Spanish Haciendas and Cortijos – What are They?

Both Haciendas and Cortijos are traditional farmhouse complexes found in arable land in the south of Spain, particularly Andalucia. Both are the descendants of Roman Villas and Muslim farmhouses built between the 16th and 19th centuries.

With mechanisation in the early 20th century the need for so many workers and lots of heaving farming equipment was declining and farm labourers began to live outside the hacienda or cortijo in nearby villages. Farming production began to decrease and many of these elegant and historical haciendas and cortijos fell into disuse and disrepair, dying away as had the farming industry.

Haciendas, mainly in Seville province, were the usually centres for olive farming and Cortijos centres of cereal and cattle farms, but there is no hard and fast rule on that. That is why today there are so many fabulously restored haciendas and cortijos which are now used for holiday rental homes, wedding locations and rural boutique hotels. It’s all in the name. If it’s called Hacienda or Cortijo is has to be (or was) pretty rural.

Hacienda and Cortijo Boutique Hotels on Only Spain

In our portfolio of boutique hotels and B&Bs with have a few haciendas and cortijos scattered throughout the region of Andalucia from Seville to Jaen.

They listed in alphabetical order of the provinces they are in:

Hacienda El Santiscal in Arcos de la Frontera in Cadiz province. A gorgeous, ancient hacienda and Spain’s longest running hotel.

Cortijo del Marques in the plains of Granada. A beautiful, still really rural and excellently restored Cortijo with its own chapel, built for the landlord and workers.

Cortijo de Ramon in the heart of Spain’s largest Natural Park in the province of Jaen. Really rural and surrounded by trees for lovers of pure peace and escapism.

Cortijo del Arte near Pizarra in Malaga. An ancient Arab dairy farm which different buildings for accommodation, bar and excellent restaurant.

Cortijo Sabila near Villanueva del Rosario in Malaga province. A modern build in extensive grounds with stunning views, as it’s called Cortijo I’ve included it in this list.

What is a Wellness Retreat

It’s in the headlines, it’s all the rage but what is wellness and what is a wellness retreat. I’ve seen the same thing being asked by journalists ‘shouting out’ for quotes or expert help.

It seems to be the ‘in’ thing or phrase and has me thinking it’s only the term ‘wellness’ that is new.

The Merriam Webster dictionary says:

the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.
Another says:
“the measure of a patient’s progress toward wellness”

Clear as a bell isn’t it. Is it a state or is it a journey? If it’s a journey then a five-day retreat isn’t going to cut it. Maybe as the beginning of a new routine or lifestyle but if it’s about life changes then surely they should start at home where life happens and not as a break or holiday.

The best thing I’ve read recently that spoke to me is this by Marcus Aurelius:

People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills….

There is nowhere that  a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind…..

So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself’

Casa El Reguelo, Fuensanta de Martos, Sierra Sur de Jaen

Patio View

This suggests its not about where we go or what we do. I’m lucky I know. I can go out onto my patio, under the Andalusian sunshine, listen to the birds singing and inhale the peace and fresh air. I connect with nature, potter in the garden, dehead my flowering plants in their pots, watch my three scatty chickens, stroke my dog and just sit in silence and be mesmerised by the views of unadultered nature – it’s impossible not to relax.

This is my retreat. Peace and the outdoors. I imagine living in a town or city that peace is something that needs to be sought. Something that requires time away from the home and workplace. A retreat from the noise and busyness of life and it there we have the necessity … so constantly give yourself this retreat and renew yourself!

My rambling of the day.

Don’t forget to check out our hotels that are surrounded by nature for your own wellness retreat.


The patio photo is actually my holiday rental house Casa El Reguelo, which is even more peaceful than home.

Trips and Trip Planning in Spain

Wow, we’re in March already and I’m desperately trying to catch up with chores and articles. February went so quickly I so hope this month, my favourite one,  doesn’t rush by too much. I’ve planted cherry tomatoes, artichokes and bought broccoli plants that I must get in the garden in our holiday rental house soon.

My trips have been brilliant. If you didn’t read the last post I visited the lovely ancient farmstead Cortijo del Arte and spent a day with the local guide Carolina. I’m saying no more, you’ll have to read the post – A Weekend in Inland Malaga.

