Writers retreat in Andalucia, Spain

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Writers retreat in Andalucia, Spain


Writing is an activity respectful and mindful of the environment, instilling sensitivity and concern for the world around us and our place in it.
The hotel owners are fully committed to renewable energy to an unusually high degree. The hotel operates a fully ‘off grid’ system with an extensive array of solar panels for hot water and electricity. The owners are happy to show guests how everything works.
The central heating system is driven by a large pellet burner stove, which also helps heat the dining room. Only energy-efficient light bulbs are used and every bathroom has shower facilities as well as a full bath to encourage sensible use of water; all the toilets have dual flush; the room keys have an energy saving card to fit in the slot in the room, to ensure there is no unnecessary use of energy. Washing utilizes an eco ball and ecologically friendly cleaning, washing and personal hygiene products, though they are very difficult to source in this part of Spain! Bed sheets and towels are changed every 4 nights, unless otherwise requested.
The land around the hotel is mostly wild, with almond and olive orchards which had not been exploited for some time. The owners do not use pesticides and have brought the trees back into production organically. They also grow their own organic fruit and vegetables in their own kitchen garden, raise free range chickens and source most other ingredients from local organic farmers. There are dedicated recycling bins for guests to use, the contents of which are then added to the domestic recycling. They also practice composting, which is a great way to utilise vegetable peelings and chicken manure!
The owners support the Foundation Gypaetus, for the reintroduction of the Bearded Vulture which reached the brink of extinction in Europe a few years ago. The FG has a rearing site in the natural park of the nearby Sierra de Cazorla and every year release into the wild a number of vultures, which are then tracked for a minimum of 5 years. Up to now all the released birds have taken up residence in the Sierra de Castril, very close to the hotel. Interested guests are offered information about the whereabouts of the birds and how to get to various approved sites, plus special information cards to fill out in case the birds are spotted. And of course it is amazing how many other beautiful things you see when looking for something else!


Eastern Andalucia has historically been one of the poorest regions in Europe. In recent years the economy of the area has been dependent on agriculture (principally olives and almonds) and associated European subsidies. Tourism offers a lifeline for the ailing traditional economy. The community is only now beginning to appreciate the potential of their fabulous natural resources and their appeal to a new generation of responsible tourists who value authenticity, purity and the road less travelled.
Habitually young people in this area have migrated to the coasts or major cities to seek work and the countryside population continued to diminish. Economic crisis is again tightening its grip on Spain and unemployment figures - particularly for young people - are among the very worst in Europe.
Tourism is offering an alternative. The hotel´s auxilliary staff and preferred guides, for example, are mainly young local people with enthusiasm and a passion for nature and the environment. They are trying to carve out a living in their own native community, and the development of tourism will help make this viable in the longer term.
The hotel owners are also involved in two associations which are doing something to reverse these trends: one is an association of local organic producers and consumers, to promote organic farming. This employs young people to teach the importance of organic practice for the land and the health benefits for the people.
The second initiative is concerned with the sale of organic produce which employs only local people and is carrying out a campaign of information in schools as well as providing ingredients for school dinners. By supporting this association as customers, guests are provided with organic produce, thus supporting local employment and organic farming. At the hotel guests may buy local organic products such as olive oil, oregano, honey and saffron, alongside art, craft and glass products from local workshops.
All guests are encouraged to make use of local restaurants and shops via extensive information available at the hotel and by using the language skills of the owners to book and organise things on their behalf to ensure a hassle free yet authentic experience.

1 Reviews of Writers retreat in Andalucia, Spain

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 16 May 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

There were many memorable moments during the week the 7 of us spent there, but one in particular proved very exciting. We had a evening of Star Gazing with the guidance of a local astronomer, who brought along his high powered telescopes. Within moments of our "Gazing" we saw a "Shooting Star" - a meteor, shoot across the sky. For me though the highlight of the evening was looking through a powerful telescope at Saturn and her rings. Memorable indeed!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

The Hotel is situated high on a mountain, with breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys of the Andalucian region, above Granada. Walking in the area is spectacular and transport is essential although the 7 of us who took over the hotel were able to make use of a local taxi for transport from and to the Airport, as well as a couple of visits in the region. I recommend a vist to Castril and to the Natural Park which is ideal for walking, cycling, and horse riding.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I cannot speak highly enough of the amazing attention to detail of Ilaria and Derek who run this eco friendly hotel. Local people are employed and local produce used, as well as their commitment to the impact of their presence on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

On a scale of 1 to 10 I have to give this vacation 10! Spacious airy rooms with the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. Imaginative and healthy food, locally sourced; A delightful host and hostess whose focus is on meeting the needs of every guest. - Which they did! A magical setting for the most discerning vacationmaker, with the emphasis on peace, quiet and rejuvenation!

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