The Romans made bathing an integral part of their culture, so understandably when they occupied Iberia they were quick to exploit the many thermal water springs. Southern Spain, with its abundance of fresh mountain water, and large limestone geological formations, has a large network of thermal spas, known as ‘Balnearios’. These spas have been in use for thousands of years, and make for a rejuvenating weekend retreat. The sulphur rich waters are said to not only relax the body, but also to help with removing toxins, cleaning and moisturising the skin and relieving arthritis and rheumatism amongst many other attributes.
Classic Andalusian Spa
A visit to the inland thermal town of Alhama de Granada is typical of many of these historic spa resorts. The mineral rich, thermal waters were not only a favourite amongst the Romans, but later the Arabs. In fact, the village name Alhama is based on the Arabic for baths, ‘al-hammam’. During the fifteenth century the Arabs constructed baths on top of the earlier Roman spa; their stunning Caliph style arches and bath remain.These ancient baths are no longer used and instead the present day baths use an adjacent spring discovered in the nineteenth century. A hotel has been built over the original baths in the 17th century and this now modernised building offers simple 3 star accommodation for guests.The property has a distinct health-focused, sanitarium feel, with professional team members escorting you through the medicinal spa circuit. It starts with classic water jets called ‘Chorros a Presión’; followed by a bubbling spa hot tub, the ‘Baño de Percussion’; and then further time to relax and even meditate in the hot ‘Baño de la Reina’.
Upscale Luxury Thermas
For healing waters with a little more therapeutic luxury, head to Villa Padierna Thermas Hotel. As the sister hotel to the swanky, Villa Padierna Palace Hotel west of Marbella, the Thermas is a genuine 5 star deluxe property. In fact, this swish hotel in the tiny village of Carratraca 30 minutes drive north west of Malaga airport seems out of place, but of course it’s those thermal sulphurous waters that have been drawing wealthy guests here for many years.The neoclassical-style spa, with striking Romanesque columns, classic busts and plenty of polished marble is built on the original Roman baths. After a long soak in the baths your skin feels soft, renewed, and radiant.
Notable visitors over the years have included heads of state, writers, poets and no doubt some eminent Romans. Now it’s an upscale wellness spa and weight loss resort dedicated to treatments focusing on detoxification and purification.
Despite the smell of the hydrogen sulphide gasses from the water, the thermal area is beautiful – large chrome fixtures, antique Andalusian tiles, vintage marble and luxurious design touches give it the feel of a grand European Spa. The spa circuit includes pressure hoses and baths. The spring waters of Carratraca are drinkable too, and the therapists will be happy to offer you the water as part of your spa regimen.
It’s not all worthy health treatments though; there is plenty of luxurious indulgence too. The guestrooms are flawless, and continue the overall feeling of being pampered.
There is also a restaurant; still dedicated to the goal of health and wellbeing, but serving food prepared and presented in haute cuisine style.
So the next time you’re feeling the strain and need a break, get immersed in the healing thermal sulphurous waters of Andalucía.
Balneario Alhama de Granada
T: +34 958 35 00 11
Villa Padierna Thermas Hotel
T: +34 952 88 9150
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