We discover La Donaira, a Spanish retreat to restore mind and body.
La Donaira, recently crowned Best
Luxury Eco Hotel in Spain, is a 1700-acre organic farm, with just 9 individuallydesigned suites in the Serranía de Ronda, Andalucia that has been a true labour of love. Its success is a testament, not only to the inspiration and vision of the owner, Manfred Bodner, but to the effort and collaboration of his entire staff since the farm was purchased in 2005. La Donaira is built around a traditional cortijo, that dates back to 1910, and, following the purchase, over the next decade various outbuildings and surrounding landscapes have been tastefully restored using local artisanal methods under the direction of a Gibraltar based project team. There has
been constant improvement at La Donaira but throughout there has been an unflinching respect for nature and the environment.
Such reverence is obvious when guests are encouraged to assist in the daily working life of the farm, whether it be by picking almonds, grapes or olives or by just picking up the fresh eggs from the farm’s hens. The farm is large, and there are plenty of sheep, goats and rare breed cattle. The farm also boasts 70 wonderful Lusitano horses and, with trained riders on site, there are wonderful hacks and trails to explore. It should come as no surprise that an appreciation of food and drink is developed during a stay. The farm has its own vines, of course, and you will be able to sample red and rosé wines from their own grapes. These wines are complemented by a small selection of ecological wines from small producers from a dozen countries.
The emphasis is, as with everything at La Donaira, on authenticity and quality. Most of the food is sourced straight from the farm (and there is a preference for vegetarian recipes) but with freshly baked bread and honey from the local hives (in the hilly areas of the farm) breakfast is an absolute must and a fantastic start to the day. There is a real sense of generosity within La Donaira, and so you are able to attend a gourmet vegetarian workshop which reveals a few of the house secrets.
A wonderful excursion is to meander through the farm’s medicinal garden which has over 200 herbs and plants designed to improve wellbeing and constitution and which ends with your very own tea ceremony. Many of the remedies in the farm’s relaxing spa are prepared from the garden, and you will be treated with locally sourced argan oil, lavender, rosemary, almonds and avocados. There is an icy plunge pool and a spring-fed outdoor pool as well as a
hammam and an enticing sauna.
The reputation of La Donaira has facilitated its ambition to host a wide range of weddings and events, and since 2017 it now showcases an annual series of open-air classical music events which it has called Pause – essentially inviting you to pause and experience delightful classical music in a mesmerising setting. Pause 2018 is set for 14-19 August, and it already has an impressive number of international artists who are set to perform.
La Donaira is proof that a dream can sometimes become a reality, and the excitement and energy in the farm is infectious. Even a short visit will definitely recharge you and you will have a welcome chance to become at one with nature and to learn to appreciate the beauty around you. There is something magical about the farm’s setting, and the sincerity and passion of those that look after it.