Cortijo del Arte

Cortijo del Arte

This last weekend I was invited to a private, exclusive estate in Castilla-La  Mancha. A beautiful amazingly presented luxurious estate with a purpose built ‘hunting lodge’ providing 16 suites and three bedrooms. It isn’t a boutique hotel but a private home that is rentable in its entirety for private functions, weddings and shooting parties with its own private runway, always handy to know as a trip planner! If you want to know more just get in touch via the contact form on the Trip Planning page.

Next weekend I’m off with hubby to another hotel in Cordoba city, one that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time – Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia de Cordoba ( de Cordoba because there is one in Sevilla too.)

Hotel Casas de la Juderia

Hotel Casas de la Juderia

I’m very much looking  forward to that visit and to experiencing the Hammam Al Andalus Baths there too. If you like saunas, massages and Hammams they are a must, especially in Andalucia where Moorish or Arab Baths were so prevalent. Read about the ones in Granada over on Luxury Spain Travel’s Hammam Baths in Granada post.

Hammam Al Andalus Details

Hammam Al Andalus Details

So with some post writing to get done, bag to unpack and pack again, I leave you for now in what is the most spectacular season of the year – March and springtime. The very best for trip planning, visiting Spain and gardening planning too.

A Weekend in Inland Malaga – Where to Stay and A Local Guide for What to See

This weekend I’ve been amazed yet again at the history, culture and beauty of Andalucia. Since moving to Jaen province in the north of Andalucia in 1996 I love nothing more than exploring the region, and the rest of Spain, it is always diverse and fascinating.

Pizarra, Valle de Azahar

Pizarra, Valle de Azahar

My destination was a lovely ancient Cortijo or farmstead, once known as the Casablanca, now it’s called Cortijo del Arte . Arte or art as each bedroom is named after a different Spanish artist. The new owners are going to be changing the name of the rooms. They will be holding art exhibitions (in the onsite municipal museum), then room will be named after the exhibiting artist and host one of their paintings too.

Cortijo del Arte

Cortijo del Arte

On Saturday we spent the day with a local guide, Carolina, on part of her Ruta Sensorial de Valle de Azahar – Sensory Route of Orange Blossom Valley, with other additions, I left the planning completely up to her. It was all fun. This valley, also known as the Valle del Guadalhorce, is covered with citrus plantations. Orange, lemon, kumquat, graperuit, if it’s citrus it grows here, this is a fairly mild climate with not too cold winters (like I get further north) nor too hot (like I get too!)

Citrus Grove, Valle de Azahar, Malaga, Spain

Citrus Grove, Valle de Azahar, Malaga

Carolina at Arkeolife  can design and plan your bespoke visit, their passion is archaeology and preservation while integrating culture with small enterprises. We visited three local businesses. The first a citrus farm with more varieties of oranges and lemons than I knew existed. The owner, known as Juanito Orange, made it an amusing and incredibly informative visit, even my husband who is no gardener was enthralled.

Juanito Orange Finca, Pizarra

Juanito Orange Finca, Pizarra

Then it was to a very small winery with a wide range of wines. We sampled several of Lascas de Pedernal‘s wines before the creme de la creme a wine made from Pomegrantes and one made form strawberries. I wouldn’t have guessed what the pomegrante one  was, but the strawberry one was very obvious, a pure strawberry aroma, and so strong. The flavour was just as delicious. I could imagine pairing it with a delicately flavoured ice cream or even better pouring it over the top.

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal, Winery, Malaga

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal

We left a table of empty, used glasses and with a goody bag to bring home, a bottle, 50cl, of Lemon wine and a Pomegranate wine. Such a joy seeing tiny, family businesses producing innovative wines and pretty bottles too!

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal, winery Malaga

Bodegas Lascas de Pedernal

After several glasses and a long time since breakfast we had a brief, yet again fascinating stop at Aceites Esenciales de Eva. Eva greeted us, guess where? Yep, on her citrus farm. Which is where and how her story began. A necessity to make the most of her father’s struggling citrus  farm has seen her build her own success story producing and selling essential oils, shampoo, deodorant, body creams, sunscreens and if she doesn’t already produce what you want she will work with you to produce it. If you can’t visit her farm and buy them first hand she now has a shop – Aceites Esenciales de Eva.

