You have to stay here: One yurt, some mountains, great food…and nine dogs

It feels like a lifetime ago now (what with the glorious British weather doing its best to rain its way through June) but late May saw my boyfriend and I escape to the south of Spain.

After some time near Málaga and Marbella, we spent a couple of days in the Álora Yurts, a collection of Mongolian-style, hippie-chic yurts in the mountains an hour or so north, run by a British couple. Enter fantastic hospitality, glorious scenery, fabulous food – and oh yeah, nine lovely dogs

Getting slightly lost (our fault!) in the meandering but beautiful county lanes around the Álora Yurts – just over an hour’s drive from Málaga ‒ before being greeted by a welcoming Yorkshireman and a cavalcade of barking but friendly dogs, we knew we were somewhere special.

From start to finish, the hospitality could not have been better. The welcome was warm and genuine, with husband-and-wife team Sara and Darren inviting us to share in their beautiful Andalucian retreat, with down-to-earth company and gloriously relaxed surroundings.

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No, it isn’t a five star hotel, and yes, you will have to leave your yurt to use the loo, and keep a torch on you after sundown.

But, this place is endearingly shabby-chic, with nine lovely dogs (you will learn all of their names within 24 hours, as well as their brilliantly different personalities) sleeping in the sunshine or coming to keep you company as you sunbathe on a bed – yes, a bed – next to the turquoise pool.

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You will also likely meet, eat, and chat with other guests (it’s nearly impossible not to), but there is no pressure one way or the other. Despite the baking sunshine, it’s super chilled in these parts.

The food is a serious highlight; Sara and Darren used to run a successful food-focused pub and yurts in the UK before ditching the rain to come to the sunshine, and you can tell.

The breakfasts were stunning – brought up to our yurt every morning on a tray, from a cooked meal one morning (enough for three people at least!) with homemade tomato baked beans and rustic bread; to a continental spread with cheese, charcuterie, baguettes, fruit and yoghurt.

Eating outside on our little table as the sun gradually grew warmer over the gorgeous mountain vista was as memorable as it was beautiful. Something shifted in me those mornings – after a stressful few weeks in the drizzling rain at home, I genuinely relaxed.

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The yurts themselves look impossibly cute hidden on the mountainside, but they did get a bit hot during the day and we had one noisy night when the wind got unusually strong. However, that didn’t happen again and we slept soundly the rest of the time :).

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The dinners were also excellent. How Sara, just one lady, could cook up to six different dishes on just one domestic stove (as far as I could tell), is a mystery. With a choice of three options per course per meal – and at only £15 per person! ‒ the plates were colourful, tasty, aromatic, locally-sourced and Spanish-inspired, and completely delicious.

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Served on beautiful Moroccan crockery – everything here looks as if it has been lovingly rescued and restored from a fantastic Aladdin’s cave junk shop ‒  the food was something to look forward day after day, including a wonderful seafood paella, fish curry, fresh chicken burgers, chocolate mousse, Oreo s’mores, and baked peaches.

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And the one evening we didn’t eat at the house? Sara gave us a lift in her van to the nearest tapas bar in nearby Antequera, where we ate plate after plate of intensely flavoured morsels, from sardines with olive oil and avocado puree on bread, to ruby red, not-too-greasy hunks of chorizo, washed down with local beer and the reassuringly Spanish chatter of locals filing in not long after. And Sara came to pick us up later, too…

The next day, she brought a homemade chocolate cake with candles up to the yurt after I mentioned it was my boyfriend’s birthday. Generous, straight-talking, kind and seemingly indefatigable, the woman is a marvel.

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Combine that with Darren’s glorious DIY skills – he fitted a new lock on the shower room door the day we arrived –, penchant for late-night chats around the communal firepit, enduring friendliness and attention to detail, and you have a rustically-colourful haven in the hills.

And all this for just £25 per person per night (£50 per yurt, with meals extra).

Our last night was spent enjoying great food, great company, limitless beers from the honesty fridge, and – later – a luxurious hot tub half-hour hidden away from the house under the twinkling canopy of stars hung between mountains. My boyfriend even commented how quiet I was – damn right: I was too busy soaking in the relaxing hot water and staring up at the sky to talk.

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This part of our holiday was largely an exercise in doing nearly absolutely nothing – honestly, some days the furthest we ventured out was from our yurt to the pool, to the loo, and back ‒ but a couple staying there at the same time went out mountain biking to great effect, and one day we took our hire car to the absolutely incredible turquoise-blue lakes (that I later learnt are called the Embalses Guadalhorce-Guadalteba lakes) and spent an afternoon sunbathing on the shores.

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Honestly, the colour has to be one of the most amazing wonders I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen the Taj Mahal. The photos don’t do it justice.

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As I say, this is no five-star resort. If you want en-suite bathrooms, stairs to your room rather than a little climb up a mountain, private balconies, Michelin-starred tasting menus, no communal outdoors sofas without dogs on your lap, no late-night fireside chat, and shower rooms free from any flying birds (or trace of their poo), then this is not the place for you.

If you want shabby-chic, laughter, a night-time loo with a mountain view, breakfast in bed, down-to-earth hospitality, total isolation from noise or phone signal, chance to dream and laze around, a mountain-side hot tub, usually glorious weather, sleeping dogs, and your very own yurt complete with super-comfy iron bed, Indian-inspired bedspread and only candles for light, then be my guest. Or, more accurately, be Sara and Darren’s.

You won’t regret it.

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Need to know

  • £50 per night per yurt
  • Just over an hour’s drive from Malaga (with transfers available on advance request)
  • We stayed in a two-person yurt with a double bed and wood-burning stove (not that you’ll need it in summer)
  • Candles and matches in the yurts, sheets and shower towels provided
  • Guests’ flushing toilet in the house, one minute walk from the yurts
  • Proper shower in separate shower room next door to the house
  • Breakfast and dinner on order from Sara
  • Near Antequera with its historic square and tapas bars
  • Driving distance from the Embalses Guadalhorce-Guadalteba lakes, the El Torcal mountain nature reserve, and the Lobo wolf park
  • Hot tub, pool, firepit, communal fridge
  • Honesty bar with water, beer, and fizzy lemon
  • Electricity for phone charging and WiFi in the house

Book through one of my favourite websites, Canopy & Stars (no, sadly, I am not paid for my enthusiasm), or direct, here.

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