Aire de Bardenas

Tudela, Navarre, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Deep peace, big views and tons of style at this cool hotel on the edge of a desert
If you like big dramatic landscapes in remote corners of the world, you’ll love it here. This design hotel stands on the edge of the Bardenas Reales National Park. On one side the desert rolls west towards wind-sculpted hills. On the other, wheat fields stretch back towards the medieval town of Tudela. The hotel was built to blend into this deeply rural landscape and when you drop down a track in the middle of nowhere, you’ll think you’ve washed up at a fruit farm. Wind turbines whirl on a distant ridge while the compound itself is encircled by walls of wooden crates. It’s all nicely filmic, though for a moment you'll wonder if you're in the right place.

Soon your confusion is swept away and you’re standing in the cool embrace of this lovely hotel, looking out through big windows onto a sun-drenched courtyard. On the far side you spot what appear to be prefabricated cubes, painted pale olive. Now that you're tuning into the playful industrial design of the hotel, you guess correctly that these are a batch of rather funky rooms. Some gaze into the desert, others open onto private courtyards with vast round bathtubs. Inside, décor is minimalist, almost spartan, but you'll be deeply comfortable. Elsewhere, there’s an extremely productive kitchen garden, a sparkling pool that looks onto the mountains, and a swanky restaurant for delicious Navarre food.


  • A winning location, with the land rolling west under a vast sky. Come here for romance, pure peace and to escape the world for a while
  • We loved lolling in the window seat, gazing at the harsh, almost lunar landscape. Rooms with desert views are definitely worth splashing out on
  • Exploring the Bardenas Reales National Park - a barren, dusty expanse with sandstone outcrops rising in surrealistic shapes. Hire a bike, take a guided walk, or segway through desert valleys
  • The unexpectedly excellent food, most of which comes from the land around you
  • The swimming pool - no better retreat in a place of hot sun. Loungers are limited, so bag yours early


  • There isn’t that much to do in the area or in Tudela. You come for this architecturally impressive hotel, and the dramatic landscapes it inhabits; 2 nights is probably enough
  • Rooms and meals are quite expensive for a destination some way off the tourist trail, and there's a charge for baby cots, which seems a bit petty
  • Service receives very mixed feedback, and only limited English is spoken at reception
  • The closest international airport is Bilbao, a 2.5-hour drive away, and you'll need a car to get here and to drive to restaurants for a change of scene (3km away)
  • Flies and wasps can be a bit of a problem around the rooms

Best time to go

The hotel is open all year round. The landscape is semi-desert so rain is unlikely, but bear in mind that temperatures soar to 38 degrees in summer. May and October are especially good months to come, though it can get cold at night outside of summer. Weekends tend to be busier than weekdays with the great and the good of Madrid and Barcelona escaping the city. Note that lots of restaurants and bars are closed Sunday-Tuesday in Tudela so you might want to factor this into your trip.

Our top tips

  • You pay a toll to use the motorways in Spain and as a result the Spanish tend to keep off them. This means they’re pretty much empty, so if you want to head up to Pamplona or the Rioja take the motorway and get up there in no time at all
  • We'd recommend a 2-night stay

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 22
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available


There are 10 rooms in the main house and 12 cubes in the courtyard. All have gorgeous daybeds built into bay windows. This is the signature feature of the hotel and it works a treat - comfy little sofas that are easy on the eye. They are especially good in the cubes with desert views as you can loll about all day, losing your gaze in the horizon and watching the light at play.

The style throughout is the same. Minimalist interiors come with pared-down contemporary design. You get white walls, stripped floorboards and raw pine window frames. None are huge so if you want extra space book one of the suites, which have sofas in separate sitting areas. All rooms have bathrobes and toiletries in white-tiled bathrooms that come with excellent power showers. There’s good storage, too, and air conditioning, and flat-screen TVs hang on the walls (though annoyingly they only have Spanish channels).

