Thomas Gray's elegy might have been written in a country churchyard, but the reference to 'far from the madding crowd' could so easily relate to the Parador in the Cazorla National Park! Bearing in mind that on our visit there was only a smattering of people, an air of peace, and no tearaway children!!
I have read some of the earlier reviews of this Parador and am amazed that some reviewers didn't do any homework! Of course the Parador is isolated, of course it is rural, of course it is simple, of course there is nowhere else within easy reach to go and eat, but surely that's what this Parador is all about? Do what we did, pack a few cereal bars, some tea bags and a travelling kettle! Beats paying €16 each for breakfast, unless you can't do without a plate of the "Full English" first thing in the morning.
At about 1300 meters above sea level it is located as close to paradise as you can get - providing you don't book a room until you have very carefully checked the weather forecast! Having done just that, we booked in for 2 nights, 25 and 26 April.
My one complaint is the cost of staying there - unless you get the Amigos 2 nights for the price of one (room only), which we did. The rack rate is, of course, ridiculous. The rate here, for a couple, staying in a double room with a view, and taking breakfast, would cost €190 per night in the middle season and €202 per night between July and September. But who pays the rack rate? Not many I guess!
Our room (one with a view) was spacious and adequate, but no more than adequate. Needs a bit of TLC! But so what. You are here for the great outdoors.
I will say a word about the staff. To a person they were superb, which you definitely cannot say about all the staff in the majority of Paradors! The lads on the desk were helpful, energetic and full of good humour. We had dinner in the restaurant on both nights, and again we were served by good humoured and very pleasant waiters. One delightful lady seemed to be manning the bar, serving the bar snacks, setting up the restaurant - just about doing the lot!
As with most Paradors, the menu was superb - pity about the food! No, I'm being ungenerous, it wasn't too bad at all. The surtido de embutidos was excellent, but my rabbit on the first night was a bit dry, which can often happen, and the stuffed baby squid on the second night didn't quite hit the mark.
Perhaps the most contented diners, however, were the wild boars who gallop down from the forest every evening to be fed by one of the kitchen chefs, on his sandwich left overs! The chef was a man of generous proportions, but I am a great believer in the adage that you should never trust a thin chef!
It was a fine sight to see him feeding the wild boars, who careered down the hill in large numbers, with the grand old ladies kicking the youngsters out of the way to get to the best bits.
As we were on a two night stop, there was only one good walking day. Our morning walk was the Arroyo de Los Cierzos, probably about a 4 kilometer round trip, so really no great distance, particularly as it starts as soon as you get out of the hotel door. However, although it isn't far in distance, it drops a straight 250 meters (820 feet) so there is a continuous uphill walk on the way back. So, when you are of an age when you can remember walking the Lakeland fells in the early nineteen fifties, it is not surprising that by the time we returned, we were ready for a nice cup of tea - or was it a nice glass of beer, I can't quite remember!
Our afternoon walk started at the very small information centre, manned by a quietly spoken, fit looking pensioner who is also employed to run environmental classes for both youngsters and adults. The centre is about five or six kilometers off the road leading east from the Parador, and on the road that is signed as leading to the source (nacimiento) of the river Guadalquivir.
The walk is the Cerrado de Utrero, and should definitely not be missed. It is only about an hour and a half round trip, but goes through one of the most spectacular canyons of the sierra, on a track cut out in order to pass alongside beautiful cascades as well as the impressive Cascada de Linarejos, a waterfall on the other side of the river. Nothing at all strenuous, but magnificent.
Finally, I should just make mention of the route we took to get there. We live in the south of Spain so went up via Antequera, Jaen and Ubeda. If you are travelling anywhere around the Ubeda area, then pick up the N322, which goes NE from Ubeda. From there drive for about 40ks to somewhere around Villanueva del Arzobispo, then pick up the A1305 going due east to El Tranco. This is the road you should drive along. It is 26 kilometers of the most beautiful scenery. Then at El Tranco turn south along the Guadalquivir and reach the Parador some 50ks later. This is a pleasant 50ks, but cannot compete for beauty with the 26ks to El Tranco.
Did we enjoy it? You bet we did, it was everything we hoped for. Will try again in the Autumn as I believe that this part of Spain does have some trees that display the most stunning colours.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.