Set in the mountains, at 1560 metres above sea level, this is a rural retreat that dispels all the clichés about the `party island’. The only sound is of the wind blowing through the pines. The Parador is about 45 minutes from Las Palmas but over an hour’s drive from the southern coast. If beaches are a deal-breaker, the quaint resort of Puerto de Mogan is a ravishing drive south, over switchback (but safe) mountain roads. White-washed Tejeda, the loveliest town in the interior, is a ten-minute drive away, via jaw-dropping gullies.
Rooms in the old wing naturally have far more character. Choose a romantic junior suite or maybe an intimate double-room under the eaves (number 401) even if it doesn’t have a terrace. In the otherwise attractive new wing, overly-snug balconies can make for a slightly less romantic experience. Even so, sunset from my eyrie of a terrace (number 116) was entrancing, with the sun silhouetted over the wizened Roque Nublo and Bentayga peaks.
Forget partying. The mood is low-key elegance and restrained good taste, with Spanish grandee furniture offset by sympathetic works of art. If the restaurant is hushed, the bar is only slightly livelier. While often blessed with blue skies by day, the Parador can be chilly at night, and too blustery to sit outside on a winter’s evening. But it’s still magical, even without Heathcliff.
As befits its status, the Parador boasts a dignified, slightly severe drawing room, softened by log fires in cold weather. By day, the suntrap terrace is the place for an ice-cold Manzanilla sherry and stunning views after a rugged walk. But when the temperatures plummet, head to the steamy spa for a massage, or to cocktails by the fireside in the sedate salon. There’s free internet too, but close friends are enough.
Eating and drinking
Don’t settle for the underwhelming cafeteria when you could enjoy one of the island’s finest regional dinners in the panoramic gourmet restaurant. Breakfast (an extra charge) includes an array of Canarian dishes (from cold cuts to local goat’s cheeses and sweet almond cake) as well as Spanish tortilla, grilled cheeses and decent coffee (Lavazza coffee-maker, no less). All in front of a spectacular mountain view, of course.
The spa is centred on an indoor-outdoor pool suspended over the pine groves. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to swimming through a forest. If you’re lucky, you’ll have both the spa and the heated pool to yourselves. The pool is a pricey extra but you’ll remember the mists rising into the scented pine forest long after any bitterness over the (33 Euro) fee has evaporated.
You’d also be foolish to miss a day’s hiking with Guillermo, the Parador’s recommended guide, and a trail as gentle or tough as you wish (www.nortetrekgrancanaria.com). Experiencing the Caldera (volcanic crater), the Roque Nublo nature reserve and the primeval Tamadaba pine forest are part of understanding the rugged interior. After hiking the trail recently, we drank a toast to the mountains on the Parador terrace and marvelled at Canarian micro-climates. We were sweltering in early spring but there'd been a sprinkling of snow on the highest peak the week before, a rare occurence, even for the mountains.
Although formal, service in the restaurant is engaging rather than snooty. In the hotel itself, friendliness and efficiency disguise the fact that the Parador is distinctly understaffed. Don’t expect your luggage to be carried. The upside is that you are left to your own devices, including in the delightful spa and stately public rooms.
Who stays there
Escapists who place boutique charm over beach frolics. Also romantics, walkers and foodies who want to get away from the commotion on the southern coastal resorts.
This historic retreat is the price of a sprawling resort hotel, but the range of facilities is not comparable. Rates remain good value for a delightful boutique hideaway, and the island’s sole Parador. But bear in mind that breakfast isn’t included and that the bijou spa costs extra. Consider splashing out on a junior suite, which has a Jacuzzi bath and a large terrace. With only 43 rooms, there’s always a risk that the Parador is full so book well in advance.
- High-Speed Internet
- Room Service
- Swimming Pool
- Seasoned travellers
- Sporty types
- Escaping the crowds
- Great views / scenery
- Design and architecture
Pros & Cons
- Dinner features a wonderful array of genuine Canarian dishes
- Superb base for hiking or driving around the `real’ Gran Canaria
- Hideaway appeal for couples, and melodramatic views for drama queens
- Given the high altitude, don’t expect the weather to match the fabulous views
- This isn’t a hotel for everyone but it is for romantics like me