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Paradores and Pousadas: Spain and Portugal

October 29th, 2012 by Greg Flanders
Ronda Parador

The Parador at Ronda clings to the edge of a high bluff near an ancient bridge.

Paradores and Pousadas: Spain and Portugal will help you discover many of Spain’s most distinctive treasures: Cordoba’s one-of-a-kind mezquita, a seventh-century church transformed into an enormous mosque, which then had a Renaissance cathedral set down in it; Granada’s Alhambra and Generalife, the last bastion of the Moors in Spain, still featuring the intricate stonework and stunning abstract décor that was a fixture of Moorish art; and Madrid’s Prado Museum, home to one of the finest art collections in Europe. Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of Iberia’s best, most idiosyncratic lodgings: Paradores and Pousadas.

Paradores (in Spain; Pousadas in Portugal) are luxury hotels located in historic buildings such as monasteries or castles. Scattered all over the Iberian Peninsula, they offer guests the opportunity to soak in local flavor and history while enjoying top-notch accommodations in some of Europe’s finest architectural gems.

Imagine waking up in a 15th-century monastery, upgraded for decidedly non-monastic modern comfort. You cross to the window to look out over the plaza, featuring the monumental ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman temple. That’s morning in Évora, Portugal, home to historical and architectural treasures dating back two millennia. You’ll spend a full day soaking in the unique atmosphere of this bustling university town (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) before heading off to your next parador: a 14th-century Moorish castle nestled in the rolling plains outside Seville.

Each Parador you visit will reflect the character of the area—one clings to the edge of a 500-foot-deep gorge; another is the 16th-century palace of a Renaissance clergyman. These luxurious accommodations will be your home base as you experience this storied region. From the Romans to the Moors, through the Reconquista to the Renaissance, history has left its mark on the landscape and the culture, and this is a great chance to explore it. Don’t miss out!

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