Zafra. The very name of the place intrigued me. I was hoping for something different, for something exciting and the Parador de Zafra didn’t disappoint. Here's an inside look at the Parador de Zafra, in the context of a visit to this fascinating little spot away from the tourist crowds.
Paradors (Paradores in Spanish) are state-subsidised hotels found across Spain. It's a brilliant way of salvaging and restoring historic homes and castles while also allowing guests to sleep with a sense of flair and flourish.
Zafra is one of those joys to discover. The small town sits between world-famous Seville and key Roman spot Merida, in the heart of Andalusia. It's easy to reach by car as part of a thrilling road trip through the hidden parts of Spain.
The Zafra Parador, for examples, goes by the name of “Parador de Zafra, Alcazar de los Duques de Feria,” reflecting the Dukes who used to own this castle.
That’s right, it’s a castle, a “fortress built on the orders of the noble knight Lorenzo Suárez de Figueroa …in the year 1443.” Men of great historical, if controversial, prominence such as Hernán Cortés stayed here before sailing off to conquer the New World.
Battlements still overlook the entrance, chiselled coats of arms guard the door and curved lantern-holders shield modern glowing lightbulbs.
Despite the severe exterior, the inside provides a wonderful refuge from the windswept heat of Extremadura. An arched stone courtyard arranges itself around a central fountain, where cream sofas and armchairs mark the perfect spot for an aperitivo and a little blog post writing...
Pewter tankards and plates sit on polished wooden tables throughout the twisting corridors of the castle. So, too, do gloomy portraits of Christ and sombre embroidered curtains that evoke the spirit of the past.
The hotel itself, however, functions as a modern hotel should: powerful hot running water, wifi in almost every room, room service, a television, and a sparkling, if small, swimming pool at the back.
Like all good paradores, the menu showcases regional food: stewed lamb, fish, apricots and dates with honey, migas (fried breadcrumbs), chorizo and more.
Breakfast, a pricey extra if not included with your booking, has a great selection of local hams, cereals and fresh fruit as well as churros, juice and scrambled eggs.
Parador hotels are not budget options, that’s for sure, but they do offer fantastic value for money. We booked using their young person’s discount (which, flatteringly, extends to the ripe old age of 35) for around £100 a night. For excellent food in a luxury castle in the centre of town, that's a pretty good deal.
The Paradores Spain network extends across the country. Some of my favourite spots include the hillside Parador with a view of Segovia and the less well known Parador in Merida.
Have you ever stayed in a Spanish parador? If not, let me suggest that you give them a try!
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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