Essential Oils Producer, Spain, Aceites Esenciales de Eva

Essential Oils, Aceites Esenciales de Eva

After a fairly speedy lunch Alora was our destination. As quite often happens here in Spain – the castle was closed on Saturday afternoon. But the viewpoint looking down the valley held us spellbound and Carolina furnished us with plenty of anecdotes and historical facts and to be honest we really didn’t have time, we’ve saved that for next time.

Carolina, Arkeolife Mirador de Cervantes in Alora

Carolina at Work at Mirador de Cervantes in Alora

We then headed to see an ancient washroom that Carolina had heard of but not yet visited. We were the first. Such history and culture rolled up in the outdoor natural spring fed washing troughs. The place to meet, gossip, sing and commiserate, all women together while doing the chores – sounds like more fun than loading the washing machine. Some still use it today, hence the buckets!

Ancient Washing Place

Ancient Washing Place

Our very last stop was another balcony with a view to rival Ronda’s, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores, Alora

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores, Alora

A busy, fun and informative visit. I have no hesitation recommending Carolina and look forward to doing more of her routes.

Trip Planner in Andalucia

Andalucia is a diverse and vibrant region. From the concrete jungle of the Costa del Sol to the wilderness of its natural parks. Culture, history, tradition along with over 300 days of sunshine a year make it – that awful cliche – something for everyone. That’s why a trip planner is needed. Someone on the ground who lives in the region and has done so for over two decades, exploring, writing about it and never failing to be stunned by its beauty and richness.

So many people fly into Malaga airport and stay near it on the coastal strip. That isn’t Spain. That’s the commercial touristy part that I rarely go to. Malaga old city is an exception. A delightful historical part near the port making it, along with Barcelona, a grand city right on the beach.

Head away from the airport, even along the coast (if you  must) and the over commercialism lessens a little but head inland to the wide open spaces, mountain ranges, beautiful cities and small white villages where customs and traditions live on – that is Spain.

If you’re not sure what Andalucia consists of read my blog post Where is and What is Andalucia (and Which Boutique Hotel to Choose? which talks about the provinces which make up the region of Andalucia. Each one as different and worthy of exploring as the other.

Whether art museums are your passion, or tasting tapas, mountain biking, cycling part ot the Vuelta de España route. Flamenco, history, Roman architecture, Moorish castles, wild orchids, small villages, olive oil mills, walking GR routes or Caminos, skiing, whatever activity you enjoy or interest you have you’ll find plenty of it here in Andalucia.

As well as what there is to see in Andalucia, where to stay is as important, maybe more important to you. Beautiful litte boutique hotels or historical Paradors abound, let me share some of my favourites with you. Or you can of course puruse the pages of Only Spain and see some charming places to stay.

Let me help you with my Trip Planner in Andalucia and Spain services.

Caves in Spain – Nerja Caves – 60 Years Since the Discovery, Altimira Caves – New Hand Prints Discovered

If there’s an extra push you need to make you visit Nerja Caves then maybe the 60 year anniversary since their accidental discovery is a good enough one. If you’ve been you’ll know that a visit is just jaw-dropping and if you’re like me then you would go again and again.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

So if you are heading to Malaga and Costa del Sol add the Cuevas de Nerja onto your list of must-visits. The cave or caves because there are several chambers, are enormous. It is said that only around one quarter of the caves or caverns are open to the public at present. What is able to be visited and is a fair old walk including many steps. Because of these it isn’t suitable for the young or infirm.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

This year, 2019, not only celebrates the 60th anniversary since their discovery by five local boys, four of whom are still alive, but a new discovery in the caves of Altamira in Cantabria too.  Three new hand prints in Altimira have been added to the collection of Palaeolithic hands found in catalogued by HANDPAS’. The Altimira Caves in contrast to Nerja Caves are not open to the public on the same scale as Nerja’s to keep them from deteriorating.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

The Cuevas de Nerja were discovered when some local lads saw bats seemingly coming out of the ground. On further investigation they managed to get down underground and the rest as they say is history. Stagalagtites,  stalagmites, prehistoric art, rock formations and human remains were discovered and now are on view to the world.

