There are two types of hotel accommodation common in Spain, hotels and hostales. The difference between them is subtle but important; hotels are operated by companies whereas hostales are traditionally family concerns. Each has a different character, therefore, rather than quality or standards.
Hotels are categorized by a star system much the same as in other European countries and are not a guarantee of quality as such, but the Spanish tourism sector is so mature, and so competitive, that quality and standards are generally very high. The big exception is one star hotels which serve the super-budget transient market, usually out on the high roads, industrial zones or run down city centres – these can be very rough indeed!
The biker on the move will probably be happy in a two star hotel, but bear in mind that these don’t have restaurants attached. Having said that, three star hotel restaurants are not usually worth the ticket. Three stars give added comfort – for instance a bathroom with a bath rather than a shower in some, but not all cases. And four and five-star hotels should be judged on their merits as destinations in their own right.
Hostales are very good value digs to look out for – with the caveat that there’s no guarantee of quality. Hostales have a different star system with just three stars, although three stars are almost unheard of. I found this luxury hostal in the very popular Alpujarras mountains in Andalusia with just three clicks – amazing – this is pretty much as the top end of the market for hostales, but you can see the possibilities – note that it calls itself a ‘hotel’ but has the features common in a hostal, it’s family run, note the extra businesses, plus the auberge accommodation – never found in ‘genuine’ hotels!
Furthermore, many hostales have excellent restaurants as an integral part of their business. In fact the ‘hotel’ side is often dependent of the catering, rather than the other way round. I know several that draw guests from all over Spain for gastronomic weekends – as I’ve hinted at elsewhere, the Spanish really eat!
These are a state owned chain of luxury hotels. They deserve a special mention because they are part of the Spanish* hotel scene, if not mythology. They were founded in the ‘twenties by King Alfonso XIII and served the dual purpose of mollycoddling rich travellers and funding the preservation of some amazing historic buildings – and they still do! The Paradors fall into two categories: historic buildings like castles, monasteries and palaces, all of which have been immaculately restored and often contain their artistic treasures on display, and modern buildings, almost inevitably hideous, but enjoying some of the best locations and views of any hotels in Spain. Not so rich that they’re not affordable, however, in fact given the level of accommodation Paradors offer they’re a bargain – enjoy!
* and Portuguese in the form of Pousadas