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The modern Parador de El Saler is home to one of Europe’s top golf courses and offers spacious accommodation and a fine new spa. Alison and Jonathan Beattie visit the Costa Blanca for some spa relaxation and to play the challenging golf course. Such is the quality of the...

A Breath of Fresh Air

The modern Parador de El Saler is home to one of Europe’s top golf courses and offers spacious accommodation and a fine new spa. Alison and Jonathan Beattie visit the Costa Blanca for some spa relaxation and to play the challenging golf course. Such is the quality of the course that the Spanish Open has been played here on several occasions, most recently in 2013.

Situated south of Valencia within the Albufera Nature Park, the Parador de El Saler’s low profile blends seamlessly into the green of its prestigious golf course alongside the Mediterranean. The extensive grounds are a nature lover’s paradise with pine groves, gardens, colourful wild flower meadows and a 2.6 kilometre beach fringed with large sand dunes.

The surrounding Albufera landscape makes for a pleasant car journey to El Saler from any direction. But when you are within a few kilometres of the Parador on the forested main road, you may begin to wonder if have lost your way, as there are no direction signs. Then, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the entrance road suddenly appears with a barrier checkpoint. You drive between the fairways and into the car park, where a decked walkway alongside a wild flower garden takes you into the bright entrance foyer.

Built in 1966, the Parador de El Saler has undergone a €20 million renovation inside and out; gardens have been landscaped, endemic species planted and the sand dune system recovered. Inside, the minimalist style, neutral tones and use of natural materials such as stone, glass and wood complement the beautiful coastal environment. Nature and light are brought inside with wide, open terraces and floor to ceiling windows, affording panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding coast. Beyond the outdoor pool, a soft sandy beach invites exploration, lined with dunes, wild grasses and an abundance of colourful flowers. On a clear day, Ibiza is clearly visible on the horizon, while there are views of the Montgo National Park to the south and the Valencia harbour area to the north. If you look carefully, you can also see the amazing architecture of the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences.

Our spacious modern room had a private balcony with huge wooden shutters that opened to reveal magnificent views of the sea and the golf course. We had all the usual modern comforts plus a few extra ones like a pillow menu and a snack of local paella rice and vinaigrette – a reminder that Valencia and the rice fields around El Saler are home to paella, one of Spain’s most popular dishes.

Ready for some relaxation, we changed into our complimentary bathrobes and slippers and headed down to the spa on the lower ground floor. The minimalist design is in keeping with the style of the Parador and the gleaming modern facilities and spotless changing rooms with large shower cubicles are impressive. Helpful staff provided towels and gave us a tour to explain the amenities. We particularly liked the row of three matching Jacuzzis, all with skylights above and each with a different water temperature, so you can work your way up or down! A long window above the adjoining 25-metre swimming pool allows natural light to flood into the spa, creating a warm ambience. Interestingly, these skylights are set into the paving of one of the outside terraces and you can walk over them and see into the spa pools below.

The thermal suite includes a two-room Turkish bath with a 50°C dry room for warming up and a 60°C steam room with a refreshing cold water fountain for cooling off. There is also a large sauna with lights that gradually change colour and a Scottish douche (alternating hot and cold shower). After a thermal circuit, you can flop on a lounger alongside the pool and sip freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice or ice-cold water and nibble on local dried fruit and nuts.

Facial and body treatments are carried out in two therapy rooms using locally sourced products. The spa menu includes an Orange Blossom anti-ageing facial with vitamin C (€125 for 90 mins); VIP Special Pleasures of the Mediterranean Sea, a relaxing facial and body treatment with citrus fruits, includes exfoliation, mask and massage with aromatic oils (€85 for 90 mins); Albufera exfoliating body treatment with rice, cane sugar and moisturising local horchata cream. There is also a special massage with golf balls to alleviate and reduce muscle tension, stiffness and joint pain (€85 for 60 mins).

Leisure facilities at El Saler are excellent; as well as a championship golf course, there is a modern gym and extensive gardens with a large outdoor pool, tennis and a well maintained football pitch where some of the top Spanish teams train. Guests can borrow bikes and ride the many cycle paths in the area or explore the nearby nature park. For those seeking a longer ride, there is a cycle path all the way to Valencia – a distance of about 18 kilometres. If a gentle stroll in the invigorating sea air is more your style, there are many sandy walkways around the Parador and the golf course, including one down to the Blue Flag beach – a romantic spot with beautiful dunes, soft sand and the constantly changing sea.

We spent time strolling along the mostly deserted beach before wandering back to the Parador for a club sandwich and some delicious chilled rice milk. We sat on one of the comfy sofas on the outdoor terrace and watched the golfers teeing off from the 9th hole, wondering how we would fare when we played the next day.

With 30-metre floor to ceiling glass windows, most tables in the main L’Embarcador restaurant overlook the dunes, but you can opt for one of the booth-style tables if you prefer a more intimate dining experience. Needless to say, the restaurant’s speciality is paella and the menu offers an amazing variety of locally sourced paella dishes. We shared one for our dinner and it was thoroughly delicious.

The nearby Albufera lagoon, a vast 23 square metre expanse of freshwater, provides a spectacular setting for watching the sunset. Locals and tourists gather in a layby area on the CV-500 road where there are four jetties to walk out on for views of the wetlands nature park. Many newly wed couples have their wedding photographs taken here against the backdrop of the peaceful lake and sunset skies.

If you get up early enough, you can watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean from your balcony The light on the Costa Blanca has a special luminous quality in the early morning and the sea air is rich in healthy giving negative ions. Taking a few deep breaths as the sun appears over the horizon is a great way to start the day. Follow with a swim or a jog before tucking into a hearty breakfast in the L’Albufera restaurant, where the options include continental, full English and other choices.

After our early breakfast, it was time for the highlight of our stay –18 holes of golf on the championship course. We signed in for our round in the well equipped pro shop and had use of the golf club’s large changing rooms with showers and lockers. Golf clubs are available to hire and there is also a driving range, putting green, two chipping areas and two practice bunkers.

The golf course was a joy to play, especially when the sun came out. It is of a very high standard with well-maintained greens, fairways, and bunkers. Every hole provides its own unique challenge. With views of the Mediterranean from several holes and no matter how you play, you are sure to enjoy the course walk. During the late spring and summer months, the afternoons are very hot so it is best to play in the morning when the temperature is more bearable.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The Parador de El Saler is a hidden gem offering something for everyone – top quality accommodation and links golf, spa relaxation, delicious paella dishes and a seemingly endless beach – and all just a short distance from the exciting city of Valencia.

Parador de El Saler
Avda. De Los Pinares, 151
46012 El Saler
Tel: +34 961611186 book or for further information on prices, promotions and special offers at El Saler and other Paradors in Spain, contact the official UK representative:Keytel International
Tel: 020 7953 3020 offer prices from €100 per room per night, including tax (room only).
Spa entry: €17 per person for guests (currently 2 for 1 entry for guests); €22 per person for non-residents.
Spa & Dinner package: €45 per person.
Spa Visit packages: €75per person in standard double room, includes 1 night bed and breakfast and entry to the spa.
Children under 7 years have restricted access to the spa.

Green fees are €95 (low season) and €105 (high season) with Parador guests charged €48 or €53 respectively, which is excellent value for a course of this standard.

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