A trip to Spain doesn’t have to mean staying in a high-rise hotel on the Costas.
A string of former royal palaces, castles, manor houses, monasteries and convents have been turned into government-owned paradors and they are the perfect places to experience authentic Spanish culture.
Here are ten of the best to suit every budget.
1. Parador de Granada
Medieval majesty: Parador de Granada is located within the Alhambra, near Granada, 80 miles from Malaga airport
Where? The Alhambra, near Granada, 80 miles from Malaga airport.
Back story: Stay within the Alhambra, one of the greatest wonders of the medieval world, constructed between 1238 and 1358 on a hilltop overlooking the city of Granada. Its citadel was the final stronghold of the Moors in Spain, until it fell to the Christians in 1492.
Rooms: 40. For a family or small group, book the Torreon suite: two rooms spread over two floors with a sitting room (with a large sofa bed) and a separate double bedroom.
Don’t miss: The tower, serene arcaded courtyard and pretty gardens that are ideal for evening drinks and soaking up the views over Granada.
Price: £405 per room per night.
2. Parador de Santiago de Compostela
Parador de Santiago de Compostela is close to Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, pictured
Where? At the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, eight miles from Santiago airport.
Back story: Said to be the oldest hotel in the world, pilgrims have sought lodging here after walking the Camino de Santiago since 1499. Pilgrims staying here are still offered free meals.
Rooms: 130, many with their own outside space.
Don’t miss: A wealth of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque features.
Price: From £230 to £245 per room per night.
3. Parador de Alcala de Henares
Where? Alcala de Henares, 17 miles from Madrid’s Barajas airport.
Back story: Built on the site of the 17th Century Dominican Collegiate-Convent of Santo Tomas de Aquino, the parador is in the Unesco World Heritage Site town of Alcala de Henares, birthplace of writer Miguel de Cervantes.
Rooms: Nine suites in the old building and 120 rooms in a new one.
Don’t miss: Two excellent restaurants – Santo Tomas and Hosteria – plus a heated outdoor pool and a spa.
Price: From £145 to £159 per night.
4. Parador de Baiona
The grand staircase at the Parador de Baiona, which is close to the Portuguese border
Where? The north-west coast, close to the Portuguese border and 13 miles from Vigo airport.
Back story: This traditional Galician manor house is set within a medieval fortress. Features include timber beams, vaulted ceilings and a grand central staircase.
Rooms: 120 – make sure you upgrade to one with a sea view.
Don’t miss: The splendidly secluded gardens and outdoor pool.
Price: From £125 to £179 per room per night.
5. Parador de Carmona
Parador de Carmona commands views across the central plains of Andalusia and boasts a luxurious outdoor pool and a terrace
Where? On the road to Cordoba, 18 miles from Seville airport.
Back story: This medieval fortress commands views across the central plains of Andalusia. The parador is living history, with a Moorish-style tiled inner courtyard, complete with fountain and decorated ceilings. There’s also a luxurious outdoor pool and a terrace.
Don’t miss: A swim in the pool or the views from the terrace.
Price: From £169 to £195 per room, per night.
6. Parador de Toledo
Where: Near Toledo, about 70 miles from Barajas airport.
Back story: Set in a beautiful stone mansion on the Cerro del Emperador hill, it has a super garden and outdoor pool. There are great views towards Toledo’s Moorish fortress and cathedral. Inside, wooden floors and beamed ceilings, with tiles and rugs, reflect the area’s Moorish history.
Rooms: 80 – book a superior one with city views.
Don’t miss: Paintings by Rubens, Bellini, Titian and El Greco in Toledo Cathedral.
Price: From £160 to £189 per room, per night.
7. Parador de Ronda
Parador de Ronda is perched on the rim of the El Tago gorge, which features in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel about the Spanish Civil War
Where? In the hilltop town of Ronda, 75 miles from Malaga airport.
Back story: Perched on the rim of the El Tago gorge, which features in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel about the Spanish Civil War.
Rooms: Choose a superior room from the 78 on offer.
Don’t miss: The restaurant serves Andalusian dishes such as perdiz de la serrania – partridge braised in wine and vegetables.
Price: From £165 to £225 per room, per night.
8. Parador de Cadiz
Where? On the coast at Cadiz, nine miles from Seville airport.
Back story: This fabulously modern and stylish parador sits on the seafront. Amenities include a modern spa and large pool with amazing sea views.
Rooms: 124 rooms and suites, all with balconies.
Don’t miss: A visit to the walls and fortresses of Puertas de Tierra.
Price: From £175 to £265 per room, per night.
9. Parador de Sigüenza
800 years of history: The 12th Century Parador de Sigüenza sits at the town’s highest point
Where: North-east of Guadalajara, 75 miles from Madrid’s Barajas airport.
Back story: This magnificent 12th Century castle sits at the town’s highest point. Don’t be misled by the forbidding battlements and turrets – the interior is luxurious. There’s an inner courtyard with a superb fountain.
Rooms: 80 – choose one that has a four-poster bed and balcony for great views over the town.
Don’t miss: The 13th Century Romanesque chapel.
Price: From £129 to £189 per room, per night.
10. Parador de Plasencia
Where? In Cacares, an unspoilt 15th Century town in Extremadura, 160 miles from Barajas airport.
Back story: A former monastery with flagstone floors, vaulted ceilings and a freestanding staircase. Little has changed since the monks walked these corridors, though now there’s no shortage of comforts.
Rooms: 66, many of which are suites.
Don’t miss: An early-evening sangria on the terrace.
Price: From £140 to £170 per room, per night.
- Most paradors offer restaurants that provide breakfast and dinner. Check for special offers for over-55s and 18-to-30-year-olds. Paradors can be booked in the UK through Keytel – visit keytel.co.uk.