Official UK partner to the Paradors, Pousadas, Pestana Hotels & Resorts, Les Collectionneurs (Chateaux), and European Hotels Collection. Keytours International, formerly Keytel International, your agent in the UK.
Many people are aware of the economic advantages of travelling ‘off-season’ and avoiding peak summer dates; however we think there are a number of excellent reasons for planning your next holidays during the quieter seasons. Many parts of Spain and Portugal are blessed with finer weather than here in the spring and summer, and southern regions enjoy much milder autumns and winters, so why not plan a trip in March, April, October or November?
Spain’s southernmost region is famous for its rich history, delicious tapas and marvellous weather. Andalucia was once heart of the Moorish Al-Andalus kingdom and much of the typical Moorish architecture is preserved in the region’s most famous monuments such as the Alhambra of Granada, the Real Alcazar de Sevilla and the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral) of Córdoba. One advantage of travelling in the quieter months is reduced queues and better ticket availability for entrance to these wonderful monuments.
Córdoba is a beautiful city with plenty to offer in addition to the awe-inspiring Mezquita that dominates the skyline. In summer months temperatures soar, often reaching over 40˚C, so travelling in milder seasons allows you to explore the city in comfort. Córdoba’s Parador is situated about 3km from the city centre in a pretty residential area with fantastic views across to the city from the Parador’s terrace, gardens and superior rooms. The Parador also has excellent parking for those stopping at the Parador on a tour of the region. For those wanting to stay in the heart of the action, we have a number of hotels in the historic centre, within minutes’ walk of the Mosque-Cathedral. The Eurostars Conquistador enjoys excellent location facing the Eastern wall of the Mosque and within a few steps you will find yourself in the famous Patio de Naranjas courtyard, meanwhile the Eurostars Palace offers easy access on foot into the city centre as well as good parking facilities.
Similarly to Córdoba, Seville can get very hot in the height of summer with few options for shade, so travelling in autumn and winter ensures more manageable temperatures. The Real Alcázar de Sevilla is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture with sumptuous gardens and can be enjoyed more peacefully off-season, giving you time to explore the complex at leisure. The Parador de Carmona is the closest Parador to Seville lying 40 km east of the city. From the Parador’s grand fortress walls you can enjoy spectacular views across Andalusian plains. If you staying in Seville itself, we have a plethora of hotels including the Hotel Inglaterra which overlooks Plaza Nueva, one of Seville’s main squares, or step back in time with Las Casas de la Juderia in the heart of the city, near to Seville’s grand cathedral. Seville can be an expensive city so travelling in quieter months can reduce room rates significantly.
Granada is home to Spain’s most popular tourist attraction, the Alhambra palace and fortress complex. ‘Al Hambra’ means ‘The Red’ in Arabic and refers to the rich red clay used to build this fabulous Moorish treasure. In the 13th century it was built to house the Nasrid rulers of Al-Andalus, and was popular with subsequent royals such as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Isabella and Ferdinand. Today the Alhambra is popular with tourists from all over the world looking to marvel at its Moorish architecture, revel in its history and stroll through the wonderful gardens; as such tickets for the Alhambra can sell out as much as 3 months in advance, so travelling in off-peak season can increase your chances of visiting this wonder. The Parador de Granada enjoys a unique position, forming part of the Alhambra Complex and sharing some of its gardens. For this reason, the Parador is the most expensive hotel in the Parador network, offering a truly special stay and by booking the Parador in months such as February and March, you can enjoy significant reductions in price. We also have a number of other lovely hotels in Granada such as the Alhambra Palace Hotel with its intricate Moorish-style interiors and breath-taking views over the city which can be enjoyed from the hotel’s terrace and some superior rooms.
Due to its inland location and relatively flat landscape Extremadura is known for its extremely hot and dry summers particularly in July and August, so why not consider travelling off-season for milder yet still pleasant weather?
Discover the roman ruins of Mérida without the crowds and soak in the history in a complex that includes a roman circus, theatre and amphitheatre. Mérida, or ‘Emerita’ as it was known, was the capital of the Roman Lusitania empire and an important city in helping to sustain Roman rule in Spain and Portugal. The town’s Roman bridge is an incredible feat of Roman engineering crossing the Guadiana River and you will stumble across archaeological treasures, such as the Trojan Arch and Temple of Diana, as you stroll throughout the town. Mérida’s Parador offers a journey back to a different time in history with a stay in a former 18th century convent complete with a cloistered courtyard and re-purposed chapel.