Rooms in the main house don’t have desert views, but they all come with private terraces, 5 of which hold open-air bathtubs. These terraces are very private - no windows overlook them. Two rooms in the main house are suites, and their sitting areas open onto private garden terraces, where a bathtub waits. We've heard feedback that these main-house rooms can be noisy so if this bothers you, book a cube.

Of the 12 cubes, 9 have desert views; they are exceptionally popular. Three don’t have the view, but instead come with private terraces and big open-air bathtubs. One suite has windows everywhere: in the bedroom, in the sitting room and in front of a big square bath for 2 people. The other suite has an open-air bath overlooking the desert, but book early if you want it - it’s the most popular room of all. Cubes with desert views don’t have terraces. Some have chairs outside in the courtyard, but these are not particularly private.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


The food is excellent, some of the best we encountered on our trip to northern Spain. You eat in a smart restaurant with balls of light hanging from the ceiling. It overlooks the interior courtyard on one side and the kitchen garden on the other, beyond which wind turbines turn on a ridge. Doors open onto terraces and breakfast and lunch are served in the sun when it shines.

Breakfast is delicious. Expect plates of elegantly sliced fruit, fabulous cheeses and local hams. You get baskets of croissants and pains au chocolat, then homemade rolls and baguettes. There’s freshly squeezed orange juice and strong coffee, too.

Dinner was even better. Drive around Tudela and you will see that farming is the main business here, this seemingly inhospitably land tamed over the centuries. It is known for its vegetables and a bowl of artichoke hearts served with oil and salt made an astoundingly tasty starter when we visited. This can be followed by all sorts of delicious main courses, perhaps sea bass cooked with squid risotto or lamb from the desert. Puddings are sweet, perhaps crème caramel or a delicious lemon sorbet served with vodka that comes like a milkshake and which you drink through a straw.

If you want to eat in Tudela, head to Triquete, which serves good traditional Navarre fare. Restaurant 33 goes big on vegetables and occasionally offers a vegetable tasting menu, but there’s lots of meat and fish, too. You’ll also find a clutch of funky bars near the plaza. Note that lots of restaurants and bars are closed Sunday-Tuesday.

If you want something special, head down to Zaragoza (90km, 1 hour by car) and try Bal d’Onsera, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city. It’s in the old quarter, close to El Tubo, where you'll find the best tapas in town.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • If you like hanging out at cool hotels in the middle of nowhere, you’ll love it here. You can catch some sun by the big pool while staring out onto a distant ridge where wind turbines stand like candles on a birthday cake. Have lunch on the terrace, cool drinks at the bar, or rent a bike to explore. And don’t forget your lovely daybed for siestas

  • If you want something more active, you’ll find it on your doorstep in the Bardenas Reales National Park, known for its beautiful sandstone hills. Guided walks can be arranged; there are mountain bike trails, too. You can even segway through desert valleys. Those who do may spot peregrine falcons, booted eagles and griffon vultures

  • Tudela, the region’s capital, was founded by Romans, taken by Moors, reclaimed by Christians. Its pleasant streets reflect the prosperity that farming has brought to the area. You can climb a hill to the north, where a statue of Christ overlooks the town, then roll back down and check out the 12th-century cathedral. There are a number of good cafés and bars in the centre. They get very busy during the fiesta of Santa Ana, which starts on 24 July. They run bulls in the central square to celebrate

  • The wine fields of Rioja Baja stretch into the west of Navarre. You’ll find them a mere 20 minutes away by car. The olive groves here are equally important, their oil much prized in Spain. Visit both for tastings and take-homes

  • Pamplona, a beautiful old Spanish city, is 1 hour north; Logroño, capital of La Rioja, is 100km northwest. Both are well worth the journey

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Olive-oil tasting
  • Private guided tours
  • Segway tours
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting


Children are welcome, though most guests are couples, especially at weekends. Baby cots are available and your daybed(s) can turn into a child's bed (both at extra cost). There’s not much for children to do here, and they’ll need supervision by the pool.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

A suite with 1 or 2 rollaway beds. Alternatively, there are connecting double rooms - book one with a patio, and one with a patio and open-air bathtub, and specify you would like them to be connecting.

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