Legend has it that when Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Spain, was forced to give up his beloved Granada, he stopped his journey into exile to take a final look back at his kingdom with a heavy sigh. After a stay at the region’s five-star La Bobadilla hotel, Portfolio knows how he felt.
Although to call La Bobadilla just a hotel is like saying Picasso was just a painter. It is a small whitewashed village in itself, nestled in a 1,000-acre estate surrounded by mountains and olive trees, and the staff have taken luxury hospitality to new heights.
The pampering begins before you have even checked in. Entering the majestic reception area, its redbrick and white marble forest of columns paying homage to the nearby Grand Mosque of Cordoba, guests are greeted with an extremely welcoming glass of chilled lemonade and welcoming gifts of local honey wine and olive oil from the estate wait in their rooms.
Although La Bobadilla is a relatively new hotel – built in 1985 and fully refurbished by Granada-born architect Jesus del Valle in 2006, following its sale to the Barcelo Group – Boabdil would feel right at home among the courtyards, patios, fountains and soaring arches.
He would certainly be happy with his choice of 67 spacious bedrooms and suites, each individually designed in the Mujedar theme and featuring warm Mediterranean colours, wood panelling and a private terrace, garden or balcony offering views of the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountains. Boabdil, no doubt, would opt for his eponymous luxury suite: almost 200sqm of space, with a living room, two bedrooms, a sun terrace and its own hot tub.
While each room has all the touches you’d expect in a luxury hotel – including Wi-Fi, a swimming-pool of a bathtub and a super-kingsized bed crying out for siesta time – the subtle design means they blend into the background, leaving your room a tranquil retreat away from the nine-to-five of working life in the UK.
Tear yourself away from your new casita, however, and you’ll find a host of activities waiting to revive your spirits. Horses are available to explore the ground in a leisurely manner, while if you prefer Shanks’s pony, La Bobadilla is replete with mountain trails, with chirruping crickets keeping you company as you take in the Andalusian scenery. After more of an adventure, we jumped on the mountain bikes to explore the olive groves, the fruits of which we had enjoyed over a sumptuous breakfast. For a more spiritual start of the day, yoga classes can be arranged by the 1,500sqm outdoor pool, or you could indulge in an olive-oil treatment massage under the shade of the palm trees and let someone else work out all your tension.
There are more treatments on offer inside the cool U-spa, more than 800sqm devoted to relaxation and exercise. As well as a fully equipped fitness centre, you can submit yourself to the likes of aromatherapy showers, whirlpools, a Turkish bath and sauna and thermal loungers. Couples feeling the love will certainly enjoy the Deluxe Spa Suite with its private hydro-massage Jacuzzis.
La Bobadilla aims to have at least as many staff as there are guests (indeed, several of the staff also live on the grounds, giving the resort a village-like feel), which means you never have to go in search of someone. This is especially noticeable when we headed to the sunbeds, where we were quickly provided towels and iced water. (Freshly-squeezed orange juice follows later and there’s gazpacho in the afternoon.) As well as the lagoon-like giant pool, there is also a smaller children’s pool and a cocktail bar to offer somewhere for the adults to play. There’s also an outdoor bar/restaurant in summer, so you can enjoy a light al fresco lunch.
Away from the pool, La Bobadilla offers a variety of activities to make your time there thoroughly bespoke. As well as a wine tasting, we learned how to appreciate a good olive oil and make the perfect gazpacho (or five) under the tutelage of executive chef Antonio Organero.
While it was very impressive how Chef Organero rescued our admittedly quite salty beetroot gazpacho, that is nothing compared to the skill he and his team showed at our meal at La Finca, one of La Bobadilla’s four dining options and the only Five Fork restaurant in the Granada province. Dining under the stars, we were taken on a tour of the world, each course of its tasting menu inspired by a different continent to delight us with high quality cuisine using locally-sourced ingredient, some from the hotel’s own kitchen garden. Full as we were after truffles, white asparagus and pistachio loaf, we still found room for the decadent “Best of Chocolate” dessert.
Lovers of Spanish cuisine with a modern touch should head to El Cortijo, where soft, creamy croquettes, baked goat’s cheese and delicious Leche Frita – fried custard coated in cinnamon – await.
Our last night coincided with the festival of San Juan and we were encouraged to gather at the small white chapel (where weddings can be held) and write a wish to throw into the bonfire. Watching the smoke curl up into the heavens, we couldn’t help but think that Boabdil would have approved of our wish – to one day return to La Bobadilla and not be left sighing.
A five-night trip to La Bobadilla with luxury tour operator Exsus Travel starts from £695pp based on two adults travelling in March 2019, including a deluxe superior room with breakfast, return economy flights to Granada from London Gatwick and car hire. Visit exsus.com or phone 0207-563 1303
Published 22 August in TheWeek.co.uk