This amazing complex of nature’s underground world is just stunning. When you stop and gaze at the sheer immensity and think about the time and the process that has created this phenomenon  it really does make time stand still.

Nerja Caves

Nerja Caves

The world’s largest stalagmite is here at a mere 50m high and 45m wide. I felt as though I was in a film set. An unreal place. Divided into four natural chambers, the second one large enough,with fabulous natural accoustics has hosted concerts.

Nerja Caves Train

Nerja Caves Train

The caves aren’t actually in Nerja itself but a few kilometres to the east, They are well signposted and there is lots of parking. You can also take the little tourist train from Nerja town if you haven’t a car. If you go in summer remember the temperature inside the caves is far cooler than that of the outside, so take a jacket or a jumper.

Where to stay in and around Malaga city and province? Chcek out our collection of gorgeous Boutique Hotels in Malaga. 

Which of our lovely collection is nearest to Nerja Caves? Miller’s of Frigiliana.

If you are planning a visit to Spain you may want to use our Trip Planning services.

All photos copyright @OnlySpain

Your Own Boutique Hotel for a Wedding in Spain? Four Fabulous and Private Small Boutique Stays

Ever thought of hiring your own hotel in Spain? Here we recommend four beautiful and private small boutique hotels for small private weddings or family gatherings.

Planning a party? Want a private wedding? Just fancy a real hummdinger of an escape for 2 – 20? Then rent your own hotel in Spain. Hop on a plane and arrive at your very own hotel, even if it’s only for a week or weekend. No other guests except your invited ones. Everything catered for. Just relax or party to your hearts content.

Karst Landscape, El Torcal, Antequera

Karst Landscape, El Torcal, Antequera, Malaga

If the destination isn’t important because you will all be together and have your own private swimming pool and don’t  particularly want to mix with others on a beach then head inland away from the crowds. The Costa del Sol might pop into your mind but get away from the hype, the English Breakfasts and pint of beer drinking tourists. Head for the hinterland.

La gruta de las Maravillas,Aracena, Huelva

La gruta de las Maravillas, Huelva

Spain is an enormous country with beautiful scenery. Whether you want to walk, run, mountain bike or just admire those views, getting away from it all means getting into serious countryside with not a soul or a club in sight.

El Palacio de San Benito, Cazalla de la Sierra

El Palacio de San Benito, Cazalla de la Sierra

When we say Sevilla we’re heading off in the wilds of Sevilla province into a charming white town, not the city. The mountain town of Cazalla de la Sierra is home to the oh, so quirky El Palacio de San Benito. A veritable museum of antiques fills this 9-bedroom small town abode.

Cortijo Sabila, Malaga

Cortijo Sabila, Antequera, Malaga

In the north of Malaga province surrounded by olive groves lies the modern villa filled with gorgeous decoration and extnsive grounds – Cortijo Sabila. Your own swimming pool with outside bar, life-size chess board and Alhambra Garden patio. With just 5 double rooms for an intimate stay.

Finca la Fronda, Aracena, Huelva

Finca la Fronda, Huelva

A Natural Park near the Portuguese border? In Huelva province the Finca la Fronda owned by the great great grandson of poet William Wordsworth is a glorious escape. It can sleep up to sixteen people. Surrounded by trees with no near neighbours and a pool in under tree cover, you won’t want to leave.

Casa Grande de Zujaira, Granada

Casa Grande de Zujaira, Zujaira, Granada

Following in the footsteps of poets, in Granada province on land walked by Frederico Garcia Lorca the newly renovated house of nobles – La Casa Grande de Zujaira is beautiful. Two hundred years old with many original fixtures and fittings with non obtrusive modernity. A stay for a Lady or ten.


Read more about each hotel

Cortijo Sabila

La Casa Grande de Zujaira

Finca la Fronda

El Palacio de San Benito

Rather we sorted your plans for you? We are also trip planners. Check out our Trip Planning in Spain services.