If you’re travelling to Andalucia, make sure to spend some time in Carmona, Andalucia. This little town is one of the most charming in the area and makes a brilliant base for exploring nearby Granada, Córdoba and Seville. The town’s motto, As the Morning Star shines in the dawn, so shines Carmona in Andalusia, was given by Ferdinand III of Castile who captured it from the Moors in 1247.
We chose to stay at the Parador de Carmona, a historic hotel in an Arab fortress dating from the 14th century, that has been sensitively restored to maintain its original features. The paradors are government-run hotels in impressive buildings and locations and this is one of the very best. We’d already enjoyed visiting the one in Jaen and Ubeda, both also in Andalucia, and this parador has a very distinct style of its own.
We passed through the fortified medieval walls…
to the hotel entrance, having parked in the cobbled courtyard. The citadel was originally constructed by the Moors and later extended by King Pedro.
First impressions were excellent – the receptionists were among the friendliest we encountered on our trip and spoke perfect English. After a speedy check-in, we headed to our room, a spacious bedroom with a seating area.
With two adjacent windows, the room was light and airy.
This was the view from our room over the valley.
The bathroom had two vanity basins, and a complete set of Paradores toiletries. I’d brought along a handy Origami Unicorn travel organizer which I was able to hang up in the bathroom by its built-in straps. It’s a really clever concept, designed to hold all your undergarments in separate compartments. You could also use it to store toiletries or small items such as jewellery. I’ve since used it as an impromptu beach bag to carry a wet bikini. It comes in some stylish colourways including black and orange or this white and blue one that fitted right in.
We set out to explore the rest of the property, starting with a stylish series of lounge bars…
Continuing to the Moorish-style tiled patio area, where you can soak up the sun by the fountain or seek shade to the side…
And on to the outdoor bar area with its panoramic views.
Heading outside, we followed a path downhill that was bordered by flowers…
Leading to a pool area with sun loungers and a barbecue grill. The pool was just being filled up when we were there in April, it must be perfect for bathing now.
This particular Parador is renowned for its cuisine and the vaulted dining room is a lovely spot in which to sample it.
Executive chef Francisco Caparrós Soler favours seasonal ingredients and has a talent for presentation. The star of the show is the extensive dessert buffet.
Within a few minutes walk of the Parador, you’ll come across La Yedra, which serves up some of the best food that we tasted on our Andalucian road trip.
Also close by is Molino de la Romera – set in a converted mill, it’s a good choice for simple home cooking.
Casa Puerta de Cordoba is a cocktail bar in a former palace. The drinks here are potent and the vibe is relaxed.
We were lucky to experience a bespoke tour by the Tourist Office but one of the nicest things about Carmona is that they run complimentary group guided tours of the town from Wednesday to Sunday except in July and August. Our guide showed us to some of the top attractions including The Córdoba Gate which we’d driven through on our way to the parador. Its borded by two octagonal turrets and though it dates from Roman times, it was altered in the eighteenth century to the monument that you see today.
There were originally four gates in the town and two remain – the other one is The Gate of Sevilla where the Tourist Office is located. Do drop in here as they’re extremely helpful. The Alcazar de la Puerta de Sevilla, or Fort of Carmona is also situated here and is well worth a visit for the far reaching views from its ramparts. Remains found nearby date from the seventh century BC but the Carthaginians constructed the gate itself, and the Romans reinforced the fortress with the addition of a gate.
Iglesia de Santa María is an impressive church, constructed between 1424 and 1518.
There are some picturesque squares in Carmona including Plaza del Mercado, the market square which sells food produce and also some attractive flamenco costumes in one of its shops.
Plaza de San Fernando is a natural meeting place for locals.
It is borded by some attractive buildings including this tiled beauty.
Carmona Town Hall houses a hidden gem, a Roman tiled floor that’s extremely well preserved. It features a head of Medusa, and is easily visited during normal weekday hours.
Museo de la Ciudad de Carmona is also interesting for its historic artefacts, presenting a snapshot of local history from the palaeolithic period, through the Bronze Age and Roman Carmona to the Islamic Middle Ages and the present day.
Yet perhaps our favourite of all Carmona’s sights was the Convento de Santa Clara. The interior is breathtaking and a great example of Andalusian Moorish architecture from the 16th century.
But you can buy cakes from the nuns, and they’re well packaged enough to bring back as gifts. You can buy similar cakes in Seville where it’s a popular tourist attraction, but there you don’t meet the nuns. Wandering around the cloisters, you get a real sense of peace.
In fact Carmona itself was probably the most tranquil of all the places that we visited on our trip. Now it’s time to head on to our next destination, iconic Seville, just half an hour away by car.
Our stay at the Parador de Carmona was complimentary for the purposes of this review