By Jon Clarke
Looking for something a little different? A place where the environment is conserved, not abused?
Well, this selection of some of Andalucia’s best green retreats should give you some food for thought…
1. Cortijo la Tenada
Cortijo la Tenada is part of a 150-year-old farm set in breath-taking desert scenery near Nijar, in Almeria’s Cabo de Gata Natural Park.
Once dedicated to the cultivation of wheat, almond and olives, today it is a sustainable retreat, with education and relaxation very much part of its ethos.
Completely renovated by ecoarchitect firm A granel, the main aim of the building is to beat the hot, dry conditions in summer and cold weather in winter.
For this, the cortijo employs big bulk walls made from hemp, lime and soil bricks, while the roof and floors are made with materials that breathe.
It also uses ‘thermal inertia’ with windows designed to catch heat in the winter and shelter it from the sun in summer, while porch and side openings are used to entice western and eastern winds.
This, along with split-level rooms, helps to keep a constant temperature of 26°C in the day and much less at night.
Energy sources are renewable and water was given particular attention with a rain collecting system and the re-use of grey water.
“The bioclimatic design plays a fundamental role in the natural air conditioning,” explains owner and architect Almudena Mateo-Sagasta.
“The design aids natural lighting and the choice of A+ electrical goods helps with efficiency.”
This charming rural hotel overlooks an azure lake below Zahara de la Sierra in the Sierra de Grazalema nature reserve.
It’s a wonderful place to stay with comfortable rooms, but best of all is its splendid restaurant, which has one of Andalucia’s ‘best dining terraces’.
Boasting its own organic finca, head chef and owner Stefan (left) uses mostly fresh ecological produce in his cooking.
It has been picked out by the Guardian as a ‘green place to stay’ for its organic vegetable garden and tree planting scheme.
The Independent has also praised this stunning guest house near Ronda, installing it into its ‘Top Six Rural Retreats’ in Spain.
It is easy to see why, this beautiful 200-year-old farmhouse has been carefully renovated and sits in a wonderful two hectare garden full of trees and a dreamy 12m-long pool.
4. Casas Karen
The greenest hotel on the Costa de la Luz, Casas Karen is situated in stunning Los Caños de Meca just minutes away from unspoilt beaches, pine forests and the Trafalgar lighthouse.
All waste from its 11 cottages and straw huts is composted and water is drawn from a well.
Massages and yoga can be arranged, or guests can simply relax in a Mexican hammock.
Nestled in a sleepy valley in the heart of Cordoba’s famous olive oil belt, Casa Olea manages to be both green and luxurious at the same time.
Highly-rated by the UK press and Trip Advisor, it is stylish and extremely well run by its owners Claire and Tim, who have excellent knowledge of sustainability.
Heating comes from a state-of-the-art olive pip boiler and most food is local and organic.
Rent bikes, go hiking or explore the lovely nearby town of Priego de Cordoba.
6. Hoopoe Yurt (see top picture)
Often touted in magazines, like Vogue, as one of the ‘best retreats in the world’, it is not hard to see why.
Beautiful simplicity is order of the day for Ed and Henrietta’s stunning escape hidden in a cork and olive grove with unspoilt views that stretch for miles.
Completely zero-carbon, you stay in one of the secluded Mongolian-style yurts, which are powered entirely by solar panels and equipped with composting loos, hot showers, and electricity sockets.
Surrounded by nature, you wake to wildflowers and hoopoes, hence the name.
A holiday in one of the yurts lets you return to nature without having to forgo your usual vacation luxuries.
Best of all, the hotel’s restaurant serves delicious local foods, much of which comes from their garden.
If you’re still not relaxed after a few days, the hotel offers both full-body massages and yoga classes.
It’s one of Ronda’s most popular places to stay.
And Finca la Guzmana makes every effort to be as carbon neutral as possible.
As well as solar panels, underfloor heating and an olive pip boiler, owner Peter Macleod has designed the cortijo with high ceilings to help keep the rooms cool, utilises compost heaps and grows many of his own vegetables.
There are also fresh eggs, fox permitting, from his hens.
As well as encouraging the use of wicker shopping baskets for guests, he is careful not to plough his olive groves to protect the root system.
8. Cortijo El Saltador
A large, traditional farmhouse in stunning countryside in the Almeria hills, this is a great base for activity holidays such as hiking and rock climbing.
The house uses its own well for water, and electricity is supplied by a large solar panel system. El Saltador offers great views and often has fantastic art exhibitions and flamenco shows.
It is entirely appropriate that her local Spanish newspaper described her as being a ‘Gerald Brenan of the 21st century’.
For just like the groundbreaking British author, Lucy Arkwright (pictured here with husband Angel) has been trailblazing her way into the record books, by setting up one of Andalucia’s first entirely carbon-nuetral hotels.
Along with husband Angel Millan, she has turned a fantastic Andalucian townhouse into an exciting project for green-minded travellers.
After a year of back-breaking work – and the project going 20 per cent over budget – their hotel Posada San Marcos, in Alajar, is finally on track.
“It has certainly cost a fortune, but it is starting to pay back,” explains Bolton-born Arkwright.
Carefully renovated using the best quality lambs wool and cork insulation, it also counts underground geothermal heating, one of the first buildings in Andalucia to install it.
The ground source energy system has three separate sources of temperature: the four bore holes that take the temperature from the ground, as well as the house and the pool.
It means the hotel is kept at a constant 15 to 17 degrees all year round.
It is especially effective in summer as the cool temperature from the pool is used to cool the house, while the warmth from the house is sent to help produce hot water for the hotel and to heat up the water in the pool.
It is a clever closed system and it is saving them around 75 per cent off their previous electricity bill.