"As a spot for a sun-downer or a first evening drink to start a honeymoon or a romantic break, there can’t be too many other places that come close." says Red Online's Ben Cooper.
A more secretive place to stay than DDG Retreat it’d be hard to imagine - ‘retreat’ being very much the operative word. From the village of Casares, you head sharply uphill through a series of twisting residential streets, and finally head down a narrow track; just when you’re about to give up and turn around, you drive up to an unmarked gate and pass through it into a quiet pine forest with a walled compound at its heart stretched out on the hillside.
And if DDG Retreat takes a bit of finding, as a concept it also takes a little bit of explaining, too. First of all, instead of conventional hotel rooms, the place is made up of a handful of little casitas. Secondly, rather than the usual Andalucian-style rustic chic look of whitewash and wood, the whole place is done out in a pronouncedly international look running from Asian notes (grass walls, pillow-filled day beds and floating curtains), through to more Central American ones (towering Mexican cactuses set against earthy-hued walls) and finally African bungalow-style houses (complete with palm roofs) and bright splashes of Chefchaouen powder blue.
The casitas, which are spread out over a few acres of pine forests, are wonderfully detached and private. Each varies in style, but all have little terraces with seating areas, swings and sun loungers, as well as simple food preparation areas (and even in some cases washing machines), in order that guests can hole themselves up in them for longer, and more relaxing, periods. Aside from the casitas, there’s also a swish two-bedroom villa, Villa los Olivos, for rent.
Away from the rooms, there’s a tennis court, and a stunning pool and poolside bar area surrounded by palm trees, banana plants and other tropical plants, as well as a little gym with a sauna and steam room. Down the hill a little, at the end of a rocky outcrop, a couple of deckchairs and a low table have been set up in prime position to look down at the village of Casares as it curls round the hillside, over rolling, windmill-topped hills to the Pillars of Hercules and the coast of Africa in the distance. As a spot for a sun-downer (or a first evening drink to start a honeymoon or a romantic break), there can’t be too many other places that come close.
- The sense of detachment and privacy
- The very glam pool area
- The views of Casares and out towards Gibraltar and Africa
- The tennis courts (from time to time a deer will pop its head out of the undergrowth to admire your serve)
- The ecologically sound techniques and renewable materials used to build the place
- The walk down to dinner is hardly heels-friendly; the walk up again afterwards even less so
- It’s not the easiest place to find (though the owners stress that you can always call them and they’ll talk you through getting there, or come out to pick you up)
Facilities & Important Info at DDG Retreat
Number of rooms: 5 casitas and 1 villa
Check-in/check-out times: Flexible
Room service: Yes
Spa: Massages and treatments – from facials to reiki – are available in a small treatment shack. Open to the elements on one side, you can lie back and admire the views out through the woods.
Swimming pool: Yes. A gorgeous Thai-style infinity pool surrounded by palms and banana plants, while a couple of the casitas also have their own dipping pools.
Rates: Rates start from £130 (or £910 per week) for Casa Cipres in low season and rise to £150 (£1050 per week) in high season.
Child-friendly: Only if you hire out the whole place.
Dogs welcome: No
Restaurant & bar: The restaurant offers excellent home-cooked food from a set evening menu. On cold nights you eat in the patio of the main house under cover; on hot summer evenings, couples eat on raised platforms, surrounded by lush jungle-like greenery and the tinkling of an ornamental pond.
Location: The location is a real winner. While the property is remote, private and tucked away, it’s also within a short taxi ride (or a longer walk) from one of the lovelier white villages of Andalucia, Casares. Only a little further afield is the costa, for a day on the beach or hitting the shops of Marbella or Puerto Banus. If that’s not your thing, just a little to the north, the Sierra Bermeja and the Sierra de Grazalema are home to some of the best walking – or driving – in southern Spain.
Getting there: It’s only about an hour’s drive to Gibraltar Airport, while Malaga Airport is about an hour or so in the other direction. From both airports, Espacar (Espacar.es) are a decent family-run car hire firm.
Inside track: DDG Retreat
Best room: Casa Pino – cosy, compact and coming with a terrace, hammock and its own dipping pool, it’s the ideal couples’ retreat
Best dish: Simple, well done dishes feature on the set menu in the evenings
Insider fact: The local village of Casares gets its name from Julius Caesar, who ordered its construction back in around 60BC having been healed of a liver complaint by taking the waters of the nearby natural spring waters of La Helionda.