A visit to La Donaira begins in a dusty square in El Gastor, a sleepy town nestled in a valley between the Serrania de Ronda and the Grazalema mountain range less than a 40minute drive from Ronda itself.
It is here that guests leave their cars and are collected by 4X4 to be driven up a snaking track past vineyards and olive groves into the hills for a stay at an eco-lodge that has carved out a corner of paradise.
Centred around a beautifully restored cortijo with a glorious central space and an open plan kitchen where guests can watch chefs create culinary magic with local ingredients, almost all of it sourced from La Donaira’s own organic farm and kitchen garden.
There are just nine suites providing accommodation for a maximum two dozen guests so you’ll never feel crowded and even the two yurts take luxury to a new level.
Every room is impeccably styled and makes the most of the beauty of the location with picture windows offering vistas across wildflower filled pastures and craggy cliffs beyond.
Dotted around lavender-filled gardens are nooks designed for romantic moments or private moments of contemplation, and a traditional style Andaluz patio positively bursting with colourful geraniums.
Beneath the shady pergola of the herb garden, private wine tasting sessions are offered by La Donaira’s resident sommelier.
It’s an opportunity to learn more collection of ‘natural wines’ showcased at La Donaira ,which produces its own Petit Verdot and Blaufränkisch from the vines you’ll see across the estate but also has a collection of natural, biodynamic and organic wines with over 90 references from 12 countries.
Relax in the sybaritic spa, complete with sauna and hammam, where you can float in an indoor infinity pool soothed by the endless view through the floor to ceiling window of rippling golden grasses beyond.
An outdoor pool is fed direct from a mountain spring, with the constant trickling providing an accompaniment to the abundant birdsong and buzzing of bees, whose honey is served at breakfast along with fresh yoghurt from livestock that roam across the 1,700 acre finca.
A platform perched on a hillside provides a place for the nimble to enjoy some aerial yoga and doubles up as a concert space on summer evenings when the Steinway is rolled out for sunset musical performances.
In a leafy spot beneath cork oaks, guests can enjoy the ultimate in meditation in the form of a wooden chamber specially built over bee hives – don a bee suit, climb inside and let the humming take you on a spiritual journey.
La Donaira is all about communing with nature. The medicinal garden is home to around 200 varieties of herbs and flowers, many of which are used to produce unguents, soaps and lotions that equip each bathroom, while others appear on delicately plated dishes served in the open kitchen or brewed to make teas.
There’s unrivalled hiking right from the door, vultures and eagles soar overhead, and for those who love horses, La Donaira offers something very special indeed: its very own studfarm with a 90 strong herd of Lusitanos.
Sessions in natural horsemanship are offered under the guidance of resident Irish horse whisper Seamus, which will bring confidence and deep understanding of the equine even for those who have never sat on a horse before.
For the more experienced rider there is hacking across the estate or the chance of a dressage lesson in the immaculate outdoor arena.
Farm tours offer encounters with rare breeds that include a herd of Pajuna, an ancient breed of cattle in danger of extinction, flocks of sheep and goats, and free-range geese and hens that will delight children and adults alike.
The herd of rescue donkeys, a native race once ubiquitous across Andalucia but now in danger of dying out, are being put to good use.
For it is these gentle beasts with their soft muzzles and overgrown ears that form part of the ultimate mindfulness experience now offered at La Donaira; forest bathing – or a gentle walk into the woods, guided by a donkey and with mediation and relaxation exercises designed to put you at one with nature and balance the soul.
La Donaira offers an exceptional retreat that will stay with you long after you are driven back down the hill to collect your car and return to normal life.