We parked the car along a cobblestone street of this little mountain town and made our way to the hotel, luggage in tow. I couldn’t help but notice how well dressed everyone was in their fancy coats and leather heeled boots, probably because I was in my go-to road trip uniform of leggings, converse and a baggy sweatshirt.
My family and I were road tripping through the land of tapas and my favorite type of grape juice– Northern Spain. We had reached the 4th stop on our itinerary, Ezcaray.
The rustic village of Ezcaray is nestled in the Oja River Valley in the infamous La Rioja region of Spain. Even though La Rioja takes up a tiny piece of the map, it is the stomping grounds of fine Rioja wines made from the local Tempranillo grapes.
We were staying at Hotel Gastronómico Echaurren, a family-run boutique hotel steeped in tradition and its rich history. The hotel property has remained within the family for five generations.
Within the hotel you will find two award-winning restaurants, one of them being the Michelin-starred El Portal de Echaurren, which is directed by Chef Francis Paniego. The hotel is located opposite a beautiful restored church, Santa Maria Maggiore, in the historic town square of Ezcaray.
As we approached the front doors of the building, we were greeted with a futuristic glass door that contrasted the building’s old and rustic stone exterior. This interplay between the modern and traditional is characteristic of La Rioja and it shows up in everything from their culture to cuisine .
The lobby was bright and cozy with Nordic-infused design. Tan hardwood floors and wood-paneled walls coated the interior. To the left was the bar with a few tables and a fireplace— perfect for defrosting from the chilly spring temperatures outside. The smiling staff welcomed us warmly and quickly helped us get situated. They handed us our room keys, which were attached to a big blue leather tassel keychain.
The hotel is intimate, consisting of 25 recently renovated rooms spread over 2 floors. Each of the guest rooms are slightly different in terms of size, layout and decor. Our rooms were located on the top floor. We booked two rooms for the 5 of us— 1 double and 1 triple.
Echaurren’s deep family and community values are embedded throughout the hotel. The building may be rather small in size, but it is brimming with spaces and common areas for guests to gather and socialize. There are two main outdoor terraces: the garden located behind the hotel and the solarium located on the second floor. There is a gym, a gastrobar and a TV room. There is also the breakfast hall which doubles as a meeting room.
Echaurren’s values are also deeply rooted in…yup, you guessed it: gastronomy. As the hotel’s name suggests, Echaurren has perfected the art and science of good eating. For the die-hard foodies out there, you can book the Echaurren Experience. This package includes prix fixe meals at the acclaimed restaurants, accommodations at the hotel and last but not least— an opportunity to be a chef for the day and cook alongside Chef Francis himself.
Upon turning the doorknob, the room invites you in. It was bright, sleek and airy. Warm light flooded in through two large windows gilded with wrought iron.
I immediately cracked the windows open to let the brisk mountain air in. We had a postcard-worthy view of the church courtyard with snow-capped mountains in the background. Right next to one of the windows, a basket— filled with complementary snacks, water and a bottle of Rioja— welcomed us to our cozy cocoon.
The king-size bed floated in the middle of the room attached to a headboard equipped with personal reading lights and outlets. The headboard doubled as a desk area which housed a collection of travel magazines, guidebooks and pictures illustrating the hotel’s history. The bed was dressed up with a bright orange mohair blanket, a textile that is local to La Rioja and made from the hair of angora goats.
On the wall facing the bed hung a flat screen TV and a slim CD player. I instantly thought, “A CD player? Who would think to bring a CD!?” I then opened the CD compartment and found a silver disk sitting there, waiting to be played. Upon pressing the play button, the familiar voices of Jason Mraz, Vance Joy and the Lumineers filled the room. Who knew Echaurren would have such a bomb taste in music?
The bedroom flowed into the bathroom. The contemporary closet and furnishings held things like bath toiletries, towels, robes and slippers. The double rain shower was the shower of my dreams. From the 2-way sliding closet to the long and narrow sink bowl, every detail was well thought out and had a style all its own.
Is Echaurren a ritzy 5-star hotel? No. But it’s not trying to be. Echaurren’s strength is in their passion for honoring the local culture and cuisine in inventive ways, all while making their guests feel like family.
Echaurren is proof that the devil is not in the details…the design is in the details.
The details speak to the hotel’s vibrant past through strong juxtapositions.
Modern and traditional.
Bright and minimalist.
Plush and practical.
Simple and sexy.
The fusion of old and new.
They have taken the best of both worlds to create a space that is refined, yet warm and functional.
While this yin-and-yang approach to design is intricate and can be difficult to hammer down, Echaurren nails it right on the head.
Check out my experience at the award-winning Echaurren Tradición Restaurant.