A dreamy farmhouse stay in Southern Spain — where you can take the kids.
MÁLAGA, Spain – There’s something magical about Finca La Donaira, a luxury eco-farm in the Serrania de Ronda mountains in Southern Spain. It seemed to have a transformative effect on my family. My eight-month-old, who had been going through a separation anxiety phase, seem to fall in love with nearly every member of staff, happy to go to them for a cuddle. My husband, who has the taste buds of a fussy six-year-old (in his ideal world, every meal would be beige), licked his vegetable-led dishes clean. And on our last morning, I, who had never so much as been on a horse before in my life, found myself doing yoga on top of a Lusitano named Dante, eyes closed, arms outstretched, feeling the rhythm of his movements to help me balance. The place clearly cast a spell over all of us.
Rates change seasonally and typically start at €340 per person per night including full board with a minimum stay of two nights. The best way to book is by email.
Imagine a rustic farmhouse with all the charm that comes with stone walls, antique furnitures, and fireplaces, then add a touch of Palm Springs '60s glamour and quirk in the form of a double-height lounge with leather couches, shearling throws, printed lampshades, and bold, graphic art. Then throw in tender little details like shards of colored glass built into walls to cast flecks of light in the room, and the perfume of dried scented herbs and flowers from the farm’s medicinal garden. Sprinkle it with magnificent views across the 18th-century buildings and ancient mountains at every turn, both outside and in, thanks to the hotel’s glorious panoramic windows.
This is tricky. The views are nothing short of spectacular. But, then, the staff simply couldn’t do enough for us. And the food! Every mouthful was delicious. The lush gardens are enough to make you swoon. Into horses? It's heaven (the farm is also an equestrian centre). Too many standouts to choose just one.
This Place is Perfect for
Romantics of all kinds. Solo travelers feel welcome with family-style dining. Families with small kids love seeing all the animals (the staff was incredibly accommodating when it came to providing cribs, highchairs, video monitors, baby baths ... and the head chef even whipped her up some delicious and nutritious meals).
Just nine rooms, including two luxury yurts, give the place an exclusive and intimate feel. Each room is very unique. We stayed in Laura, a magnificent mezzanine white-washed room, with a floating wooden staircase and a giant rock jutting out of the floor. (Thank god our baby isn’t crawling yet!) It also featured some magnificently bold art which contrasted with the quaint water jug covered with knitted doilies on a tray of linen with fresh flowers. Our bathroom revolved around a deep red wall with industrial style fittings separated from the rest of the room by a heavy wool curtain. Our four-poster bed was adorned with white muslin and our walk-in was tucked away in a little alcove. Both thin and thick robes were provided as well as wool ponchos to wrap up in on cool evenings. We peeked at a standard room which was small but also beautifully done.
There's a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool nestled in the gardens and a stunning heated indoor pool in the spa lined with those panoramic windows again. There’s also a sauna and hammam (treatments are available in separate building). Guest experiences (which cost extra) include yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes that take place on a platform overlooking those breathtaking mountains. There are hiking trails for all fitness levels and paragliding for the thrill-seekers. Horseback riding is obviously available. Complimentary experiences include guided tours of the farm and medicinal gardens, expert-guided stargazing, and "grounding," perfect for beginner equestrians or those with a fear of horse (the horse yoga was really something).
Food and Drink
Dining is a very open experience. In a semi-open kitchen, we chatted with chefs Fabienne and Frederick and watched them work.Family-style service and seating indoors and outdoors makes for a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. All meals and drinks are included in the price and both lunch and dinner are three-course affairs, which may sound full-on but are beautifully balanced — but it didn’t feel like too much. The farm’s produce is showcased brilliantly. We enjoyed homemade goat cheese fondue served with crudite from their vegetable garden, cabbage-wrapped chicken confit with crushed potatoes, Vietnamese rolls with white tuna, and a layered potato and beetroot soup (known as the chef’s "Picasso soup," wherein the spoon becomes your paintbrush as you swirl the colors together). Desserts, like the puff pastry with creme fraiche and garden strawberry cooli, were delicious. Breakfast is a buffet of fruits, meats, cheeses, homemade ricotta, and yogurt, plus a la carte options like eggs and an Ayurvedic porridge dish made with almond milk, poached fruit, cinnamon, and cloves that my truly spoiled baby loved. I appreciated the fresh and dried fruit, nuts, biscuits, and range of beverages are available for guests to help themselves to throughout the day.
What to Do Nearby
So you’re in the middle of nowhere and I would say, when you come, make the most of the remoteness and peace, enjoying all the farm has to offer. However, there are some quaint places to visit nearby, like the mountaintop city of Ronda. For a two-stop trip you could head to Seville or to the southern coast for some beach action after the mountain plains.