The intense silence was broken only by my own bare feet shuffling across the polished floorboards. With a bleary yawn I pulled back the heavy drapes and sunlight flooded the room. I found myself staring at a massive volcano.
Once the shock had registered, I remembered I was staying at a Parador in the Cañadas del Teide.
Currently celebrating their 75th Anniversary, Paradors are state-run hotels scattered throughout Spain.
I had spent the previous day trekking the volcanic desert that constitutes this National Park, exploring harsh and rocky terrain, admiring huge expanses of sky and weird rock formations.
In the evening a rain shower forced an early end to marvelling at the stars.
Far from disappointed, the hotel took on an even cosier, sheltered warmth. That night, while tucked up in an enormous hotel bed, I pondered the thought that I was spending the night in the middle of what was once a massive volcanic crater. The selling point of this hotel is definitely location, location, location. But a great setting isn’t always what makes staying in a Parador such a special experience.
‘Paradors of Spain’ has a total of 87 hotels. The Parador in Santiago de Compostella is an old hospital that during the 15th century served as a shelter for pilgrims on the way to pay homage to St James. Another is a renaissance palace, while the Parador on the Costa del Sol, has its own golf course.
Set up in the early 1900’s, the idea behind the Paradors was to create a luxury hotel chain that would be present in every pocket of the country. It was the Marquis of Vega-Inclán who was largely responsible for turning the idea into a reality. In 1926 he set up a body called the Royal Tourism Commission, establishing two objectives.
The first was to create hotels aimed at the travelling nobility. The second involved restoring a large number of National Heritage buildings that had fallen to ruin.
At the time, accommodation in Spain largely comprised of low-key lodgings, usually set up as a sideline to the more important business of rearing livestock. Since the concept of comfort was virtually nonexistent, upper-class tourists were reluctant to visit Spain.
The project was met with the immediate approval of Alfonso XIII, then King of Spain. It was he who chose the location for the first Parador. Located in Navarredona de Gredos (Ávila), it was officially opened in 1928, and touted as a beautiful retreat for nobles who loved to hunt.
Since then the company has created dozens of Paradors that include fairytale castles, renaissance palaces and medieval monasteries.
Paradores have become an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage, though thankfully they aren’t just reserved for the upper classes. By the 1960’s Paradors got rid of their ‘hotels for nobles’ label and focused instead on the scenic aspect and the fact that they lent a touch of class to a country that had become synonomous with mass tourism.
The price of a room in a Parador can vary depending on how luxurious it is. Las Cañadas is reasonably priced at e 97.40 a night for a standard double room, while if you wish to stay at the Parador Alarcon in La Mancha, expect to pay up around e140 a night for a double room. Though when you consider that Alarcon is an 8th Century Arab castle, you might decide it’s actually quite a bargain.
The lack of light pollution In Las Cañadas means that (weather permitting) it’s a great place from which to observe the night sky in all its star-filled glory. Guests can make use of the hotel’s two powerful telescopes, which are set up every Friday when the Parador holds its Astrophysics Night. According to hotel director, Jesús Garrido Pozo: “By around four o’clock most of the daytrippers have gone and the guests have the whole park to themselves. There’s an incredible silence at night and you can see millions of stars”.
The restaurant, which is open to the public, serves typical Canarian favourites such as Puchero Canario (Canarian stew), along with a smattering of international dishes.
There’s also a snack bar open during the day. After a long hike in chilly winter weather, a hot chocolate will warm you up for the drive back.