Cáceres offers a medieval experience with the cobbled-streets of its UNESCO World Heritage Centre lined with medieval homes and Renaissance palaces. The Parador de Cáceres lies at the heart of this historic centre and occupies a 14th century palace with a pretty courtyard and ancient well. In addition to its walled-in medieval centre, enjoy Cáceres’ lively Plaza Mayor and the selection of tapas restaurants throughout the city.
The Parador de Plasencia is spectacular property and steeped in history and housed in a 15th century which maintains its original cloister, ancient dining hall and wonderful solid-stone staircase. A beautiful bodega and jazz bar can be found in the Parador’s basement in the evening. It is located in the heart of the historical town of Plasencia, a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza Mayor and old and new cathedrals. Plasencia is particularly well placed for visit to the Monfragüe National Park, one of the best bird-watching sites in Spain and is home to thousands of birds of prey. Travelling in March to May is the ideal time to travel to spot the Spanish Imperial Eagle and most of the park’s birds.
The southern-most region of Portugal is known for its long golden sandy beaches stretching along the coastline, dramatic sandstone cliffs and picturesque villages. The advantages in choosing to visit this glorious region off-season include avoiding the crowds on the beaches, which are very popular with international tourists in summer months, whilst maintaining fair weather. A pleasant spring or autumn can be thoroughly enjoyed in this slice of Portugal and we can offer you a wide range of hotels and locations across the coast.
The Pousada de Tavira offers guests a comfortable stay in a converted 16th century convent with access to the golden sands of the Algarve’s beaches via water taxis or short car journeys. Its proximity to the Spanish border means you can hop across the Guadiana River to visit Spanish towns in Huelva and Extremadura.
For those looking for even more direct access to the vast expanses of beaches and perhaps a wilder, more remote atmosphere, escape to the Pousada de Sagres, a traditional Moorish-style hotel in a charming fishing village enjoying views across to the open Atlantic Ocean. Sagres, being the most westerly point in Europe, was once considered to be the edge of the world before the Portuguese and Spanish Discoveries.
In 2018, Keytours expanded its collection to the Pestana resorts on the Algarve and now we can offer you hotels and resorts in the popular Portimão and Alvor, such as the Pestana Alvor Praia beach hotel which enjoys easy access to the wonderful Praia Tres Irmãos beach with its unique rock formations and rock pools. The Algarve is an excellent choice for activity-seekers with plenty of water sports on offer including sailing, surfing and swimming, although it may take some courage to brave the cold Atlantic waters in winter months. We also recommend relaxing with a drink and some delicious seafood.
Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is a wonderful city packed with history, culture and warm, friendly people. Lisbon has grown in popularity with international tourists the past few years, and so travelling off-season is well worth it to enjoy all the city has to offer with fewer crowds. Popular attractions and activities will therefore also have shorter queues for sites such as the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém tower and the Santa Justa Lift, you also won’t have to wait as long to get your hands on a delicious custard tart at the Pastéis de Belem bakery! Despite there being fewer tourists, the city will maintain its lively, but relaxing atmosphere and you will not be short of things to do with cathedrals, monasteries and museums to visit on top of those attractions mentioned above, like the National Tile museum showcasing the history of the famous Portuguese blue tiles and the Carmo Convent ruins with fantastic views over the city.
Relax with a drink a colourful café or bar whilst you watch the famous yellow trams winding up and down the steep streets. One thing not to be missed is the Barrio Alto, best explored on foot, with music floating out of bars, shops and other venues – excite the senses with notes of jazz, reggae and Fado.
The Pousada de Lisbon is located in Praça do Comércio in an old government building overlooking the Tagus and designed with comfort in mind, only minutes away from the city centre. If you’re looking for a little luxury with a garden and pool, try the Pestana Palace Lisbon which is located close to the popular sights of Belem. We also have a number of hotels throughout Lisbon such as the Vincci Liberdade, International Design Hotel and Marques de Pombal which are all within walking distance of Avenida Liberdade, one of Lisbon’s principal streets.
Off-season travel truly is a wonderful way to explore these beautiful countries at a leisurely pace, in comfortable temperatures and avoiding the crowds – and you can make some excellent savings, with more to spend on a relaxing glass or two of wine!