At La Donaira, a working farm and eco lodge in southern Spain, going ‘green’ is not a buzzword, it is the raison d’etre. Far from trendy, La Donaira is devoted to tradition and integrity in its interactions with the natural world. An extraordinary guest experience is simply a fortuitous corollary of the profound communion with the earth at La Donaira.
La Donaira starts with a bucolic canvas, a 250-hectare property tucked high in the hills overlooking the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in Andalusia. From this raw tableau, the human endeavors proceed with deliberation, driven by respect for the indigenous state.
The farm’s cattle are Pajuna, the oldest known domesticated breed, and native to the region. La Donaira chose the Pajuna, not for optimal meat or milk production, but because the breed is uniquely hardy, therefore, well-suited for unfettered living in the wild.
The horses at La Donaira are Lusitano, a venerable breed with a history on the Iberian Peninsula tracing back to the second millennium BC. The horses are not ‘broken’, but rather trained with natural methods which leverage instinctual equine behavior to instill a bond of trust between horse and human.
Even the chickens at La Donaira live in a liberated manner, giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘free range’. The birds are veritable gypsies, roosting in open coops with wheels and permeable floors. Periodically, the coops are moved from point to point around the farm, giving the chickens a new place to peck and organically fertilizing the land in the process.
Indeed, La Donaira nurtures the soil like a beloved infant, using time-honored regenerative practices. In turn, the earth responds with abundance. The orchards, gardens and vineyards overflow with a colorful, copious bounty. Apples, pears, plums, cherries, oranges, apricots, almonds, figs, berries, melons, and medicinal herbs are all a part of the plentiful harvest at La Donaira.
In the same manner, La Donaira cossets its guests in a lodge imbued with earthly pleasures. The ochre-colored walls contain the farm’s native clay. The windows overlook courtyards embellished with orange trees, or frame breathtaking mountain vistas. Fresh spring water flows from the faucets. Lavender sachets scent the bed sheets. By the entry door, “lender’ boots await, an open invitation for ambulatory excursions in the garden.
Just as the farmhouse artfully brings the outside in, the spa extends the elemental connection. The spa is a cocoon of comfort, where a Turkish bath, sauna, chemical-free infinity pool and earth-centric treatments work in concert to blur the lines of consciousness.
Meals at La Donaira are lusty, communal affairs, fueled by transportive turf-to-table culinary creations and the largess of a bio-dynamic wine cellar. A easy comraderie quickly develops among the diverse gathering of guests around the farmhouse table. The fellowship is fostered by a shared appreciation for the agrarian plenitude of La Donaira.
It is impossible to visit La Donaira and not rethink your personal connection (or lack thereof) to nature. If it is true that ‘you are what you eat’, what does it say that so much of what we consume is genetically-altered, chemically-enhanced, insecticide-infused, cage-confined, flash-frozen and carbon fuel-transported across immeasurable distances before appearing on our plates? At least, in one small corner of Spanish Andalusia, a worthy alternative is artfully presented