Golf and gourmet cuisine amidst the olive groves of La Mancha
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL PHOTOS © LA CAMINERA
“A great hotel is not just about having a beautiful interior,” says manager of Hotel La Caminera, Juan José Martinez, “it’s about creating unique experiences, about your location and being in touch with the landscape around you.”
“What makes La Caminera special for me,” he continues, “is our connection with our surroundings. The fact that we’re not just a luxury hotel which could be anywhere in the world. Everything we do here, from the food in the restaurant to the custom-made olive-oil products in our spa is closely connected to the countryside around us here in La Mancha.”
The countryside Martinez is referring to in La Mancha, about two hours’ drive south of Madrid, is the windmill-filled flatlands which inspired Cervantes and his famous creation: Don Quijote. It’s also home to the renowned Manchego cheese.
Set amidst nearly two and a half thousand acres of olive groves and rolling countryside with not just one but two golf courses, the emphasis throughout the hotel is very much on letting the surrounding countryside take centre stage, and there are commanding views throughout the hotel.
The 61 expansive bedrooms are light, airy and elegant with vast picture windows. Décor is a luxurious but comfortably elegant take on country style: a mix of traditional beamed ceilings and stone flooring tiles with contemporary, neutral-toned bedding and soft furnishings. Other pampering touches include L’Occitane toiletries in the spacious bathrooms and Nespresso machines in every room.
Reflecting the hotel’s ethos, La Caminera’s spa – Elaiwa Spa by L’Occitane – uses not just products from luxury French natural beauty brand L’Occitane, but also a range specifically created for the hotel using the organic olive oil from the hotel’s estate.
The spa even has its own ‘olive-oil spa sommelier’ to help guests choose the best treatment depending on guests’ skin type and whether they’re in the mood for a relaxing facial or an invigorating body massage.
The spa also features a vast heated pool complete with swan-neck water jets, bubble beds and a water cannon, and guests can take part in the ‘Elaiwa circuit’ – a specially designed 90 minute circuit ‘for invigorating the body, stimulating the circulatory system, cleansing the skin and relaxation’.
The circuit includes six different types of showers in a range of temperatures, a foot bath, an ice fountain, Jacuzzi, an aromatherapy steam bath as well as a relaxation area with thermal stone loungers. The pool, spas and Jacuzzi also contain saltwater, renowned for its ability to help with the elimination of toxins, improve respiratory and circulatory issues and relieve muscle and rheumatic pain.
Similarly in keeping with the hotel’s eco-friendly approach, La Caminera’s fine dining restaurant, Retama by Javier Aranda, focuses on using local ingredients and is very much a foodie destination in itself. Chef Javier Aranda was the youngest ever chef to win a Michelin star for two of his previous restaurants La Cabra and Gaytán and he is now considered an ‘ambassador for Spanish produce’.
Aranda champions ‘responsible cuisine’, keeping carbon footprint low and creating signature dishes which mix the textures and flavours of local ingredients and traditional regional dishes with his own, contemporary flair.
The restaurant also prides itself on an exceptional wine cellar with an extensive, 19-page wine list comprising superb wines and spirits not just from the La Mancha region and across Spain but from all over the world.
For something more informal, there’s also the El Prado Lounge Restaurant, overlooking the golf course with a variety of tapas, salads, sandwiches and light meals.
But it’s not just about food, wine and pampering:
“We want our guests to relax and enjoy the scenery around them,’ says Martinez. With this in mind, there is a reading room, or for more active entertainment, there are paddle tennis courts and the aforementioned golf courses: one 18-hole, par-72 course and an 18-hole pitch and putt course bordered by olive groves. Inside the hotel, there is likewise a fully equipped fitness room, complete with treadmills, weights, machines and cross trainers as well as a personal training programme.
The hotel also arranges a wide array of ‘experiences’, from countryside walks, breathtaking sunsets, bird watching and cycle trails with individually prepared picnics to horse-riding and canoeing. Other options include a visit to an internationally awarded local cheesemaker.
A favourite with both couples seeking a romantic getaway and business guests looking to hold team building sessions away from the chaos and stress of city life, many guests return to the hotel again and again.
‘Our guests often comment on the peace, tranquillity and magnificent views,’ says Martinez. “A lot of our guests come here for gastronomic tourism or just because they want to enjoy extraordinary food and relaxation in beautiful surroundings’.