Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Pre-booking a parador

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Q We would like to tour around Spain, in our own car, staying in paradors.  We want to pre-book - what is the best way to do this?

Sue Wright, Worcester

A From a lonely bay on the tiny Canary island of El Hierro, to the majestic hilltop fortress at Jaen and the extravagantly ecclesiastical 15-century palace in Santiago, Spain has an amazing chain of government-run hotels. The parador concept was born of necessity in 1928, as a means of boosting the nation’s meagre tourism industry, Soon a sprinkling of well-appointed lodgings appeared around the country. Some were new-builds, while an increasing number were nurtured within historic buildings.

As anyone lucky enough to have stayed in a parador will acknowledge, they are not cheap – but they provide outstanding value. In my experience, they have excellent restaurants on the premises, serving regional specialities made from local produce. 

The parador network is currently under some strain, given the Madrid government’s need to cut spending: it is an expensive business to preserve heritage, and to invite visitors to share it. Therefore I detect a certain air of “use them or lose them” – and the former will certainly be better for humanity.

So, how to book? Online, is the site to use; there are, as always on the internet, plenty of pretenders intent on poaching some of your cash by acting as an intermediary. You could alternatively go through the parador network’s UK booking company, Keytel, based on the South Bank in London (

As always, if you are travelling at popular times you should book ahead. But off-peak you can often wander into a parador and get a room, or you could sign up in advance for one of the excellent promotions on offer.

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