More than 60.8 million tourists flocked there between January and October according to new figures – the vast majority within a stone’s throw of sand and sea.
But for those who love Spain but crave something radically different from the excessive clamour of the Costas your journey starts here…www.parador.es
Start joining the dots on the map you are presented with, moving in any direction, and you’ll find yourself on the trail of classical Spain; a history and culture as rich and rewarding as any in the world.
There are less than a hundred paradores – among them castles, monasteries, convents, fortresses and hunting lodges that have been rescued, restored and brought back to life as a unique, up-market hotel chain.
If you thirst for a taste of real Spain, then staying at the historic paradores will complement and enrich your holiday – they are the perfect accommodation companion.
We have the Marquis de la Vega Inclan – a tourism visionary if ever there was one – to thank for the paradores.
In 1910 he led a government project to create a hotel structure that would improve the international image of Spain. Almost 20 years passed before the first, Parador Gredos in the Castile and Leon region, was opened by King Alfonso Xlll.
The former Royal hunting lodge has since been joined by a further 95, the latest being the Parador de Cadiz, a complete break with tradition and following an avant-guard design.
Swapping the dreariest UK weather in decades for the chance to spend time touring historic Castile Y Leon region in northern Spain, and under brilliant blue skies and high temperatures, was enough in itself.
Paradores remains a high value project and there are now more than 150 requests for Spanish municipalities that offer unique venues to become locations for new Paradores.
It’s a brand that combines quality with prestige, a leader in cultural tourism and unquestionably one of the best hotel chains in Spain. For the tourist it simply spells pleasure.
My particular favourite was the magnificent Hostel San Marcos in Leon, originally founded in the 12 century to provide lodging and hospital facilities for pilgrims. Rebuilt in the 16 century it represents a wonderful renaissance building with cool cloisters, interior gardens and public viewing places stuffed with paintings, carvings and tapestries.
If walls could whisper what splendid tales the San Marcos could tell – witness to knights fighting to retake the region from the Arabs, no stranger to political intrigue and tragic periods such as being used as a concentration camp during the Spanish Civil War.
San Marcos is a fine ambassador for the Paradores de Tourismo concept and well worth a visit.
In a recent development easyJet, the UK’s largest airline, has formed a strategic partnership with the Paradores de Turismo de España. In the first collaboration of its kind for the hotel group, all of the Paradores are now available to book as air-inclusive short breaks and holidays via the easyJet Holidays website.
With flights on no fewer than 19 Spanish routes from 11 airports across the UK, easyJet offers the most comprehensive coverage of any airline to the Spanish mainland and its islands.
From next June, the airline will also be adding the Gatwick to Santiago route to its Spanish network, allowing convenient access to Parador de Santiago de Compostela, which is generally regarded as the most prestigious Paradores in the portfolio.
Paul Simmons, easyJet UK Director, said of the partnership: “We are extremely excited to be the first airline to bring Paradores to our customers via this partnership. The unique characteristics and breadth of variety presented by Spain’s Paradores, fit well with the easyJet philosophy of enabling passengers to make individual travel choices that suit their needs, easily and affordably.”
Ángeles Alarcó, president of Pardores de Turismo said, “We are very excited to establish this partnership with easyJet to facilitate easy access from the UK to our many properties. We are confident that the partnership will enable more travellers from the UK to discover our unique taste of Spain”.