Photos courtesy of Parador de Zafra
Double rooms: 95–145 euros
Single rooms: 80% of double room rate
Rates include tax. Breakfast extra.
Open: Mid-February through October and last two weeks of December.
Zafra is located off N-630 and N-432. It also can be reached by bus or train. Directions to the castle are signposted as you come into town.
On site: seasonal swimming
Nearby: horseback riding; hiking
Step through the spectacular façade of this four-star castle hotel into a medieval world. At night, the great wooden doors creak open atmospherically, and the white marble columns surrounding an inside courtyard glow with a luminescence in the dark.
Four 25-meter-high stone towers stand guard at each end of the castle, while four more keep intruders at bay at the front entrance. Another massive 30-meter-tall tower looks out to the east.
Inside the castle, coffered ceilings, ironwork, large chests and other decorative details give interest to the austere stone walls.
Many of the spacious guest rooms are entered through arched, carved wood doors with big iron knobs. Beds are covered with off-white spreads accented by red-and-pink pillows. Marble bathrooms are completely modernized.
When the weather is fine, dining is outside in the interior patio, highlighted by a fountain in the middle and two stories of dramatic stone arches.
The interior Renaissance patio was the work of Juan de Herrera, architect of El Escorial.
The castle chapel features a superb gilded Gothic-Mudéjar ceiling.