Once the preserve of the wealthy and privileged, who would travel across Europe to ‘take the waters’, modern spas can be traced to various ancient towns whose residents recognised the beneficial properties of their naturally occurring thermal springs and mineral-rich waters.
Look past the travelling Victorian gentry and you’ll find the Ottoman Turks and the Romans also put great store in the rejuvenating and healing powers of naturally heated water. There’s evidence that the practice of bathing goes even further back, to the Babylonians and Ancient Greeks and there’s no reason not to suppose that mankind took a dip as soon as they encountered this most invigorating of natural resources. Even the Japanese macaque, commonly known as the snow monkey, recognises the benefits of a nice hot spring.
Spa resorts in Eastern Europe
While there are spa resorts available worldwide, many areas within Eastern Europe benefit from the naturally occurring resources of geothermal waters. Heated water has a greater capacity to hold dissolved minerals, leading to springs that are particularly nutrient-rich. The exact composition will vary depending on the location and geological conditions but all can have beneficial properties.
Add areas of stunning natural beauty and the fact that Eastern Europe can offer such great value for money and it’s little wonder that the region – from Hungary and Slovakia to Romania and the Czech Republic – is becoming so popular when it comes to spa resorts and wellness holidays.
Everyone needs the occasional break from the stresses and strains of modern life but some holidays, loaded with too much rich food, late nights and alcohol, can leave you feeling more burned out than rejuvenated.
Wellness holidays are different, being specially formulated to help you achieve relaxation, peace of mind and physical well-being.
Facilities and treatments may vary from one resort to the next, but may include:
- Wellness consultation and specially designed programme. The consultation, undertaken by a qualified health professional could include a lifestyle questionnaire, live blood cell analysis, breath-function test, blood sugar and cholesterol analysis and spine, joint and muscular assessment. A programme will then be specially drawn up based on the results, as well as your own personal health goals.
- Weight loss programmes, complete with personally tailored diets and exercise programmes.
- Water treatments, based in a variety of swimming pools, thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms and more.
- Exercise classes and facilities, which could include – but are certainly not restricted to – aqua fitness, yoga, Pilates, tai chi and Nordic walking.
- Beauty treatments often making use of natural resources such as rich, mineral-packed mud.
Spa resorts in Hungary
Budapest is quite rightly known as the city of spas. Some 80 thermal springs emerge in and around the Hungarian capital, explaining why it’s built its reputation over centuries. You can still see the ruins of the giant bath-houses the Romans built to capitalise on the thermal waters, while some of the baths built by the Turks around 500 years ago are still in use today.
Budapest is most certainly one of the most famous spa resorts in Hungary, but there are many other destinations to consider.
Héviz is a stone’s throw away from the stunning Lake Balaton – the biggest inland lake in central Europe, nicknamed the Hungarian Sea and the largest natural thermal lake that is suitable for bathing anywhere in the world.
The small village of Bük is home to one of the most active mineral springs in Europe and Sárvár is a charming spa town featuring two different kinds of thermal water. Close to the River Raba, it also offers alternative activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
Spa resorts in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is another great spa destination and Danubius have a range of spa holiday offers centred around the famous resort of Mariánské Lázn? (Marienbad in German). Situated right next to the German border, in the area formerly known as Bohemia, the town is surrounded by rolling forest full of deer. Natural springs water verdant pavilions while also providing the spa element.
This is, of course, just a taster. There are a host of spa and natural hot spring resorts in Eastern Europe just waiting to be discovered.
About the Author: Travel writer Alexandru Rotaru specialises in finding and reviewing the most popular spa resorts in Eastern Europe.