Eco-friendly and two hours away: Andalusian hideaway could be Europe’s best retreat
Private plunge pool of the Maharaja suiteExcept it’s less than three hours away. And with nowhere near as hefty a pricetag. I think I’ve found the best value luxury getaway in Europe. Except there’s nothing European about DDG retreats, my newest secret. It’s tucked away in the Andalusian mountains near the village of Casares in Spain, quite literally a stones through away from Gibraltar and the coast of Africa, which can be seen twinkling from the towering heights of the retreat.
Overlooking the mountains in AndalusiaThe beautiful land enveloping the retreat is an Instagram users heaven – purchased around 20 years ago by the owners when it was simply an old house in the remote area, they transformed the plot into a worldly kingdom, pulling in artefacts, antiques, furnishings and even plants from all over the continents to mirror their travels. And it shows: when we pulled up outside our home for the next few days after a steep drive upwards, it was like we’d been transported to India. Or Northern Africa, or Aztec Mexico.
Cheese board for twoThe sheer beauty was breathtaking, enhanced by the tropical gardens and plants cultivated so guests are surrounded by the aromas of flowers, pine wood and lemongrass, each personally selected by the owners. In a slight daze from the sight, we listened as the father of the family explained how they wanted to create something rare and unique in Europe, not just a small hotel room with a balcony, but an excluded residence. DDG retreat achieves just that, looking after just a handful of guests who are split up into a handful of suites across the four hectare site. None of the suites overlook another and are completely sheltered off to give guests privacy.
The pool area, where all three couples can relax should they choose to away from their suitesBut it wasn’t just the idea of being completely left alone that was appealing. It was the idea of being alone amidst such a glorious setting. Because this was natural beauty at its finest. Aside from the perfectly symmetrical cacti and plants weaving either side of the windy pavings leading up to tennis courts and massage huts, the infinity pool area was all coated in unusual greenery. Guests are encouraged to spend their time sifting through the books, DVDs and CDs they have in large chests beside the pool area.
Star gaze in the evenings from the outdoor areas part of each suiteI asked if this was part of their plan, to gently nudge those staying towards nature.
“Nature is our passion and we believe being close to nature is integral to a sense of well being,” he explained.
“We constantly endeavour to give something back too – we use our own well for water and we plant many new trees each year. “We love the fact that we can share our beautiful natural setting here with our guests – with the birds singing and the chirping of cicadas, the rare vultures flying overhead, the wealth of beautiful butterflies, the aroma of fresh pine wood, the profusion of flowers…”
Breakfast for two: all is made fresh on the site in the morningBut this hasn’t stopped the family from creating luxurious interiors for the retreat, our Maharaja tented suite being complete with air conditioning, marble floors, chandeliers and items from Cmabodia and Indonesia to peer it if the view of the mountains isn’t enough. It’s a perfect harmony of upmarket and natural, matched by the service too. Looked after by the family themselves and a handful of staff, all the food and drink is carefully selected, put together and presented by the owners such as the delightful cheese board which lasted us three meals it was so vast and baked goods at breakfast to start off the day.
The infinity pool surrounded by exotic flowers and hand carved decorations from all over the worldThey’re there on hand throughout the trip to make sure you have what you need but are discreet, which is fine by companion and I who sit side by side on the outdoor sofa and admire the sunset with a glass of champagne after a day dipping into our own private plunge pool to cool down from the thick July heat.
No screaming kids (it’s adults only), just tranquility and the sounds of the birds, bees and maybe our favourite music. If I had to describe a weekend which was the polar opposite to the plugged in, digital, time-watching whirlwind that is city life in the twenty-first century, this is it.
“Yes, we did want to create that atmosphere,” said the owner when I remarked on how well we’d slept and how easy it was to fall into the slow step of the retreat.
“We have found that even wellness regimes in some retreats and spas require people to stick to schedules and dash from activity to activity, so here we have been keen to ensure that people genuinely can just ‘be’ and enjoy indulgent ‘me’ time or ‘we’ time at their own pace.”
Inside the Maharaja suite at DDGIt’s romantic, jaw-droppingly stunning and for the first ever time, makes us feel like it’s just us here in our own Asian paradise. And that’s the concept of the place summed up in one sentence. With no long haul flight to endure, reasonably priced for such intimate settings and service between only a few people, we’re already planning our trip back, an easy hour from Malaga airport. Who would’ve thought you could find such a hidden gem such a short drive away from a huge tourist hotspot? This is one almost too good to share, but after such a remarkable experience, it would be cruel not to. Enjoy paradise.
DDG retreat packages and offers range from honeymoon packages to suite offers.