of them bars or restaurants, look magical at night when lit. From here climb the cobbled streets to the Torre del Reloj clock tower, you won’t be alone in enjoying the view, Orson Wells admired Chinchon so much he shot two films here.
A visit to the handsome church of Nuestro Senora de la Asuncion is a must especially as it boasts a Goya painting as part of the altar piece. Chinchon is definitely worth a visit but you will have seen it all in a day. We just stayed here for one night.
The Parador de Chinchón itself is centrally located in what was once an Augustine monastery. Sensitively converted into a four star hotel the Parador features tiled floors, beamed ceilings and heavy oak shutters that guarantee an excellent night’s sleep. Each Parador prides itself on using local ingredients and promoting regional cuisine, expect salmorejo, a delicious garlic soup, and suckling pig in the restaurant.
During your stay, take time to stroll through the lovely courtyard gardens filled with pomegranate trees, roses, neat box hedges and fountains. There is also an unheated outdoor pool, but this is only opened seasonally.
Parador de Segovia
This was such a surprise after the traditional architecture of the two previous destinations and we loved it. One of the few purpose built hotels in the group, the Segovia Parador was built in 1978 and retains all the glamour of a Roger Moore era James Bond set. The views of Segovia old town are incredible and if you are up early on Saturday morning you can spot the hot air balloons that take off at dawn. While we watched from our balcony eleven balloons dramatically rose up from behind the cathedral.
Segovia itself was a delight, how have I never heard of it before? The majestic Alcazar palace was apparently the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle; there’s also a massive Gothic cathedral; and if that isn’t enough a Roman aqueduct towers over the square which still supplied water to the city up until 1973 – now that’s Roman engineering for you (photo above).
With plenty of outside eating and cosy bars Segovia was probably our favourite destination, but to be honest the whole week was a treat. We started and finished in Madrid, hiring a car to drive to each town through some dramatic countryside. We even used some of our dodgy Duolingo Spanish along the way.