‘It was so exhilarating’: readers’ favourite spas and saunas in Europe
20.11.2023 - 12:07
/ Lake Garda
We were staying on the Cowal peninsula in October and took a scenic drive down to Portavadie, where there is a heated outdoor infinity pool, sauna, steam room and treatments. We had a lovely time not only because of the water but the wonderful views out across Loch Fyne. Prices start at £8 for a public swim, which includes indoor pool/whirlpool bath for 90 minutes. This was a fabulous find well worth the trip. We will return and stay to enjoy the spa, accommodation, restaurant, scenery and walks.
The Bënja thermal baths in the south of the country are a true gem. The springs are reached by a rocky road, a short drive from Përmet. The final stretch must be done on foot. The spa is next to the Langarica River, a tributary of the Vjosa, one of Europe’s last free-flowing rivers. Visitors can spend the day soaking in the natural springs and coating themselves in the rich sulphurous mud, which is said to have therapeutic properties. All this while taking in the majesty of the valley, its ancient stone bridge and the azure infinity of the Albanian sky.
My favourite hot spring spurts into the sea at Edipsos on the Greek island of Evia (70 miles north of Athens), also known by its ancient name of Euboea. A special joy is to swim in the Aegean as it becomes warmer near the silky-smooth shell-shaped pools. Then you can move up to the hotter ones near the gushing spout where it gets too scalding to bear. The area has more than 60 springs with temperatures ranging from 34C to 71C. The backdrop is the distant mainland mountains, a lovely free experience.
Surrounded by ornate walls and tucked away under a leafy canopy is the Parco Termale del Garda near Lake Garda. There are several beautiful natural hot pools, gardens, a grotto, copper boat-like whirlpool baths and attractive glass houses for changing and refreshments. Visit in the evening, as the heat and the crowds ease, for cheaper entry and easy access to sunloungers. Admission is from €25 for adults, €20 for children, and it’s open until 11pm Sun-Fri and until 1am on Saturdays.
Guardian Travel readers' tips
Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers' tips homepage
We had the most wonderful time at the Salt and Ember mobile sauna on a quay on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Bundoran, County Donegal. It was exhilarating to jump into the bracing cold water in the quaint surf town, before warming up in the wood-fired sauna and taking in views of the waves. If you’ve worked up an appetite, Foam does excellent coffee, lunches and sweet treats. The sauna is €10 for a 30-minute