For this season’s campaign we traveled to the badlands of Navarre, Spain to capture the perfect summer vacation. We got lost in the desert and called Hotel Aire de Bardenas home. After a meal of fresher than farm-to-table veggies, a soak in an outside tub, a nap in a bubble room and some celebrity sitings, we knew you’d want to plan a visit, so we went ahead and asked the hotel owner, Carlos Bueno, everything you need to know.
BR: What made you decide to open a boutique hotel, specifically in the desert?
I’ve lived in the area since I was a child, so I know how great life is here. I had no previous hotel knowledge, other than my personal experiences as a traveler. This area is still virgin to tourism and I wanted to bring people to this part of the world.
BR: What is the architectural inspiration?
It was a collaborative idea between myself, my wife Natalia—who is also the hotel manager—and our architects, Monica Rivera and Emiliano Lopez. One of our sources of inspiration was Rafael Moneo, a Spanish architect and winner of the Pritzker Prize of architecture—it just so happens he was born in Tudela, the nearest city to the hotel!
BR: The hotel has won over 30 design awards. Can you describe the design process for the hotel?
Natalia and I built a model structure ourselves. During our first meeting, our architects, Monica Rivera and Emiliano Lopez, were inspired by the materials we chose and used our design as inspiration before finishing it with their own concept.
BR: You have beautiful gardens for a desert. How did you create them?
We had to bring the fertile land. There’s a strong river near the hotel with lush plant life that produces the best vegetables in Spain.
BR: We’ve also heard good things about your food. What’s on the menu?
Our menu changes throughout the year to suit the seasonal produce in our garden. It consists of seven vegetable plates, all very healthy and equally satisfying. Everything we serve that is not from our own garden is “Km 0”, a movement in Spain in which promotes locally-produced items.
BR: Tell us about your rooms. Which are most requested?
Our bubbles are our most popular rooms, primarily chosen by the young and bold. Room number 22, with a large outdoor bathtub is another highly-requested option. Cameron Diaz chose that room when she stayed with us to work on The Counselor by Ridley Scott. Many rooms have a big outdoor bathtub on a private patio. They are a real pleasure for the senses because you can bask in the moonlight at night and hear the sounds of the birds at dawn.
BR: Tudela is the nearest city to the hotel. What do you recommend your guests do there?
Tudela is usually pretty quiet, but Thursdays are very lively and exciting—the bars fill with people and delicious tapas, and each bar has their own speciality. The city also has a variety of sites to offer. There are Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches and palaces for the history buffs. You can also visit the “Plaza Nueva”—a bullring from the 16th century that is now full of terraces where you can enjoy fresh beer.
BR: How do your guests get to the hotel?
Most guests come by car. Madrid and Barcelona are both are only a 3-hour drive, and it’s an easy ride by highway. The nearest airport is 40 minutes away and offers direct flights to and from several European cities including Paris, London, Brussels and Milan.
BR: Who is your typical guest?
Our guests are primarily couples, and they usually request to stay in the bubbles. We do get a lot of families too, because some of the rooms can be shared.
BR: Where are your guests from?
Most of our guests come from France, but we have visitors from all over the world: The United States, United Kingdom, China… We have visitors from Spain too, specifically from the Basque Country, Madrid and Barcelona. Surprisingly, we’ve hosted many foreign weddings parties.
BR: How many languages are spoken in a day in the hotel?
You can hear people speaking Spanish, French and English here every day.
BR: What makes the experience of Hotel Aire de Bardenas so different?
Most of our visitors are used to staying in luxury hotels and have dined at all the Michelin star restaurants. They are looking for something different. We call it “the luxury of simplicity”.
BR: How far in advance do we need to book?
If you want to stay in a bubble over the weekend, we recommend making a reservation two months in advance. April to May is the busy season, so you would want to book earlier during that time. Some people want to book specific room numbers—like room 14, where Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem stayed for a week—we recommend booking well in advance for this sort of thing.
BR: If a visitor can only bring one carry-on, what clothes should they pack for a week in the desert?
Very comfortable and lightweight clothes, knowing that it gets hot in the summer. During the night, we wrap ourselves up a bit, as it can get chilly.
You have to eat the vegetables.
You have to drink the wine.
You have to see the full moon, the stars and the sky at dawn.
You have to go to the Bardenas Reales Biosphere Reserve.
You have to feel the wind.
You have to try to forget about your cell phone and television shows.
Ready to plan your visit? We thought so. Get everything you need for your trip with The Packing List and get a glimpse of our travels while you’re at it.