Granada’s storied past rises from its narrow, winding streets. It’s etched in the columns and porticoes of its Moorish palaces and houses, and it’s painted on its patterned tiles and mosaics.
As the last Andalusian city conquered by Catholic monarchs (in 1492), the legacy of seven centuries of Arabic rule can still be seen in its eclectic architecture, and tasted in its food.
With Sierra Nevada National Park a short drive away, it all adds up to the perfect weekend break. Here’s how to spend three flawless days in Granada and beyond.
Dutch couple Miranda and Hans fell hard for this 16th-century cortijo, enviably positioned in a valley close to the historic town of Ronda. So hard, in fact, that they spent three years painstakingly restoring and repairing every inch of the property before opening in 2011, employing local artisans to source authentic materials and preserve original features. There are the exposed wooden beams in the bedrooms, for example, and antique, chestnut double doors that lead to the farmhouse kitchen.
The five rooms are tucked within the original walls, and the resulting eclectic shapes and sizes only add to the charm. Log-burning stoves, roll-top baths, and terraces with endless views of pastures and sunflower fields make this one of our favourite romantic haciendas on the Costa del Sol.
Breakfast is served in the kitchen or under a wooden pergola, and guests can serve themselves from the honesty bar, so there’s really no need to go out.
Doubles from £90 per night; el-guarda.com/en
Love is most definitely in the air at this painstakingly restored farm estate. It mingles with the scents of lavender, bougainvillea and rosemary, which bloom among olive and orange trees. The perfectly imperfect, rustic grounds are scattered with wrought-iron garden furniture and daybeds, while the two gorgeous pools are surrounded by grassy lawns and sun loungers.
It’s all just a hint of the charms that await inside the taupe-hued buildings. Each of the seven stylish rooms has an enormous marshmallow bed, rainwater shower and original details like exposed wooden beams and intricately patterned tiles. Some have deep-soaking bathtubs and private terraces for watching the sunset. The restaurant serves meals prepared with ingredients from the kitchen garden, with breakfast served to the room, should you so wish.
The romance extends offsite, too. Vejer de la Frontera, where whitewashed Moorish buildings clamber up the hillsides, is nearby, while the sandy beaches and chic seafood restaurants of millennia-old port city, Cadiz, are just a short drive away.
Doubles from £300 per night; casalasiesta.com
It would take a very tough audience to suggest improvements to this Moorish-inspired resort, less than an hour from our car hire hub at Málaga airport. Every inch is honed to perfection and with the guests’ comfort in mind, from the symmetrical palm trees shading the poolside loungers to the suites with private patios gazing towards the mountains.
That sense of quiet, subtle luxury is everywhere. It’s there when you stroll through the meadows with ancient olive trees, and when you’re greeted with freshly cut flowers in your room. And it’s there when you pause at the edge of the infinity pool, a shimmering emerald shade in the sunshine, to gaze at the Mediterranean Sea.
Suites from £500 per night; fincacortesin.com
The first thing that catches the eye upon arrival at this 18th-century former olive estate is the cerise bougainvillea, popping like vivid crepe paper against the bright white-and-yellow villa. Your attention might then be drawn to the rest of the gardens, planted with giant sunflowers (depending on the season), or to the tree-lined pool. Olive trees are still scattered about the grounds, while the air is scented with fragrant shrubs and blooms.
It’s intoxicating, as are the rooms or casitas. Original details like recessed shelves and vaulted ceilings blend with modern design details and luxurious textures; think bathrooms with thick marble, and pillowcases embroidered as intricately as lace.
Equidistant from Seville and Jerez, it makes a great base for sherry tasting in rustic bodegas and exploring Gothic architecture. But, with all this beauty within touching distance, it’s hard to think of this hacienda as anything less than a destination in itself.
Doubles from £230 per night; haciendadesanrafael.com