Travelling to the places topping our wish lists may just be a dream at the moment, but talented writer and photojournalist, Lynne Coates, is keeping us inspired by looking back on her travels in Andalusia.
Hiding in the spectacular Serrania de Ronda mountains, close to the national parks of the Sierra de Grazalema and the Sierra de las Nieves, is the luxurious eco-retreat, La Donaira. With its organic farm, wellness spa and equestrian centre, this idyllic sanctuary of peace and tranquillity, is the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern lifestyles.
A converted farmhouse, La Donaira has just seven individually designed rooms and suites, plus two luxury yurts. The main part of the house is a fusion of contemporary design and traditional Andalusian style, with panoramic views over the surrounding hillsides. The open-plan kitchen and dining area forms the hub of the house, where the resident chef creates innovative dishes using organically produced ingredients grown on the estate’s farm.
Natural, biodynamic and organic wines are served, some of which are produced in the estate’s own vineyards. Guests dine together at long dining tables either on the terrace or in the dining kitchen where they can watch the chef creating the food. Mealtimes are informal and lively, where guests, often from far-flung places, can get to know one another, and share experiences. When we were there we met people from the USA, Australia, and Scandinavia, and an Italian professional footballer with his family. La Donaira is clearly an escape destination, a hideaway where guests respect each others’ privacy.
The equestrian centre is one of La Donaira’s greatest attractions. Beautiful Lusitano horses are bred on the estate, and you can see the mares with their foals grazing peacefully in the fields. Expert instructors can tailor-make lessons to suit all levels of riders, from beginners to professional dressage. For those just wanting a leisurely hack there are scenic trails all around the property. All necessary riding equipment can be provided and helmets are compulsory. I can recommend the ‘grounding’ experience, a sort of Yoga on horseback, where you can really connect to the natural rhythm of the horse – gentle and relaxing.
Relaxation and wellness is the ethos at La Donaira. Every kind of Yoga and meditation is on offer, including a rare opportunity to meditate on a ‘Cama de Abeja’, bee bed, placed on top of beehives – I passed on that one, though I was assured it was a unique experience!
The spa, accessed via paths lined with lavender, is a divine oasis. Hours can slip by while you alternate between the infinity pool, with its breath-taking views, hammam and sauna. Beauty treatments and massages can be booked during your stay. Or, if you prefer the natural outdoor pool, there are hammocks and sunbeds placed in secluded corners where you can immerse yourself in a book, or simply enjoy a siesta.
For those who require a little more excitement, there is paragliding from the top of La Donaira’s mountain. An experienced professional paragliding instructor is on hand to assist your take off, or to fly in tandem with you. Of course you have to climb the mountain first, though mules will carry your kit. There are also guided hikes and mountain bikes available for guests.
The staff at La Donaira are young and enthusiastic. Some are volunteers from abroad who enjoy working on the farm and will happily take you on a tour of the property, explaining La Donaira’s ethical farming and sustainable agriculture. There is also a medicinal garden with over 200 types of healing and edible herbs and flowers – a magical space.
Evening drinks on the terrace, watching the sunset painting glorious hues over the mountains, is truly memorable. Follow that with a delicious dinner, copious amounts of wine and delightful conversations with new friends and you have a perfect ending to your day. Not quite! La Donaira has yet another treat in store. A specialist in all things astronomical is on hand with a Celestron CPC 800 telescope, to guide you through the celestial universe. The natural environment of the Serrania De Ronda, with no light pollution, creates a perfect clarity in the night sky for the discovery of galaxies, planets and stars. After that, you will have nothing but sweet dreams.
Details: For reservations and information: email@example.com
Nearest airports: Malaga 1hr 40mins, Seville 1hr 20mins, Jerez 1hr.
La Donaira can be hired out as a venue for weddings and celebrations.